Holocaust education at its core: Lessons taught at Norview Middle School

April 7, 2022

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Kindra Mosher, a new media specialist at Norview Middle School, is serious about students learning Holocaust history. A transplant from upstate New York, where Elie Wiesel’s Night was required eighth grade reading, Mosher loves offering students the books that United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Holocaust Commission sends their library each year from money raised through White Rose donations.

On Wednesday, March 23, Mosher invited members of the Holocaust Commission to the school to witness the culmination of a Holocaust unit led by seventh grade social studies teacher Rebecca Washington.

At the start of the unit, Washington assigned each student the name of a person who lived during the Holocaust, with information similar to that on the identity cards that are sometimes handed out at Holocaust Museums, to bring the enormity of the Holocaust to a personal level. During the unit, students decorated a paper butterfly to represent their person, with the name and the student’s thoughts about how they must have felt during such a difficult time. Eventually, all of the students’ butterflies were placed on the wall outside the school library.

At the unit’s conclusion, students gathered in front of the butterfly-covered wall and learned the fates of their people. Washington read each student’s person’s fate to the hushed group. Some had lived, and became survivors. Some had not, and were victims. For each student whose person had been murdered (and she used that word), the student had to replace the butterfly on the wall with a large black dot. In a final act to help them understand the inhumanity of the Nazis, those whose butterflies were removed had to crumple their creation and leave it on the floor in front of the wall, just as the Nazis took no care in disposing of their victims.

Looking upon the wall at the end of the exercise, with more black dots than butterflies, above a sea of crumpled artwork, the students saw another representation of the destruction of the Holocaust.

Educators such as Washington and Mosher deserve much appreciation for teaching young people the lessons of the Holocaust, and for allowing the Commission to witness this powerful teaching moment.

-Elena Baum

Letter to the Editor