Ms. Lazar's Visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
In mid-October, 25 Holocaust educators gathered in Washington, D.C., for a three-day weekend seminar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Ms. Barb Lazar, Bosque School’s Director of the Gerald and Betty Ford Library, was one of these educators.
The seminar Ms. Lazar attended was hosted by The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI). TOLI “provides professional development seminars for educators in the U.S. and abroad that link the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to current world events, thereby working with teachers to promote a human rights and social justice agenda in their classrooms.”
Ms. Lazar is one of the Holocaust educators that leads a TOLI Satellite Seminar across the U.S. The Satellite Seminar Program through TOLI helps teachers develop strategies, materials, and ideas that they can implement in their own classrooms, with a focus on the Holocaust and other genocides. Ms. Lazar shared that she “leads workshops to teach teachers how to effectively teach the Holocaust, and the lessons of the Holocaust, through the lense of human rights and social justice.” One of the long-term goals of the seminar program is for educators to become advocates for social change. The program helps teachers establish action plans in their classrooms that will enable them and their students to have a positive impact on their communities.
At the weekend seminar, Ms. Lazar had the opportunity to meet with leading Holocaust scholars, be introduced to Museum educational resources, explore new exhibits mounted by the USHMM (including Americans and the Holocaust), and share best practices from TOLI’s satellite seminars. One of the highlights of Ms. Lazar’s weekend occured when she met Esther, a Holocaust survivor. Esther shared with Barb the lessons she learned from her life experiences. The first is that even one person can make a difference in someone’s life. You might not be able to save six million people, but you can save one. Secondly, get to know people who aren’t like you. Lastly, remember that no one is more human than another human.
Barb appreciated that the museum was architecturally deliberate. She described the details of the museum that struck a chord with her. The staircases weren’t really straight, but instead they mirrored train tracks. She said they reminded her of the trains that would bring carloads of people to concentration camps. She noticed that the windows were crooked. She believed this was done because, to the outside world during the Holocaust, everything looked okay and normal. However, it wasn’t. “The world was off-kilter,” Ms. Lazar described.
“It was a powerful experience for me to be there and to be around educators that really care,” said Ms. Lazar.
She is still trying to find the best ways to teach people about the Holocaust. She believes that the most effective methods are those with humanizing messages. She said, “I teach through stories and narratives, memoirs and diaries.” Adding that, “I think people’s stories resonate with other people. Especially when you hear the stories of young people, especially the young people who did resist.”