CLARKSBURG -- At the start of the year, students in Michael Little's eighth grade class only know basic knowledge of the Holocaust.
"They don't understand the nature of the suffering until they get deeper into it," Little said on Friday. "They realize the Holocaust was something bad, but they don't realize how bad."
But through a multi-stage project that begins in March, the students are able to better understand how bad the atrocities were, he said.
The 21 students in Little's class will present their work, which includes 250 artifacts, historical documents, and photographs, in an annual Holocaust exhibit on Wednesday, May 22 at Clarksburg Elementary School from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
The night's guest of honor will be Inge Auerbacher, a survivor of the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The 78-year old author and chemist is one of the 100 children who survived Nazi concentration camps of the 15,000 that went through.
The students began by reading Auerbacher's autobiography "I am a Star" in class, Little said. Once the students studied the text, they created 18 posters to represent Auerbacher's story, he said.
A challenge was finding photos to represent Auerbacher's life, Little said, as few photos of her exist.
Student Jordan Moran, who helped create a poster on Auerbacher's early life, said he was surprised to hear about what children went through.
"I knew some stuff before. But when you get to be in the class, you realize how terrible it was," he said.
Students David Beebe, Brian Boudreau, Evan Canales, and Brenden Piaggi created four posters about a chapter in Auerbacher's book. The students said they learned about the techniques the Nazi party used to alienate people of Jewish descent.
"They had to change their middle names to show they were Jewish," Boudreau said. "They changed them to ‘Israel' if they were a boy, and ‘Sarah' if they were a girl."
Little said Auerbacher is the eighth Holocaust survivor to visit Clarksburg Elementary School in as many years.
"The time to bring survivors is getting shorter and shorter every time we do this," Little said. "Many aren't able to travel anymore. And every year we need to find someone from farther away."
Auerbacher will visit the school Wednesday to speak with seventh and eighth graders prior to the exhibit, Little said, and will also speak at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday night.
The two other speakers Wednesday will be Rabbi Robert Sternberg, professor of Holocaust history and literature at Westfield State College and American International college, and Darrell English, historical artifacts expert and founder of the New England Holocaust Institute in North Adams.
To reach Edward Damon, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: An exhibit created by Clarksburg Elementary School eighth graders, Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher speaking at 7:15 p.m.
When: Wednesday, May 22 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Clarksburg Elementary, 777 West Cross Road, Clarksburg
Cost: Free admission, donations accepted
For more information: Call the school at 413-663-8735