Holocaust Memorial Center Field Trip
With a grant from the Gratiot Community Foundation, sophomores and juniors from St. Louis High School were able to travel to Farmington Hills to the Holocaust Memorial Center. The purpose of the trip was to enhance students’ understanding of the Holocaust and the events that led to the systematic murder of the Jewish people. It also helped students to understand that the history of the Holocaust raises questions about human behavior and the context within which individual decisions are made. This trip helped students learn the difficult truths about why the Holocaust happened and required critical thinking and introspection on the part of students to understand the complexity of genocide.
According to Terri Reeves, English teacher and organizer of the trip, “I believe visiting the Holocaust Memorial Center offers something more than just learning in the classroom; it allows students to actually see and experience the history and timeline of the Holocaust. It allows students to hear a Holocaust survivor tell his story. This experience sparked conversations with students about how genocide can happen and what, as citizens, they can do to prevent atrocities such as this from happening again.”
Sophomore, Aubrey Smith commented, “We need to learn about the Holocaust because it is important for us to see how hatred builds up and then explodes. It is important to know that we are tomorrow’s leaders and to never let this thing happen again.” Sophomore Chloe Baxter also commented, “We need to learn about the Holocaust in order to remember that discrimination is unacceptable. Racism and religious persecution is still very present today, and I think that what we learn about the Holocaust makes people realize that treating other people badly due to things as trivial as race or religion is inhumane.”
The juniors who attended the Holocaust Memorial Center were able to hear Holocaust survivor and author of Chimneys and Chambers: The Lingering Smell of the Holocaust Michael Weiss speak about his time spent in the concentration camps. He told the story of losing both his parents and most of his relatives. It was an emotional story, and it really helped students to better understand what it was like for someone who experienced the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Junior Allyse March commented, “I felt so privileged to be able to hear the Holocaust survivor share his story. There are fewer and fewer survivors still with us, so I am so lucky to be a part of a generation that is still able to hear about this very dark time in our history.” Additionally, junior Elizabeth VanderHart said, “For me, listening to a Holocaust survivor was an amazing experience. It is one thing to read about an event from a textbook, but it’s a much different experience when you hear about it firsthand.”
Learning about the Holocaust and genocide is required for all students in Michigan, and the opportunity to learn in the classroom and then experience the Holocaust Memorial Center enhanced the students’ learning. One comment that was repeated by many students was quoted from Holocaust survivor Michael Weiss who said, “Every time I walk by the cattle car that we have here in the center, I wonder if that is the cattle car that took me and my family to Auschwitz. No family should have to go through that, and your generation has to be the one to make sure that it never happens again.”