Eighth-Graders Reflect on Holocaust Unit, Trip to D.C.

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Eighth-Graders Reflect on Holocaust Unit, Trip to D.C.
Ravenscroft Communications

The three-day trip to our nation’s capital included a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and numerous other museums, monuments and memorials.


In early November, students in the Class of 2028 embarked on a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., as the culmination of a unit of study around the Holocaust that included reading both fiction and nonfiction set in this time period and hearing from two guest speakers. They then visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as well as numerous other D.C. museums, monuments and memorials.

Emily Roth ’28 said that touring the Holocaust Museum was “an extremely impactful experience.” She went on to say of other stops on the trip, “There is a magnificent display of monuments honoring the achievements of our nation along with so many tributes to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Given the diversity of the monuments and displays, while touring Washington, D.C., someone could feel emotions ranging from happiness to sadness in a matter of minutes.”

Here, students in Sarah Baker’s Language Arts classes share reflections on what they learned during their unit of study as well as their visit to the Holocaust Museum and several other important and interesting tours on their trip. 

Learning through literature and guest speakers

I first read the book “Prisoner B-3087” by Alan Gratz. The book follows the protagonist Yanek as he goes through the brutal tragedies of the Holocaust. The title of the book is what was tattooed on Yanek. The Nazis tattooed the Jews at the concentration camps because they thought they should treat them like animals. Throughout the book, the tattoo makes him doubt himself and sometimes almost give up when he is doing hard labor. He thinks that if he is just treated like an animal, why live anymore. The tattoo is such an important symbol that it becomes the book’s title. 

At school we had a talk with a Holocaust expert and a Holocaust survivor. When we were talking to the Holocaust survivor, someone asked if he had a tattoo or not. After he started talking about it, it made him feel emotional about the traumatic periods that he had to go through. When he was talking about getting shot he doesnt even get emotional, but when someone brought up the tattoo, it affected him the most. Just one tattoo that has been on his body for 80 years still impacts him the most till this day. He survived the Holocaust as a teenager like the character Yanek, the protagonist in “Prisoner B-3087.” They reacted to the tattoo in very similar ways. The tattoos are a poignant symbol of the atrocities of the  Holocaust.

— Matthew Kohl ’28

Sitting in our nice school, I never realized just how privileged I was. Mr. Bernard Offman, a Holocaust survivor, spoke to us about how he was just a boy in the Holocaust and was located in a ghetto. His mother and sister were taken away and then gassed to death. He spoke about how at Auschwitz concentration camp there were two lines: his father went in one line, and he went in the other. He later found out that his father had been sent to be gassed and killed. Later, a man told him when somebody asked for help he should race to the front to show he was strong and ready so the guards wouldn’t kill him. 

A question asked of him: Did you make any friends in the camp? He replied no, which was devastating to me — that a young boy was forced to work and be put through horrific conditions all alone. I kept thinking about my own family and friends as he spoke and realized how lucky I am to have them. Mr. Offman spoke about how he went vast lengths to find his older brothers. He began to cry, and you could see the raw emotion on his face as if this event happened yesterday. He was the one who had to tell them that their father was dead. He said it was devastatingly painful for him to speak those words. Yes, those wounds have healed, but they will always leave a scar. 

 — Layla Wood ’28

Clockwise from top left: Cortland DeCandia ’28, Sarvagya Gupta ’28 and Hari Le Cheminant ’28 prepare to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Caroline Edwards ’28 and Siena Gehring ’28 visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; Kingston Reives ’28, Asa Turner ’28, Allen Maynard ’28 and Skyler Mitchell ’28 take in the exhibit for the Black Panther movies at the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and the full group of eighth-graders gathers outside the White House.  

Touring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The book I read, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” displayed the harm the Holocaust can put on a teenage girl my age. Knowing that she was just 13 years old in hiding made me imagine how I would feel if I was in her place. This made me realize how privileged and fortunate I am to live in such a safe environment. Reading this book felt very personal, because unlike other books my peers read, this diary wasn’t written in the way a novel would be. There wasn’t a main theme or overarching moral, it was just the words of a girl. 

I think that reading Anne Frank’s diary before going to the museum prepared me with a good basic understanding. Despite the gruesomeness of the Holocaust, the memorial was an amazing experience that I will never forget. A specific detail that I remember is when we were entering the museum, and how heavy it felt as we started. I could feel the overall mood of the memorial from the beginning. The gloomy lighting, dark colors and very serious mood was so astounding to me. My brain essentially went to “wow, this is incredible.” I think for me the museum is definitely the most impactful tour out of the three days, but the others were definitely still amazing. Throughout the whole experience I gained knowledge and felt the basic weight on my chest of knowing about the Holocaust. 

— Lilly Ramsey ’28

Ever since I was a young child I was told how harsh the Holocaust was, how they persecuted people like me — Jewish people. I was told that my great-grandparents had been lucky to survive and that I was lucky that I didn’t grow up in that time. But I was never able to understand how the Holocaust truly affected the Jewish people, especially the children. 

That is, until I went on the school trip to Washington and to the Holocaust Museum. Before I went, I asked my family members what they remembered from the museum. They told me about the shoes, the bunks and the collection of hair that they had seen. But that wasn’t the part that stuck with me. When we were in the museum I saw the severity of all of it through the eyes of children my age and read about their stories. I was able to understand the perspectives of different people much better while sitting down in the “Voices from Auschwitz” feature and listening to them speak. I was able to hear the emotion in their voices and truly feel that. Children that are just like me were forced into these terrible situations. I will never forget this, and I never want to. Their stories should live on forever so that we can make sure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

 — Carleigh Cates ’28

As I was walking through the Holocaust Museum, what stood out to me was the middle floor designated to exploring the “Final Solution” and the extermination of the Jews. Reading and watching the videos made this experience more immersive and touching. As I watched over the concrete walls, I watched the videos and the information panel, and it left me perplexed. These videos had shown innocent people being beaten and killed for doing nothing at all. If you even made it into the camps you would have gruesome labor and little to no food. I thought about life now and how awful and scary their lives were and how lucky I am to be living in such luxury. 

Within the museum there were also many props that you could interact with, including a life-sized replica of the cattle cars used to transport hundreds of Jews at a time to concentration camps. As I walked through the cattle car, I couldn’t imagine fitting more than 100 people within it. I was shocked because this cattle car that held 150 or more people was smaller than my own bedroom. Another replica, the bunk beds, stood out to me because I have a large bed with a comfy mattress, and those within the concentration camps had to fit up to 20 adults in one single bunk. This gave me more gratitude for my lucky life. 

— Carter Overcash ’28

The first thing that really caught my attention at the Holocaust Museum was the amount of detail and precision that went into the exhibits. For example, there was a particular exhibit where they put a bunch of hair in an enormous glass box. This was symbolic of the sheer amount of people that were killed, because for every person that was forced into concentration camps, they would cut all of their hair off. This really opened my eyes to the true scale of this tragedy and showed me truly how many people died.

Another thing that really caught my attention was the exhibit where it showed American statistics of people during the Holocaust. It really put into perspective how many people were poorly educated on it during that time, and how this could happen again if we do not teach people about this tragedy and the true depth of it.

Truly, however, the exhibit that most caught my attention was the exhibit “Daniel’s Story.” It is a fictional account of a young Jewish boy who walks us through what it would have been like for a child in his time. It tells us about the discrimination that he faced, and it shows us that any form of discrimination is not right, and nothing to this extreme needs to ever happen again.

— Allen Maynard ’28

Clockwise from top left: Avery Pellicciotti ’28 and Madelyn Bekerman ’28 explore the Spy Museum; and students pose in groups at an outdoor plaza lined with museums, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Highlighting other important parts of the trip

One key part of our trip was the touring of the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol and the White House. The reason that this really stood out to me was the historical significance of it all. We got to see where most of the decisions for this country get made and where the president lives, which was really cool for all of us. On the last day of the trip, right before we had lunch and left, we went to the Arlington National Cemetery, where we got to see the graves of many soldiers that died fighting for this country, and the the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All in all, this trip was an amazing opportunity to learn about the way that our country works, how it honers our past, and to spend quality time with our friends. 

— Caleb Bubar ’28

On the D.C. trip I also got to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Seeing how many names were on the memorial showed me how many people went through the same thing but still had their own stories. I also saw how many families had to go through the grief of losing their loved ones. So many of the people named in that memorial likely had different family dynamics, lives or how they grew up, but they all fought for the same thing. They all had different stories, but this one was the same. The trip to D.C. gave me a better view on people and let me recognize how many people have their own experiences and differences.

— Katya Wilfret ’28

The museums were key activities during our three-day stay at D.C., especially the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We spent a total of three hours at each museum learning about how deep our history goes. For example, we learned about how rock and roll, hip-hop and rap originated from African American jazz, blues and rhythms. Along with learning about all the excellent things people of African American heritage did for our society, we also learned about how they were unfairly treated. Whilst reading about the acts of inequity, we were shown the Emmet Till memorial. We learned that he was a young boy who had come south to meet his cousins and was then wrongfully accused of whistling at a white woman and was lynched. After the incident of Emmet Till, we learned about racial injustice throughout history and how people stood up to overcome it. Some of these ways were protests, movements, speeches or simply just spreading awareness. This whole experience was deeply moving. 

Through these monuments and museums, we gained a profound appreciation for the living history around us. This exposure to various perspectives has broadened our understanding of the world. 

— Rishi Kamma ’28 and Eva Chandel ’28

Our class trip to Washington, D.C., was not what we had expected. We thought the monuments and museums would be boring, but from the first stop at the Holocaust Museum to our last stop at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, we were surprised by how interesting and fun everything was. At the Holocaust Museum, we walked along the Wall of Remembrance, where photos of Holocaust victims were displayed, and we also read stories about kids who lived through the Holocaust. At the Spy Museum, we got to be involved in an interactive spy story where we had code words and fake IDs. At the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, we saw a dinosaur skeleton that had a neck that was probably 30 feet long. Although our time there was short, the planes hanging from the ceilings made the brief stop worth our time. We also spent time in the gift shop there, and several of us went home with “Reach for the Stars” sweatshirts that have a tyrannus rex with stubby arms trying to reach the sky on it.

We probably walked thousands of steps each day, but walking through history is no small task! 

— Gabby DiNome ’28 and Sophia DiNome ’28