O’Neill High Schools Literature class embarks to Washington D.C. for Remembrance Project


Katrina Gotschall, Katrina Lee Photography

Entrance to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Wilson, Web Editor

Early in the morning on Friday March 2nd, 2012, the O’Neill High School Holocaust Literature class, consisting of seniors Allison Depko, Kelci Ross, Beatriz Dominguez, Ashley Tompkins, and teacher, Katrina Gotschall, boarded a plane to Washington D.C. to take on a journey that was distinguished by a semester full of dedication, hard work and intense studying of The Holocaust. To raise money for their trip, the students spent hours working concessions, writing letters to local Legions and businesses, collaborating with the local Dairy Queen and selling Dilly Bars, and working with Katrina Lee Photography. Katrina Lee Photography took the proceeds from last fall’s sessions and donated 100% of those proceeds to help fund the trip.

The OHS students dubbed their operation “The Remembrance Project”. A big part of their project was a plan to travel to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. They not only wanted to learn more about the Holocaust and it’s events, but they ultimately wanted to honor the victims.

On Saturday March 3rd, the group visited the museum, stopping on each and every floor to make sense of what they were witnessing by writing their thoughts down on paper.

“The feeling of walking through the halls of the Holocaust Museum is a sensory overload. For me, each time I visit, I see things that I don’t remember seeing the time previous”, Katrina Gotschall said about what she felt as she walked around the museum.

After sojourning the halls and many floors of the museum, they made their way to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the Nation’s military. Lastly, the students were able to take a night tour of the National Monuments, the National Archives, and the various Smithsonian Museums to finalize their trip.

Allison Depko’s favorite part of the trip, along with everyone else, was sharing it with the people she worked so hard with to make it happen.

“Feeling that sense of accomplishment, that yes we are finally hear feeling was incredible”, Depko said.

The students may have awesome stories to tell but they also got an idea of what society could be like.

“From this experience I learned that it’s not okay to be a bystander. Being a bystander makes you just as guilty as the perpetrator”, Kelci Ross said.

Ashley Tompkins may have had the most impacting experience though. Tompkins is of Jewish descent.

“Seeing the atrocities that were committed against my people is incredibly difficult for me to study. Not only that, but some of my Jewish relatives from Hungary were murdered in concentration camps during World War 2. With that being so, the Holocaust is an area of complete fascination and horror for me”, Tompkins stated.

As a result of their trip, the students will be giving a presentation to the community about what they have learned and experienced as they went through the studying, the overall trip to Washington D.C., and other Social Justice issues they have learned about. The presentation will include a digital media project along with a community discussion about why students in the many years ahead should be educated about the Holocaust and how it is still relevant in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Also a proposal was accepted to present at the Nebraska Educational Technology Conference in April.

Holocaust survivor Kurt Messerschmidt said, “Some people disapproved, but their disapproval was only silence”.

“Even though we are young, we have learned that it is not only our civic duty to stand up for what is right; it is our duty as human beings to treat others with dignity and humanity. The Holocaust shows us what happens when people forget that lesson. Our goal is to show others that it is not only relevant, but is vital if we truly don’t want history to repeat itself”, the group said as whole.

To see pictures from the trip and stay up to date on when we will present, please feel free to visit there Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/OHS-Holocaust-Remembrance-Project/152892758138466

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