Thanks for visiting!
Sign up now to learn about future programs and Holocaust education resources for the classroom.



Newsletter signup is also available in our footer if you prefer to keep browsing before you subscribe.
BLOG

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION

SURVIVORS



The following is a reflection from Leah Warshawski, producer and co-director of the award-winning film about Holocaust Survivor Sonia Warshawski, Big Sonia. Leah will be joining an Echoes & Reflections Connecting Communities webinar in July to introduce the film to educators for their use in the classroom.

View more +

At this time when we are struggling through a global pandemic impacting our lives in the most profound and difficult ways, people are looking for models of resilience, unity, empathy, and hope. Sonia Warshawski, a 94-year old Holocaust survivor and my grandmother, is that kind of model.

In my film, Big Sonia, I sought to capture all of these emotions as Sonia shares her experiences with students, inmates, and her community - all from a small tailor shop in the bottom of a dead Kansas City mall.  While the film is a poignant story of generational trauma and healing, it also offers a funny portrait of the power of love to triumph over bigotry, and the power of truth-telling.

As I believe all teachers hope to achieve when they teach young people about the Holocaust or other atrocities in history, we wanted this film to inspire positive change in the world.  That is why we ask viewers to spread the #SoniaEffect – to share what happens after people see the film and are fueled to action. Big Sonia has inspired people in ways we never imagined. Deeply moved by the film’s message, the Mayor of Kansas City declared an annual “Big Sonia Day” on December 21 to remind everyone of the power of kindness.

Making and distributing films is not for the faint of heart, but what keeps me motivated is the profound reactions from students.  One example was from 14-year-old Luke, who shared,

“My favorite part was seeing how she brought vulnerability to the students.  It is hard to be vulnerable as teenagers.  She showed them that they should stand up for each other and value differences in their self and their classmates.”

Big Sonia has become our way to open important and difficult conversations, and the project has become our beacon of hope when the world around us doesn’t seem to make sense. With antisemitism and hatred on the rise in so many communities and across the globe, there has never been a more important time for this film, its themes, Holocaust education, and for Sonia herself.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Sonia was forced to close her tailor shop and stay at home. Her attitude towards her enforced confinement is a model for all of us when she says in a recent voicemail,

“I am still a free bird. I am not in the camps. I am not in the gas chamber. So, I am not scared…we will make it.”

Sonia’s powerful words bring comfort and perspective during this time of social distancing and give us the opportunity to re-examine connection, prioritize relationships, and ask: who do you want to spend time with and how do you want to spend your days? Sonia reminds us that we’re all connected just by being human, and that we should always choose love over hate, no matter our circumstances.

Learn more about Big Sonia and how the film can support Holocaust education:

  • Educators are invited to join Leah on July 16 at 4 PM EST for a webinar. Registered educators will receive a link to watch the 45-minute educational version of the film in advance and will receive a 50% discount to purchase the film and educational resources after participation.
  • After watching the film, students can engage in this Big Sonia IWitness activity from USC Shoah Foundation to reflect on the power of personal testimonies.
  • Kansas City area educators can register for a Big Sonia virtual program on June 10th hosted by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education here.

About the author: Leah Warshawski is an Impact Producer / Director with over 20 years of experience in the film / video industry. Learn more about her work here: www.inflatablefilm.com



FacebookTwitterEmailCopy Link


Close -




CURRENT EVENTS

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE



...feels different this year. As we prepare to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day (beginning the evening of April 20 through sundown on April 21) an unprecedented global health crisis unfolds. In many ways, tragedies can bring out the best in humanity. However, historically, such crises can also lead to an increase in scapegoating, xenophobia, and hurtful or damaging rhetoric. Today, as COVID-19 continues to affect us all, ADL has documented a rise in these behaviors, specifically against Jewish and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. Teaching about the dangers of unchecked hate and antisemitism, both past and present, remains paramount.

View more +

Yet, in these dark times we are hopeful. We believe that one of the most effective ways to combat antisemitism and other forms of hate is through a deep understanding of the history behind these harmful attitudes and how they continue to influence our world today. Yom HaShoah, a call for remembrance, presents a meaningful opportunity for educators to help their students reflect on the past in order to build a positive and peaceful present and future. And, although you may not be in your regular classroom or have the ability to physically make a school trip to a memorial or museum, you can still honor this day and positively impact students with lessons from the Holocaust.

How can we remember the victims of the Holocaust during this turbulent time?

Teach the Human Story

Teaching the human story of the Holocaust is one of Echoes & Reflections key pedagogical principles, as it can have a profound impact on students’ connection to this event. Fostering empathy through personal stories is especially essential during this unsettling period of uncertainty and separation. We encourage educators to commemorate this upcoming day of remembrance by sharing visual history testimony from Holocaust survivors and witnesses with students, all of which are found in our lesson plans. Each testimony is accompanied by guiding questions to support student reflection and comprehension. The testimony of survivor Henry Oertelt in our Contemporary Antisemitism Unit is particularly powerful, as he states:

"I am the prime example of what can happen when no one speaks up against prejudice."

Poignant words like Henry’s help students understand the importance of being an ally and work to make the world a better place.

Human stories are not only found in visual history testimony, but can also be accessed through works of poetry, art, photographs, and other artifacts from the Holocaust, also found in our lesson plans. These primary sources act as powerful tools to enrich students’ understanding of this history and can compel them to make change.

Engage with The Power of Community

Many of our friends at local Holocaust Museums and Centers, who would normally host in-person commemorative events for Yom HaShoah, have shifted to online ceremonies. We encourage you and your students to connect with others by participating in virtual commemorations offered by these institutions in your area. Additionally, we invite you to join our Partner Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center's live broadcast marking the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day on 4/20 as well as their virtual name-reading campaign on 4/21 to record the name reading of a Holocaust victim and share the video on social media.

Even during this deeply difficult time, we still have the power to work towards change and connect with our communities. On Yom HaShoah, by looking towards the past we can support our youth to examine the present and build a more secure and peaceful future. Through remembrance we can inspire positive action.



FacebookTwitterEmailCopy Link


Close -




HOLOCAUST EDUCATION

TEACHING



This blog originally appeared in The Times of Israel

View more +

Ever since returning from the United States more than a week ago, straight to quarantine in Jerusalem, I have been debating with myself whether to write an op-ed about an uplifting experience I had in Greeneville, Tennessee during my trip. In “normal times,” I would not have thought twice about doing so, but with practically every person on earth focused on the coronavirus, I had strong doubts whether anyone would have the patience to read my account. Even worse, many of the readers might think that I had “lost it” completely and was now in “la-la land,” cut off from our dismal reality.

In any event, after almost eight days of total isolation, during which I finally mastered the art of online shopping, and internalized the fact that in Jerusalem one has to order groceries about five days before they actually arrive at your doorstep, I decided to take the leap and sit down and recount what happened almost three weeks ago in a small town in Tennessee. I hope that at a minimum, this story will cheer up a few of our readers, and remind them that there is a world out there, that we all will hopefully return to, in the near future.

I first became aware of the town, when I received an invitation to speak at an annual “Holocaust Conference of Eastern Tennessee,” which was scheduled to be held in Greenville in early March 2020. The invitation came from Noelle Smith, the young assistant principal of Greeneville High School. She is an incredibly enthusiastic member of the growing cadre of teachers who utilize “Echoes & Reflections,” an online program sponsored by Yad Vashem, ADL and the USC Shoah Foundation to encourage and help train teachers how to teach the Shoa to elementary and high school students. The program also offers the teachers an opportunity to attend a special two-week seminar at Yad Vashem, or to visit the death camps in Poland, as well as webinars on special timely topics.

Noelle had participated in the course at Yad Vashem at which I gave a lecture on the efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, as well as a special webinar on the case of Ivan Demjanjuk, in the wake of the recent Netflix series. Thus, when she heard that I was coming to the States to launch the English version of the book Ruta Vanagaite and I wrote on Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes (Our People; Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust, Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), she inquired whether I would be willing to speak at the upcoming annual Holocaust education conference she and Tennessee Holocaust teaching fellow Lori Wilhoit were organizing in Greeneville, with the help of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, headed by Knoxville attorney Lawrence Leibowitz, and with the assistance of its Education Director Devora Fish.

Normally, I would not jump at an opportunity to speak to children under 18, let alone elementary school students, because of the complexity of the issues I usually discuss in explaining the challenges I face as a Nazi-hunter. And when Noelle told me about the expected size of the audience (two groups of 1,000 students each, ranging from age 10 to 18), I was very hesitant, but her enthusiasm, along with the encouragement of my friend Sheryl Ochayon, who coordinates the Echoes & Reflections program at Yad Vashem, convinced me that it would be important to speak at the conference.

Getting to and from Greenville was a bit of a shlep, but my experience at the conference more than made up for it. The venue was the First Baptist Church, which had the largest auditorium in town, and as promised, each of my two lectures were before an audience of 1,000 students and about 60 teachers and interested adults from the area. The program included greetings from Lawrence Leibowitz, who has played an important role in promoting Holocaust education throughout the state, as well as a wonderful speech by Carla Kesterson, the 2020 recipient of the Belz-Lipman Annual Teaching Award for excellence in Holocaust education, who explained in a very convincing manner to her young audience why it is vital to learn about the Shoah.

Given the relatively young age of the children, I devoted most of my lecture to stories about individuals, primarily about legendary Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and Jasenovac concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic, the totally unrepentant Croatian mass murderer who escaped after World War II to Argentina, and whom I helped bring to justice in his native land. To my great surprise, the audience was a model of decorum, and there were no disturbances whatsoever. On the contrary, I had a very attentive and appreciative audience, as evidenced by the large number of questions posed by the students, especially the younger ones, after the lecture, some of which were a bit surprising.

Thus along with the usual queries such as: How many Nazis have you caught? [Several dozen]  Did you always want to be a Nazi-hunter? [No, my fantasy was to be the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA]  How did you become a Nazi-hunter and did you accept the job right away? [Read my autobiography.] How much money was offered for information leading to the arrest of a Nazi war criminal? [In the case of Mauthausen sadistic doctor Aribert Heim 310,000 euros; in other cases up to 25,000 euros] Who was the most famous Nazi you caught? [Dinko Sakic], I fielded questions such as: Is Nazi-hunting profitable? [I’m not in it for the money!]  and Who are the most famous people you met? [the most recent was Serbian President Vucic]. And to top it off, literally, there was the young student who, after his question was answered, yelled out: “I like your hat,” i.e. my kippa.

If there was a discordant note in the entire day, it took place in private. One of the oldest students approached me after my second lecture to ask me whether I believed in Jesus Christ. When I replied in the negative, he was so disappointed that he didn’t wait for my explanation that Jews are still waiting for the Messiah. While that encounter was somewhat unpleasant, the next day’s headlines in the local media provided an amazing postscript to the conference. The US Justice Department announced that they had obtained a deportation order against a 94-year-old German concentration camp guard living in nearby Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Needless to say, Noelle made sure to inform all the teachers who participated in the conference of the wonderful news, which strongly reinforced my message to the students about the importance of justice, even many years after the crimes had been committed.

During these trying times, the thought of 2,000 non-Jewish children and 115 teachers being educated about the Shoah by such enthusiastic educators so dedicated to the task, is a very comforting thought. A ray of light in hard times and an important reminder that “Ha-olam LO kulu negdeinu!”

One day, hopefully very soon, the coronavirus crisis will pass, our fears will recede, and life will return to some semblance of normalcy. And then we can return to our contemporary concerns about many other important issues, including anti-Semitism , Holocaust memory, and we can also more fully appreciate what is taking place in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Best wishes to all our readers for good health and if necessary, speedy recovery!!

Dr. Efraim Zuroff

 

About the author: Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center's Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.



FacebookTwitterEmailCopy Link


Close -




PREVIOUS POSTS



> <
  • STRATEGIES AND TOOLS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING DURING COVID-19
    Mar 24, 2020  ECHOES & REFLECTIONS
    During these unprecedented times, we remain committed to supporting you to teach about the lessons of the Holo...
    See full post  »
  • THE POWER OF PLACE: VISITING THE IDAHO ANNE FRANK HUMAN RIGHTS MEMORIAL
    Feb 13, 2020  DAN PRINZING, PH.D., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WASSMUTH CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
    Idaho social studies educator Ben Harris suggests, “The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial doesn't seem ...
    See full post  »
  • LIBERATION AT 75: TEACHING STRATEGIES AND RESOURCES
    Jan 21, 2020  ECHOES & REFLECTIONS
    On January 27th, the anniversary of the allied liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we commemorate International ...
    See full post  »
  • INSTILL EMPATHY TODAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW
    Dec 04, 2019  EVELYN LOEB
    In a climate of increased antisemitism and other hate-related incidents, working to encourage empathy and empa...
    See full post  »
  • HEALING FROM TRAGEDY WITH THE PROMISE OF EDUCATION
    Nov 13, 2019  LYNNE ROSENBAUM RAVAS
    We want to believe an attack on Jewish people worshipping in their synagogue is supposed to be a part of histo...
    See full post  »
  • “FOREIGN CITIZENS, EVEN IF THEY ARE JEWS, ARE NOT TO BE TOUCHED.” : STUDENTS CONNECT TO KRISTALLNACHT THROUGH PRIMARY SOURCES
    Oct 25, 2019  DR. SUSAN SCHINLEBER
    We are clearly living in turbulent times. ADL regularly reports a rise in antisemitic incidents, both here and...
    See full post  »
  • GOING BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK: TEACHING WITH THE TIMELINE OF THE HOLOCAUST
    Aug 22, 2019  NATALIE WHITE
    I teach in a small community in the Midwest. Two years ago I found that many students were leaving our school ...
    See full post  »
  • TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST RESPONSIBLY: FOCUSING ON LIFE BEFORE DEATH
    Aug 20, 2019  DR. JOE HARMON
    I am fortunate to be able to teach a semester-long senior level Holocaust Studies elective. I teach in a small...
    See full post  »
  • HONORING ANNE FRANK’S LEGACY
    Jul 30, 2019  RONALD LEOPOLD
    On the occasion of Anne Frank's 90th birthday, Anne Frank House Executive Director, Ronald Leopold, reflects o...
    See full post  »
  • HOW UNIVERSITIES CAN SUPPORT ANTI-BIAS EDUCATION IN K-12 SCHOOLS
    Jul 11, 2019  DR. ZOË BURKHOLDER
    Is it possible to teach respect for racial and religious differences? This is a question I hear a lot from te...
    See full post  »
  • LESSONS FROM AN ECHOES & REFLECTIONS TRAINER: ADDRESSING NEW AND CHALLENGING SUBJECTS IN HOLOCAUST EDUCATION
    May 16, 2019  KIM KLETT
    When introducing myself at an Echoes & Reflections training, I often tell the teachers that I have the bes...
    See full post  »
  • ANTISEMITISM IS ON THE RISE. CAN TEACHING ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST HELP?
    May 10, 2019  LINDSAY J. FRIEDMAN
    This article originally appeared in Education Week The Holocaust is ancient history for many students On May...
    See full post  »
  • TEACHING TIPS: GENOCIDE AWARENESS MONTH
    Apr 03, 2019  
    As we enter Genocide Awareness month in April, we offer our community an inside perspective on how to approach...
    See full post  »
  • THE POWER OF HOLOCAUST POETRY
    Mar 04, 2019  LIZ ELSBY
    What do we, as Holocaust educators, seek to do? It’s a question with which I continuously grapple. It is imp...
    See full post  »
  • WHO IS A SURVIVOR?
    Feb 14, 2019  IVY SCHAMIS
    As a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, who survived the tragedy on F...
    See full post  »
  • WHY WE REMEMBER
    Jan 22, 2019  SHERYL OCHAYON
    "In two years of combat you can imagine I have seen a lot of death […] but nothing has ever stirred me as m...
    See full post  »
  • AN OPEN LETTER TO EDUCATORS
    Dec 20, 2018  DEBORAH A. BATISTE
    My mother used to enjoy telling everyone that when I came home from my first day of school, I told her I was g...
    See full post  »
  • EVERY CHILD MAKES A DIFFERENCE
    Nov 14, 2018  CARYL M. STERN
    I do not remember my Mom ever sitting me down and telling me the whole story of how she came to America from A...
    See full post  »
  • WHEN HATE IS ALWAYS JUST AROUND THE CORNER
    Nov 01, 2018  DEBORAH HAMILTON
    This past summer I traveled to Poland as part of Echoes & Reflections Advanced Program with Yad Vashem wit...
    See full post  »
  • BREAKING THROUGH THE SILENCE
    Oct 22, 2018  MARIO PEREZ
    As the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht approaches, I am drawn to the words of Holocaust...
    See full post  »
  • TECHNOLOGY IS THE ROAD, NOT THE DESTINATION
    Sep 05, 2018  STEPHEN D. SMITH, PHD
    One of the most powerful exhibits I’ve ever experienced about the Holocaust is at the site of what was once ...
    See full post  »
  • “NO JEWS”
    Aug 27, 2018  RICHELLE BUDD CAPLAN
    My grandfather was an illegal immigrant who worked his way from being a dishwasher to becoming a hotel clerk i...
    See full post  »
  • POWER IN COMMUNITY AND CONVERSATION: ONE YEAR AFTER CHARLOTTESVILLE
    Aug 06, 2018  JENNIFER GOSS
    In the aftermath of last year’s events in Charlottesville, VA, Jennifer Goss, an Echoes & Reflections fa...
    See full post  »
  • LESSONS FROM POLAND’S PAST: EMPOWERING STUDENT VOICES
    Jul 30, 2018  ASHLEY HARBEL
    I knew spending a week studying the Holocaust would be an intense undertaking. What I didn’t realize is that...
    See full post  »
  • WHERE DO WE FIND THE INSPIRATION?
    Jun 05, 2018  
    This month we asked members of our educator community to share the stories that have inspired them to teach ab...
    See full post  »
  • THE COMPLEXITIES OF COURAGE
    May 11, 2018  
    What is courage? Do we all have the ability to act heroically? When we decide to behave courageously, is it be...
    See full post  »
  • “THOSE WHO KNEW WHAT THIS WAS ALL ABOUT MUST MAKE WAY FOR THOSE WHO KNOW LITTLE…”
    May 08, 2018  MELISSA MOTT
    I first traveled to Poland in the summer of 2005. I had never left the United States and had no idea I’d ret...
    See full post  »
GET INVOLVED
FAQs
PRIVACY POLICY

Echoes & Reflections is committed to privacy. This privacy policy discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: www.echoesandreflections.org.
This site contains links to other sites. Echoes & Reflections is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Web sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by echoesandreflections.org.

GENERAL INFORMATION COLLECTION AND USE

Echoes & Reflections is the sole owner of the information collected on this site. We will not sell, share, or rent this information to others in ways different from what is disclosed in this statement. We collect information from our users at several different points on our website.

COOKIES AND WEBSITE ANALYTICS

Our site uses 'cookies'. A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user's hard drive containing information about the user. Usage of a cookie enables us to track and target the interests of our users to enhance the experience on our site, but is in no way linked to any personally identifiable information while on our site. If a user rejects the cookie, they may still use our site. The only drawback to this is that the user may be limited in some areas of our site (for example, certain surveys or other such activities).
We use Google Analytics to collect information about visitor traffic and behavior. This allows us to identify usage trends and to improve the performance and content of our websites.
We do not use this tool to collect or store your personal information, and it cannot be used to identify who you are. You can use the Google Analytics Opt-Out Browser Add-on to disable tracking by Google Analytics.
We currently do not use technology that responds to do-not-track signals from your browser.

VARIOUS REGISTRATIONS

To receive certain updates, enroll in certain programs, or use certain features of our website, a user may have to first complete a registration form. During registration a user is required to give their contact information (such as name and e-mail address). This information is used to contact the user about the services on our site for which they have expressed interest.

NEWSLETTER

If a user wishes to subscribe to our newsletter, we ask for contact information such as name and e-mail address.

ORDERS

Our site uses an order form for customers to request certain products. We collect visitor's contact information (such as name, e-mail, and address). Contact information from the order form is used to send information about Echoes & Reflections to the users of our website. The customer's contact information is also used to get in touch with the visitor when necessary. This information is not shared or resold in any circumstance except as may be required by law.
Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.

SHARING

We may share aggregated demographic information with our partners. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person.
We use an outside shipping company to ship orders. These companies are contractually prohibited from retaining, sharing, storing or using personally identifiable information for any secondary purposes.
We may partner with third parties to provide specific services. When a user signs up for these services, we will share names, or other contact information that is necessary for the third party to provide these services.
These parties are contractually prohibited from using personally identifiable information except for the purpose of providing these services.

SECURITY

Our website has security measures in place to protect against the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. This includes a firewall and 24 hour monitoring of site activities by our hosting service provider as well as 128-bit SSL encryption (where allowable by law) on all transaction oriented operations between you and Echoes & Reflections via our transaction service provider. While we use SSL encryption to protect sensitive information online, we also do everything in our power to protect user-information off-line. All of our users' information, not just the sensitive information mentioned above, is restricted in our offices. Only employees who need the information to perform a specific job (for example, our billing clerk, a customer service representative, or database administrator) are granted access to personally identifiable information. Any time new policies are added, our employees are notified and/or reminded about the importance we place on privacy, and what they are required to do to ensure our customers ' information is protected. Finally, the servers that we use to store personally identifiable information on are kept in a secure environment.

CHOICE/OPT-OUT ONLINE & OFFLINE

The following options are available for removing information from our database to discontinue receiving future communications or our service.

1. You can unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences online by following the link at the bottom of any e-mail you receive from Echoes & Reflections via HubSpot.
2. You can notify us by email at info@echoesandreflections.org of your desire to be removed from our e-mail list or contributor mailing list.

CONTACTING THE WEB SITE

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of our website or your interactions with the website, please send email us at info@echoesandreflections.org

NOTIFICATION OF CHANGES

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes here so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and the circumstances, if any, we disclose it.
RESOURCE OVERVIEW

Third a Content