Holocaust education group presents in local schools

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 3:41 PM EDT
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FAIRFAX, Vt. (WCAX) - Legislative efforts to make Holocaust education part of the curriculum in Vermont schools will have to wait another year. But in the meantime, one local organization is getting a headstart.

Bellows Free Academy students in Fairfax are part of an effort being presented by the Vermont Holocaust Memorial, a nonprofit that provides guest speakers on the history of the holocaust, the mass murder of European Jews and other groups by the Nazi Germans before and during World War II.

“When we get to hear all these different perspectives and different stories, it helps us to understand better, just think more in-depth about the impact that it had on people. It’s super important to learn all about it so that we can prevent it and be more aware of ourselves and others,” said Lily Baumeister, a senior:

A second-generation survivor shares the story of her mother’s journey, hiding her identity from the Nazis.

The group has made presentations to more than 50 teachers at schools, libraries, and community presentations. Sara Villeneuve is a teacher and board member for the group and says she wanted to make sure her students were exposed to what she calls “this very real piece of history.” “We have real history that can’t be denied. So, we dive into that a little bit. We’ve seen so much antisemitism in our communities --hate in our schools that goes beyond just antisemitism -- that it’s really a lesson in morality as well,” she said.

The group believes holocaust education should be taught in all Vermont schools and is working closely with the Agency of Education to make that happen. Two bills before the Legislature, H.294 and S.87, would mandate six hours of Holocaust education per year for students in grades six through 12.

Senator Ginny Lyons, D- Chittenden County, is a co-sponsor of the Senate measure and says she is glad of the work already taking place in schools. “In many ways, it emphasizes the need for this kind of education to be embedded within the curriculum -- to have a full understanding of how to present it to different age groups,” she said.

The Vermont Holocaust Memorial has three more scheduled visits before the school year ends and they are working to schedule more lessons in schools across Vermont for the next school year.

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