Santaluces High School

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Santaluces High School

The Tribe

Santaluces High School

The Tribe

Holocaust Education Week in Palm Beach County

Vanessa Lara Mendoza
Pin given out at Holocaust Awareness Event

I had the privilege to attend the Palm Beach County district’s Holocaust Awareness Event on Monday, November 6th, which was hosted at Don Estridge Middle School. Santaluces, along with other high schools like Lake Worth, Boca Raton, Park Vista, William T. Dwyer, Palm Beach Central, and more, choose a specific number of students to attend the event.

The event educates high school students about anti-semitism, the prejudice against Jewish people during WWII, and the long-term repercussions on survivors and their families. Holocaust survivors and their children were invited to speak about their experiences, which provided more insight into the pain and struggles of this horrific incident.

Florida annually holds Holocaust Education Week, the second week of November, which coincides with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht became known as “The Night of Broken Glass” because of the shattered glass that littered the streets as a result of a Nazi invasion.

Nazi leaders unleashed a wave of violence across Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia after the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official. Because a 17-year-old Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, had shot the diplomat, this event sparked the brutality and cruelty against Jewish people and their communities.

Two days after the assassination, the madness began. Nazi forces stormed Jewish homes and businesses in the middle of the night, destroying everything in their paths. Synagogues were burnt to the ground, store shelves were torn down, people were harassed in their homes, and many more atrocities occurred. Local firefighters and police were ordered to stand down throughout the night, leaving the Jewish civilians defenseless.

Many Jewish people lost their friends and family that night. It is important for people to learn and honor the lives lost. Everybody knows about the concentration camps that European Jews were forced to endure because of anti-semitism, but not everybody will understand the excruciating pain caused by the Holocaust.

I, along with 250 other students, got to hear the accounts of Holocaust survivors and their families. I was honored to speak with Gary, a Holocaust survivor who spent the war hiding in a large farmland shack with his family.

Gary and his family were lucky enough to know farm owners who had the bravery to help and hide his family. He spent three years in this shack: he was fed twice a day by the farm owners and always feared for the uncertainty of his life. Gary’s father unfortunately didn’t survive the war, as he was murdered at Auschwitz, an extermination camp.

Gary brought several items from the Holocaust. He showed us his yellow stars, which he wore during the war to alert others he was Jewish. He also brought his mother’s fake passport, used to travel the country, and he showed us countless photos of his family before the war, the shack he lived in, and his life after the war. Gary shed light on how WWII altered his life and the lives of countless others.

Other survivors told their stories to inform and educate the younger generation about their lives and to keep their stories remembered. As time passes, we are losing the chance to learn about the Holocaust from firsthand accounts. This event helps preserve their stories so that we can carry them on.

With the rise of anti-semitism in recent years, it is important to remember how hatred can cause more than just a feeling. It can cause death, pain, and suffrage. I’ve taken my time at the Holocaust Awareness Event as a learning experience to know that loving others is important and keeping stories from these survivors alive so that others can learn from them too.

When the event ended, there was a reflection moment during which students could speak to everyone in attendance and share what they had learned. Almost everyone who spoke up agreed that these are important stories that should be passed down for generations to come. Everyone was gifted a blue square pin right before boarding our buses: this blue square signified support against anti-semitism, an issue that must be resolved.

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About the Contributor
Vanessa Lara Mendoza
Vanessa Lara Mendoza, Staff Writer
Hello, my name is Vanessa! I'm a Junior at Santaluces High School, and this is my first year in The Tribe. I spend my days at school and work, where I'm known as "pizza girl" (shoutout to Mamma Mia's). When I do have free time, I love reading and spending time with my loved ones. My favorite book is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and reading it was an emotional rollercoaster. I'm so excited about what this school year has in store for me, and I hope you enjoy my work as much as I love writing it!

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