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Winning essays in the Eva Lassman memorial writing contest

Students throughout the Inland Northwest were issued this challenge: “Write a letter to your principal explaining why Holocaust education should be an important part of your school’s curriculum.”

Dozens of students took up the challenge and wrote essays for the Eva Lassman Memorial Creative Writing Contest, which is named after a Spokane Holocaust survivor. Lassman died in 2011 at 91.

Anne Arbanas, an eighth-grader at Chase Middle School, won first place in the middle-school division. Emma Bortz, a sophomore at Mead High School, won in the high-school division. Their essays are reprinted here.

Essays from the second- and third-place winners, Sydney Hellman and Molly Carpenter, both of Northwood Middle School, and Rachel Wright and Ashley Griechen, both of Gonzaga Prep, are posted at

– Rebecca Nappi

Anne Arbanas, Chase Middle School

Murder, the worst imaginable way to die: immoral and inhumane. Unfortunately, that unwanted fate had become a reality for 11 million people due to Hitler’s harsh and cruel plans to wipe out the whole Jewish people, and the lives of others he considered undesirable.

Unfortunately, through this black mark on history, we see these 11 million died in brutal and horrific ways – ways unimaginable to the present day person. For this reason, it is crucial that we learn about the Holocaust in school and get in-depth information to study how Hitler made it happen.

Students need to know that discrimination is wrong and need to be educated about such horrors. It’s a part of history that shouldn’t be hidden or put aside, and most importantly, we need to prevent such genocides in the future.

First of all, we learn from our mistakes and by looking at the Holocaust, we see that prejudice is wrong. Although the Holocaust did not occur in America, we are still one world, under one sun. We need to realize what discrimination can do to people.

In the Holocaust, many people were torn apart, and families separated – all because they were one religion. Not only the Jews, but the disabled were put aside in their own category labeled “undesirable.” In the end, for Hitler’s amusement, two-thirds (6 million) of the Jewish population was killed along with many others, including the disabled.

It is wrong to make negative stereotypes about people, and this is why we must learn about the Holocaust, to learn that discrimination is wrong, and that we are all created as equals, no one person better than another.

Watch Rebecca Nappi talk with KHQ’s Dave Cotton about the Holocaust essays

Secondly, we can’t simply deny what happened in the past. We learn about the presidents, wars, and even things that happen in other countries. Why shouldn’t we learn about and teach the Holocaust?

It is a part of history and can’t be ignored just because it was a bruise on the world. Instead of shying away, we need to educate the new generations so everyone knows what has happened in history. We need to gain knowledge about the dark side of human nature so we can avoid it in the future.

Lastly, as God’s children, we must do all that we can to make sure such appalling tragedies never happen again, ever. We owe the dead so much, to make sure the events that took place don’t happen to others for their looks or beliefs, or for any other reasons that categorize people into groups. Through education we can identify what the start of this disaster was, and know to never let that happen again.

How should we educate our students? I propose we dedicate one day out of the whole school year for Holocaust remembrance, observance and education.

First, I would have an assembly in the morning and talk about the causes of the Holocaust, how many lives were taken and what discrimination can do to people. I would make a lesson from the past and teach the students about how discrimination can be fixed today. From the assembly, all students would resume to their next class. But, instead of returning to academic topics, the rest of the day would be spent taking the message from the assembly and going in-depth, so the students can dive into the issue, and get a one-on-one discussion on a personal and emotional level. I would have teachers ask thought-provoking questions such as “How can we prevent this from now on?”

For the 11 million who were condemned to death by the gas chambers, fatal bullets, lethal overdoses, starvation and many other terrible things, they saw a tiny flicker of hope, which was the future; the future that contained no racism, no murders, no genocides. They saw today. Their hope was that one day the Holocaust would be over, and people could live as equals once again.

We must fulfill their hopes, by never repeating the Holocaust, and by educating every human on earth to see what took place. It is a way to acknowledge the dead, and remember that we don’t want such massive killings, a murder of millions. The Holocaust is an example of how important it is to not judge people by religion, race, physical appearance, disability and any other ways to classify people in a harmful way. Never forget.

Emma Bortz, Mead High School

Imagine being a principal of a school filled with patriotic, enthusiastic, well-behaved students: an organized, methodical school which runs like clockwork. A school that is designed to produce future leaders.

Students here are athletic, strong and eager. And in this school, money isn’t a factor for success. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see something entirely different. The name of this school system: Adolf Hitler Schulen, or Adolf Hitler Schools, a particular branch of the school system in Nazi Germany.

Underneath the glimmering façade was a filthy corruption that mirrored that of the Third Reich. The students there were blinded by nationalism and propaganda that saturated their minds with false ideas. These schools, which produced students of whom their government could be proud, failed miserably when it came to producing students in which humanity could take pride.

It is for this reason that it is absolutely necessary that our school establishes a Holocaust education program: to guarantee that we produce the kind of students who can think for themselves and are knowledgeable about how easily minds can be led astray.

One of the reasons Adolf Hitler Schools were successful was because of their masterful use of propaganda. Besides the “what” – or an overview and history of what happened in the Holocaust – the Holocaust education program must help students understand the “why and how” – how people could have let the Holocaust happen. Propaganda was so effectively used by the Nazis that it led to the slow but steady dehumanization of other people.

Without an educational component that discusses this, students might learn about the Holocaust, but not how we could easily make the same mistake that the citizens of Germany did: blindly following whatever the government says. Gaining knowledge of the dangers of misinformation will help build independent thinking and teach how regular people came to participate in the horrors of this tragedy. Hopefully by doing so, it will help to prevent it from ever happening again.

Addressing Holocaust denial and teaching students how to combat its pervasiveness is also crucial to the program. The Holocaust was a deep, dark hole in human history. Its horrors cannot be put into words strong enough to express the pain and suffering it brought countless lives. Denying that it happened is like slapping the people that suffered through it squarely in the face. My mind, and the minds of other students like me, can’t process adversity to a degree even close to what the reality must have been. To make that happen, students must be helped to understand that Holocaust survivors and those that aided them are the last links we have to the horrifying truth of what happened to the Jews and other people who were chosen as the scapegoats for Germany’s problems.

Holocaust survivors and camp liberators should visit us and speak about their stories. My generation will be the last to hear their stories first-hand, and we must utilize any opportunity we have to listen to them. We need to pass these people’s stories onto our children, and to do that we must know the whole picture; feeling their story in our hearts and remembering their voices and faces in our heads. The telling of the Holocaust must not be summarized down to three sentences in battered old history books. We only need to look around the world today and see that people still have the nerve to deny the Holocaust to prove how beneficial this program would be.

Finally, the program needs to teach students about what “Never Again” truly means. Unfortunately, even with concerted efforts, genocides continue throughout the world today. Just look at this list: Sudan, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor, Yugoslavia, Rwanda. Every one of these tragedies happened after the Holocaust and every life taken was equally tragic.

When discussing the Holocaust, one of the most common questions that we hear is: “Why didn’t anyone stop them?” Well, why aren’t we stopping the genocides occurring in the world today? Out of sight, out of mind. Students need to learn ways to help participate in the fight against racial discrimination and its ugliest result.

While events happening thousands of miles away in foreign countries might not directly affect us, is that any reason to ignore them and stand idly by? No! I want these issues to be thoroughly discussed and thought about in this program. No person should have to suffer from genocide and everyone should become involved to prevent it.

Learning about the Holocaust could change students’ views on life, but the benefits wouldn’t stop there. Knowledge isn’t trapped in the walls of the school. Students spread their knowledge. Spokane is a relatively small community with only limited racial diversity. Here, especially, it is imperative that we understand that there are people who seem extremely different from us.

These differences can be uncomfortable, especially coming from a place where the majority of people look and act similarly. This program would prepare students to deal smoothly with cultural differences. The community of Spokane could become more thoughtful and considerate, but for that to happen, we need a meaningful and intense program to act as the pebble starting the ripple effect in the pond.

Kids are diverse. Some may like school; some may hate it. We come in all shapes and sizes, and each one of us thinks a little differently. It might seem like a dream to have a perfectly behaved, intellectual, athletic school, but if it is forced upon us by an oppressive government, then it truly isn’t perfect.

Perfection, to be honest, is unattainable. What people should be focusing on is increasing their knowledge of the world around them and helping them to be the best person possible. We don’t need a school that runs like clockwork. We need a program that will allow us to analyze the world, learn from history’s mistakes, and help us to make a difference for the better.

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