Four Fusion Academy Princeton students recently had the opportunity of a lifetime.
Through the “Witness to History Project” and the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, each student was connected with a Holocaust survivor. Students interviewed the survivors and wrote a 3-6 page article summarizing the survivor’s experience. These articles, along with other local student’s articles, will be combined and published in a book by the museum. The book is set to print in the spring.
In collaboration with the project, one of the survivors, Joseph Kahn, shared his story at Princeton’s campus on January 22. Kahn was born in 1922 and was 17 years old when the Nazis occupied his hometown in September 1939. He survived several Nazi labor and concentration camps and a nine-day death march in 1945 through bitter cold and snow. In 1950 Kahn moved to the United States with nothing but the clothes on his back and twenty dollars in his pocket.
“It was definitely an emotional evening, in all the best kinds of ways,” said Matt Douglas, Director of Admissions and Outreach at Fusion Princeton. Over 50 students, staff, parents, and community members attended the event.
Kahn shared his story and took questions from the audience. Then Reid, the Fusion student who interviewed Kahn, stepped up to the microphone. Reid later said about the experience:
“It was my distinct honor and great privilege to speak with and interview Mr. Joseph Kahn, who is without a doubt the strongest and most interesting man I have ever met. Joe, at ninety three, is a rock of a man seemingly impervious to the hands of time. He is well spoken, confident, intelligent, funny, and brings light to any conversation…The experience was surreal and the story was inconceivable. I felt extremely honored to be in the same room as Joe let alone his raconteur for future generations. That is what this whole project is all about sharing and preserving our world’s history with our descendants. I was blessed to be a part of it.”
Kahn stated on multiple occasions how encouraged he was by interacting with Reid. He noted that if our next generation is in the hands of students like Reid he has hope for the future.
Another student, along with her essay, wanted to commemorate her survivor’s story with art. Her piece represents the shoes of a village’s Jewish population; they were all that was left after the Jews were forced to remove their shoes before being shot into the local river. This wire sculpture depicts those shoes and the river:
“It was a powerful, moving event,” said Douglas.
This project was an incredible opportunity for our students. The one-to-one connections they made will be something they remember for the rest of their lives.