by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director
This past weekend, Kids4Peace Seattle had the opportunity to visit the touring Anne Frank Exhibit, housed at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. As we toured the exhibit with some of our youth participants, parents, and volunteers, I was struck by the way our youth were answering the questions posed to them by the museum docents, and by the questions they were asking.
One of the pictures in the exhibit was of a Jewish man having his beard cut by a Nazi soldier. The docent leading the group asked, “What do you think that man was feeling?” Our youth reflected that he was probably angry and frightened. Others shared that the Nazi soldier seemed like he was enjoying publicly shaming and taking away the Jewish man’s dignity.
After another moment of thoughtful reflection, one of our youth pointed to the background of the picture. She asked, “What is that man doing?” After staring for a few minutes as a group, we determined that it looked like the man was another soldier, but his facial expression was very different from the others in the picture. He was not doing anything to stop what was going on, but he also seemed distressed by his fellow soldier’s actions.
Our youth continued to reflect on this picture as we moved through the exhibit. They wondered aloud about why you would stand by and let something bad happen, but also admitted that it is difficult to be the person in the minority, the person who has to voice opposition. This is especially difficult in situations where you could be endangering yourself in the process.
As we closed our day at the exhibit we had a few minutes to chat as a whole group. Adam, one of our program team members, posed this question to the group: “What connection do you see between things that happened during the Holocaust and things that are happening in the world today?” After a few moments of quiet, Aviva raised her hand. She quietly said that really history just happens over and over again, one group loudly voicing opposition and hatred to another. Today we see this in the treatment of Muslims in our own country and the treatment of refugees around the world.
We did not come to any conclusions as a group, we just shared feelings and asked more questions. We did not offer solutions, or name any course of action. Instead we did so much more. We noticed the people in the background, we noticed the repeating of history, we put a name and a voice to things that we are against. As a group, we willingly put voice to the opposition of violence and hatred. As the group left we were invited to place a post-it note on the wall of the museum, answering the question we will leave you with today: How does change begin with me?