Monday, January 31, 2011

Magda S., Holocaust Survivor, at Meridian Middle School

Meridian Middle School Honors International Holocaust Remembrance Day

In education, studying primary source documents is often a valuable tool. Meridian’s eighth-graders had an opportunity to hear from the ultimate primary source, a living witness to the Holocaust, as part of their language arts literature study. Mrs. Magda Schaloum, an eighty-eight year old Hungarian survivor of the Holocaust spoke to students sharing her story of deportation from her Hungarian village, life in Auschwitz and the Plaszow work camp in Poland, a weapons factory in Germany, and finally liberation from Muhldorf, another concentration camp in Germany at the end of World War II.

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, in 1945. Listening to Mrs. Schaloum share her survival story was a powerful way for the students to honor the memories of the more than 6,000,000 Jewish people, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mentally and physically handicapped, and homosexuals who lost their lives under the Nazi regime from 1933-1945.

Students honored Mrs. Schaloum with flowers and their undivided attention as she told of her moving experiences losing her father, mother, and brother. She told of her personal humiliation, brutal beatings, starvation diet, deprivation, and fear under the horrors of the Nazis. On the tender and sweet side, she shared about the meeting of her husband, a Greek Holocaust survivor, in a displaced persons camp shortly after the end of the war. Mrs. Schaloum began telling her survival story about twenty years ago when many were denying the Holocaust altogether. She knew she had to speak out and make sure the world never forgets.

At the closing of her visit to Meridian Middle School, Mrs. Schaloum was in tears as she said good-bye to the students and shared how much she had been blessed by them as an audience with their gifts of flowers and honor of her. She told the students she had never been treated so well and felt so loved in all of her years of visiting schools. She closed telling them she loved them all and challenged them to never let anyone put them down or allow them to believe they were not valuable and important.

Meridian eighth-graders in Miss Do’s and Mrs. Carlson’s classes have been doing a literature study of the Holocaust in preparation for reading The Diary of Anne Frank, a piece of literature commonly read by eighth-graders nationally. They have been reading about the survivors, rescuers, and resistors involved in life in the Jewish ghettos, concentration camps, and how many were hidden and protected from the Nazi atrocities. Both teachers share a passion for encouraging students to become contributing citizens of the world, honoring and valuing all human life. Studying the Holocaust is a way to learn from the past, honor those whose lives were stolen from them, and look to the future with eyes of tolerance and acceptance. Students are challenged to consider and make personal commitments to change patterns of bullying, harassment, and hatred of other human beings.

The Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center provides teaching trunks, with many primary source materials, literature units, posters, and other resources for teaching the Holocaust and making the link to the present with anti-bullying campaigns and the prevention of future genocides. Meridian Middle School has adopted their theme of “Change Begins with Me” with a huge, beautiful new wall hanging in the eighth grade pod, created by Mr. Bogle. The WSHERC also maintains a list of local Holocaust survivors who are willing to visit schools and other groups to share their own personal stories. Magda Schaloum is part of this local speakers bureau.

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