Students of the German International School of Boston and the students of JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, have spent almost two years getting to know one another. Eighty years ago these students might have been enemies; some of them would have been perpetrators and some of them would have been victims. During the May 3 Holocaust program, they came together to confront their past and worked together to make the world a better place in the future. Nico, a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor and seventh-grader at JCDS, shared his thoughts on the joint commemoration:
“I have been very happy to be involved in activities that the German International School of Boston and my school have done together. I enjoyed meeting new kids and playing soccer with them. But during this program, the most important part was the conversations that we had about the Holocaust and family or friends that we knew who were alive at the time. These conversations were very meaningful to me and impacted me a lot as a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor and Jew. Before this interaction, I had never met any grandchildren of a Nazi, and even more so, never spoken with them about their families’ stories and my families’ stories.
“During our ‘chats,’ I learned about two kids whose elders were somehow involved in WWII. One of their great-grandfathers had been drafted to fight for the Nazis and was killed in France. While talking to these two kids, I realized that they were just like me in pretty much every single way, but their history was on the other side of a war. There is nothing different between us now—we are all kids who love to play soccer and run and play and just have fun.
“During the rest of the program, I learned about all the ways that Germany has transformed into a loving, caring and accepting nation. I listened as a granddaughter of a Nazi and a granddaughter of a survivor both spoke about their stories and the similarities between them.
“Another memorable part of the day was when we all went outside and stood in a line. As questions were asked, we would step forward if the answer for you was yes. The two questions that I will remember were: ‘Take a step if you have an ancestor from Russia, Germany, Romania or Ukraine.’ Almost everyone took a step forward. The second question was, ‘Take a step forward if one of your ancestors was involved in WWII.’ Again almost everyone stepped forward. This just showed us how similar we all are.
“Later in the day, the Deputy German Consul General spoke about how this program was a trailblazing event that can change the world. He talked about the past and told us it was our job to make sure that we would never have to go through what happened again.
“The last activity was to make a presentation about a world issue and think of a solution. This was great because although we say ‘never again,’ we know there are similar issues still going on in the world. My group chose to bring up the problem of sexual harassment and abuse. We felt that this topic was very prevalent in our lives and that raising awareness about this issue would help stop this harassment from happening because people have been too scared of the consequences of speaking up to act. Overall, I was very glad I was able to participate in this program, and it definitely changed me for the better.”
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