Editor's note: This article was written by a local student about a school activity meant to build awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, the murder of millions of Jewish people and members of other minority groups under the Nazi regime. It has been edited for clarity and length.
My name is Lucy Azinger, a seventh grader at St. Michael Catholic School. On April 25, the seventh grade participated in an activity called the Holocaust Lunch. This is where parents volunteer to be Nazi soldiers for a little bit of the school day while the whole grade was acting as Jews. The parents, “Nazi guards,” barged into both classes. When they barged in, the students were told to line up against the wall when their number was called and had to have their heads down.
They followed instructions such as “No talking!" and "Do as you’re told!” and so on. Before entering the room, they had to walk around the school or gym. They had to be shoulder to shoulder, move rapidly and line up against the wall at certain times.
Before entering the room students were going to be in, they had to quickly take off their shoes in the hall. Then they walked promptly into the room, one by one, and one of the adults would check their number and tell them where to stand. While this was happening, they kept their heads down and were silent.
In the room, they had to be in a small square and stay there. There were two camps: a death camp, Birkenau, and a work camp, Auschwitz. When everybody was in the square they were supposed to be in, they received lunch.
For lunch, Auschwitz “prisoners” received cold soup, bread and coffee while Birkenau “prisoners” had boiling hot soup and coffee. Auschwitz received a spoon with their soup and more food because it was a working camp. Since Birkenau was a death camp, they did not obtain as much food and no spoon. They were able to sit down while eating but could not talk. I had the food, and it seemed as if everybody wished he could have more.
The prisoners learned about real life in the camps. They learned the number lists the parents had were exactly like real ones that were used in concentration camps. In real life, some camps only had bowls of food to eat and other camps had to trade their eating spoons for letters from family members and other items they would want. Real prisoners were so hungry that they would steal food from trash cans and eat it, even if it was moldy. If people were working, they might not even get food. Elderly people would be the main prisoners not obtaining food, since they were so old. Young boys would turn spoons into knives so they could share bread.
For breakfast, the real prisoners might only have coffee, then for lunch and dinner, they would receive soup. If a prisoner was too close to the soup barrel, the Nazis would hit the prisoner on the head with soup in the soup ladle, and he would not receive lunch or dinner. The students also learned about the arrival in the camps and the separation of families.
The things I heard during the lunch were shouts ordering the students to keep their head and eyes down. There was a little bit of laughing and needing to listen because they were nervous and scared. Then there was the sound moving faster and rushing from the feet of others. When the students make it into the boxes, or camps, they were told to make room for others, stand up or sit down. While getting food, the prisoners were told to be patient. There was also banging and shuffling.
The day-to-day real camp life was working till people couldn't anymore or died. As well as only having food for lunch and dinner, they also had to try and survive by showing that they were still strong. The Nazis were so strict about being able to work that if you even had a pimple, you might be killed. When moving to the camps, all of your possessions would be taken away, not just shoes but glasses, clothes and jewelry as well.
I asked the adults performing the lunch questions.
How did you feel treating your daughter like the Nazis would have?
“It was weird, different. I had hurt feelings, not wanting to treat her that way.” — Mr. N.
How did it feel seeing your daughter’s classmates and friends being treated the way they were treated?
“I felt sad for them and all victims not being treated as humans, more like trash.” — Mrs. A.
How did it feel having the power you had?
“Invigorating, hard and a good intake of what it was like” — Mrs. C.
Then I asked questions of two of the students involved in the Holocaust Lunch, each from different camps.
What was it like eating the food, and what were your thoughts?
“The soup was watered down, coffee wasn’t great and no spoons. Wish I had bread, and I am now grateful for what God gave us.” — Justin J, Birkenau.
What did it feel like to be a prisoner of the Holocaust even if it wasn’t during the actual time?
“I felt like an animal, nobody, and that no one cared about me. It was scary, very terrifying. I felt scared about doing something wrong and being yelled at.” — Jessica N., Auschwitz.
If the students, prisoners, were out of line, they were yelled at. The prisoners were treated unfairly and unjustly. They had done nothing wrong; they did not need to be treated like they were nothing. The Holocaust was a horrible time for everybody.
I have learned a great deal from the unit in social studies and literature about the Holocaust. One thing that many people might not know is that it was not just Jews in the camps. Christians, homosexuals and many more people who were not “normal Germans” in Adolf Hitler's mind were put into the camps.
I hope that as the world grows and times change, we all grow to accept everybody for who they are and not what they look like on the outside, and if one person believes in something another doesn't, they do not fight about it but embrace it.