Rye Neck Middle School eighth graders were completely engrossed in the recent presentation by Denny Jacobson, whose Jewish family fled Germany in 1939, right before the onset of World War II.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rye Neck Middle School eighth graders were completely engrossed in the recent presentation by Denny Jacobson, whose Jewish family fled Germany in 1939, right before the onset of World War II. Mr. Jacobson provided students with a timeline of events leading up to the war and how they profoundly impacted his family and everyone around him. He also brought along memorable family artifacts and photographs.
“There are many things teachers do to bring life to their curricula, but nothing can match the impact of a human primary source,” said Principal Eric Lutinski. “In the future, when the students hear about the Holocaust, they will remember Mr. Jacobson’s oral history.”
The presentation, sponsored by the PTSA and arranged by Rye Neck parent Emily Cohen, a board member of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center, gave the Holocaust a human face. Starting by addressing his British accent, Mr. Jacobson explained that he was raised in England after fleeing Berlin. Although his father had been a well-respected scientist and author in Germany, the powerful Nazi propaganda and the Nuremberg laws made it impossible for them to stay. His grandmother and an uncle, who did not escape, perished in the Holocaust.
“We’re here to remember what happened and to support human rights across the board,” he said. “Learn from the past, so that these actions are not repeated.”
Relocating at first to an internment camp outside London, Mr. Jacobson recalled being in constant fear as a result of bombing raids. His British peers assaulted him because he was German. Eventually, he felt compelled to conceal his German heritage in school in order to avoid further persecution. He came to this country when he was 24 and lives in Westchester today.
Mr. Jacobson said he was impressed by the students’ thoughtful questions.
He urged students “to all be activists. Take a definite position, whether it’s against bullying or discrimination of any kind.”