On the second day of this month, an unassuming anniversary passed. One that does not get much, if any, attention in history books. It’s been 78 years since the arrival of the first Kindertransport in London’s Liverpool Street station. The Kindertransport was the collective efforts of individuals across Europe to save the children, Jewish and non-Jewish, from the impending war that would engulf Europe and decimate Jewish lives, culture, and families. In the ultimate act of sacrifice, parents signed their children up for passage on these trains and sent them away to safety. For most, the final moments before boarding were the last they would spend together on this Earth. The children arrived in London from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, into the orphanages, families, and safe houses of British citizens willing to accept them.
As an educator, one of the most sobering portions of history I teach is that of the Holocaust—rife with many complex layers of how this part of our collective human history unfolded. There was a slow buildup, then a torrent of events, and then steady progress towards the fulfillment of Hitler’s Final Solution for the Jewish people. It was all going quite well for Hitler, until it wasn’t. His mission was never fully accomplished thanks to the actions of the Allied forces and the “Righteous Among the Nations“—approximately 26,000 non-Jews from all over the world who risked their lives to save Jewish people.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe with a group of educators from around the country, visiting places that I’d previously only read about or imagined. Our stops included the Anne Frank House, Westerbork (the transit camp in which Anne and her family were briefly imprisoned), the Imperial War Museum, and the Liverpool Street station. It was there in the station that I was able to soak in the busy, chaotic atmosphere, picturing what it must have been like to arrive unable to understand the language and separated from my family. As an educator and a mother, it was deeply moving.
While researching material for my class, I stumbled across Museum Without Walls, a non-profit organization that created and led the tour. I wrote a grant to fund the trip, which I did not receive, but in doing so, made a disappointing discovery about Holocaust education resources in West Virginia. Quite simply, there are very few available. We do not have a single museum dedicated to this history. The Commission on Holocaust Education created by the state legislature in 2001 was disbanded in 2010, and the state standards for middle school social studies do not mention it by name.
For both teachers and students, the most influential learning often takes place outside the classroom. To that end, I want to share an opportunity for 8–12th-grade students to participate in the Museum Without Walls “Memory and Memorial” tour to Amsterdam—set for July 2017. Students will have the unique opportunity to live the history of a Holocaust survivor, as well as trace the steps of Anne Frank throughout Amsterdam—the setting for her story.
For more information, click here, or send inquiries to email@example.com.
— Claire is an educator with Jefferson County Schools.