Comcast 2015: "The Past is Present"

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 5:00pm

USC Shoah Foundation is currently in the second year of Days of Remembrance: PastFORWARD, a five-year partnership with Comcast to provide USC Shoah Foundation content to Comcast Xfinity customers On Demand, through the Xfinity TV Go app and online, in conjunction with the U.S. National Days of Remembrance, a commemoration of the Holocaust held every spring. Each year, the series is themed with a feature film anchoring the program offerings. This year, it is The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski, with “music” as the overall theme of the broadcast. Content will be available April 15-June 1, 2015.












The Junior Interns visit Auschwitz

In the fascinating short documentary The Past is Present, teachers and students share their experience going to Poland to learn from testimony and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz: The Past is Present was led by USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education. Twenty-five teachers from around the world and 10 junior interns in middle- and high school traveled to Warsaw and Krakow Jan. 23-28, 2015, to attend the official commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, visit museums and historical sites, and learn from testimony about how to keep the past alive and relevant for current and future generations.

The first place the teachers and interns visited was the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which showed them the rich history of the Jewish community before it was destroyed by the Holocaust. There, they participated in training sessions about teaching 

with testimony and even had a “shark tank” where the teachers pitched lesson ideas and the interns gave feedback.

Teachers Johanna Soderholm and Emily Bengels with intern Natalia Smith, center Teachers Johanna Soderholm and Emily Bengels with intern Natalia Smith, center
After a few days in Warsaw, they went to Krakow and visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, they saw the actual places where people had been murdered, and looked at the Book of Names, which contains 4.5 million names of people who were killed in the Holocaust, and photographs of prisoners. They also attended the moving, emotional commemoration ceremony at the Birkenau “Death Gate,” attended by hundreds of survivors as well as dignitaries and world leaders.

For the teachers, Past is Present sparked new ideas and inspiration for teaching their students about the Holocaust, genocide, intolerance, and not being a bystander.

“I’m already thinking how I can incorporate what I’ve learned from the resources, not just for the Holocaust but for other lessons and other topics,” said teacher Sabina Kobinski.

Holocaust survivor Paula Lebovics also attended the program, and the participants had the opportunity to meet other survivors throughout the trip. For many, meeting Paula and other survivors was a highlight of the whole experience. It showed them how important it is that they make sure the next generation remembers their stories.

“Knowing what we know today about what happened, it’s our responsibility. That is our power, “ said teacher Soljane Quiles. “The survivors with us today that we’ve met either in person or through IWitness have entrusted us with that power, they’ve handed us that torch.”

The junior interns also found the tip to be an eye-opening experience. They learned not only history that they had never known before, but also the importance of sharing what they learned with their peers.

“What I take away from this trip is being actually in the place where all this happened. We don’t want this place to be forgotten,” said Junior Intern Lucia Wiedeman. “Getting these stories and connecting them to real life places is our whole purpose, and [also] getting them out to other people.”