Holocaust Survivor Day

In my mind, that's what I've been calling today for the past two weeks.

Today a man who was forced into a labor camp as a teenager came and spoke to my freshmen classes. We gathered in the library and listened intently as he described his experience.

Mr. HS hadn't gone to a concentration camp; he'd gone to a work camp instead. A few days before a group of prisoners was going to be sent to a death camp, he escaped with 41 other men into the forest surrounding the camp. For two years, they hid in the forest, surviving on whatever they could find or scavenge from nearby homes. They were there for almost two years, and when the work camp was liberated, only eight of the escapees had survived.

Mr. HS was softspoken, but passionate, and he told his story haltingly, struggling to find the right words. His wife, to whom he has been married for 52 years, often had to prompt him. Sometimes she corrected him, in that funny/exasperated way that people who've been married forever have.

My thirty-five kids were very polite and attentive--minus the few that I had to wake up. (I like to go behind them and pinch the skin on their backs. It's very effective and gives a good sharp tingle to the offender. I take great joy in doing this. Is that wrong?) They asked good insightful questions, and when our time was up, they thanked him and shook his hand; one girl gave him a hug.

I didn't tell my kids this, but that's the first time I've ever heard a Holocaust survivor in person too. Lifelong learning ... that's what's great about being a teacher.

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