Jeff Ellison, 8th-Grade History Teacher
This year’s 8th-grade interdisciplinary Holocaust project is moving full steam ahead! The project is entitled Image and Memory: Yesterday and Today. The school year began with a visit by our scholar-in-residence, Dr. Ann Weiss.
In 2001, Dr. Weiss published a book entitled "The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau," with the forward written by Elie Wiesel. In the 1980’s Dr. Weiss accidentally discovered a previously unknown cache of family photographs located in Auschwitz I. These photographs were so unique because it had been Nazi policy to destroy all family photos. The Nazis not only intended to murder Jews physically but to blot out the memory of Jews for all time.
Dr. Weiss spent decades copying these photos as well as attempting to identify who the people were in the approximately 2,400 photos. She wanted to uncover how people lived as opposed to how they died. During her two weeks with the students, Dr. Weiss taught them how to read and analyze the photographs along with telling them the family stories she uncovered.
Then, the eighth-grade class was divided into groups and each group was assigned a Survivor or the relative of a Survivor. They conducted virtual interviews with these individuals to learn the story of their lives before, during and after the Holocaust. Concomitantly, they were working with our art teacher, Ms. Gili Sherman, to learn about the history of photography, the lasting import of images, how to interpret messages conveyed and how to create meaningful photographs.
At the end of this month, the 8th graders and their parents will have the opportunity to learn from each other and Dr. Weiss, as they will lead discussions about the photos from Dr. Weiss’s book. All of their work will culminate in a photographic exhibit scheduled to open on May 1 that will include photographs of the students and the Survivors. Each photograph will be accompanied by a QR code that will be developed under the guidance of Ms. Sanzenbacher and Ms. Brenda Lopez, our technology consultant. The community will be invited to see our exhibit, which will be visible on the windows in our new lobby. The students and MS faculty can’t wait for you to see it!
Visit bernardzell.org/artistinresidence for more information on the 8th-grade project and Dr. Weiss, this years artist-in-residence. This project would not be possible without the generous financial support of the Arkes and Lucas families in memory of Lisa and Aaron Derman and Magda Brown, and for that, we will always be grateful.
Check out some of our students discussing their photographs below.