Bnai Torah Religious School Students Join Statewide Holocaust Learning Trunk Project

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust is expanding the Holocaust Learning Trunk Project for the 2012-2013 academic year. With the support of the Georgia Department of Education, a minimum of twenty trunks filled with educational materials about the Holocaust, World War II, and genocide will be made available to middle school teachers throughout Georgia. The exterior of each trunk will be decorated by students in metro-Atlanta to answer the question what are the lessons of the Holocaust? The project's newest trunks will launch in school districts throughout the state this fall.

Students at Bnai Torah Religious School in Sandy Springs were among the first to decorate a trunk this spring. The trunk is currently on display at the Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945 exhibit in Sandy Springs.

The students titled the trunk From Darkness to Light and the artwork aims to send a message to the students who will receive the trunk and use the materials inside. The names of various concentration camps are written on the bottom of the trunk with names of survivors and the date of liberation. The top of the trunk is decorated with the Israeli flag. This shows how the Jewish people went from suffering and depression to Israel and freedom, says Hildy Newman, a sixth-grade student.

One side of the trunk also displays felt replicas of the different colored badges camp prisoners were required to wear, identifying them as Gypsies, Freemasons, Jehovahs Witnesses, and so on. Fifth-grader, Ava Kaplan, explains, It was a dark time for the world. Not only were 6 million Jews killed but many others were killed that were not Jews. These people were killed because they were disabled, homosexual, or Communists. People who were caught saving Jews or any of these people were killed also.

The Shema is written on the stop of the trunk and a translation is included on the artists statement that will accompany the trunk from classroom to classroom. Rachel Kaplan, sixth-grade, notes that many Jews said the prayer in the moments before they were killed by the Nazis.

The Holocaust Learning Trunk Projects combined use of art and history unifies students of various backgrounds and beliefs, connecting them through their experiences learning about the Holocaust. By decorating a trunk, the students at Bnai Torah Religious School will have the opportunity to share what they learned and what they hope other students in Georgia will learn about the Holocaust and the importance of standing up against bigotry. Fifth-grader, Robbie: Together we can remember this tragedy. These victims will not have died or suffered in vain, and this trunk, this tiny piece of remembrance, can help contribute to it.

Gary Alexander, chair of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust advisory committee, is a member of Congregation Bnai Torah and among the individual trunk sponsors who are ensuring the trunks are made available statewide. My family sponsored a trunk because it is a wonderful teaching tool. This trunk project should remind us that civilized, educated people have always found scapegoats to blame for economic, political, and financial problems that affect us all.

The trunk will be on display at the Anne Frank in the World exhibit at 5920 Roswell Road, Suite A209, in Sandy Springs through the summer before it is packed with books and distributed to schools in the fall. Other schools and organizations are welcome to participate in decorating a trunk. More information can be found on the Trunk Decorating webpage.