CLARKSBURG -- Twenty-one town students completed a course of study into the darkest event they'll ever research Wednesday, and wrapped up by meeting someone who was there.
"This will be the last generation to tell you what happened," Inge Auerbacher, a Holocaust survivor, told a packed gym at Clarksburg Elementary School. "After this, you'll read it in textbooks, see it depicted in films -- but I'm here, flesh and blood. Most survivors are 80, 90 years old and dying every day."
Auerbacher, author of "I Am A Yellow Star" and other books, was the guest of honor at the school's eighth annual Holocaust exhibit Wednesday.
Michael Little's eighth-grade class worked since March at putting together the exhibit with help from Rabbi Robert Sternberg, Westfield State College professor of Holocaust history, and local historian Darrell K. English.
Auerbacher, a resident of Queens, N.Y., who speaks all over the world, took the opportunity to tell her story once again.
Projecting photos of her home, family and, later, place of imprisonment in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, Auerbacher highlighted the youth of a "typical German child" raised in a time of imminent danger.
It culminated in she and her family's three-year fight for survival in the Terezin concentration camp from 1942-45, where she was one of the 100 out of 15,000 children to survive.
The 78-year-old was only seven, had been in school six months, at the time she and her family were shipped off.
Inmates fought dysentery, typhus, scarlet fever, boils, hunger, privation and vermin, living mostly two to a bed at a concrete facility that included a crematorium. Here the rapidly dying population was disposed of, while others were sent to outright extermination camps like Auschwitz.
The camp was liberated by the Russians, and Auerbacher and her family emigrated to America nine months later.
Auerbacher stressed the importance of remembrance and necessity of defending persecuted peoples.
She praised Wednesday's crowd and the exhibit put together by the middle-schoolers.
"Here in this little town you have something so special you bring tears to my eyes," she said.
Principal Linda Reardon struck a similar note.
"This small country school has chosen not to forget," she said. " ... This has become an important part of the eighth-grade experience and an important community event."
Little added, "This is no easy task and I'm so proud of each of and every one of my students."
Auerbacher finally reentered school at 15 after suffering for years with health problems. She later became a successful chemist.
"I wanted to live despite it all and make something of myself," she said.
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