A Commitment to a Challenging, Diverse and
Culturally-Sensitive Holocaust and Genocide Education
Front row from left, On behalf of the New Jersey Office of the Anti-Defamation League, Holocaust Survivor and former member of the New Jersey State Board of Education Maud Dahme, presents the 2013 Anti-Defamation League Award to Dr. Marilyn E. Birnbaum, Chief Education Officer, North Plainfield, and Jerome Pocius, English Teacher, North Plainfield Middle School. Joining them at the awards ceremony during the General Session of the NJASA/NJAPSA Annual Spring Conference, in Atlantic City, are front row right, John B. Thompson, Special Education Teacher, North Plainfield Middle School, and back row from left, William Saccardi, Reading Teacher, North Plainfield Middle School, and Matthew Iannucci, Special Education Teacher, North Plainfield Middle School.
The North Plainfield Middle School Holocaust/Genocide Initiative consists of three components:
· Realia in the Classroom
· Internet Resource Data Base
· Middle School as Living History
Realia presents a sense of history and newness to the student who is primarily an electronic learner. During this initiative, students will be given the opportunity to view, analyze, and respond to significant artifacts from the time period. This Realia includes, but is not limited to, Nazi Trading Cards, Money used in the Warsaw Ghetto, and Slave Labor Identity Cards. A student, for example, will touch the same currency from the Westerbork Camp in Holland that Anne Frank might have used. In addition, students will see how children’s trading cards became an effective propaganda tool for the Third Reich. Additionally, students will be exposed to a myriad of patriotic materials from the American perspective, and some of this material will be specific to North Plainfield’s involvement during the war years.
The Internet Resource Data Base is an in-house resource begun this past school year. Currently, the following sections are available on the North Plainfield Middle School Web Page:
Dr. Seuss Goes to War
United States World War II Propaganda
National Geographic Wartime Propaganda
1936 Berlin Olympics
Artists for Victory
Walt Disney Goes to War
Women during World War II
Nazi Era Eugenics
This data base can be viewed at the following web site under the tab "Holocaust": http://www.nplainfield.org/Domain/975. Future sections for this data base will include:
Concentration / Death Camps
Resistance/ Rescue / Liberation
The Middle School as Living History component is currently in development. On May 6, 2013, the middle school hallways were divided into various learning stations. These learning stations included the following:
1936 Berlin Olympics: Students were exposed to the progandaesque splendor of the 1936 Olympics, Hitler’s dreams of a masterful performance by the "Master Race," and the clever masking of his Anti-Semitic regime.
Nazi Eugenics: Drawing on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s exhibit, "Deadly Medicine," students gained insight into the organization, implementation, and consequences of contemporary eugenic theory in both America and in Germany. Students also learned that Hitler’s first genocide was committed on German people he deemed "useless."
Nazi Propaganda: Drawing heavily on Realia/ primary documents, students gained insight into the subtle and insidious use of propaganda.
Warsaw Ghetto: The Warsaw Ghetto is the setting of the 8th grade reading, Milkweed. This section allowed the students to compare and contrast the historical fiction aspects of the novel. As far as possible, the atmosphere of the Warsaw Ghetto was recreated.
Concentration / Death Camps: Students were given a virtual tour of the major Nazi Death Camps, including a slideshow created by a faculty member who recently visited the camps.
Railway Car of Death: Students vicariously experienced the sensation of riding in a railway car, the actual dimensions of which closely simulated a Nazi railcar, headed towards the Death Camps.
The Arts and the Holocaust: This area displayed art by both survivors and victims of the Holocaust, along with artistic pieces by the North Plainfield Middle School students.
North Plainfield World War II Involvement (Canucks at War): This section recognized the significant contributions of North Plainfield’s residents during World War II. On display were various mementoes, provided by North Plainfield citizens. Also on display were wartime copies of the North Plainfield High School yearbook and school newspaper.
Rescue / Resistance / Liberation: Students learned about some of the true heroes of the Holocaust: the men and women who chose to rescue, resist, and liberate, at great personal risk. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, founded to recognize and assist rescuers, provides valuable resources in this area.
The Tree of Life: The culminating component was the "Tree of Life," where students honored the past by improving the future. Our annual Holocaust speaker was asked to symbolically dedicate this living tribute.
It should be noted that the North Plainfield Middle School has long used the multi-disciplined approach. Accordingly, students have been and continue to be exposed to multiple facets of Holocaust/Genocide Education, guided by a teacher skilled in his/her discipline.
Below are some examples of the completed components.