“Never give up hope. Never, ever give up.” These words—powerful enough to stand on their own—took on added weight and significance as the 5th–8th grades gathered and listened to the heart-wrenching story of Holocaust survivor Etta Katz. Born in Veliké Loucky, Czechoslovakia in 1923, Katz grew up in a family of two parents, two brothers and three sisters; sadly, her two young brothers, only eight and ten years old at the time, and her parents were murdered in a Nazi death camp.
Before Katz’s presentation, 5th Grade Heads and Middle School Advisors provided students with some historical context to her story, which allowed the students to focus on the content of her narrative as she spoke in a relatable way. Instead of getting bogged down in names and places and historical contexts, Katz focused on her personally experience as a child trying to watch out for herself and her two sisters, through trains and factories and concentration camps to their eventual liberation and her joy at arriving in America and how these experiences affected her and impacted her life.
Finally, Katz spoke on what sparked her desire to share her intensely personal story. She mentioned her gratitude for being in America but remembers her anger when countries looked the other way as the situation in her home deteriorated during WWII. She wanted the students to understand the dangers of “looking the other way,” but she had an even larger message that she wanted to stick with students: “Never give up hope. Never, ever give up.” Katz never, ever gave up hope that she and her sisters would be liberated and that she would make her way home to the young man who still held onto her heart.
Hearing these words from someone who has lived through such horrendous circumstances greatly impacted those present. Intermediate and Middle School Head John Novick shared, “As this current generation of school-age children will be the last generation to have the opportunity to hear personally from a survivor, this is a moment in time we were eager to seize, with clear connections to not only our academic curriculum (in English and History, Middle Schoolers read The Diary of Anne Frank and Night and study World War II, for instance), but also our cultural competency, inclusion and equity goals as a progressive school community.”
Parker is thankful to the Harris Family and 8th Grade History teacher Stephanie Lorenzo for arranging this visit. And we are especially grateful to Ms. Katz, who chose to relive these extremely painful moments to ensure later generations can learn from the mistakes of our past. This was truly an experience our students won’t soon forget.
For photos of this visit, click here
To listen to Katz, click here