Bruce’s Story

“Never forget. Never be silent.”

“I know I am successful as a teacher when I see students embrace what they learn in my class. A student of mine used to hide her ethnicity. She even Americanized her Muslim name. But by the end of the semester she not only used her Muslim name exclusively but she was also proud of it.

In my History of the Holocaust class, one student is in a wheelchair and another has low vision. If this were Nazi Germany, those students would be exterminated. Through them, I am able to teach about what it would feel like to live in those oppressive circumstances. I see the students evolve from the instinct to not get involved to speaking up about issues that disturb them. They learn the danger of not caring about things until it affects them.

My class focuses on the deep questions: Why did the world want to eradicate the Jews? What was Jewish life like before this happened? What did Hitler hate about that life? Why were the Jews scapegoats? How come this 70-year-old event is relevant today?

Welcome to History of the Holocaust at Everglades High School, a 3-credit elective history class. I collaborated with two other teachers on the Holocaust curriculum for Florida high schools grades 9 through 12. That curriculum is available on the Florida Holocaust Education Task Force website. In 1994, Florida became one of the first states to mandate the Holocaust be taught in high school history classes. Seven Broward high schools offer an entire elective class about the Holocaust and mine is one of them.

Students learn how the Holocaust was systematically planned. Rather than discussing gruesome genocide, torture and death, we talk about how people make decisions. We talk about the real people in the Holocaust stories, then we analyze and discuss them. Survivors have come to my class to tell their stories. I give the students the scenarios of what happened and they deal with the moral and ethical dilemmas that faced Holocaust victims and survivors. I make it real for them. We have also had camp liberators, movie directors and authors as guest speakers in my class.

Besides discussions, my students watch snippets of movies and documentaries about the Holocaust rather than the whole movie. That way, I can pick out the parts of it that will inspire discussion. My father always taught me to do things in snippets. I suppose this is just one more way I have become like him.

My parents were proud of my teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to young people so that it is never forgotten. They both had concerns that anti-semitism continued in the countries where I visited concentration camps.

I knew about the Holocaust when I was growing up, I taught it at religious schools. I thought i knew everything there was to know about it, but when I went to Auschwitz for the International March of the Living, I realized that I knew nothing.

The resources that I use in the classroom include autobiographies, biographies, primary source documents, pictures, maps and timelines integrated with the curriculum of Echoes and Reflections from Yad Vashem and iWitness resources from the USC Shoah Foundation.

My students have different ethnic backgrounds and come from, Brazil, Central and South America, the Carribbean, the Middle East and Europe as well as the United States. They teach each other about their own ethnic background and how their families came here. The Holocaust is one atrocity but there are many others. Kids get in touch with their own backgrounds and hardships — their own holocausts.

Mostly, I want the students to take the knowledge they learn in my class and use it throughout their lives.”

Bruce’s Books

“These are the books I use in my History of the Holocaust Class.”

One thought on “Bruce Klasner: A Life-Altering 3-Credit Elective

  • ZachFebruary 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Well said wisdom and approach in these increasingly difficult times.
    Thank you.


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