Though she lost her sons, her husband, and her parents in the Holocaust, survivor Olga Lengyel insisted in the final chapter of her book Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz that she still had "faith" in humanity: "If, even in the jungle of Birkenau, all were not necessarily inhuman to their fellow men," Lengyel wrote, "then there is hope indeed. It is that hope which keeps me alive." Lengyel left as her legacy a foundation that would sustain that hope by supporting education aimed at preventing future genocides. In 2005, looking for assistance in realizing Lengyel's vision, members of the board of the Memorial Library contacted The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). There they met Dr. Sondra Perl, Professor of English and Urban Education at The Graduate Center and Lehman College, CUNY.

Dr. Perl was already dedicated to Holocaust education. Her recent book On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I was Taught to Hate chronicled her experiences as a Jewish professor in Innsbruck, and she had been teaching Holocaust courses at Lehman College for nearly a decade. As a co-founder and former co-director of the New York City Writing Project, a regional branch of the National Writing Project (NWP), she believed in the importance of teachers teaching teachers. Her approach corresponded with the board's desire to support Holocaust education on a national scale, and in time the idea for a summer seminar for teachers, "Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Holocaust," was formed.

For 2010, the Holocaust Educators Network remains committed to serving rural teachers and also encourages applications from those in areas of critical need (a lack of local resources for teaching and learning about issues of social justice or by significant issues that contribute to problems of intolerance, prejudice or racism in nearby schools or communities).

To download an application and read more on our current programs, click here.

2007 summer seminar meeting at the Memorial Library
Rural teachers present a prepared reading

In 2006, teachers from New York and New Jersey (with one from Arizona) met for five days to explore the rewards and challenges of teaching the Holocaust. The seminar was a success, and members continue to meet throughout the academic year (to learn more about our New York-area programs, please go to the Programs and Activities page). In order to meet the Memorial Library's goal of making educational resources available to those for whom they are less readily accessible, participants for the next year's program were recruited through the NWP's Rural Sites Network. For the ten-day 2007 seminar, eighteen middle school and high school teachers were selected from rural sites in twelve states. They hailed from Iowa to West Virginia, from Louisiana to Maine, and had been teaching from five to more than twenty-five years. Though they had varying degrees of experience teaching the Holocaust, all demonstrated a sincere commitment to the subject and to providing in-service courses and workshops after finishing the program. These teachers remain connected through a listserv where they share resources and participate in on-line book discussions, and have also presented their work at the 2007 annual meeting of the NWP at the National Council of Teachers of English convention.