As eighth graders study the Holocaust, they got a unique opportunity to hear from a Hutchison staff member and her father about her grandparents' story of survival.
Eighth graders heard an account of “miraculous survival” during the Holocaust by one family. As part of the 8th grade English class’s study of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, two special guests visited to talk to them about their family’s own history with the Holocaust. Danielle Katz, who is Hutchison’s social media manager, and her father, Ben Katz, spoke to the girls about how her grandparents (her father’s parents) survived concentration camps and being hidden among other families.
Danielle detailed how her grandfather, Daniel Katz (whom she is named after), and his parents were deported to Latvia where they lived in the Riga Ghetto and eventually were taken to Kaiserwald, a Nazi concentration camp near Riga. Daniel’s parents did not survive, but Daniel survived another concentration camp, Stutthof, as well as several death marches, before he was eventually liberated by the British. After recovering for several years, he immigrated to the United States. Danielle’s grandmother, Renate Cohn, was separated from her family during the war. Renate hid with a family in the Netherlands, and her sister Gerda hid in various places with help from a different family. Their mother and father, Clara and Leo, were taken to Terezin concentration camp, in the present-day Czech Republic. Clara survived, but Leo was later killed at Auschwitz. Somehow, Renate, Gerda, and Clara were able to find one another after the war, and all three immigrated to the United States. Renate and Daniel met shortly after and started their family in New York.
“This is only a part of their life stories,” Danielle noted. “Yes, it was a horrific time in their lives, but thankfully, they had long lives to live after making it through.”
After sharing her family’s history – much of which she and her father had to piece together from different sources – Danielle interviewed her father, asking about what it was like to grow up with Holocaust survivors, the toll it took on his parents' health, whether they talked much about their experiences, and the Holocaust’s impact on their Jewish faith. “Their survival was literally miraculous,” Ben said, adding that despite what they went through, keeping their faith “remained a staple throughout their lives.”
As it turns out, this is the first time that Danielle and her father have organized their family history to talk to a group about it. They felt it was important to share their family's story in hopes that Hutchison girls will use what they've learned about the Holocaust to stand up for what is right.
“There are wrong things that still happen to people every day because of their faith, their gender, or the color of their skin that we should stand up for and fight every day,” Mr. Katz said. “These are, hopefully, the lessons of history.”