Studying about World War II and the Holocaust is part of the curriculum at Cavelero Mid High School and while eighth grade students are reading either “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank or “Night” by Elie Wiesel, hearing from a survivor brings the students closer to understanding what truly went on.
“I think learning about the Holocaust is an important part of the curriculum. As the saying goes, if you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it,” Language Arts teacher Emily Dysktra said. “ I want my students to have a voice when they see injustice in the world. It is vital for them to learn that we need to stand up for what is right.”
On Friday, March 2, Holocaust survivor Fred Taucher, 79, shared his story with students bringing the tragedies of the Holocaust closer to home.
Taucher was born in Berlin, Germany in 1933, which was the same year the Hitler came to power.
His father had a tailor shop in the major business area of Berlin. In November 1938, during the Kristallnacht his father’s shop was destroyed by the Nazis and he was forced into slave labor until his arrest in 1943 when the Nazis deported him to Auschwitz.
Taucher, his mother and his brother went into hiding and were helped by the midwife who helped bring Taucher into the world.
While many people helped hide those of Jewish decent, this situation was exceptional because the midwife was a high-ranking member of the Nazi party and a personal friend of Hitler.
The family lived with her for approximately six months moving around to different locations throughout Berlin including a summer home in the outskirts of Berlin where only high-ranking Nazi officials could have homes.
Taucher explained to the students that once a child turned 10 they were required to join the Hitler Youth organization, so the midwife provided the family with false identification and tried to keep their ages to 9 and under.
Near the end of the war, Taucher was caught in a Berlin street car during an identification check and since he did not have the proper Hitler Youth ID card he was forced to take off his clothes and was then arrested.
“At 12-years-old being stripped of your clothing in front of a streetcar full of people is something you never forget,” Taucher said. “They didn’t treat me very nicely.”
He was then interrogated for two days and sent to Sachsenhausen on April 17, 1945. Due to an air raid some Russian soldier prisoners helped him escape in April and return to Berlin. The Soviets liberated Sachsenhausen on April 22, 1945.
Taucher’s and his family’s story is written in the book entitled “Saved by the Enemy,” by Craig Ledbetter. Students were able to buy copies of the book and have Taucher sign them after the assembly.
His mother was killed during the final days of the fighting in Berlin while she was trying to get water from a fire hydrant outside of a subway station. The war ended in Berlin in May 1945.
He and his brother left Germany for the U.S. in 1946.
After graduating from high school, Fred enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951 and was sent to Korea in 1952 where one of his duties was to keep track of casualties.
Students got the privilege of hearing accounts of the Holocaust first-hand which changed many kids understanding of what really happened.
“I absolutely feel that my students understand the Holocaust better by meeting someone who was apart of it. My students were able to put a personal face to all the information that they have been learning and seeing in films,” teacher Emily Dysktra said. “I think my students learned a little more about the hardships that the Jews had to face. For example, not being able to get soap or shampoo. They were very moved by his story about his brother being thrown into the river for no reason by some Hitler youth as well. They hear all the information from me but when they heard it from him, it just made it more real for them.”