Saturday, June 15, 2013

Teaching Empathy through Human Connection - Holocaust

A recent email stating that Irena Sendler (Verified by Snopes) saved infants from being killed in the Holocaust in Germany during WWII brought new attention to the Holocaust and victims. According to the email and article, she didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize that year. 

Regardless of the views on who should win a prize for doing the right thing, Irena did the right thing, sanctity of life was her primary concern and made a bigger impact on society that she could have ever imagined. 

An exceptional history school teacher used the Holocaust to teach a set of life skills: Empathy & Standing up for basic Human Rights. 

The teacher gave each pupil a sheet with a picture and history of a specific child that was a part of the Holocaust. Their assignment was to write a tribute to the child. Not only did this bring a fresh and emotionally gripping experience to the classroom, but also impressed an obligation upon the children. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights according to the UN provides a basis on which societies can build on. But who enforce these rights? It seems that governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens, and citizens in turn have the responsibility to contribute to the community. 

In theory this task seems pretty easy and simplistic. "We learn from history that we do not learn from history" Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. 

Common password reminders in our technological age refer to a childhood friend, a cousin, a sister...people who matter to us. We remember them and thus open a gateway to our own information. Consider then the truly remarkable impact that the Holocaust exercise had on the young minds of the future. 

When they are faced with political situations that compromise basic human rights, they will remember the names of the children who suffered, as if they were a childhood friend, a cousin, a sister... people who matter. 

Holocaust Remembered

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