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Pupils Conduct Research on the Fates of Jews and Sinti from North Hesse

26 pupils from the Filchner Comprehensive School in Wolfhagen spent two days researching in the digital archives and the library of the International Tracing Service (ITS). The pupils looked into the biographies of Jews and Sinti from North Hesse and into their fates under National Socialist persecution. Another subject of the young people’s history workshop were the survivors who had lived in camps for Displaced Persons in North Hesse after the war. “The original records I have seen at the ITS and our own investigations on individual fates have changed my view of Nazi history”, said pupil Nico Mander.

Together with his classmate Yannick Bernhardt, Nico has examined the biographies of two Jews who were deported from Kassel. “There are most various documents on the fates of the two”, explained Nico. “We have found a deportation list for Riga and a correspondence file on Siegfried Ziering, and we have come across numerous records on Walter Bacher's successive detentions in Riga, Stutthof and Buchenwaldas.” The two boys were astonished at the mass of documents kept at the ITS. “The Nazi bureaucracy is intimidating and terrifying”, said Nico.

Concretising history in the young people’s minds and allowing them to get an idea of the methodical work of scholars is the educational aim behind the history workshop, explained secondary school teacher Marcus von der Straten who takes charge of the pupils during the project. “We cannot introduce the pupils to the era of Nazi persecution with the help of school books alone. Our intention is to make history tangible for them by means of definite, authentic fates.” It is essential to combine these two sources of abstract and concrete knowledge to allow the pupils to better interrelate with history. “Historical education is not about victims’ quantities, but about individuals. Pupils have heard about Auschwitz and Buchenwald, no doubt. But what happened in their immediate surroundings at the time mostly is new to them”, declared von der Straten.