On January 26, 2024, our students in grades 9, 10 and 11 of the GISW had the special honor of visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to participate in the International Holocaust Remembrance Day events.
We would like to thank Dr. Saltzman and the Holocaust Museum as well as the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington D.C. for making it possible for our students to participate in this day of remembrance at the museum and to actively contribute to the historical and political culture of remembrance of National Socialism.
The museum opened its doors to our GISW students one hour before the official opening hours so that volunteers were able to give each of our classes a guided tour of the permanent exhibition. This gave the young people the opportunity to understand the chronological developments and the rapid radicalization of the Nazi regime, as well as the associated rise in antisemitism and discrimination against other population groups. The students asked many good questions and were grateful for the opportunity to gain such an emotionally profound insight into the history of the Holocaust.
After the tour, the students were invited to take part in the closed panel discussion, in which the GISW was the only school represented. Speeches were given by the director of the museum, Sara J. Bloomfield, and politicians such as the Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog and the Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution in the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, Karoline Edtstadler. In addition to the German ambassador, Andreas Michaelis, the Polish ambassador, Marek Magierowski, and the French ambassador, Laurent Bili, were also actively involved. The director moderated a discussion among the panel participants on the rise of anti-Semitism and the culture of remembrance in their respective countries. It was a very interesting discussion, which also touched on the current political situation. The words of Holocaust survivor Irene Weiss, who was herself imprisoned in Auschwitz and spoke about her experiences, were particularly inspiring and emotional for our students.
"We as students feel extremely honored because we were officially welcomed by so many, and unexpectedly the audience applauded us for participating in this special event. For many of us, this was a very emotional moment, as it was supposed to be us applauding the Holocaust survivors." (Class 11A)
Another unforgettable and emotional part of the program was the Hall of Remembrance. GISW students were allowed to read out the names of those who died in the Holocaust and honor them by lighting candles. They also had the opportunity to have inspiring conversations with Holocaust survivors. During the personal conversations, our students showed a sincere, profound empathy and were encouraged to think deeply about certain topics.
This day was extremely moving for the students and at the same time instructive in many ways. On the one hand, the focus is on remembrance and commemoration, but on the other hand, the awareness that anti-Semitism, racism and any other form of discrimination and disrespectful behavior or language have no place in our democracy, and in our school community.
The Holocaust Museum has been regularly visited by GISW students since the 1990s. It is an integral part of our school education as we deal in-depth with this important topic.
Since 2012, a visit to the Holocaust Museum has been firmly anchored in the curriculum for Grade 12. Our Head of School Carsten Apsel supports the idea of extending this experience to younger grades. "In our society, the principles of tolerance and respect are fundamental values that demand our sincere commitment. At GISW, we actively uphold these principles, fostering an environment of inclusivity and understanding. Through a meticulously designed prevention strategy, we dedicate ourselves to amplifying these efforts, ensuring they are part of every aspect of our community. We believe "NEVER AGAIN IS NOW!" (Carsten Apsel)
We would also like to thank the parents and guardians of grades 9, 10 and 11 for their cooperation in making it possible for their child to take part in the Remembrance Day event despite the short school day. This is an experience that the students will not forget.
- Laura Walker, Head of the History Department / US History
Here you can find the video recording of the panel discussion: https://youtu.be/h4XVHpg5JXM