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April 29, 2009
High school students commemorate Holocaust with Day of Remembrance
By John Gleason
On April 17 students of Mullen High School hosted a Day of Remembrance, sponsored by the Holocaust class and H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Promote Equality), a school-sponsored cultural diversity club. The purpose of the event was to remember those who suffered through the Holocaust by hearing testimony of Holocaust survivors and participating in traditional Jewish songs performed by the Colorado Hebrew Chorale.
Barbara Figg, who teaches government, world history and classes on the Holocaust, said the idea for the remembrance event came from the students themselves.
“April 19-26 are Days of Remembrance, sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,” Figg explained. “When the students decided to hold this event, they wanted to make it special. When they contacted the Colorado Hebrew Choral to see if they would be a part of the event, they discovered that one of the choral members was in fact a survivor and would be happy to share her story with the audience.”
Estelle Nadel was a 7-year-old girl living with her family in the village of Borek, Poland, when her ordeal began in 1942. On the day they fled their home, her father and one of her brothers were killed. Later, while in hiding, her mother was murdered while looking for food. Discovered and taken to a jail, Nadel was able to squeeze through the wire fence and escape. Her other brother unfortunately was caught.
A family friend took pity on the little girl and she was eventually reunited with her aunt. The two remained in hiding until the end of the war. It was then her journey to this country began.
“I relocated my surviving brother,” she told the Denver Catholic Register. “Using false identity papers, we eventually made our way through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and finally to Austria. I arrived in the United States in 1947, was adopted by a family here and moved to California.”
Nadel said that she tells her story every chance she gets, adding that it’s most important that children hear it firsthand.
“I want them to know that this actually happened, I want to see their eyes as I tell it,” she said. “The question I get most from students is how I could go on believing in God when all this was falling down around me. I tell them I had nothing else to cling to and that’s the reason I survived.”
Sophomore Sean Daru was one of those in the audience. After sitting in rapt attention, he described Nadel’s talk as “compelling.”
Figg said the students were also captivated by the varieties of Jewish music they heard.
“It was much more than a performance of traditional songs,” Figg said. “The audience got the chance to participate. They would quickly learn a phrase then jump in when they got their cue. By the end of the day, everybody knew a little Hebrew and Yiddish.”
Mullen sophomore Katrina Zamuidio called the music “wonderful.”
“I’ve never heard anything like it,” she said. “But the best part was that we got some history behind the songs. I hope the chorale can return next year.”
The Day of Remembrance is planned to be an annual event at Mullen, said Figg. Given the level of excitement and interest the students showed at this year’s event, Figg said she is hopeful it will always attract a large audience.
“These stories should be told over and over again,” she said. “Just like our World War II veterans, we lose more of these survivors every year. These kids will never forget what they heard here, and that’s just as it should be.”