Monday, May 10, 2010

Rising Starr Students Learn About French Child Who Helped Jews Escape the Holocaust

As students study the Holocaust, they often have the opportunity to hear from Jews who survived the horrific Nazi concentration camps or from those who were able to escape. Eighth graders at Rising Starr Middle got to hear a different perspective this year as told by the daughter of a French woman who helped Jews escape from Holocaust trains headed to concentration camps.

Mariella Crea, a speaker with The Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum in Atlanta, told the students about her mother, Jacqueline, who at the age of 12, helped a number of Jews escape to safety in Switzerland. Crea’s great uncle Henri was a train station operator in France and knew precisely when every Holocaust train was due to arrive and depart. He felt compelled to help the Jews and used her mother, knowing no one would suspect a child, to hide them until the trains and guards left.

Crea recalled her mother’s story as it had been told to her since she was a child. Her mother led the escapees from the train station to a nearby water tower where they stood in water for hours while guards searched for them. The water prevented search dogs from picking up on their scent.

After the trains and guards left, her mother took the Jews to her home where they waited in a crawl space until it was safe for them to make their journey to Switzerland. Crea does not know exactly how many people her mother and uncle helped, but she said every one of them made it to safety.

Her uncle is no longer living. Her mother is alive, but has Alzheimer’s and can no longer communicate, so Crea tells her story to keep it from being forgotten. In fact, she is in the process of writing a book about it that will be geared toward middle school students.

Suzanne Carey, an eighth grade language arts teacher at the school, arranged for Crea to speak to the entire eighth grade.

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