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Holocaust survivors and relatives lay flowers at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial on January 26, 2018, near Weimar, Germany. (Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)


Teenage girl helps pass genocide education bill in honor of her late friend, a Holocaust survivor

By WITW Staff on June 5, 2019

Public schools in Oregon will be required to teach students about the Holocaust and genocide, thanks to the activism of an unexpected duo: Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener, who died in December at age 92, and high school freshman Claire Sarnowski.

Sarnowski first met Wiener when she went to one of his talks as a fourth-grader in Oregon, The Washington Post reports, citing the Lake Oswego Review. The two became fast friends. “It was almost like we were old friends every time we talked,” Sarnowski told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “The age difference was never something we looked at.”

Sarnowski, now 14, said it was Wiener’s dream to establish mandatory curriculum standards for teaching students about the Holocaust, so she contacted a state senator, Rob Wagner. He went on to co-sponsor the bill.

Wiener and Sarnowski both testified at a hearing for the bill in September, according to the Post, and the Senate passed it in March. The House then passed it in late May. If the bill is signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, it will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year.

The bill says the lessons must be designed to “prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide, and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events,” according to the Post.

Wiener was imprisoned in five different concentration camps during the Holocaust, and most of his family was killed. He weighed 80 pounds when he was freed in 1945, the Post reports. He moved to the U.S. after the war, and began to speak about his life, later writing a book, From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography.

Ten states have enacted similar legislation for schools, according to the Post.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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