- January 27, 2022
“I was the butterfly that survived,” said Holocaust child survivor Ginette Hersh to the fourth and fifth graders of Southside Elementary.
In observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Southside Elementary invited two guest speakers to share their stories of the Holocaust on Jan. 27.
The school’s fourth and fifth graders joined with their families at the school’s cafeteria to hear first-hand the stories of Ginette Hersh, 95, who is a child survivor of the Holocaust and Steve Koenig, 73, a second generation survivor of the Holocaust.
“The reason why it’s life-changing, not only do they (the students) hear their stories of survival and inner courage and resilience, but also of hope,” said The Jewish Federation Holocaust Education Programming Bette Zaret. “The kids really learn that not only did the Holocaust happen, but that there were people who were able to survive primarily at the hands of good people who helped save them and helped them escape.”
A group of students started the program by welcoming the guest speakers with a song about the children of the Holocaust called, “A Million Butterflies.”
“I was a hidden child; I was never in concentration camp. Most of the time I was hiding in schools by principals who knew I was Jewish,” Hersh said. “I think God is giving me a long life because of what I am doing. I think the children will know what happened. I feel like that’s why I'm still here.”
Koenig’s father was a Holocaust survivor. Koenig spoke to the students how his father and uncle survived the Holocaust.
“I'm a late bloomer. I grew up with stories of the Holocaust because my father escaped from Dachau and my uncle survived Auschwitz. I heard the stories, but it wasn’t that interesting," said Koenig. "Later in my life, I got to learn more and more about the real stories of my family and it’s been only recently that I learned the whole story of my father’s escape. Now, It’s wonderful to share that the theme is that we can all be upstanders.”
Koenig asks the students who their favorite superhero is as a way to explain to the students what an upstander is and how they can be one.
“We can be superheroes,” said Koenig as he revealed his Superman shirt under his button-down.
Additionally, the school unveiled its newly planted daffodil garden in the courtyard and original butterfly art installation in the media center. Both of these mementos are in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children who were killed in the Holocaust.