History teacher Ron DiQuattro, 34, leader of the group of 200 youths from Columbus High School, said he has been escorting students to the Breman for years.
“Any time you can make history come alive, it’s really important,” he said. “They get to hear survivors first hand.”
Jamie Wilson, also a teacher at Columbus, said “you go in there and walk away understanding things a lot more. You need to be able to see it, and your kids need to be able to see it. It was catastrophic.”
Liliane Kshensky Baxter, director of the Breman’s Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education, said up to 20,000 mostly fifth grade and middle school youngsters visit the museum annually.
Often, Holocaust survivors take part in the educational effort, speaking in an auditorium to students while others tour exhibits.
One recent day, survivors Eva Friedlander, 92, and Andre Kessler, 73, told students about their own nightmarish experiences.
Friedlander, a native of Hungary, told students of being forced to wear a yellow star to identify herself as being Jewish and watching in astonishment and fear as neighbors were taken away. Romanian native Andre Kessler, 73, said he “went into hiding for 18 months,” barely escaping the fate of others.
He volunteers to keep the Holocaust from being downplayed or forgotten and said “it’s very important to do this [because] our survivors are getting older. We’re losing them. I owe it to my family, aunts, uncles. Most of my relatives lived in Hungary, and within a 10-month period they were sent to Auschwitz. It’s very emotional.”
Baxter said the program at the Breman isn’t meant to “horrify” but to “make students aware of what happened, understand it in a deep way, and apply it to their lives.”
Students and children leave, she said, “with greater appreciation of how bullying can escalate.”