Sally Frishberg had an important message for 10th grade history students when she visited their class.
"I don't care if everyone loves everyone, but you have to respect everyone's rights."
Ms. Frishberg knows too well the high cost when human rights are deprived. Born in 1934 in Urzejowice, Poland, Ms. Frishberg was one of only a dozen Jewish citizens from her village to survive the German occupation of Poland during World War II.
The visit from Ms. Frishberg came as a culmination for students in the course, "Holocaust and Human Behavior," part of a curriculum created by the non-profit group "Facing History and Ourselves" that has introduced tens of thousands of students around the world to critical questions about what it means to be human.
8th grade History Teacher, Ernestine Heldring, says she views the course as a journey for students to listen to the voices of others. "I tell the students that they will be asked to use both their head and their heart to make sense of the choices people have made in the past and the choices people continue to make today."
Students listened in rapt attention to the story of Ms. Frishberg who, along with her parents, siblings, and a handful of extended family, fled to the fields behind her home the night before the order was given for all Jewish citizens to report to the railroad station for "resettlement" to eastern Poland, the eventual location of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
For months, the family burrowed beneath haystacks, only coming out at night to find food, until a local farmer, Mr. Grocholski, discovered the family and hid them away in his barn loft.
Ms. Frishberg described to the class spending two years in that cramped space, losing an aunt, cousin, and baby sister while in hiding. Russian soldiers liberated the village in the summer of 1944, and her family began a long journey that eventually led them to America in 1947.
Students began to understand some of the intense emotional pain of the Holocaust through readings and videos during the course but hearing the story firsthand from a survivor put the history into a new perspective.
"You can learn about the Holocaust through written stories, but for me hearing someone who has been through this horror and horrible time is really profound," said Lucy G. '21. "Her personal story really taught me a lot about the feelings and emotions of the Holocaust and it helped me somewhat grasp how intense and horrible this time was for Jews."
Ms. Frishberg said she wanted to share her story as well as Mr. Gorcholski's because it is a reminder of the difference one person can truly make and she hoped it would serve as a model for students as they prepared for the "awesome responsibility" of making a world that would prevent the kinds of atrocities she witnessed as a little girl.
"Thinking about Mr. Grocholski gets me out of bed in the morning," Ms. Frishberg said, telling the class that he remains an inspiration to her. "His goodness is an extraordinary example for human beings to follow."
"It really gave me some faith in humanity," said Sophie G. '21. "With everything going on in the world it can be hard to remember that not only can one person make a huge difference, but that there are people out there who are truly as incredible as the man who saved her. I believe now more than ever that the things I do can really have an effect."