Sixty-seven years have passed since D-Day, the end of World War II, and the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The American men and women who fought Nazi tyranny and those on the home front who supported the war effort are often referred to as “The Greatest Generation.” News anchor Tom Brokaw said, following his trip to the beaches of Normandy, “I believe, it is the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
Students at Greencastle-Antrim High School concur and honor all veterans annually at their Veterans Day program. Last fall, an idea was born to pay tribute to and honor not only local WW II veterans, but also the Jewish survivors who they helped liberate. Students in Martina Fegan’s Human Rights Literature course, a course on 20th and 21st century genocides, developed the concept of telling the story about the war against the Nazis and the war against the Jews.
Students helped locate WW II veterans who were part of the liberation of the camps, as well as veterans who had a connection to the Franklin County community. Eric Epstein, previously a Holocaust professor with Penn State University and an author of numerous articles and a book about the Holocaust, assisted in locating a survivor who was willing to share her story as a hidden child, Ellie Chapman. Through a Learn and Serve Grant, a special community-wide program was held at Greencastle-Antrim High School to a nearly full house with Ellie as the featured speaker. Her story was videotaped, and became the first “piece” in telling the story of the Greatest Generation.
Following her presentation, a group of students conducted interviews with five willing WW II veterans, completing another piece of the story. To the students’ and Fegan’s surprise, another unique piece of the story evolved. Just a few miles from the high school, they discovered Sylvia Bonebrake, a Jewish girl who lived in the Jewish East End of London and survived the Blitz. Her story was also filmed, adding yet another piece to what was to become a documentary film, The Glorious & The Brave: WW II Veterans and Holocaust Survivors.
Students were involved in the interviewing process, the DVD narration, and the writing of the book. “It was an amazing project, a real labor of love,” said Fegan. At one point this fall, we were not certain we would be able to complete the project, because our grant funding was not released. As soon as we learned the funding was released, we finished the last phases of project.”
The film and a companion book, which includes the veterans and survivors’ stories, photographs, and students’ poetry and essay tributes to the military and survivors, will debut in a Premiere, May 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm at the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium. The premiere is free and open to the public.
The DVD ($15.00) and book ($10.00) are available for pre-order. A limited number will be available for purchase the evening of the event. The veterans, survivors, and students will conduct a DVD/book signing following the Premiere.
Deciding the recipients of the proceeds was easy commented Fegan. The Wounded Warriors Project and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will receive all profits from DVD and book sales. This school year Fegan took 120 students to tour the museum and experience special one-on-one presentations by Holocaust survivors.
The book, The Glorious & The Brave: WW II Veterans and Holocaust Survivors, was funded by a grant through the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation. The fall and spring trips to the museum were funded by both a grant from the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation and Target Field Trip grant.
The DVD and premiere were funded through a Learn & Serve Grant administered by STARS at Greencastle-Antrim High School.
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