"We just want to remind people that the Holocaust was real and we feel we are doing our part using our skills."
- Pereira's students
A class at Escola Secundária Dr. Manuel Gomes de Almeida in Espinho, Portugal created a piece of artwork to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The artwork serves a beautiful way for us to never forget the Holocaust and the actions of those who mercilessly killed six million Jews and millions of others.
It is important moments like these that represent the power of education and compassion in the world. This class worked together to create a piece of artwork to commemorate the victims and remind others of the importance of Holocaust education. This artwork comes at a time where anti-Semitism is growing across the world.
Manuela Pereira, the class's teacher, initiated and directed this project for her class. We interviewed the teacher who collaborated with her class so that we could share with everyone the perspective of the class.
Q: What drove you to want to do this project?
A: The Holocaust can’t be forgotten. Human Rights are a frequent topic in our syllabus in Portugal. In the beginning of the school year, in September, the group of English teachers at my school thought about marking some special days and the Holocaust Remembrance Day was in our work plan. I am also very interested in this topic and truly believe it’s my job to help develop students’ critical thinking, creativity, information literacy, as well as emotional intelligence. In Portugal, students have a fair knowledge of what happened during the WWII. They are not among the number of people who don’t believe the Holocaust existed. I did some research work and found your Facebook page, among others, I must be honest here. We did some work to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (for the 10th December), and this class in particular, as they are studying Arts, usually put their skills in action. I didn’t tell them what to do: they decided and I just let them do it.
Q: What motivated your students to participate in this project?
A: I asked them if they wanted to do something to mark this date and they were very enthusiastic about it. So, in a way, I motivated them but it wasn’t hard at all to involve them in this project.
Q: What does this project mean to the students and yourself?
A: We are all artists so we wanted to use our skills and Arts to do something bigger (the students of Pereira's class).
I feel blessed that my students are so engaged in the topic, in keeping the memory alive. It means that it is worth teaching teens (Pereira).
Q: Do the hands have a specific meaning to the project?
A: They wanted to represent the millions of people killed by the Nazis but they used their hands, so it is also possible to do another interpretation.
Q: The center image is quite powerful as it has a swastika and the sleeve of the clothes that the Jews were forced to wear and a fist clenching the swastika. What does this represent?
A: First, the idea that the Jewish people are bigger than the stereotype, the hatred, so they are “breaking”, destroying those with their hands. The ideas of dehumanizing, exterminating, hatred, genocide make no sense and have to be destroyed by us, the humans in the world.
Q: What inspirations were used to complete this project?
A: They researched for symbols and came up with the flowers that mean freedom and liberty. And then they used their History knowledge and creativity to create the center image. They wanted to include the barbed wire, the swastika being destroyed,…. Alexandra was the student who got all the ideas together and the class agreed. Curious thing was that I had talked about Elie Wiesel and his book Night, read some excerpts and then they ended up choosing one of his quotations for their work.