During the week that Louisa County Middle School social studies teacher Hope Hamblin planned on discussing World War II with her class, snow poured down on Louisa, causing closings and delays that forced Hamblin to condense her lessons and the corresponding information.
When she prepared to discuss the Holocaust weeks later, the forecast repeated itself, once again leaving her students with an abridged version of what actually happened.
So when school budgets allowed for only one field trip for Hamblin’s combined classes, her choice was made not just with recreation in mind, but a feeling of necessity.
Hamblin’s classes visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond on Friday, Feb. 28, with students getting a close glimpse at the conditions of the infamous concentration camps, the role it played in the context of World War II, and the quiet strength of those who survived it.
“[The Holocaust] became not just something that you hear about or learn about, but a real life experience that people went through,” Hamblin said. “The information that the guides told us was far more than I could have ever done in class.”
A total of 74 students went on the trip to the museum, which operates at no mandated cost to visitors. The museum takes guests through the years of 1933 to 1945 as seen through the eyes of the Ipp family as they try to survive Nazi Germany. Based on actual events, the family of 13 avoided soldiers by hiding in potato storage holes and other cramped excavated chambers beneath potato fields.
Students got hands on experience with how the Jewish family managed, as the museum had rooms built to the nine-by-12 foot rooms with four-foot ceilings.
“There were a bunch of mannequins laying on the ground and a whole bunch of people freaked out because they thought they were real [people],” seventh grader Charles Martin said.
Students also got to see how hundreds of Jews were forced into railroad cars to be transported to the camps and the gas chambers, experiences that helped students feel the emotion and distress of the actual situation.
To read the entire story, see the March 20 edition of The Central Virginian.