Music, The Holocaust & Bullying: A Unique Approach To History

H.L. Johnson Elementary School is working on a unique way of educating students about the Holocaust. Music teacher Jackelyn Powali and team leaders Wendy Greco and Liz Torres have been enlightening their fourth and fifth graders about history, bullying and music. Students have been learning not only about the tragic events from history, but also about how music was involved.

Theresienstadt, a concentration camp outside of Prague, used the performance of music for both good and evil. The performance of the opera known as Brundibar was used to trick the Red Cross. Performed by children, the opera tells of a brother and sister who try to get milk for their sick mother, but struggle when they encounter an evil organ grinder named Brundibar. The opera in its entirety was performed as a way of making fun of Hitler. The story has since been transformed by Maurice Sendak into a riveting children’s book about bullying.

The students of H.L. Johnson have enjoyed reading this book and comparing what they know about Hitler to the character Brundibar and discussing how bullying is never acceptable. This unique opportunity has been illuminating for our children, looking at the Holocaust through a completely different perspective.

Students have also been reading and discussing Holocaust novels, including Twenty and Ten, Daniel’s Story, Making Bombs for Hitler and Book Thief. All of the books present children’s perspectives of the Holocaust and a repeating theme of standing up for what is right. In addition, media specialist Cassandra Griffin has her classes working on Holocaust and World War II research projects.