"Anyone can go to the Holocaust museum [in Washington DC] but not everyone gets this experience." ~A. Speitel (student, 17)
Witness To History Project Kickoff
On Thursday, November 19th, 2009 the Holocaust Awareness Museum kicked off its Witness To History Project with six freshman students.
Chuck Feldman, Holocaust Awareness Museum president, told the students that the world was faced with the reality that holocaust survivors will not be around much longer to tell their story. He directed the first Witness To History Project class to listen to the stories, learn from them, and go out into the community and become re-enactors for those survivors who cannot. Chuck introduced the class to survivor Kurt Herman, the first subject of their learning experience.
Kurt was born in Vienna Austria to middle class observant Jewish parents in 1929. In i937, Kurt’s family was alarmed at growing exclusionary laws and violence toward Jews. The day after Kristallnacht, Kurt went to his school across the street from his house and he found new Nazi oriented books and photos of Hitler everywhere. In a short time he was ordered out of his school and placed in a central school for all Jewish children.
His family of eight adults and children made plans to leave Germany but a quota system based on place of birth forced the separation of family individual members who were born in different countries. Kurt’s uncle went to Shanghai. His father, grandmother, and grandfather eventually wound up in France and his mother, aunt and cousin in Italy. Kurt was one of 50 children out of 600 selected to be placed on the first kinder transport to the United States. Kurt was lucky enough to be placed with a well-to-do family in Allentown, Pa. where he lived until his parents could find their way to the USA and claim him from his foster family. Six of eight family members survived the war. His grandparents met their death in Auschwitz.
At the conclusion of Kurt’s remarks, the six Witness To History students were given their assignment by program director Robin Falkow. Robin directed them to watch assigned DVD. Develop a biography of Kurt Herman. Review it for accuracy with Kurt. They will get a acting coaching from a professional drama teacher. Then develop an audience for the re-enactment of Kurt’s holocaust experience as a survivor.