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Informing Lowellville about the Holocaust

Informing Lowellville about the Holocaust

     On March 12, Holocaust historian Jesse McClain hosted a seminar at Lowellville High School to discuss the Holocaust with students in grades 7-10.

     Jesse McClain has an extensive background and history with the Holocaust. Although he is an English teacher at Youngstown State University and has been teaching for 41 years, he has been fascinated with the Holocaust since he was a student learning about World War II and the Holocaust. “It struck me that people could do this to other people. I didn’t understand that. The more I read about it, the more I became interested.” 

     Mr. McClain has been traveling to schools across the valley for years educating students about the Holocaust  because “they are the future.” Mr. McClain is a firm believer that teenagers can make changes and prevent things like this from happening again.

     During his presentation at Lowellville High School, Mr. McClain discussed how the war began. For many years, people have been blaming Jewish people for their problems, for little to no apparent reason. Antisemitism was present everywhere, especially in Germany.  The Christians had blamed the death of Christ on Jews for many years. After World War I, Hitler and the Nazis blamed the Jews for all losing the war and their financial struggles. Because of their hatred of the Jews and their determination to eliminate them, the Nazis set up concentration camps throughout Europe, six of which were considered death camps. He explained that all six death camps were located in Poland, due to the high concentration of Jewish people living there. He discussed the path of invasion that Hitler’s army took when he was gaining power and control over Europe. He explained why people targeted Jewish people. 

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     He talked about a valuable lesson that can be applied not only to the Holocaust, but life in general. Mr. McClaim stated, “You should not be a bystander. If you see something wrong, say or do something to change this. Don’t just sit and watch.” He shared with Lowellville students a story about his first day of high school. He, as well as several other students, were waiting at the bus stop when an older kid began to bully another freshman. The bully took the hat from a freshman and began to spit in it. He then passed the hat to several other bullies to spit in it.  Nobody spoke up, except for one cheerleader. This is when Mr. McClain realized this lesson. He explained it only takes one person in a crowd to stand up and do the right thing, even if it is hard. He referenced how there were many people who stood up for the Jewish during the Holocaust, and that there were many others like Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and her family in the Secret Annex for two years. 

     He also brought in various artifacts and images from the Holocaust, including pins and rings from  Nazi soldiers and medals that were awarded to camp survivors.. He shared with  us letters written by members inside the camps who were asked by the Nazis to write home and ask for supplies such as clothing. He brought in a Nazi soldier helmet,  a Nazi flag, and several photographs taken of the prisoners in the concentration camps.  

     A week before speaking to the students Mr. McClain brought in a display depicting Henry Kinast’s life for students studying the Holocaust in Mrs. DeLuca’s 7th grade classes. Henry was a Holocaust survivor who built a very wealthy and successful life from nothing. During the Holocaust, he was separated from his mother, whom he would never see again. Eventually, he was separated from his father and brother in the camps but was reunited with them at the end of the war. He eventually moved to the Youngstown, Ohio area, and was very involved in the steel industry. Henry and his wife Inga had four children and  Henry founded the Hubbard-based PSK Steel in 1962.

     Mr. McClain met Henry while giving a Holocaust presentation at Mathews High School. Henry was eating dinner and saw the sign outside which read, “Holocaust Speaker” and asked his family to stop to hear Mr. McClain’s speech. truth. After listening to his speech, Mr. Kinast. Volunteered to donate a display depicting his life story, especially growing up during the war and living in the concentration camps. 

     Lowellville eighth grader Jakob Primous really enjoyed Mr. McClain’s presentation. He believes that was very informative. He found the artifacts from this era fascinating. He said, “I think that it is important to teach others about the Holocaust because we don’t want history to repeat itself.” 

     History teacher Dan Dougherty, also found this assembly important. “There’s nothing like seeing actual artifacts and hearing from somebody as educated in the topic as he is,” says Mr. Dougherty. “I thought his overall message of don’t be a bystander when you see something wrong in the world, whether it be in school or on a larger scale. I think that’s a good message for our kids.”

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