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Learning from the Past: Year 10 at the Holocaust Institute of WA

Students study the Holocaust in Year 10 as part of the new Western Australian Curriculum syllabus for Humanities. Last week students had a worthwhile and impactful experience visiting the Holocaust Institute of WA in Yokine.

The visit brought home the realities of war, especially for civilians caught up in the Nazi occupation of Europe. The long-lasting effects of trauma on the victims, including young children, was seen when we listened intently to the account given by a Dutch Holocaust/Shoah survivor. The pain of the vivid imprints on his memory was tangible and several of the students commented on what his life must have been like as a young boy growing up. We had several good talks that pointed out the sacrifices that the Righteous of the Nations made to help some of the Jewish people survive.

One of the students, Muko Saw found a link to the book in which the Survivor told his story – click here to find out more.

The main emphasis was positive and helped the students recognise the signs that a society could be in trouble with the way it treats different groups of people, how genocide can be avoided and so on. Most of the students seemed to come away from this experience with an appreciation for the blessing of family and the society we live in, and the responsibility to speak up when this is threatened by bullying of any kind.

We are most grateful to the volunteers who gave up their time to help us gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and for the positive way they encouraged us to live our lives.

The students were wonderfully behaved and were a credit to their school and parents. What a blessing it is to be at this school.
You can read some of the comments from our Year 10 students below:

“I felt very privileged to be a part of the learning experience, going to the Holocaust Museum. It was such an interesting experience and very amazing to see and listen to the man who was actually living throughout these times and moved constantly throughout Hitler’s rise. Hearing his stories were quite sad, listening to how he had to let go of his family and moving into uncomfortable areas and situations against his beliefs was all very saddening. However, I enjoyed examining all the photographs, it just shows us the reality of it and what people had to go through. It was also very interesting to hear the man’s views on the holocaust and how he was very passionate about the suffering and the history of the holocaust” – Tanya Allen

“I was really glad that I had the privilege to go the Holocaust Museum, to be able to experience the devastating events that occurred during those times. When we listened to the Holocaust survivor I really felt for what happened. It brought me closer to the reality of what it was like for him and many other survivors. The struggles, those things that they had to experience at such young ages – it’s just devastating. How could the world have come to the conclusion of war and Hitler to the conclusion of killing of main groups, millions? I think that my generation has grown up with all these privileges, all these things we take for granted and honestly we don’t know anything, we haven’t experienced anything more traumatic than they did. This experience really makes me realise the reality and depth and devastation” – Leah van Dam

“The excursion to the Holocaust Institute in Yokine was extremely fascinating. I realised that, after this trip, I have learnt so much about what it was like, simply from the words of a Holocaust survivor. It shocked me to see the hatred of the Nazis so strong as to persecute these Jews in an era where they would receive no love. I wish I could have been there to help them, to pray with them as they faced this awful period of history. Yet, we can still make a difference for these men and women who struggled their way through the Holocaust.

There were a couple of things that struck me about the story of Henk. He lost his family (not in death) when he was taken away from his Mum, Dad and siblings. He stated that he had a close family and to be separated from them must have been nightmarish. Henk faced the most awful circumstances, such as being stuck in an attic for several weeks with hardly any food, water or even warmth. He was in Holland and winters over there would have been freezing.

When he was finally given to his foster parents, he was expected to keep his Jewish religion hidden. One such example was when he was at the dinner table just as they were going to pray, he put his hand over his head because in Jewish culture, a cap would cover the male heads when they prayed. This was frowned upon by his Catholic foster parents and they sternly told him never to do that again (as this might have jeopardised the safety of their entire family).

He also had an experience of his foster parents telling him to go out into the wheat field and hide because the Nazis were shooting. The immense horror he must have been feeling was something that I could not even begin to imagine. Yet he went out into the cold, wet, muddy fields to hide from the Germans. Henk stated that he still has respiratory problems to this day from sitting out in that field for two hours.

I think what we should learn from this excursion is that the world is most definitely, not perfect. In fact, it is filled with evil and wicked people who want to do things against God’s purpose for man. We were created for this earth to praise and honour God. We instead choose to do the thing that God hates: sin.

What we can learn from the Holocaust is how we can prevent such hate and wickedness come into power. We can be people who love, no matter what religious background we’re from, we all have the capability to love. God may not seem present in so many people’s hearts. But we, as Christians, know that God is working even through the most troubled people in this world. Such was Hitler and he is a man of whom we can learn from our mistakes” – Aynsley Vivian

Mrs Drennan

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