A Holocaust exhibition created by a Southeastern English class ended its two-week run at the university’s Sims Memorial Library on April 19.
Students from Dr. Beth Calloway’s English 315 special topics course developed “Lest We Forget: Reading and Writing the Holocaust” with a $1,000 mini-grant Calloway received for participating in the Memorial Library Summer Seminar on Holocaust Education held in New York City in 2008.
“That’s why we were able to have such a nice exhibit,” Calloway said about the mini-grant. “We had hoped to have multimedia presentations, but we didn’t have access to the equipment needed.”
The 25 students enrolled in Calloway’s course designed the exhibits in two weeks to highlight what they had learned about the Holocaust throughout the semester. Topics featured Holocaust history, writing samples and profiles about victims and survivors.
Walls and tables featured names and stories of casualties and survivors. The faces of the Holocaust hung beside their stories to remind younger generations of the unforgiving Nazi concentration camps and the persecution 6 million Jews, Poles, Gypsies and other races faced for being born a certain way.
Calloway focused on a particular survivor, Simon Wiesenthal, and the topic of forgiveness.
Wiesenthal survived the Nazi concentration camps, and a Nazi solider later asked him for forgiveness on the soldier’s deathbed. Wiesenthal remained silent. Calloway adapted his story to the course by requiring students to write a paper on the topic of forgiveness and what they would have done in a similar scenario.
“The entire class grew out of that,” Calloway said.
Calloway had been building the special topics course for two years before the exhibit became a reality. The instructor had maintained interest on the topic since junior high, but getting to know the German people while visiting family in Europe rekindled her interest. When she left the 2008 seminar, her mission was to educate students on the historical event.
Louisiana legislation does not require educators to discuss the Holocaust in classrooms, but Calloway said most teachers include the Holocaust in their lesson plans anyway. Since 2007, five Louisiana educators have been chosen to participate in the Memorial Library seminar, Calloway said. She hopes to work with other educators in the state to remind students about the Holocaust’s significance.
“It seemed interesting,” said Brad Davis, a freshman English education major, about enrolling in a course on the Holocaust. “Not a lot of emphasis is placed on the Holocaust in high school. You actually learn the true horror that lies behind everything.”
Davis and his group were responsible for gathering literature and poetry contributions from peers and Holocaust survivors featured throughout the exhibit.
Calloway hopes the project helped her students and the exhibit’s visitors better understand tolerance and diversity among individuals.
“I’ve always been sympathetic to the plight of the Jews,” said Evan Buck, a senior political science major. Buck visited the exhibit to learn more about the event he had read about in books.
Calloway plans to convert the class project into a traveling exhibit that can be loaned to area high schools to supplement classroom units on the Holocaust.