Telling Children Why They Must Remember Is Our Mission

Thu, 03/03/2011 - 10:57am

432 When the last living witnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust are gone, who will tell the stories? Unless we tell our children, no one will, and history could easily repeat itself, as it has so many times throughout history.

Anne Frank’s famous diary told her story after she perished, and Through the Eyes of a Friend, a dramatic presentation brought to our community each year by the Holocaust Commission, is opening the pages of that diary up in a new way for over 3000 Hampton Roads students this year.

Kristin Jankowski, 8th grade English teacher for Oscar Smith Middle School in Chesapeake, was delighted for the program to return to the Hampton Roads area. “For the past three years, Through the Eyes of a Friend has come to Oscar Smith Middle, and our students truly enjoy it!” 

With a few props and a video presentation that she interacts with, actress Elizabeth Rainer brings to life a composite character based on several real friends of Anne Frank’s, and tells her story in a new way. The mostly middle school students who see this presentation can identify with the young character before them, as she copes with issues no child should have to face – separation from parents for her own safety, wartime hiding and fear, arrest, deportation, inhumane conditions on trains and in concentration camps, the loss of so many friends and family….

These are things our children today, thankfully, do not have to face. But they need to understand why they happened. The Holocaust Commission sent the Through the Eyes of a Friend program to 21 schools in 2 weeks, including two synagogues’ religious schools. The reviews have been wonderful.433

According to director of Temple Israel’s religious school, Kathryn Morton, “the [combined] format is both better than video and better than [only] an actor/presenter. It very cleverly uses both historical and dramatic imagery as well as the immediacy of a live person right there in the room. The parents and teachers who were in with the kids thought the show was terrific.”

Angela German of Plaza Middle School, sent a “thank you” to the Holocaust Commission less than an hour after the actress had left her students. “The performance was outstanding.  Thank you for all you did to make it possible.  I hope to make this a yearly presentation for our students.  Our actress, Elizabeth, was AMAZING!”

For more information on this program, visit the Holocaust Commission webpage.

- Elena Baum
Director, Holocaust Commission

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