Holocaust essay content encourages scholarship and remembrance

Oley Valley School District  |  Posted on

Senior Freya Oesterle and junior Jakob Bolig, two students enrolled in History of the Holocaust CP, participated and placed first and second respectively in a Berks County high school essay contest. Freya earned $100.00, and Jakob earned $50.00. In addition, each was provided a copy of the award-winning book Violins of Hope.

During a Zoom conference on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, both students were recognized by the Jewish Cultural Center of Reading. Freya also had the opportunity to read her winning essay, “Advocating Acceptance: Never Again.” Below is an excerpt:

As we continue to remember the Holocaust as the largest and most horrifying instance of genocide in history, it is important that we take responsibility to prevent events like this from ever occurring again. The intent of committing hateful acts towards members of a particular group is never a sudden, random urge; this type of hostility begins with ignorance. Therefore, I believe that it is my responsibility to advocate for marginalized groups in my school and my community. I will amplify the voices of victims of hate in my community and use my own voice to spread awareness because this will prevent internal hatred from escalating to a scale of systematic oppression or violence. However, I know I must be willing to learn from my own biases and continue to educate myself as well. Everyone has biases, but it is the willingness to acknowledge them and be willing to change that prevents devastating events.

The ability that we have to use our voices to advocate for what is right is often one that we forget to be grateful for. The perpetrators of tragedies such as the Holocaust cannot succeed without the majority of people being bystanders. Those who do not approve of hateful acts but choose to be silent when witnessing them still cause damage by allowing fear or apathy to stop them from making a difference. Therefore, I know I must never become a bystander to acts of discrimination. I will always be outspoken about my beliefs, even if it means I must disagree with my teachers, classmates, and friends, and I will encourage others to be this way too. After all, it takes people who are willing to advocate for what is right even in the face of the harshest situations to ensure that Yitzhak Lamdan’s reflection of “never again” becomes a reality.