History You Can Touch - Wolfhagen Student Project
In the autumn of 2010, 10th and 11th grade students at Filchner comprehensive school in Wolfhagen made two visits to the International Tracing Service (ITS) archives in order to do research. Comprised of a group of 16 students, the history workshop “National Socialism´s Terror System – the fates of the victims” presented first results of its research this week. “This work was a defining moment for the students, as they experienced history firsthand,” said teacher and project leader Marcus von der Straten.
The history workshop focuses on topics such as the organization of the NS terror system and concentration camps, forced labour in North Hesse, and victims of persecution and displaced persons in the Wolfhagen region. Michelle Daubert, Jenny Iwanow and Irina Winkinstern´s working group researched the history of the Möllerichs, a Jewish family who had run a general store in Wolfhagen as the Nazis grabbed power.
Most of the family went to Hamburg, thinking that in a city they could escape persecution. In 1941 the family was deported to Lodz. Only Rolf Moellerich was lucky enough to evade the extermination policy by fleeing to England in a Kindertransport. “Not until decades later, after his son had persuaded him to visit Wolfhagen, was he able to make his peace with the place. From then on he visited every year,” said the students.
Lisa-Marie Ernst, Marius Paul Meyer, Maurice Paar and Lisa Spangenberg reported on the fate of Nikola Bilik, a Ukrainian forced labourer who was arrested in Wolfhagen for leaving his workplace illegally and imprisoned in Kassel. He survived and emigrated to the USA after the war. “It is good that the students show such commitment to this topic, have such empathy and are willing to invest their time,” said Dr. Susanne Urban, head of research at the ITS. “The connection with human fate is very meaningful in education.”
The research results need to be refined and presented in a coherent layout. To that end, excursions to the Breitenau and Mittelbau-Dora memorial sites have been planned in order to get an idea of the persecution. “Students have some superficial knowledge from their regular lessons which has become more concrete and vivid because of the project work,” said von der Straten.
The connection to the region has helped students build a relationship to history. “Students also spoke with their relatives and sometimes a story came up once again, for example about the former munitions factory in Wolfhagen or the destroyed synagogue where today stands a drugstore.” The history project´s results will be shown in an exhibition at Filchner comprehensive school in Wolfhagen.