Academy sophomores traveled over the bridge to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, on February 29. Upon arrival, Caroline Bass, the museum’s executive director, introduced this year’s speaker, Gary Silvers, who set the day’s solemn and reverential mood. Although this elder’s story had humorous moments, it also provoked thought. It reminded the girls that the Holocaust was not only real, but one of the most horrific events in history.
The class determined that its favorite part of the day was the talk by Gary Silvers about his Holocaust survival story. The story of his family’s escape from anti-Semitic Germany to Shanghai proved nothing less than heroic. Faced with enormous danger, Silvers, a teenager at the time, and his family sold everything and boarded a ship that would signify a new beginning.
Many of Gary’s family members were not as lucky, however. His dad told his Jewish family members to leave Germany immediately, but some did not listen and were ultimately captured and killed in concentration camps.
The 80-year-old speaker described the horrible living conditions in China, where they found shelter in an abandoned school. Soon his father bought a small house to share with a few other families. When communism rose in China, his family knew it was time to leave. They came by boat to the United States and landed in California. His father asked him where he wanted to live, and he responded “Indianapolis, Indiana,” and there the family has resided ever since. Silvers now lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, who is also a Holocaust survivor.
Following the talk by Mr. Silver, Mrs. Dana Nazaretian separated the class into groups and assigned them a tour guide.
On the first floor, students learned about the history of the Holocaust and several key events that took place during that time throughout the world. Many artifacts from this period were on display. No artifact was more noticeable than the enormous box car parked in the middle of the lobby. This same car transported thousands of innocents to their deaths in the concentration camps over seventy years ago.
Some groups stopped on the second floor, while others learned about the art on the third floor. The second floor featured a temporary exibit called “Adam and Eve.” This is the latest collection of artwork done by Samuel Bak, who was a Holocaust survivor himself.
The third floor housed a permanent gallery, Kaddish in Wood, which featured wood carvings of French children of the Holocaust. Dr. Herbert Sabel created the carvings to act as memorabilia to honor the younger victims of the Holocaust.
The most important lesson the girls took away from this experience was to be an upstander and not a bystander. In other words, when a friend is in need, do not just stand aside and let things happen, but stand up for what is right.
Just as Elie Wiesel, famous Holocaust survivor said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”