Inside IWitness: "Information Quest: Howard Cwick"

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 5:00pm

Inside IWitness is an ongoing series that will profile each activity in IWitness, along with a clip featured in the activity and a teacher who uses IWitness in his or her classroom.

Though Holocaust and Rwandan Tutsi Genocide survivors are the voices most often heard in IWitness activities, they are not the only ones. An Information Quest about Howard Cwick introduces students to one of the American soldiers who was there for the liberation of the Buchenwald death camp.

Cwick, son of Polish Jewish immigrants, grew up in Brooklyn and was interested in photography as a child. He joined the United States Air Force and was eventually sent overseas in the last few months of World War II. He and his unit were sent to Germany at the beginning of 1945, and although he had seen intense fighting in France, Cwick still knew nothing about the existence of Nazi concentration camps. Attempting to go to Headquarters Company for an assignment, he accidentally got into a jeep that went to Buchenwald.

There, Cwick was completely shocked and horrified to find the camp and its few survivors. He took photographs of what he saw as more liberators arrived. Years after the war, Cwick was working as an industrial arts and photography teacher when he heard some of his students questioning whether the Holocaust was really that bad. Cwick began talking to his students and sharing his photos, and from then on became a popular speaker at schools, churches and other organizations in his area.

After viewing a short introductory video about Cwick, students can choose from seven clips of Cwick’s testimony to watch. The clips cover the anti-Semitism he faced as a soldier, his experiences in war, what he saw in Buchenwald, and how he began sharing his photos and experiences.

Students make a word cloud about one of the clips, and share it and comment on their classmates’ work. The word cloud should contain words that they heard in the clip or that represent the themes that the clip addresses.