Survivors’ keepsakes inform Holocaust lesson

Miscellaneous items from Holocaust survivors’ suitcases are spread out on a table in Christina Lemanowicz’ fifth-grade classroom. Pictured is an Allied Expeditionary Force Index Card, which were handed out displaced people after liberation from the Nazis.

AVON-BY-THE-SEA — An audience of eighth-graders sat in on Christina Lemanowicz’ fifth-grade class on Monday as Avon Elementary School took part in a historic program that tells a story of survival in a personalized way. In the corner of the room were hand-written letters, photographs and papers of identification of three Holocaust survivors. 

It was up to the fifth-graders to retell their stories. 

“I think we should learn about the Holocaust because we can learn from our mistakes,” said fifth-grader Maggie Hayser. “We can also see what’s happening and how it happened,” “We can make sure people feel safe where they are. Not everyone feels safe in the world.”

The program, “A Journey to Life,” sends out suitcases containing personal items from actual Holocaust survivors to schools across the state. Ms. Lemanowicz said she found out about it through the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College. 

“It really gives some unique experiences for the kids,” she said.

The survivors’ stories are told first hand through various documents, photographs and memorabilia. Ms. Lemanowicz’ students shared the stories with the eighth-graders who missed the program after it was added to the curriculum three years ago. 

“It’s a great thing. The kids are very interested in it,” Ms. Lemanowicz said. “They get a lot out of it. It helps them to be more empathetic, as well.”

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