History came alive, once again, for the SOMS 6th grade students of Caroline Pew and Katerina Karis on the 12th of April. Following the study of the Holocaust and World War II in their social studies and language arts classes, the students were visited by Gerda Bikales, a Holocaust survivor and the author of Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Holocaust Childhood.
You could hear a pin drop as Bikales related her riveting tale of survival which involved narrowly escaping capture by the Nazis during the years leading up to World War II in Europe. Her story is one of a child-in-hiding, constantly on the run in Nazi-occupied Europe, living in Germany, Belgium, France, and eventually Switzerland. Bikales was fortunate enough to escape the Nazis and be reunited with her parents after the war, unlike many other Jewish children at the time.
Students were deeply affected by the story, as well as the fact that they will be the last generation to have the opportunity to hear about the Holocaust from survivors who can deliver eyewitness accounts. “I found her talk inspiring. It made me extremely emotional. To be constantly on the run, knowing that your life is at risk. I can’t comprehend how that must have felt,” said student Emma Kelley. Caroline Cerny commented, “It is really sad to think that in just a few years there will be no one left alive to tell us what really happened. We will have to rely on books and documentaries.”
Bikales left a lasting impression on the students. “Gerda's talk was great! It was interesting to hear a story like that, because it was very different from most of the Holocaust stories I've heard. I had never heard of the organized resistance she talked about. If only more people could have helped, the Holocaust might never have happened,” said Sam Forman, a sixth grade student who, along with his classmates, will not soon forget Bikales’ story or how fortunate they were to hear it directly from her.