Earlier this month, one of the last living Holocaust survivors in New Mexico came to speak to 11th-grade humanities students.
The class recently finished reading The History of Love, a novel by Nicole Krauss, that tells a story about love, loss, time, and the Nazi invasion. The book inspired Ms. Doss to connect with the New Mexico Holocaust Museum. Through the museum, Ms. Doss was able to bring in Andy Holten, a Holocaust survivor and docent at the museum, to speak to her students.
The entire grade gathered in Budagher Hall to hear from Andy. He talked about his family’s experiences and the impact that the Nazi invasion had on his life. When he was only five years old, he lost the majority of his family to the genocide. In January 1944, his parents and grandparents were sent to Auschwitz where his mother and grandparents were immediately killed in a gas chamber, and his father was executed within months. Mr. Holten shared that the only reason he survived was because his parents made the difficult decision to give him to a Christian family, who agreed to take him in and raise him with a different last name, keeping him hidden during the years of Nazi occupation. His presentation was filled with Nazi documents and photos from his childhood, including him as a child, his parents, and his foster parents.
Ms. Doss’ goal for the presentation was twofold: to have access to more historical context and not just see this context "second-hand," and to have students discover that what they’re reading in class is relevant to their lives. “As a teacher, one of my biggest goals is for students to connect what we do in the classroom to their world at large and feel more passionate about their impact as individuals,” explained Ms. Doss.
“We are getting to the point where having the ability to speak with Holocaust survivors is on a time limit. We, as adults and teenagers, won't always have this opportunity,” said Ms. Doss. “I felt it was truly a once in a lifetime chance to hear Andy's story.”
One of Mr. Holten’s most impactful points was that he has seen the worst and the best of humanity through his experiences. Ms. Doss hopes that will sit with students for years to come.
We are incredibly grateful that Andy shared his story with our students.