Snake River students go on virtual field trip
THOMAS — In a murder trial, the most valuable evidence is a credible eyewitness to the crime, said WWII Jewish survivor Gloria Glantz.
"So I am giving you my testimony which makes you all eyewitnesses," said Glantz.
Jay Millan's history class at Snake River High School (SRHS) participated in a "virtual field trip" using the Idaho Education Network. With the help of a video camera, students could see, listen to and ask questions of Glantz. At the other end of this live feed, Glantz could see the class, speak with them and answer their questions.
Glantz told about surviving WWII as a young child.
"I survived as a hidden child," she said. "Some children were hidden under a pig sty; some children were hidden out in the open because their identity was changed."
Glantz survived WWII through the kindness of the righteous woman,"Matka" Sonia Kowalchik.
Glantz was born in 1939 in the small town of Wegrow, Poland, where she lived with her parents and two older brothers.
"I remember playing hide-and-seek with my brothers," Glantz said. "I got all the best hiding places; I hid under the bed."
"Soon hide-and-seek ceased being a game and became a matter of survival," she said.
In 1940, Jews made up 55 percent of the population of her hometown. By 1944, no Jews remained in the town.
When she was 3-years old, her mother took her to a small farmhouse outside the village of Wegrow. After being introduced to Mrs. Sonia Kowalchik, the owner of the farmhouse, Gloria was instructed to call her “Matka” which means “mother” in Polish and her name became “Gucia.” She was also told never to reveal her Jewish identity.
"It was the last time I saw my mother," Glantz said.
Seventy members of Glantz's family were murdered in the Holocaust. At the end of WWII, Glantz and two of her aunts were the only survivors of her family. Most of her family was murdered at the Nazi death camp of Treblinka. The death camp was 14 miles from Wegrow and about 50 miles northeast of Warsaw.
"People came into Treblinka as a person and came out as ashes," Glantz said. "Not only Jews were killed at Treblinka but also Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals."
Now Treblinka is a graveyard, Glantz said. There are rock monuments with the names of the towns from which the victims once lived at the site.
May 8, 1945, WWII in Europe ended. Glantz then began a five-year, four country odyssey that ended when she was 12-years-old. In 1951, she immigrated to the United States to live with her aunt Esther and uncle Max Bernstein's family in the Bronx, New York.
"My childhood was torn from me but I have a normal adult life," Glantz said.
She became a teacher. She and her husband, Miles, have two children and four grandchildren.
One of Glantz's students asked her if she could speak to her real parents for three minutes, what would she say to them.
Glantz answered, “You are not forgotten. The suffering of our people is not forgotten. The Jewish people still lives. You have two humane, intelligent and delightful grandchildren. You would have loved them dearly. You would have been proud of me, your youngest child. I have a rich life, filled with love, friendship, family and joy… And my life is filled with music, a gift I got from you, mother. You are alive in my heart always.”
Students at SR also had an opportunity to ask her questions.
One student asked, "How did you feel when your mother left you?"
"I consider my parents heroes," Glantz said. "My mother gave me life twice—one when I was born and once when she gave me up; I would not have survived if my mother hadn't given me up."
"What do you think about Hitler?" another student asked.
"I think he is the personification of evil," she said.
"I knew the Holocaust was bad," said SR student Drew Parks. "It's different getting to speak one-on-one with someone who experienced it,"
"It's a good experience to actually hear from a Holocaust survivor," said SR student Brittany Tom.
"We as a younger generation think about the future," said SR student Cassidy Gates. "[Glantz] makes it much more personal.
"We have it really easy compared to them," Gates said. "We need to be grateful."
"I was wildly impressed with [this opportunity], said history teacher Jay Millan. "It's neat SR has technology like this."
Glantz's testimony is part of a program developed to secure a continuity of memory so that the personal horrors of the Holocaust will never be forgotten.
The “Adopt a Survivor” program by Irving Roth, Director, Holocaust Resource Center, instituted in 1998 is an attempt to capture and preserve the survivor’s experience.