Gardenview Elementary School students experience a “true” education at the Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Grade 5 students at Gardenview Elementary  School in St. Laurent have spent the last few months learning about the Holocaust in order to begin their novel study on the book, Number the Stars.

The students learned that the Holocaust was a horrible event that happened because of stereotypes and anti-Semitism. They gained knowledge about the ghettos, concentrations camps, but also the Resistance and the transportation of the Danish Jews to Sweden.  Unfortunately, there are still neo-Nazis, which is why it is so important for us to learn about this topic.

Going to the Holocaust Museum brought all of what they learned to life. It made the events of the past feel more real. For example, they saw birthday cards that were made by Jewish victims,  Jewish Torahs that were burnt and  suitcases that were used and taken away by the prisoners when they arrived at the camps. 

“I didn’t expect to see a real suitcase and it made it feel almost too real” said Hayden, a Grade 5 student. 

When the students saw the outfits worn by the prisoners of concentration camps, it made everything they learned come together.  One really sad part was seeing the dolls taken away from children by the Nazis.  It was such a small thing and even that was taken away from them. Seeing this made everyone feel lucky and grateful for all that we have.  Another horrific thing they saw in pictures was the Nazis performing experiments on children. Everyone was shocked to see how skinny the victims had become due to malnourishment. One of the pictures was of the founder of the museum.  Many years after the museum was founded, he looked back at the picture and did not even recognize himself.  “This showed us how they were in such dire situation that people no longer looked like themselves,”  said Spiritual and Community Animator Mikaella Goldsmith. “They really lost their true identity.   One of the most disturbing things we saw was how Hitler influenced the children to believe that Jewish people were bad people.  They made board games and toys that encouraged German children to round up and/or kill Jewish people.  Hitler also brainwashed German children to salute him and follow his ways.  It is so scary how easy it was and can still be to influence children.  So we, children, have to be careful about what we believe.”

At the end of the museum there was a memorial for the Jewish people who died in the Holocaust.  The wall showed all the cities that were affected by the war.  “It made us realize that 6 million Jews were killed and never given a proper, respectful burial and tribute,” said Ms. Goldsmith. “We placed rocks on the tombstone to show our respect.  We were privileged and honored to meet an actual Holocaust survivor who shared his story with us.  He explained to us how he struggled to survive during such a horrific time.  He told us that he saw some of his family members die in front of him, which was so sad.  We are so lucky to have had this experience because there are not many more survivors left.  We are the last generation that will be able to hear the first-hand accounts of actual survivors.  So we feel an utmost responsibility to share their stories with others, so that they may learn about the tragic stories of the Holocaust, as well. This way, the Holocaust will never happen again.”

The staff and students are so grateful for this experience at the Montreal Holocaust Museum.  It helped everyone analyze what happened in history and see how real it was.  It made them realize just how horrifying this historical event was. Seeing the artifacts, hearing the survivors’ stories and seeing the pictures provided a glimpse of the whole picture.  “We encourage everyone to take the opportunity to visit this museum in order to better understand the past, so that it won’t be repeated,” said Ms. Goldsmith.

About the Project

The objective of the EMSB Holocaust Education Program is to sensitize students and staff to the history of the Holocaust and acts of Antisemitism via special guests, lectures and visits to the Montreal Holocaust Museum and different exhibits and programming in the community.