A Holocaust exhibit by the Simon Wiesenthal Center has arrived at Huntington Beach High School.
“Courage to Remember: The Holocaust 1933-1945” — curated by the Los Angeles-based human-rights organization and presented by the Foundation for California, a nonprofit that focuses on education on public policy issues — contains more than 200 photographs and spans the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II.
The large panels, staggered throughout the school’s Student Center, begin at the back of the room and are numbered in the bottom left corner to designate the order.
It is divided into four themes — “Nazi Germany, 1933-1938”; “Moving Toward the ‘Final Solution,’ 1939-1941”; “Annihilation in Nazi-occupied Europe, 1941-1945”; and “Liberation, Building New Lives.”
“I think it’s super important to teach tolerance. [The Holocaust] is a big unit at our whole school in our whole English department for sophomore year,” said Beth Lammers, an English teacher and the primary event organizer.
The Foundation for California initially reached out to local schools a year ago, Lammers said, and she volunteered to organize the Huntington Beach High event because she felt it was important for her students to be exposed to the exhibit. The display was featured earlier this year at Edison High School, also in Huntington Beach.
“I don’t think there’s enough [taught about the Holocaust]. … It’s now really even more relevant, I think,” she said, referring to the exhibit’s coincidental timing in the wake of a March 2 off-campus party involving Newport Beach and Costa Mesa high school students in which several were pictured doing Nazi salutes over a makeshift swastika during a game of beer pong.
Ted Gover, executive director of the Foundation for California, said the organization was “troubled” by that incident.
“We want this exhibit to help build understanding of the real harm and danger those activities pose to our communities,” he said. “We reached out to many local schools here in Orange County for the purposes of raising awareness of what happened during the Holocaust to share its vital lessons so the young generation can know not only of what happened but that these crimes can happen again. A real important weapon against hate and intolerance is education.”
Lammers said Huntington Beach High students “have always gone to the Museum of Tolerance [an arm of the Wiesenthal Center] … which coincides with our reading of Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ and the history department teaching World War II and the Holocaust.”
“Everything coincides in April, and we do that purposefully so the kids are having a holistic, across-the-curriculum experience,” she said.
Grace Ng, 14, visited the exhibit with her college-prep English class Monday. She said she learned about the Holocaust when she read “Night” in eighth grade but that the display was enlightening. One of the earliest panels in the series, discussing why the Nazis targeted the Jewish people, stuck out to her because “I knew the history but I didn’t know why or exactly why they did,” she said.
“I think [the exhibit’s] really cool to show students and teachers as well what happened and bring kind of a light to this tragic event,” said Scarlett Vandermeer, 15. “It’s a good visual. You can kind of get a better view of it inside your head.”
Students will attend the exhibit during class periods throughout this week, and it will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Huntington Beach High is at 1905 Main St.