Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Community School of Davidson - Holocaust Memorial Exhibit

This article appeared here 2 years ago and gave me quite a boost with the response I had from it. It was the first time I had ever gotten more than 35 “hits” in a day. I now average about 250. I was so impressed by the exhibit, and that these kids chose to take on such a topic as the Holocaust. The fact that it was being taught in school anymore was a real shocker to me. And, as a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, New York, the last place I ever expected to run into an exhibit like this was in North Carolina. So, I went in and took the tour. This is the original article from my 2010 visit. I plan on going tomorrow and see the newer, updated version of this accurate and sensitive portrayal of one of the darkest chapters in human history. That the Community School of Davidson chooses to shed light upon it brings great hope to a world that is seemingly crumbling all about us. Only through an understanding of the past can we hope to avoid the same mistakes. Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new is the history you don’t know.” Truer words were never spoken. Here is the original post;

I never know what I am going to do when I wake up each day. Aside from emergency situations that pop up here and there, I am largely at my leisure. When I read this morning’s paper I saw that the Community School of Davidson was having a Holocaust Memorial Exhibit for the next few days. It sounded intriguing so I figured I’d check it out.
To begin with, I was kind of surprised that the Community School of Davidson would be having this event. No real reason for my surprise, I just thought of them as an elite school and accordingly, and incorrectly as it turns out, to place no real emphasis on social issues. I love it when I’m wrong. Lesson learned.

These kids spent two weeks, or more, preparing the exhibit. Upon first entering you are given a guide, a 6th grade student at the school. These kids are animated and well informed in their presentations. The diagram shows the route and nature of the exhibits. The journey begins with Propaganda and moves onto Kristalnacht, the November 1938 “Night of Glass”, considered by many to be the beginning of the Holocaust.

From there the exhibit moves on to the Warsaw Ghetto, where in October of 1940 the Jews of Warsaw were restricted to a small area of the city and basically allowed to starve. The exhibit was done by creating a small alcove into a replica of a typical ghetto apartment. Remember, these kids were working with construction paper and magic markers, and yet the effect was claustrophobic. It was very effective work.

The Railcar was a particularly useful tool for realizing the cramped conditions and sheer inhumanity of the deportations. First there is a square foot marked off in the hall outside the exhibit into which you are asked to stand with 5 other people. That’s what the Jews experienced on their way to the concentration camps. It was unnerving for 5 minutes, think of the reality of it for an average of 2 days, without food or water. No sanitary facilities; stripped of all belongings except for the clothes on your back.
The Auschwitz Camp and Anne Franks’ hidden apartment were also displayed with great effect. The use of photographs and even laptops added to the availability of the presentations. The lighting was subdued and managed to add an appropriately tangible darkness to the subject.
There was a small exhibit about Oskar Schindler and Rabbi Gerber’s Red Shoes, as well as a section of children’s art depicting replicas of the art work done by the children interred at the Terezin Concentration Camp.
This exhibit was important in many ways, but chiefly it was comforting to know that the Holocaust will not be forgotten, it cannot be ignored. And these kids prove it. Many thanks to Davidson Community School for their efforts on behalf of tolerance. And thanks to the students who took their time to help create such an insightful tour. It was a job well done.

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