Holocaust Education

History Alive: Holocaust Education

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History Alive is a 45 – 60 minute lecture that features the story of Bernice’s family’s escape from Nazi Germany in the early 1940’s, along with demonstration of artifacts and original music.  This Holocaust Education presentation is designed for Junior and Senior High School, Colleges, and congregations.  It combines historical facts with oral history and stresses the importance of discovering our family stories and all that we can learn from them.

Der Dank des Vaterlandes is Euch Gewiss
Roughly translated, the above statement says, “The thanks of the fatherland is your security.” This ironic pledge was on the medal awarded Lewis’ paternal grandfather after serving in the German army during WWI. The presentation begins by showing students this artifact, flanked by photos of both her father and grandfather in uniform. From there, we talk about Hitler’s rise to power in terms of day-to-day life in pre-war Germany. At age thirteen, Lewis’ father was sent to a Rothschild school outside of Paris, since it was believed that Hitler would not invade France…the story continues from there. This story is not morbid or sensationalist. There is a short power point presentation of pre-war photos and artifacts. It concludes with several of Lewis’ original compositions. Lewis’ song “Ways to Survive” won an award from the American Zionist Movement.

Since 2007, “History Alive” has been presented at Lenox Memorial, Jr. High School in Lenox, MA, Thurston Middle School in Westwood, MA, St Michael’s Episcopal Day School in Sacramento, CA, Grand Canyon High School in Grand Canyon, AZ, East Woods School in Oyster Bay, NY, The Thacher School in Ojai, CA, The Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, TN, Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA, Mt. Anthony Union High School in Bennington, VT, Monument Valley Junior High School in Gt Barrington, MA, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter School in Adams, MA, Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, MA, Herberg Middle School in Pittsfield, MA and as part of an extended artist residency at Mt. Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, MA. In 2010, it was presented in 10 locations as part of an extended community residency for the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. It has also been presented at Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA, Congregation Beth El in Bennington, VT, Temple B’Nai Israel in Laconia, NH, and as a keynote address for the Jewish Federation of Northern Louisiana.

Grants for this program have been awarded by the Y’Diyah Fund, The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and various private donors.

This presentation is appropriate for Grade 6 and up. It has also been offered as an artist’s residency in high schools, including a family history creative writing or art component.

Bernice Lewis has been a touring singer/songwriter and educator for over two decades. She has traveled the United States extensively, performing at coffeehouse venues, schools and folk festivals. She holds an M.Ed from The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Years of experience as a high school teacher makes her well suited for working with secondary students as well as college students. She currently teaches songwriting and performing at Williams College in Williamstown, Ma and Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO. She also teaches at retreat centers, song camps and conferences.


“Bernice Lewis brought history alive for my students in a way that rarely happens in the classroom. Her broad depth of knowledge in history, as well as her ability to tell stories intertwined with music, is exceptional. I am truly appreciative for what she accomplished in my classroom that day.”

– Matthew Knodler, Grade 7 Teacher, Lenox Memorial Junior High School, Lenox, MA

“This past April, Bernice Lewis came to our school and gave four presentations. She juggled many tasks at the same time: singing, talking, listening and answering questions. She used her vast teaching expertise and amazing skills in music to impart information about World War II to students who had never heard these types of stories. This presentation personalized the situation for all.”
– Barbara Morgenlender, Grade 8 Teacher, Thurston Middle School, Westwood, MA

“Our students are still talking about it!”
– Alex Carter, Assistant Headmaster, East Woods School, Oyster Bay, NY

“I enjoyed Mrs. Lewis’ speech and performance much more than any book or textbook because I could actually see the effects that the Holocaust could have on a whole family. I could imagine myself as her father on the subway in France and how horrible he must have felt without a family, money, or anyone to talk to. Thank you so much.”
– Jimmy Curtin, Grade 8, Thurston Middle School, Westwood, MA

“I really enjoyed listening to Mrs. Lewis speak and sing about the Holocaust. Her words made a huge impression on me. The story was fascinating, however what really hit home was what I, as a kid, could do for peace.”
– Matt Hurley, Grade 8, St Michael’s Episcopal Day School, Sacramento, CA

“Mrs. Lewis’ story made me understand the Holocaust in a clearer way. The Nazi era seems far more real to me than it did before. I now know that the Holocaust isn’t just in books. It was a real event that shaped the way the world sees discrimination. The old saying ‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt you’ proves to be untrue.”
– Nicole Lania, Grade 8, St Michael’s Episcopal Day School, Sacramento, CA

“Your voice caught me! When you started to sing it really seemed like you were there when it happened. I received really clear pictures in my mind.”
– Nicki Dailey, Grade 9, Grand Canyon School, AZ