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Champion students learn ‘dark, sad’ part of history — the Holocaust

CHAMPION — Any Jewish person younger than 16 or older than 40 was likely to be killed during the Holocaust, Jesse McClain of the Jewish Community Relations Council told Champion Middle School eighth-grade language arts students.

In a room of more than 30 students and teachers, only one person did not fall into the age bracket of who the Germans would have killed during the Holocaust.

McClain, a 40-year teacher now retired who visits schools with his traveling World War II and Holocaust Museum, said he shares the stories of the Holocaust of the few survivors.

”There are not that many Holocaust survivors around,” he said. “When I was your age, I got hooked on the Holocaust. I couldn’t stop reading and studying about it.” As an adult, he traveled to Poland to see some of the sites he studied.

”The one thing in life about any situation is there are four roles you can play. A victim, a perpetrator, a rescuer or a bystander, which is the majority of the people. The bystanders see what happens and no one does anything,” McClain said.

McClain stressed to the students to not be a bystander but to speak up.

”The worst thing you can do is not standing up,” he said.

He said besides Jewish people, there were many others who died in the Holocaust, including people who were handicapped and Jehovah’s Witness.

Kathleen Bronson, language arts teacher, said 100 students have been reading “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Holocaust victim Anne Frank, and a display of Holocaust survivor Henry Kinast, 87, of Youngstown, was displayed at the school. Kinast had survived the concentration camps mainly because he was brought there later.

McClain said the Holocaust was ”a very deep, dark and sad situation. There is no way to clean it up.”

McClain brought several items to show to the students including letters, pictures, cigarette box from soldiers, a Nazi flag and Nazi helmet.

He said when people were brought to the concentration camps, they were separated by age, sex and ethnicity. The longer one stayed at the camp, the more likely they would not survive.

McClain said many who had survived died when they ate food in freedom because their stomachs had gotten smaller and burst when they ate.

Bronson said students did research and projects when studying the Holocaust.

”We skimmed the surface of World War II and the Holocaust and focused on Anne Frank and her story with the book and movie,” she said.

Bronson said McClain was able to tie into modern day with the bullying and how people can make a difference by standing up to people when they know something is wrong.

Jessica Hrubik, language arts teacher, said the display items and props McClain used helped to get his message across.

McClain said there are so many books people can read on the Holocaust. He said Kinast wanted to share his story after hearing how the late William Vegh has shared his eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust.

”He saw the impact the message shared with others had,” he said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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