Apopka 8th grader: Holocaust lesson for all

ORLANDO SENTINEL
SEE IT HERE.

Posted April 4, 2006

Mason Griffin

Holocaust is defined as the genocide of European Jews, gypsies and others by the Nazis during World War II. This was the definition our English teacher gave us at the start of our minor study of the Holocaust, a time of suffering, death, overwhelming loss and other terrible things.

However, none of us can truly begin to realize the depth and reality of it all. We live our lives day by day, taking for granted our freedom, never having to experience what millions of people experienced during World War II.

So why not devote a day to opening up the eyes of students to what went on?

Well, this plan was introduced at my school, Apopka Memorial Middle School, last Tuesday.

We began school by entering first period when our teacher gave some students yellow stars and letting others pass empty-handed. Little did we know the meaning of these pieces of paper. It began with our history teacher treating those with stars, well, a little differently. Throwing their papers on the floor, not calling on them for answers, and calling them out in class.

We soon realized that the stars represented those persecuted during the Holocaust, those without, representing ordinary citizens. We laughed and thought it was funny — until we experienced what followed.

Those with stars were made to stand outside until those without were seated in the classroom. They had to read while sitting on the floor and were continuously ignored and chastised. It wasn’t that bad until lunch came around. This is when all the “stars” were forced to wait until all the “non-stars” received their lunch. They were also forced to sit inside while the others could sit outside. Admittedly, being a “non-star,” I laughed and pointed at the others while they were treated differently, all meant as harmless bantering. I heard rumors of students crying because they didn’t get lunch, but from what I saw, everyone was seated with food in plenty of time to eat.

So people started to get upset, and we stopped our laughing. The idea of getting a harmless point across turned into a bad day. Students took everything way too personally. Very soon I heard that kids were complaining to their parents, and their parents were outraged.

Truthfully, I think they should have calmed down. This was a harmless lesson to show all of us that the world can be an ugly place.

Seven hours of wearing a star can’t even begin to amount to the years of suffering Jews and other groups faced. They were sent to death camps and concentration camps, forced to walk miles and miles on the streets to be spit on and beaten, made to go into hiding for years, and separated from their families. Why do people get so upset about their students having to stand outside or wait a little longer for lunch when people died in the Holocaust?

This was a valuable lesson to me and my fellow students to open our eyes to the suffering people face in our world in the present and in the past. No one was hurt or killed, and even if some went without lunch, that doesn’t compare to the starving of millions.

This was a much-needed wake-up call to students and parents, and I think it was a great idea.

Parents, lighten up!

Apopka 8th-grader: Holocaust lesson for all