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SVMS teacher's goal - tell Holocaust stories to future generations

Performers from the Touring Theatre of North Carolina came to Sun Valley Middle recently to present short plays about the Holocaust. Actors are, from left, Kay Thomas, Victoria Singleton, Cheretta Shaw, Drew DuPont, and Ueli Schweizer.

In the next five years, most Holocaust survivors will have died. This fact brought a feeling of urgency to one Sun Valley Middle School teacher who decided to push for a Holocaust program at his school.

“I think it’s vital that we get those stories out to this generation, so the kids know before it’s too late,” said Jody Legare, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Sun Valley Middle. “They need to see them, hear their stories first-hand, take those stories with them and continue to tell those stories to their kids and future generations.”

Fellow SVMS social studies teacher Jeremy Evans and Legare decided to join efforts. They first attended a weeklong Holocaust seminar last summer, listening to stories from survivors.

They learned things like the Holocaust refers to the period from January 1933 (when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany) to May 1945 when the war in Europe officially ended. The Nazis targeted Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and the disabled for persecution. Anyone who resisted the Nazis was also sent to forced labor or murdered.

It is estimated that 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust. Six million of these were Jews. An estimated 1.1 million were children. The Nazis killed approximately two-thirds of all Jews living in Europe. These are the types of facts that Legare hopes to teach to future generations.

“We really want to build a holocaust program at our school, one that will really come alive and make them aware of this terrible thing,” Legare said.

The first step in making this happen was starting a Holocaust library that contains literature and books about this horrific event in our history. They then invited Holocaust survivors to come speak at the school.

Legare and Evans began researching other avenues to bring these tragic stories to their students. The Jewish Community Center of Charlotte agreed to bring some traveling exhibits to the school.

Legare contacted the North Carolina Council for the Holocaust and followed their suggestion to contact the Touring Theatre of North Carolina, which performs short plays about the Holocaust. They accepted his invitation to come to Sun Valley Middle.

“This production is just another way to bring this to life for our kids,” Legare said.

All of the characters portrayed in the plays are based on diaries and interviews of actual Holocaust survivors. The group’s director, Kay Thomas, agrees, it is important for students to know these stories.

“They need to understand what really happened,” Thomas said. “We need to keep their stories alive in a way that touches their hearts. It started a little bit at a time, taking away their freedoms.”

Adaleta Majetic, 13, a seventh grader at Sun Valley Middle, was especially affected by the performance.

“I’m of German descent,” she said. “It really affected me the way they took all the rights of the Jewish people and the gypsies. The Holocaust was a bad time. The Jewish people suffered a lot. A lot of lives were lost.”

Legare’s dream is that one day Sun Valley Middle School will be the site where other middle school students can come and learn about this tragic point in history. Right now, the focus is for seventh grade, but Legare says he can see a time when it will be opened to others grades as well.

“I have a 5-year-old daughter,” Legare said. “For her sake, I want this to be something that we can build, so that when she comes through here, it’s something that she can benefit from.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 25, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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