Thirty-nine students from Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights high schools traveled April 3 to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., for a one-day field trip as part of an Anti-Defamation League program called “The Holocaust as a Human Experience.”

Mark Sack, a social studies teacher at Cleveland Heights High School who organized the trip, said his goal was to get as many students on the trip as possible, so he reached out to Brian Berger, a social studies teacher at Shaker Heights High School, to include that school as well.

The group was composed of 22 Cleveland Heights High students and 17 from Shaker Heights. Of the 22 from Heights High, Sack said 10 are enrolled in his second-semester Lessons of the Holocaust class, and seven took the class in the first semester.

As part of the ADL’s program, the students were asked to write a brief letter to someone they know to tell them about their thoughts and feelings immediately after they visited the museum. Here are some of the students’ letters.

ewittenberg@cjn.org

Dear Bella,

Today I was able to visit the Holocaust Museum in D.C. It was very emotional but at the same time very informative. The Museum gave me an in-depth view of the horrors that the Jews experienced in the concentration camps and ghettos. Before this trip I had no idea how many camps and ghettos the Nazis had actually built and created. It must have been horrifying to have lived in them.

– Hanna Gillespie, senior, Cleveland Heights High School

Dear Dad,

After visiting the Holocaust Museum, I've truly gained a whole new viewpoint of what went on during the Holocaust. I've never been exposed to the real horror stories of this genocide. So many things shocked me, it was unreal. When you mentioned the room of shoes to me and said that it's really hard to even begin to fathom that all of those shoes belonged to someone at some point ... you were completely right. I hope we can go there together someday. While I was there I felt sadness overtake my whole being. It was just so sad. Why did this have to happen to our people? Today was a very important experience and I'm so glad that I was given the opportunity to go.

– Marcy Rosenberg, sophomore, Cleveland Heights High School

Dear Mom,

Visiting the Holocaust Museum brought tears to my eyes. Going from floor to floor and seeing everything that people went through broke my heart. My mind filled with hate for Hitler and the Nazis for what they had done to millions of people, but as I talked to the Holocaust survivor I saw that her heart wasn't filled with hate ¬– just sadness. So why should I hate? Experiencing all the pictures and artifacts really opened my eyes. We need to learn more to prevent events like the Holocaust from happening. It's up to us to stop racism and make the world better.

– Tahjane Thompson, senior, Cleveland Heights High School

Dear Mom,

My experience at the Museum was incredible; it made the Holocaust seem more realistic to me. It helped me see it through their eyes. I felt terrible when I saw the huge amount of children’s shoes. Made me realize how many lives were taken, especially those of children. This experience made me realize how important it is to tell their stories so that they won’t be forgotten and these horrors won’t happen again.

– Qianna Washington, senior, Shaker Heights High School

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