Holocaust brings out strong emotions in students’ work

Lynn Gwost’s English class showed what they learned through artistic expression

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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Lynn Gwost’s English class at the Little Falls Community High School recently read Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” the biography of his time in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Gwost asked her students to show her how the book, along with the movie, “Schindler’s List,” affected them. How the class study of the Holocaust changed their perspectives.

Lynn Gwost’s English class read Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” and the students were instructed to create a project which showed how the book moved them. Pictured are Diana Kempenich, left, who created a shirt symbolizing how the Jewish people tried hard to hang on to their faith, in spite of the Nazis, and Amisa Saari, with a suitcase full of items a Jewish person may have packed when being taken to the concentration camps.

The result was a room full of emotionally explicit creations of art, of soulful words, of passion.

The students, all juniors, said they previously knew about the Holocaust, but to read a memoir, to watch a video and to see the effects on individuals brought it all to life, made it more personal.

Jordyn Himley said the book, the movie and all she learned from her research was eye opening and so sad.

“Guards shot people for no reason in the camps. It makes one question mankind,” she said.

Himley created a poster and she shaded the background from white (to depict innocence) to red (to show the bloodshed) to black (showing death). She added the Star of David and the words, “We Remember” to keep the Holocaust alive. The words were created from pictures. Those in color to show hope, those in black and white showing those who did not survive.

The word “ENOUGH” was created with bodies. It was made by people wanting today’s genocide in the world today to stop.

PIctured is Carley Townsend, showing the swastika she created for the Little Falls English project on the Holocaust in Lynn Gwost’s class. The swastika is made of up pictures of families, items confiscated, identity cards and Hitler's forgotten victims.

“It’s the same as it was in 1944,” she said. “And no one is doing a thing about it.”

Amisa Saari said that reading an actual memoir and not just doing research made all the difference to her. She said there were moments that were hard to stomach.

“I didn’t know that ‘Schindler’s List’ was a true story until the movie was over,” she said. “It’s amazing to know that of the 1,100 people Schindler saved, tens of thousands of descendants are alive, all from the efforts of one person.”

Saari’s project for Gwost’s English class was one small suitcase. She put the name of Hanna Brady on it, a real person who had blond hair and blue eyes, yet was Jewish.

“Brady did not survive the Holocaust, yet her belongings did and are currently traveling around the world to make sure people remember what happened to the Jews in Europe during the war,” she said.

Inside the suitcase she put pictures of the many items stolen from the Jewish peoples when they were sent to concentration camps. She also has pictures of the many dead.

She put replicas of hands, reaching to each other, and branded with swastikas.

Matt Klos, left, stands with his symbolic painting of the deterioration of Jewish lives and Jordyn Himley shows her poster created from pictures of both those who perished and those who survived.

“Outside of the suitcase, I put pictures of concentration camps and inside are personal items the Jewish would have packed when they were herded to the camps,” Saari said.

She packed clothing, money, jewels, glasses and photos of family. The word “Hope,” is stained with blood and the Star of David was added to show their struggle to keep their faith. All were mixed together with dirt, as if the trip had been arduous.

“It didn’t matter if someone was rich or poor, each Jew was given the same fate,” she said. “I wanted to show the tangible items that belonged to them, things to touch and hold, to show what was lost to the six million Jews.”

Matthew Klos said the entire area of study was enlightening. He said he knew about the Holocaust, but it was so much worse than he had previously realized.

Klos’ project was a painting of the camps. The sky changes color, darkening from left to right, showing the Jews did not know how bad their situation was. The buildings are shown in steady decline which depict how their lives deteriorated.

Carley Townsend said she has traveled to Germany and did visit the concentration camps.

“That made me put extra effort into my project,” she said.

Townsend created a huge swastika. She put pictures of families as they looked before the war on the bottom of the piece. On the right arm, she put pictures of items taken from the Jews. On the top, there are identification cards, and on the left are pictures of Hitler’s forgotten victims, those killed not because they were Jews, but because they were disabled, were Native Americans or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Any reason that distinguished them from the Aryan race.

“On the back of the swastika, I put Hitler’s picture in the middle to show he was in the center of the Holocaust,” she said.

Diana Kempenich said studying the Holocaust showed her how much we, in America, have. How much we have to be thankful for.”

Kempenich’s project was a jacket with quotes from the book “Night” written over the entire garment. Down the left arm is written men and down the right is written women.

“That depicts the soldiers separating the families,” she said. “‘Men to the left, women to the right.’”

Kempenich added the Star of David with a swastika hanging from it, symbolizing the Jewish people hanging onto their faith while the Nazis were taking over.

Not only did the class study the Holocaust, but Gwost also spoke about the modern tragedies taking place in Darfur and other parts of the world.

“This project helped me understand what my students learned from this unit,” she said. “Each project showed so much more than any two or three pages of writing would have.”