IDOC/North America is sponsoring The Yellow Star Project, an ongoing endeavor that will serve as a vehicle to provide new Holocaust documentation for the American public and design educational tools for teachers. Having virtually completed Phase I, we are currently seeking funding for Phases II, III, and IV [all inter-related programmatically and strategically for maximum pedagogical impact].
In 1960, Gerhard Schoenberner compiled a powerful selection of Holocaust photographs and Nazi documents which was published by Rütten & Loening as a German edition. Because Der gelbe Stern tells the story of the Holocaust through photos, official Nazi memos and other documents, and unofficial personal accounts, the book conveys to readers a horrifying picture of the brutal reality of the Holocaust which is nearly impossible to create through narration alone. Since this first edition, his book has been translated for publication in Holland, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
The Yellow Star Project and Dr. Schoenberner have updated the content and refined the translation of the manuscript of this classic book into American English; and in October 2004 Fordham University Press, in collaboration with IDOC/North America, published it in a quality, hardcover edition titled The Yellow Star. Historian Michael Berenbaum, a major architect and founding director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum has written a Foreword for this edition. The Yellow Star will be distributed to high schools, universities, libraries, bookstores and museum gift shops across the country.
As the first educational phase of the Project, our Panel of Educators will work together to create a Student Edition of The Yellow Star. This edition, which will retain the integrity and power of the original volume, will be an abridged selection of the photographs and documents specifically chosen to grab the attention of young people. Unfortunately, the reality in education today is that many high school students simply refuse to read long, dense books. However, our educators will work to craft engaging materials that will spark students’ interest while conveying the grave significance of the Holocaust.
The Teacher’s Guide will serve as a reference for educators, many of whom may be unsure how to approach or present such sensitive material. Therefore, through the prism of the Holocaust Era, the Guide will propose ways for teachers to involve their classes in discussions and projects about other hate and race-related issues facing today’s young people.
In addition to distributing nationwide the Student Edition of The Yellow Star, The Yellow Star Project will establish direct and dynamic contact with minority students living in such cities as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, and New York. A substantial portion of the Project budget and educational resources, including hands-on professional staff, will be devoted to establishing personal rapport with a wide variety of inner city youth organizations, especially church groups, after-school clubs and neighborhood athletic programs.
Working in close collaboration with the leadership of these inner city youth groups, with a particular focus on African-American and Muslim teenagers, the Project will distribute Holocaust-related educational materials aimed at provoking discussion about racism, prejudice, and ethnic stereotyping that can occur in any society, while raising basic questions related to civil rights, peer pressure, social justice, and community indifference.
Each year, toward the end of April, Project liaison staff will invite inner city leaders to nominate from their respective organizations no less than ten members who have schooled themselves in Holocaust-related issues so as to qualify for an excursion to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Organized, sponsored and funded by the Project, the Yellow Star Annual Student Excursions will take place in early summer over the course of a long weekend, with an expanded itinerary to include other educational venues in the Washington area.
Because young people are increasingly looking to the Internet for information, the Project will develop and maintain a website intended mainly for use by students and educators. Rather than being just a place where visitors can access information online, the site will serve as a sounding board where teachers and students can engage in online dialogue about the Holocaust via bulletin boards, as well as discuss with other students around the country timely issues related to genocide, “ethnic cleansing” and hate crimes currently taking place around the globe.
The Yellow Star Website will also point visitors to other websites where they can learn about the worldwide and local resurgence of hate -- on virtually every level, directed at nearly every group of people -- and how to fight such hate-driven violence. Our Teacher’s Guide will encourage educators to visit the website with their students often to participate in the dialogue, discuss other students’ reactions and to explore these issues on related websites [such as Amnesty International, The Anti-Defamation League, the Center for Human Rights Education and Youth In Action, among others] on their own.
As a dramatic adjunct to the Project’s outreach programs, the Project will ship a Holocaust exhibit to schools. The exhibits, some fifty in number, will display photographs from The Yellow Star, as well as from other sources, and will arrive at schools ready for easy assembly in a space of approximately 300 square feet in school lobbies or libraries.
A 30-minute educational video, to be produced by Washington film documentalist Peter Vogt as an audio visual extension of the Photo Exhibit, will juxtapose photos from The Yellow Star with photos and film footage documenting such present day genocidal atrocities as have occurred in Rwanda, Bosnia, East Timor and Iraq. This video will also be incorporated onto a DVD which will feature additional interactive content for students.
Gerhard Schoenberner and his wife have also compiled and published a text-only volume of testimony by Nazis and Holocaust survivors titled Zeugen Sagen Aus which, until now, has never been translated into English. However, some university professors are currently using brief translated excerpts of the book in their courses.
The Yellow Star Project will translate the Schoenberners’ book as The Witnesses Come Forward for general distribution. Because the book is comprised entirely of testimony and eyewitness accounts, the full edition will also make an excellent course book for professors currently using only partial text from the book as well as others looking for new material with which to expand their curriculum.
In order to continue to create and distribute dynamic and effective teaching tools, The Yellow Star Project’s Panel of Educators will design an evaluation system for high school teachers who have used The Yellow Star and its related materials as a teaching aid. The evaluation plan will solicit comments and suggestions from the teachers as to how we can better serve their needs in the classroom as well as gauge the reaction of their students to the materials. This information will be used internally by the Project staff and will be provided to our donors and supporters as well.