by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven
When Lisa Bauman developed and taught “Holocaust Literature: Putting Words into Action” at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, her goal was for students to understand that the choices individuals make, make history.
In the elective course, juniors and seniors studied the history of antisemitism and what led to the Holocaust. Annually, they took a day trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where Bauman is a fellow. They heard survivors speak.
In collaboration with two teachers from schools in California and New Jersey, Bauman incorporated a Holocaust study tour into the course for several years. Groups traveled to Berlin, Prague and Krakow, including sites of concentration camps. Students raised funds to create a memorial in the Czech Republic to recognize townspeople who provided food and occasionally shelter for a Jewish family that hid in the forest for three years.
“I wanted students to understand the compelling history of the Holocaust,” explained Bauman. “It was a specific time in history when people did not do well for others. Good people made choices: They did nothing.”
Bauman invited her students to identify who is being discriminated against today and ways they could counter this. The class visited social service agencies. Students developed projects to raise awareness or work toward change to make the world a better place. Bauman believes that the course changed students’ lives.
A member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission, Bauman concludes, “The Holocaust happened years ago, but its lessons remain universal. Important among them is that the choices we make every day make a difference. God calls Catholics and Christians to do good for others.”