Monday, March 17, 2014

TLConf 2014: Holocaust Museum Pre-Conference Workshop

This post is in a series about my experience at the inaugural Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, DC March 13-15, 2014. These posts are not endorsed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards nor the fine folks at the Teaching and Learning Conference. They consist entirely of my opinion. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.
March 13, 2014 ~ Holocaust Museum Pre-Conference Workshop
I chose this workshop, out of many available, because I had never been to Washington DC and knew this was a museum that I likely wouldn't be able to visit if I didn't "double dip". Our workshop consisted of the exhibit "Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust". 

We began our session in a small classroom area in the lower level of the museum. Our facilitator was a wonderful lady named Christina Chavarria. She taught for many years and now works full time in the Education Division at the museum. She presented a short introduction to the exhibit we were going to tour and then led us into the exhibit area. We were then free to wander and roam as we saw fit to gather back in the classroom area for a debriefing.

I'm especially sensitive to any form of racism or discrimination being that I was raised by an extremely belligerent man who was also very racist. (Honestly, people often wonder how I turned out so "normal" when raised by someone who was such a prejudice jerk...and that's being nice.) It was one reason why I also knew I had to see this museum. It was important for who I used to be, who I have become and who I want to be in my future.

Following are some notes I took while touring this exhibit. This exhibit focuses upon whether or not certain people were complicit in the Holocaust by what they did (or didn't) do. (Note: these are truly notes I took by hand as I toured this exhibit, knowing that I wouldn't possibly remember everything I saw. They may seem scattered for this reason.)

  • Did individuals have choices in the Holocaust? YES.
  • Many Germans didn't "support" Nazi policies but complied by following along anyway to benefiting from following.
  • "Nobody did anything about it" -- Saying from a Witness
  • School groups, accompanied by teachers, were willing (or unwilling?) witnesses to bonfires
  • Propaganda "toys" were created to inculcate pro-Nazi attitudes
  • "Brownshirts" (Jews) found little support
  • When one is banned from a public place -- are people who go to that public place, such as a swimming pool, complicit in the discrimination?
  • Sign above a store front reads, "This Market cleansed of Jews"
  • Man was imprisoned for "laziness" because of his religion (Jewish)
  • A video was shown of a woman and a man, one Jewish the other not, being publicly humiliated for having an intimate relationship. They were made to wear brown sacks for clothes, had a sign around their neck proclaiming their "crime" and had their hair shaved off in public
  • Principal distributed sweets to children to publicly taunt Jews
  • State organized and legalized the looting and theft of Jewish owned stores
  • Property Taxes simply for being Jewish (first 20%, then 25%)
  • Local German police officers complied with their orders--they didn't intervene in beatings or thefts
  • As Jewish people were deported, people looked on. What were they thinking? Are they accomplices because they didn't intervene?
  • Jews were marked with armbands and moved to areas called ghettos
  • Many people relied upon extortion techniques to make life miserable for the Jews
  • A quote written on a wall from a Dutch Shopkeeper in September 1942 ~ "Try not to think about it too much, because it only makes you miserable. At the moment, a human life does not account for much, especially if it is a Jewish life."  <---- :="" ever="" have="" i="" li="" read="" saddest="" thing="">

While this exhibit showcases a very serious and horrible thing (that sadly still happens today whether or not we want to believe and acknowledge it), it was a great way to begin this really awesome conference. You can't go into an exhibit like this and come out the same person you were when you went in. It's just not possible.

The best part is that if you can't get to DC anytime soon but want to know/see more about this exhibit, you can do so for free at the Holocaust Museum's website. Click here for information about the exhibit and to find the online exhibition.
The Caffeinated Teacher

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