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Middle school students help honor memories of 6 million souls

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: June 8, 2014 12:00 AM
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The Holocaust.

That name invokes images of horrific suffering I can't begin to comprehend. Pictures of emaciated bodies, both alive and dead, sunken eyes and small bones covered by a paper-thin layer of flesh. It brings back conversations I've had with survivors as I witnessed the faded ink numbers tattooed on arms, marking them for extermination. The name also reminds me of the Army intelligence photos, smuggled from German files by my Uncle Jim, showing items made from human flesh.

It was one of the darkest periods in human history, sending more than 6 million men, women and children to gas chambers and ovens as Adolph Hitler tried to purify Germany of races he considered inferior, including Jews, Gypsies, Poles and other ethnicities.

Some want to forget that period, while others cannot.

And some, like Hudson Middle School teacher Jennifer Lawler and her students, want to keep the memory alive, to help prevent history's repeat.

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Each year Lawler's eighth-grade class enters the city of Akron's Holocaust Arts & Writing Contest. In April, I wrote a story about the county winner from Lawler's class, Grant Norman. Grant's piece, "Her Resistance," was inspired by a visit to a concentration camp.

However, I think each and every participant deserves credit for taking time to help teach about one of the darkest periods of human existence.

The theme for this year's event was "Women of the Holocaust, stories of loss, resistance and survival," according to Lawler.

Grant and his fellow students were invited to the Akron Public Library, where their works were displayed during the April 27 to May 4 "Days of Remembrance."

The students were also invited to a speech by Dr. Nelly Toll, who as a child survived the Holocaust.

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The other middle school winners were: Maxwell Doyle, awarded fourth place -- multimedia, for "The Tyrants Carnage;"Anthony Fulco, awarded honorable mention -- visual arts, for "The Massacre;" Brigid Lee, awarded third place -- multimedia, for "Fighting for Life;" Benjamin Safarz, awarded third place -- writing, for "The Women Stand Ready," and Holly Trommer, awarded a fourth place tie -- visual arts, for "Hide and Seek."

"I was honored to have my project be a part of this project," Maxwell Doyle said. "It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to meet Nelly Toll and hear her first-hand experience as a child of the Holocaust."

But, above the accolades and grades, the students found a deeper meaning in the project -- a meaning we should all take to heart.

"By doing this project, it gave me a greater insight and understanding to the extent of the horrific and inhumane cruelty one man could inflict on so many," Maxwell added.

I saw pictures of each project and let me tell you, these students each hit the mark.

Parents, you have a lot to be proud of. These six students, and all the ones who have entered in years past, are helping teach lessons of a brutal history, in hopes it does not repeat.

Mrs. Lawler, I'm sure if any of the 6 million who died during the Holocaust could look down, they would express their gratitude.

I'm not a fan of speaking for other people, but I hope, in their stead, you and the students will allow me to say "thank you" on a job well done.

I'm sure they would agree.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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