Seventy ninth-grade students from Baystate Academy Charter Public School in Springfield recently toured the permanent teaching exhibition “A Reason to Remember: Roth, Germany 1933-1942” at the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies.
They were the latest of thousands of local and regional students from public and private middle and secondary schools and universities to visit the exhibition, which was donated to the university by the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts in 2010.
Prior to their visit on May 17, the Baystate students had been discussing Elie Wiesel’s “Night” in their classrooms and studying the genocides of Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia.
Alex Kerkhoff, the ninth-grade history teacher who accompanied them, said, “When students have the opportunity to go on an educational field trip, it makes the learning experience all the more real, and I know that they will always remember what they learned during their visit to the institute.”
Using explanatory texts, personal testimonies, photos, artifacts and a short film, the exhibition tells the stories of five families who lived in the small village of Roth, in the Hessen region of Germany. Roth had long been a calm and harmonious village in which Christians and Jews co-existed peacefully and shared common interests. With the rise of Nazism during the 1930s, their lives began to change dramatically.
The Jews in Roth were subjected to increasingly harsh discrimination and oppression, and by the end of World War II, many had perished. While the photos, testimonies and other documents in the exhibition vividly depict the destructive consequences of these developments in and around Roth, they also provide an acute sense of the impact of the Holocaust on a much larger scale.
Lara Curtis, associate director of the institute, said, “When teachers contact us to schedule a visit, we often plan it well in advance, and we always develop a partnership with them. In fact, several of the schools now schedule annual visits. … The interests of every school group are unique, and the goal of the institute is to accommodate and customize each visit.”
For information about scheduling school group visits to the institute, visit https://www.umass.edu/ihgms/.