The latest from Amy and her book.

Amy McDonald  Shades Valley High School   Jefferson County School System

Amy McDonald next to a traditional wooden gate leading into the town of Targu Lapus, Romania

Brief Description of  Fellowship: Enrich existing research of a Birmingham-area Holocaust survivor by collaborating with a teacher in his Romanian hometown to explore the story, connect classrooms and inform a nearly-finished book for Alabama (and possibly Romanian) classrooms.

Over the past few years, I have worked closely with a Birmingham-area Holocaust survivor. He has visited my classroom on several occasions to speak to my students and we have become close friends. In honor of his life, I wear a bracelet engraved with his camp prisoner number. A year ago, he and his wife asked if I would be interested in writing his story. I was honored and humbled to be asked, and I agreed. While I do not claim to be an author, historian, or scholar, this will be an opportunity to provide future generations with a full accounting of one survivor’s amazing history. It will also be an opportunity to publish a historical account which could be used as a resource in my classroom, and in classrooms everywhere. For over a year, I have been researching and compiling information of one survivor’s story. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel with a European Study Program to Germany and Poland. While there, I was able to visit the specific concentration and slave labor camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, and the slave labor sub-camps of Dachau, Kaufering I and Kaufering III. I was fortunate to be able to spend time in the archives and meet with archivists at Dachau, as well as meet and spend time with one of the military officers and historians in charge of the facility and museum at the former site of Kaufering I. The information and documentation gained from visiting these sites has broadened my knowledge of Holocaust events and has been invaluable to my classroom teaching and research. To continue developing Holocaust resources, my Fund for Teachers fellowship proposal is to travel to TarguLapus, Romania. From there, the next destination would be to Reghin, Romania, where he and his family were imprisoned in the Szaszregen Ghetto, before they were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp / killing center. As important as it would be to travel to Romania to experience first-hand the sites of this Holocaust story, there is a larger goal and mission. Over the past few months, I have made several contacts in the town of TarguLapus who are helping me with different aspects of my research. They have provided me with important historical information, old and current photographs, written testimony of survivors from the town, and descriptions of how Holocaust Education is taught in Romania. Two of these people are teachers, one is a journalist. One of the teachers is a high school history teacher and we are working together on possible ways to connect our classrooms and students.

 Career Impact:*World-wide connections and colleagues; this grant focused heavily and still focuses on  working with teachers and students in Targu Lapus, Romania, Max’s birthplace * Sharing my learning with colleagues and the community in the form of a published book  on this survivor’s experiences. * Make myself available to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and my school system as a teacher resource *The opportunity to create new classroom resources  *Increased opportunities to assist and train other teachers in the field of Holocaust  Education


Classroom/Community Impact:
* Ability to more effectively combine the approaches of teaching the historical context of an event while also engaging students with the personal stories and experiences of individuals and groups.
* Challenging students with not just the facts and statistics of what happened during the Holocaust, but tackling the more complex questions of how and why it happened
* Because of Max’s passion for Holocaust Education, it was my goal and mission to bring his story and this book project full circle by sharing his story, not just with my students and other students in Alabama and the United States, but with students in Max’s hometown of Targu Lapus, Romania. 
*One of the teachers I met in Romania is a high school English teacher and we are working together on ways to connect our classrooms and students.
*Ability to combine teaching the history of the Holocaust with the power of one person’s story
* This fellowship has provided me with a first-hand account of the background knowledge of a local Holocaust survivor’s life. This knowledge can be transferred to students in the forms of world geography, cultural studies, world religions, and the history of the Holocaust.
*Allows me to make the numbers, statistics, and documentary footage of the Holocaust more personal
*I have brought back broader ideas, international perspectives, my own personal narratives, and actual video footage of historic sites.
*The chance for my students to make connections and partner with a classroom in Romania will provide them with opportunities to broaden their international perspectives and learn about other cultures. 
*By developing a relationship with this specific survivor, whether in person or not, students will learn and be confronted with how genocide, hate, and intolerance impacted individuals, families, and communities. These same lessons can be applied in today’s climate of terror, intolerance, and prejudice. Students will make the vital connection that the lessons learned from survivors of the Holocaust are just as applicable in our world today. 
*The real-world connections provided by this fellowship will benefit students both locally and in Romania by providing opportunities to collaborate and work together on shared projects such as common readings, creating You Tube videos, and interactive presentations.

Open Response:
It is impossible to write in a few lines how much I was impacted by visiting Munich, Germany, as well as Targu Lapus and other sites in northern Romania. It was an amazing trip and beyond anything I could have ever expected. While we saw many important sites, the most valuable and touching times were the times spent with teachers and students. Their hospitality, warmth, and kindness were truly humbling. Their openness to Max’s story was genuine, and their messages, words, and gifts back to him were ones of respect and admiration. I was deeply touched by their honest questions and desire to know more, as well as challenged to look deeply at my own perceptions. There is much work to be done here, and my belief in the value of Holocaust Education was strengthened even more. 
This fellowship will shape the experience of my Holocaust Studies class as more than an exchange of information. It will allow me to make the numbers, statistics, and documentary footage of the Holocaust more personal. Holocaust education is in a state of transition as survivor witnesses become fewer and fewer. New approaches will be needed to maintain the intimacy of this history that we have been so fortunate to experience. We must prepare ourselves to continue to tell their stories as they have so bravely done in their efforts to ensure that all of those lives lost would not be in vain and that we “Never forget.”
As the plane leaving Romania carried me back home, I had the thought that regarding Max’s story, I had hopefully left no stone unturned. I had now done all I could possibly do. I suddenly realized that I had not. Teachers are never finished. I am only just beginning.


Link to article Fund for Teachers did on Amy's trip to Romania.  


2016 Fellow Amy McDonald has completed the book about Alabama Holocaust survivor Max Steinmetz.  Amy's fellowship took her to Max's hometown in Romania to follow in his footsteps as she researched content to complete her book. 



Books:  $16.50 (tax included)

Books will be available for purchase through the BHEC effective Monday, February 27.

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Last modified: Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 1:03 PM