Walking Witness: Civic Responsibility in the Shadow of the Holocaust
Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad trip for educators
The Walking Witness trip follows the wartime life experiences of four Toledo-area Holocaust survivors, whose testimonies were included in the WGTE Toledo Stories film, Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors. Coupled with the Bearing Witness Summer Institute, hosted by Bowling Green State University, the trip empowers educators to create effective curriculum for the subject area in their language arts' and social studies' classrooms. We are also bringing experienced media teachers to help document the experience. This four-week trip includes Poland, Hungary, and Greece respectively.
This program is funded by a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) Program grant, U.S. Department of Education. www.ed.gov/programs/iegpsgpa/index.html.
Prior to departure, Walking Witness participants enrolled in the Bearing Witness Summer Institute at Bowling Green State University (June 9-13 online, June 15-20, 2014 on BGSU's main campus) to prepare for the trip to East Central Europe. This immersive workshop covered Judaism, anti-Semitism, local history, and of course the Holocaust - with a particular emphasis on the little-known Greek Holocaust, all with a focus on six Toledo-area survivors. In addition, there was instruction in media documentation tools and curriculum development.
Our in-country experience began in Warsaw with visits to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute. From Warsaw, we move on to three days in Lodz and its surrounding area including the birth places of two survivors, Aron Wajskol and Philip Markowicz, and the area of the Lodz ghetto where these survivors were inprisoned. We then spent nine days in Krakow to meet colleagues at Jagieollonian University, interacting with the Polish community in Krakow and visiting relevant historic sites and archives such as Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, and the Komplex Riese, where our survivors were kept. Next we ventured to Hungary. Here we visited Budapest (three days), doing research in the Jewish Museum and Archives of Hungary and visiting the Dohany Street Synagogue, as well as interacting with educators. We then spent three days in Pécs, the hometown of survivor Clara Schlesinger Rona. The team will then travel to Greece where they will spend seven days. In Greece we will begin in Athens, meeting up with our Greek in-country coordinator, Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha Janina, who will connect us with the Jewish communities in Athens, Larissa, Trikala (birthplace of survivor Al Negrin), and Salonika. She will also give us opportunities for interaction with the local people and a solid background in the complicated history of Greece in the Holocaust.
We are documenting the entire trip with our educators, performing interviews with local people, and exploring historical sites through video, audio, and photography. These documents will be used in future digital curriculum projects and possible films.