The Holocaust as Seen Through the Eyes of Students at Park Vista High School

The Holocaust and other tragedies in history may seem unimaginable to today’s youth. But Park Vista High School came up with an innovative and stimulating program to bring awareness of these atrocities to students that also translated into relevant issues facing teens today. For three months, they have studied the White Rose resistance movement, when a group of courageous college students almost their own age from Munich were the first to stir up the ranks of Hitler’s Nazis during l942-3. Students honored those who lived and died during that time on Holocaust Remembrance Day last month when they wore white roses, most probably a symbol of peace and purity. Donations from the effort were sent to the Save Darfur Coalition.

Mr. Moskovic from Hobe Sound was l3 years old when he was taken by the Nazis and when he was released in l945, was the only surviving member of his family. He escaped death three times from nothing short of miracles. His goal in sharing with students is “to keep the memory alive and to help our youth carry the truth in the future so people don’t forget.”  Students also shared how they have grown from the project, similar to PSAs, and posters which are part of a large quilt that covers a wall in the main cafeteria.

The White Rose program at Park Vista was made possible through a grant provided by LEAH, the League for Educational Awareness for the Holocaust based in Boca Raton, an organization that educates and advocates about the Holocaust and other genocides. It seeks to engage teachers in inspiring and motivating students to actively contribute to a kinder, more compassionate world.  To date, LEAH has funded more than 300 education grant awards which have touched the lives of 36,000 students in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

The White Rose group are most well-known for their leafleting and a secret organization started by Sophie and Hans Scholl of which several award-winning movies, documentaries, books and plays have been made. All seven members were convicted of treason and beheaded at a very young age.

Media Specialist and coordinator of the school-wide program, Brigitta McTigue, spent her early years growing up in Munich, Germany where Sophie and her brother Hans Scholl and the White Rose students were considered heroes.

“Our l6 and l7 year olds need to know this, so that they learn how to deal with prejudice, bigotry, bullying, and other human rights issues they face today. We hope this program has given them some tools to become more tolerant in their daily lives and to find healthy ways to stand up to hurtful and cruel actions done to other people merely because of differences.”

Also collaborating and working together on the project was Sue Mehok, English teacher, as well as reading and social studies classes. Activities included reading chapters or books about the White Rose movement and watching the film “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.”

“As we teach students about the Holocaust, and other examples of genocide such as Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia we are in a very real way repairing the world,” said Amanda McGee, executive director of LEAH. “They are taking the lessons that happened in the Holocaust of these very brave young people in the White Rose movement so that they can hopefully become better human beings.”

Educational programs such as these are designed to help children learn about time periods and events that may seem incomprehensible to them.

“They have no concept of what freedom is, because they have it,” said Ms. Mehok.

While many schools offer only a few paragraphs in their history books about the Holocaust, Park Vista High School has a dedicated program, under the leadership of Eileen Shapiro who heads up Holocaust Studies for the school district of Palm Beach County. It was at her suggestion that McTigue applied for the grant from LEAH.