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Today they started shooting the trailer for the Train story, on the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Look for it on PBS someday or better yet, give a shout if you can help us get it funded. It will happen. Maybe you can help or know somebody who wants to be a part of it.

matthew@teachinghistorymatters.com

It is a cool spring morning. In the background, down the hill, are two cattle cars. If we look closely, we can see a figure sitting on the edge of the opening of a boxcar, perhaps too weak to climb out yet soaking up some energy from the warming April sun. In front of him, a wisp of smoke seems to rise from a small makeshift fire that others have gathered around. The sound of gunfire is echoing nearby; a metallic clanking sound is growing louder at the top of the hill.

This is an appropriate backdrop for the marvel unfolding in the foreground. Now only a few steps away, a woman and perhaps her young daughter are trudging up the hill toward the photographer. The woman has her hair wrapped in a scarf and is clutching the hand of the girl with her right hand. Her left arm is extended outward as if in greeting; her face is turning into a half smile in a mixture of astonishment and enveloping joy, as if she is on the cusp of accepting the belief that she and her daughter have just been saved.

It is Friday, the 13th of April, 1945. Led by their major scouting in a Jeep, Tanks 12 and 13 of ‘D’ Company, 743rd Tank Battalion, US Army, have just liberated a train transport with thou-sands of sick and emaciated victims of the Holocaust. In an instant, Major Clarence L. Benjamin snaps a photograph so fresh and raw that if one did not know better, one might think it was from a modern cellphone, although it will be soon buried into his official report back to headquarters. 
But what have they stumbled upon? Where have these people come from? 
And what do the soldiers do now?

And on a related note, here is the USHMM social media #AskWhy short released last week, on the 73rd anniversary of the liberation (1:16) Thanks to the Museum’s Josh Blinder and his team…

Memorial to Warsaw Uprising

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which marks the anniversary of the largest single uprising against German oppression of the Jews, which occurred in Warsaw in 1943. It is important to note, however that resistance to evil manifested in many different forms, not just physical ‘pushback’, as I was reminded on my Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers Program tour in 2013. As the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is now upon us, I share this post, an excerpt from my recent book, also recounting the narrative of a fourteen year old Jewish resistance fighter who was told she had to leave the ghetto by her leaders, so that she might live to remember them and tell this story.

*****

As 1943 dawned, the SS returned to the ghetto for another major deportation. They encountered the first armed resistance from the ghetto fighters and beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind wounded and weapons, and calling off the operation. For the next three months, the ghetto fighters organized and prepared for the final struggle. On the eve of Passover, April 19th, the Germans returned again, this time with the aim of liquidating the ghetto once and for all, in time for Hitler’s birthday on the 20th. By then, there were between 300-350 active fighters; the young were now the real leaders of the ghetto, having decided not between life and death, but rather, how to die.* Aliza recorded her observations of the preparations for the final battle they all knew was coming.

Jews captured by SS and SD troops during the suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising are forced to leave their shelter and march to the Umschlagplatz for deportation.  from the notorious Stroop Report. USHMM.

Aliza Melamed Vitis–Shomron

Spring, 1943

As spring approached, the atmosphere in the reduced ghetto changed. We waited for the final ‘aktion’, for the final extermination of the Jews of Warsaw’. People began to build bunkers. Experts turned up, engineers who built bunkers with electric light, in wells and toilets. Most of the bunkers were dug in cellars. There were various ways to enter the bunkers from the ground floor: by raising a cover in the kitchen stove or through an opening in the large stove attached to the wall, or in many other strange ways, according to the fertile imagination of the builders. The ghetto was preparing for a struggle.

March passed, and April came. Talk about the approaching final liquidation of the ghetto intensified. The ghetto was fully aware of it and prepared. It was the calm before the storm, suffused with energy and tension. Frequent shots near the ghetto and sudden evening searches by the SS command cars heralded what was to come. Sending off the people working for Töbens and Schultz factory workshops to Poniatow and Travniki* caused apprehension, even though they had gone of their own free will. If they are sending out the workers, what will happen to all the rest? The companies of the SS General Globocnik *, in charge of extermination, again arrived in Warsaw.

The only possibility left is to escape to the Aryan side, to dress up as a Pole and look for acquaintances or people willing to hide Jews in exchange for money. For a few thousand zloty, one could get a Polish birth certificate and a ration card. People handed over their children to Christian clerics, to monasteries and to peasants in the villages. Sacks were thrown over the walls daily and openly, at least on our side. People paid bribes to the foremen of the work crews to be able to join them going out to work on the Aryan side. Some of them did not look Jewish and were lucky enough to find ‘good’ Poles. Women dyed and oxidized their hair, and created curls by rolling their hair in pieces of paper, to look like blonde gentile girls. But they could not change the color of their eyes, or their dejected and pallid look. A Jew could also be picked out by his hesitant walk, his bent back, and his eyes constantly darting around him. We were so preoccupied by our aspiration to look like ‘goyim’ that we examined ourselves and others: Does that man look like a Jew? Will they recognize him in the street?

Of course, a new profession cropped up among the simple Polish people, with many demanding a bribe, or being paid to be an informer, a blackmailer. We were deeply disappointed; we thought that as witnesses of our tragedy, our compatriots, sharing the same language and culture, they would hold out a hand to save us. But it did not happen. A few of them hid Jews for large sums of money; these were mostly people connected to socialist activities and the left wing parties. Many devout Christians and religious scholars did so without taking money, out of true nobility of spirit. Many others, from among the simple folk, made a living by informing on Jews to the Gestapo, and collaborated willingly out of pure antisemitism. They walked around in the streets close to the ghetto, spied by the gates and the places where Jews worked on the Aryan side and looked for victims. Thousands made a living in this way.

*

The state of our family grew worse. We began to suffer from hunger. There were no clothes left to sell, we lived on the food we had received in the workshop, distributed by the Germans.

Aliza’s family decided to split up to increase chances of survival. Her more ‘Aryan-looking’ mother and younger sister, with a great deal of bribery, subterfuge, and nerves of steel, went into hiding on the Aryan side. Her father decided to take the chance and volunteer to go to the work camp near Lublin. Aliza herself wanted to stay and fight in the ghetto, but now only fourteen she was deemed too young and directed by the leadership of the resistance to make her way to the Aryan side as well, to live to tell the story. 

Aliza’s cousin stayed in the ghetto to fight the Germans. For three days, the resistance fought on, against impossible odds. It was weeks before the ghetto was overcome; there were few survivors.

Lazar

In the morning, we heard dull sounds of firing and explosions. In another house, in Swentojerska Street 34, the Z.O.B. had their positions. People from the organization told us about a mine they had detonated when the Germans decided to penetrate into our area; about battles leaving ten Germans dead; about a ‘peace delegation’ of SS officers who came with a white flag asking for an armistice to pick up their wounded, and how they fired at them at once. The fighters were elated, exhausted—but looked happy.

The battle in most of the houses in that area lasted two days. They ran from house to house. The leader of the group was the commander Marek Edelman. Dozens of fighters took part in the battle; some of them were killed. They went out at night to try to make contact with their friends. They told us that the battle inside the ghetto was still going on, that the fighters had delayed the entry of the tanks and set fire to them with homemade Molotov bottles. They were stationed at windows and changed their positions by moving across the rooftops. We in the shelters decided to open fire only when they discovered us. We made up our minds to defend our families to the end, not let them take us to Treblinka.

On the third day, fighting also broke out in the area of the workshops of Töbens and Schultz. At the last moment many people preferred to move to the Poniatow camp. In the meantime, the Germans began to set fire to the houses. On the second day of the uprising, the fighters told us about fires in the ghetto. We sat in the crowded shelter, praying that they wouldn’t get to us. We had expected the worst, but not fires. The people in the shelter said goodbye to each other. We were in despair, expecting certain death. We could already smell the smoke. Someone came from the neighboring house; people were fleeing from adjacent houses. There were no Germans around. After a night full of dread, just before dawn, we did hear German voices in the courtyard. They were calling to the Jews to come out at once, or else they’d burn us alive.

The artillery was constantly firing incendiary bombs. Whole blocks of houses were on fire. The shelter was not damaged, but the water stopped running. The electricity went out. The walls of the shelter became unbearably hot, smoke penetrated the cellar. We sat there, coughing, wrapped up in wet sheets. People wept, dragged themselves to the courtyard with the last vestige of strength. We had no choice, we would defend ourselves in the yard. The men cleared the opening and gave the order—‘wrap yourselves up in sheets soaked in the remnants of water, lie in the middle of the courtyard, in the garden.’

The yard is full of people, smoke covers everything, the top floors are in flames, the fire is running wild without any interference, parts of walls are collapsing and falling into the yard. People lying on the ground are groaning with pain…

Suddenly, we hear German voices in the street. God! We thought it was all over, that they’ve left us here. What shall we do? Several Germans burst in through the gate…

 

Lazar was captured and beaten, but managed to escape deportation, and made it to his cousin’s hiding place on the Aryan side.

 

I saw a different Lazar before me. He used to be arrogant, a show-off. The person sitting here now was thin, withdrawn; he stammered slightly when he spoke. We’ll have to live together in that small room in the cellar. Who knows how long? Until this damned war is over?

The Beginning of May, 1943

They say that the ghetto no longer exists. The wreckage of the houses is still standing; the piles of cinders still crackle, and at night shadowy figures, seeking food and shelter, still move about in there. But the ghetto no longer exists; 500,000 people have gone up in smoke. And those still alive bleed inwardly, their deep wounds will never heal. And maybe there will be no one left when freedom comes? Why are human beings so cruel and evil? They speak about the future, about truth, about Man as proof of God’s great wisdom, and it’s all lies, lies!

I know there are also good people, but they are persecuted; society rejects them as weaklings. Why am I prevented from seeing the wonders of nature and the world, from breathing fresh air?

The full narrative is available here.

******************************************

In 2013 I visited Warsaw, rebuilt; almost nothing remains of the ghetto itself- with slight exceptions.

July 17, 2013

We tour Jewish Warsaw and finally the remnants of the ghetto wall, and also the Umschlagplatz. It is here that forced gatherings for the mass deportations to Treblinka took place. I am also reminded of the scene from the film “The Pianist”.

 

 

 

The Umschlagplatz. As many as 10,000 Jews were deported on some days to Treblinka. Upwards of 300,000 were sent from here to their deaths.

 

The Umschlagplatz. Our group. 2013.

The Umschlagplatz. Our group. 2013.

 

1227

The Umschlagplatz. As many as 10,000 Jews were deported on some days to Treblinka. Upwards of 300,000 were sent from here to their deaths.

The Umschlagplatz. As many as 10,000 Jews were deported on some days to Treblinka. Upwards of 300,000 were sent from here to their deaths.

We walk the edge of the wall, memorialized in bronze in the sidewalk.

 

 

 

1240

And we come to a section that still stands.

Warsaw Ghetto wall.

Warsaw Ghetto wall.

 

Warsaw Ghetto wall. Some Israeli teens are hear, listening to their teacher.

Warsaw Ghetto wall. Some Israeli teens are here, listening to their teacher.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was the first open fight in an occupied city against the Germans. And it was conducted by Jewish youth, who held off the Germans for half a month in the spring of 1943. Utterly inspiring and amazing. We make our way to Mila 18, the bunker command post where Mordechai Anielewicz and many of the resistance fighters breathed their last. It is another solemn moment.

18 Mila Street.

18 Mila Street.

Monument at Mila 18.

Monument at Mila 18.

 

We know why we are here. We are not only witnesses, but we were chosen to become, for many, the point of entry on the immense and sometimes unfathomable subject of the Holocaust, and the many forms of resistance that were taken during it.  And so rightly, our trip is concluding here. The processing will only come over time.

***

* By then, there were between 300-350 fighters- Bauer, Yehuda. ‘Current Issues in Holocaust Education and Research: The Unprecedentedness of the Holocaust in an Age of Genocide.’ Lecture notes, International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel. July 21, 2016.

* Poniatow and Travniki– forced–labor camps for Jews in Lublin District near the concentration camp Majdanek.

* SS General Globocnik –SS and police leader who directed Operation Reinhard between autumn 1941 and summer 1943.

 

A damn good man.

I was flipping through some photos I took about this time of year and found this one. I remember it. I took it on a Sunday night in late March 2016. About twenty-four hours later, same beautiful March weather, same glorious sky, a friend died in an accident. I found out the next day, and wrote this right before his funeral. I thought of that sunset and I thought of him. Coming to my admin page here, I see the original post has been visited many times over the last week or so. It turned out to be one of my most shared posts here, rightfully so. A damn good man. C.J. Hebert, 1964-2016.

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At the high school where I have taught for nearly 30 years, we got a notification early in the week that one of our former principals had died suddenly in an accident. He was just 51, a little bit younger than me, but he was a giant both in his stature and presence, and also especially the way he conducted himself inside and outside the school. We worked together closely on a lot of stuff, so hearing the news of his passing was a jolt.

A good man.

A good man.

C.J. Hebert was our leader for eight years. In 2010 he spread his wings and expanded his horizons and took a job as superintendent in the Cooperstown, NY school district. He just grew, and was ready to grow some more. He was excited, and told me at one of our last meetings that he was thrilled that his new office would not be out of the way, but would be near where the kids were all the time.

It turned out to be a long day to get through. When I got home last night, I read some of the online comments from his colleagues and former students. C.J. was a big outdoorsman. He liked to shoot, hunt, and fish. If he went into the woods unarmed looking for a bear, you’d worry about the bear. When the kids in the National Honor Society would come to him selling our magazine subscription fundraiser, he always opened his checkbook, though he told me with a chuckle that his subscription to Field and Stream was now paid up to 2025.  And some of these kids I read about last night he even shepherded through bowhunting classes.

He could be tough, but was always respectful in his professional demeanor. And when you were sitting with him in his office, you could talk to him man-to-man. He always liked hearing what I was up to. He had an easy laugh and though it may be a cliché, there was a twinkle in his eye that told of a deep personal interest in you, genuine good will and a down-to-earth contentedness that just radiated and went unspoken miles.

My current principal made the rounds to see how some of us old dogs were doing with the news. He knew him well too and I know we were all shocked by the loss. My dear friend Mary was his secretary all the time he was here, and even though C.J. left our school 6 years ago, the loss just hits you, like the wall you used to lean on suddenly falling down on you. I can’t imagine what it must be like for his family and his community now.

*

Later in the day and totally unrelated, I was gently reminded by a friend in the IT department that I should do something with my school email inbox-that it had reclaimed its place as the largest in the school district.   (Okay, I admit it, I’m bad. I’m not a hoarder, but I’m not an immediate deleter, either…) At first I felt mildly chastised at being reminded at least twice. But through my friend, the universe dropped me a notice. Maybe not so unrelated, after all.

So I set about it- going back and deleting, one by one, the emails I do not want to keep, and do not wish to archive. Today I was on Day Two of this activity-which in a way is turning out to be some kind of release, an ablution of sorts, as I wind down my career. Staring at the screen and hammering away for all of the spare time that I can afford seems at first like a mindless endeavor, but then it slowly dawns that me that I am processing a loss that I did not ever expect to deal with-and here on Day Two I find the last email from C.J. to me, from June 2010, six years ago.

I save that one.

And I remember that I saved all of the handwritten cards and formal letters that he took the time to write to me, over the years, as a supporter of my work in the classroom and in this school, expressing appreciation for the true meaning of what it is to be an educator- the connecting with other human beings, to foster their development, to watch them grow, with pride. He did not mind chewing a little ass when it needed to be chewed, but that was always a flash and the twinkle always returned.

When he was leaving our school district, a local paper asked him what he would remember from his time here at Hudson Falls High. I did not see the article, but I was told that he held a special place in his heart for the two soldiers-survivors reunions we held while he was at the helm here. We planned it and between C.J. and many, many committed others, we pulled it off, and even made it on the ABC World News. It touched me that this meant so much to him, but in hindsight, that is what he was all about- providing students with life changing opportunities and fostering their development as human beings.

So, it turns out that for me, across time and space, there is a significant loss here. There are no special words of wisdom, or special comforts that I can present to his wife, his son, his family-only that the universe presented him to so many people in so many different ways, most which you may never even know about- but that in the bigger picture, perhaps the one that we cannot see just yet, there is that glow of contentedness and confidence, that twinkle and the easy laugh, and that unassuming good will towards others that will always inspire, and that we can all aspire to. And that it won’t just go away. Though I have not talked to him in six years, there is a warmth that I can feel enveloping my insides almost physically right now, thinking of him.

And it feels damn good.

I’ll be pecking away at my email inbox again tomorrow. It will take a lot longer, as  I have another six years to go-now back to the time when C.J. Hebert was at our helm-and I will probably have to read each one from him, I suspect. And with a twinkle, or something, in my own eye.

Lessons taught; the universe beckons. Godspeed, my good man.

 

Calling hours and memorial suggestions are below.

http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/obit/clifton-j-hebert-iii-cj-20160322

 

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I was unpacking a box from my classroom last week, full of framed pictures and awards from my previous life as a classroom teacher of history and the Holocaust. Yes, I know it is February, and I ‘retired’ in June. I guess that it’s taking so long because some days I wrestle with the fact that I’m no longer in the classroom with the kids everyday. But I can tell you that students and teachers have been on my mind all week long, given the events in a Florida high school.

So I’m unpacking this box (and subliminally wondering why I am even bothering to unpack the box, now eight months down the line), dusting off the frames but noticing a few small yellow spots that don’t go away with a wipe, but can be scraped away with a fingernail. I’m curious, and then it all comes flooding back.

Oh yeah. It was from that day a few years ago when an enraged 18-year-old in my classroom (whom I had been walking on eggshells around all year long) suddenly sprang out of his seat like a coiled spring and hurled his books at me from across the room, narrowly missing me, and, rapid reload, fired his 20-ounce sticky breakfast energy drink which exploded at the horizon line above my head where the yellow painted cinderblock wall and ceiling met, spattering and raining sticky golden gunk everywhere. He turned and it seemed like he nearly tore the metal classroom door out of its frame, opening it with such a velocity that it ricocheted off the closet, and stormed out of the room and down the hall.

I instinctively walked quickly to the door, closed it, and locked it. My stunned students were quiet as I returned to my desk and called the office. And then I somehow managed to carry on with the lesson, until I could follow up the next period. Must keep things ‘normal’. But I was shaking. All I had done was ask him nicely, respectfully, and personally, three times, to stop texting during the lesson. I was gentle, quiet. I even said please. I don’t think the other kids even heard me, hence their stunned incredulity at the explosive reaction of the student. Later I insisted that he not be allowed in the vicinity of my classroom, and maybe I was lucky that my wish was granted. I’m sure I was lucky on many levels. I never saw him again.

All of this brought back what I have been thinking about all week. It was not my first brush with some level of threatening or violent behavior in the classroom.  We, kids and their teachers, administrators, deal with this enough so that the ‘what ifs’ are always present, but now they are again hurtling from the back to the forefront of our lives.

And so to my teacher friends, some of whom, hearts heavy, cried in front of their students this past week, it’s okay. You’re bombarded and pounded-again-but your kids know that you are there to listen to them. So that’s just where it is right now. You are there for them, and frankly, in this moment, they are there for you, too.

Now I circle back to that question-was there every really a time when I would not have put it on the line for my kids? Not at all.  And truth be told now, I always balanced a 3-foot-long piece of angle iron (left over from school construction) on my knees, when seated just behind the door, while the kids were huddled in the corner during the shooter drills. (Maybe it wouldn’t do any good, but it sure felt comforting to hold on to a heavy piece of metal.) And after a week of fumbling to find the right words, I read this article in the NY Times. Yes. Times like these I really miss my school family, and the beautiful human beings we nurture and cultivate. And kudos to Bruce Klasner, fellow Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program alumnus. I don’t know Bruce, but he nailed it for me.

Janusz Korczak memorial, Warsaw, Poland. I took this while on myHolocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program journey. Look him up sometime. And read below.

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School Shootings Put Teachers in New Role as Human Shields
By JULIE TURKEWITZ    FEB. 19, 2018

TAMARAC, Fla. — The shooting was all over, but the emotional reckoning had just begun, and so on Saturday the teachers of Broward County packed their union hall to discuss what it meant to have become the nation’s human shields.

“Last night I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids,” said Robert Parish, a teacher at an elementary school just miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student killed 17 people, including three staff members who found themselves in the line of fire.

Since the attack last week, said Mr. Parish, “I think about it all the time.”

Across the country, teachers are grappling with how their roles have expanded, from educator and counselor to bodyguard and protector. They wonder if their classrooms are properly equipped, if they would recognize the signs of a dangerous student, and most of all, if they are prepared to jump in front of a bullet.

In the last few days, teachers wrote to Congress, urging bans on assault weapons, and to state lawmakers, seeking permission to carry firearms to school. They attended local protests and reviewed safety plans with students. And in the evenings, they spoke with friends and family about an excruciating reality — that teachers, who once seemed mostly removed from the life-or-death risks faced by the ranks of police officers and firefighters, might now be vulnerable.

“I visualized what it would look like, and it made me sick,” said Catherine Collett, 28, a sixth-grade teacher in Northern Virginia who has spent recent days running through a thousand violent scenarios. “Could I empty out the cabinet and throw out the shelves and put kids in the cabinets? Is my better chance just barricading the doors? Can I move furniture that fast? Do I ask my kids to help me?”

Many teachers said even contemplating such worries felt far from what they had once imagined their challenges would be. As if the mounting pressures of test scores and email messages to parents and bus duty and hall duty and new certifications and all those meetings wasn’t enough. But the death toll has piled up — staff killed in shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and now at Stoneman Douglas in Florida — and is forcing a shift in how teachers view their responsibilities.

“When I started teaching, I thought I was just coming in to teach,” said José Luis Vilson, 36, a middle school math teacher in New York City. Now he has come to view himself as a first responder, too, and added that instruction on topics such as conflict resolution and first aid would be useful.

Bo Greene, 56, a calculus and statistics teacher in Bar Harbor, Me., said the planning for dangerous situations had increased and grown more specific in the last year, even in her quiet school district. All of it feels jarring after decades in education, she added.

“I never had any of this,” Ms. Greene said. “We had the basic fire drills.”

Nowhere was the conversation among teachers more intense than in Broward County, where Stoneman Douglas is one of more than 300 schools, and Nikolas Cruz, charged in the shooting, had been among the district’s 270,000 students.

Laurel Holland, who was Mr. Cruz’s 11th-grade English teacher, said teachers in big public schools cannot possibly be expected to look into every student’s background to know if they have long been troubled. The year that she taught Mr. Cruz, she had more than 150 students, she said.

“There’s not enough time,” she said.

In the case of Mr. Cruz, she said, it was clear something was wrong. “He didn’t work and play well with others,” she said. “I was frightened.”

Ms. Holland eventually reported him to the administration, and he was removed from her class after one semester.

Inside the crowded union building on Saturday, educators held hands and shouted “Union strong!” before getting down to business.

How, they asked, were they going to stop the next one?

For hours they spoke of the golf clubs and baseball bats they would like to keep in their classrooms, of the bulletproof vests they wish they had, of the challenges of removing mass killers from their midst.

“I’m curious to know, out of the people here, how many Nikolases they have at their school?” said Elizabeth Sundin, 48, a teacher’s assistant. “Because I have one at our school.”

Outside, in the balmy Florida night, Mr. Parish, 51, of Broadview Elementary, was wrestling with the question of the class door. When an armed attacker begins to prowl, and a student is left in the hall, “Do I let the kid in, and maybe the gunman behind her?” he said. “Or do I not let them in and save the whole class? That’s a decision I can’t make.”

Inside, under the glare of fluorescent lights, Bruce Klasner, 61, of Everglades High was wondering why the district had not created a text message system that could send instructions in the event of an attack.

“I teach the Holocaust,” he shouted at the rows of exhausted teachers. “I taught them,” he said of his students, “about a man by the name of Janusz Korczak who walked into the gas chambers with his children because he refused to leave them. And after this happened my kids are sitting outside saying, ‘Mr. K, would you give your life for me?’”

Mr. Klasner said he would — of course. “I said, ‘Did you even have to ask?’”

In a corner, Andrea Suarez, 35, of Westpine Middle School was worried about her own students, who have special needs and often make loud noises, meaning it is almost impossible to hide them.

These days, she said her plan for responding to a shooting involves corralling the children into a closet, occupying them with snacks, and positioning herself in front of the closet door with a pair of sharp scissors.

“I’ve been having a lot of difficulty sleeping,” said Ms. Suarez, whose four children have been urging her to leave the profession. “I keep hearing kids screaming and gunshots in my head.”

Here in Tamarac, the union meeting was wrapping up.

Jim Gard, in cargo pants and a union polo, stood outside, amid palm trees. At 58, he has been a teacher for 36 years, he said, and works at Stoneman Douglas. When the shooting broke out, he was in math class, not far from where many were shot. He had taught Mr. Cruz, as well as two of the dead.

“You know, if I go through my college transcripts — master’s degree, doctorate courses, all that — I know for sure there are no courses that say: ‘Shooter on Campus 101,’” he said.

The Broward County school district announced on Monday that staff members would return to Stoneman Douglas at the end of the week. Classes are expected to resume on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Mr. Gard said many of his colleagues were struggling with the idea of returning.

And yet, he said, “I want to go back. I want to go back to my kids. I want to go back to my classroom. I want to see the kids, I want to teach the kids — and that’s the bottom line.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/us/teachers-school-shootings

Here’s a recent article from the Museum Teacher Fellowship Program at the USHMM. Many friends, so dedicated to this mission we are all on. Thanks Josh.

Museum Teacher Fellows

MR.June 2017 cropped
Interview and Article by:
Josha Sietsma, Netherlands (MTF 2016)

For Matt Rozell (Granville, NY; MTF 2008), the term ‘retired’ doesn’t define his state of being. A real teacher never stops teaching. Writing books that educate, and with a bigger audience than ever, Matt talks to us on his connection with the Museum and connecting survivors with liberators: “I think [also] it is true that our work as educators is never ever done”.

To start, what are your tools of trade? What is essential to your work, your performance.
A passion to connect to history using real people. When I begin to speak about the history, Holocaust or otherwise, there is a level of excitement and passion that just flows out of me and engages my audience, be it high school students or senior citizens listening to one of my presentations. And it has been with me since my earliest days…

View original post 1,496 more words

Soon after liberation, surviving children of the Auschwitz camp walk out of the children’s barracks. Poland, after January 27, 1945.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

I study this photograph,

and so it begins.

Seventy-three Years Later.

The war comes to a devastating conclusion.

The discoveries unfold:

Eyewitness encounters with the most horrific crime in the history of the world.

Battle-hardened tough guys cry.

They stomp their feet in rage, and get sick,

but the lost are lost.

The Survivors ‘carry on’.

The Soldiers ‘carry on’.

Some will be lost for the rest of their lives.

Now, it is Seventy-plus Years.

But it is not over,

because ‘closure’ is a myth,

and seven decades is but a blur.

The barracks door opens slowly. New tracks form in the snow

but how is life supposed to go on?

And now for the rest of humanity-

Just what have we learned,

Or have we just allowed ourselves to forget?

Is it even important, for us to stop and think

about snowflakes on little boys?

*****

-m.a.rozell-

See the Altantic’s photo essay here.

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Matthew Rozell is a teacher who has studied at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority. His second book,  A Train Near Magdeburg, is on teaching and remembering the Holocaust.

2017. Another year down.

I have not posted a lot since I “retired” but here is one I wanted to sneak in before the new year dawns. Actually I should have done it a long time ago, but the fact is it only came to light last spring. Deep in a filing cabinet, a copy of the very first yearbook of our school district emerged- exactly 100 years later. So I scanned it and here it is, in its entirety. Our yearbook staff used some of it in the 2017 Hudson Falls CSD yearbook. Thanks to some eagle-eyed staff members, it’s safe in the district vault now as well. There are actually two copies known now to exist. Believe me, I searched for them for years. The earliest I could find in the vault was 1919.

I could ramble on about its significance to our community, but I will let the pages speak for themselves now.  Most of the folks who get this notice in their email inbox signed up to learn more about the Holocaust, or WWII, or the importance of teaching history. But this is the community that raised my dad, and me and my brothers and sisters, and that my mom became a big part of. It’s the school that produced yours truly and many fascinating people. It’s where I spent my career, and did the things you come here for. It’s also a snapshot of an American small town 100 years ago. And for my ‘former’ school community, this is me, Mr. Rozell, still here, charging up the parapet on the last day, and holding the fort.

Hermes. The messenger of the gods. I hope you enjoy it-I compressed it to 10MB I think- Have a wonderful 2018, but here is to 2017, and 1917.

Click on the cover photo, or here to download. Catch you on the rebound. Have a great 2018!