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December 08, 1995 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Of The Holocaust

PHOTOS BY BILL HANSEN

Above: Tim
Pongratz'
"luggage" was
in poster form.

sonal memoirs with texts that give historical di-
mension to the extermination of the Jews.
Still, it's the survivor accounts that stir the stu-
dents, making the Holocaust less of an abstrac-
tion and instilling passion in their own writing.
"'Me Holocaust is just a word to many students.
It's a vague word," Ms. Bruton said. The memoirs
turn that word into a face, she said. Small details
— the stench of a concentration camp barrack,
the color of a child's hairbrush, the realization that
a sister won't return home — make the Holocaust
accessible to the class.
"I didn't understand the life they really lived,"
said senior Julie Binder, 18, of Franklin, who had
received some Holocaust education in Sunday
school. "I had never learned the details."
Ms. Bruton sometimes goes beyond the writ-
ten word to bring those details home.
Earlier this semester, students were told to as-
sume the character of a Jew fleeing the Nazis, and
to pack a small suitcase with the items these in-
dividuals would take with them.
The suitcases line Ms. Bruton's classroom, and
are on display outside the Groves library.

Left: David Weeks
packed paints, a
book, his watch
and favorite
photo.

Above: Teacher Lindy
Bruton shows off her
students' suitcases.

Right: Brie Jackson
imagined what a
Holocaust victim
would pack in fleeing
the Nazis.

"My name is Dora
Petrowski," read a
note in one suitcase,
actually a floral hat-
box converted into a
young girl's valise.
"My age is 8 years. I
was told to pack all
the things I want to take with me even though
I'm not sure where I'm going." Beside the note
was a heart-shaped jewelry box, crayons, stuffed
animals and a diary.
In March, Ms. Bruton will take 15 students
to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Wash-
ington. One student, who has already seen the
museum, said, "I would love to go back, know-
ing what I know now."

On a recent morning,
the class gave book re-
ports on memoirs of their
choosing. Not surpris-
ingly, many of the stu-
dents — mostly seniors,
roughly half of them Jew-
ish — chose books with
narrators who were also
teen-agers.
Ms. Binder picked The
Stolen Years, which told
the story of a Polish girl
who lost family members to the Nazis. "Would
I have been able to live without my mom when
I was so young?" Ms. Binder wondered.
Ms. Bruton confided that she too had read the
story — a favorite of her daughter's — but had
been unable to finish. "When the mom died, I
closed the book," Ms. Bruton said. "I cried so
hard, I couldn't get through it." ❑

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