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Holocaust refugee visits Davis Middle School
Captain Alex Keisch, a Holocaust refugee, visited seventh grade language arts students at Davis Middle School. Chelsea O’Hanlon’s students had been reading a Holocaust memoir, written as a graphic novel, titled Maus. Keisch, a retired captain of the U.S. Navy, shared his family’s experiences of death and survival during the Holocaust, and life in general for the Jewish community in Hitler’s Europe.
Keisch told the students that his parents were able to escape and hide during the war. However, all of his grandparents and all of his uncles, aunts, and cousins perished during that time. His father was one of 14 children.
Keisch and his twin brother were born in the waning days of World War II in the Nazi work camp, Plaszov, located in the city of Krakow, Poland. This is the camp from which Oscar Schindler saved over 1,000 Jews.
He told the students how at one point his father was captured by the Nazi army, but was able to escape. His mother died when he and his brother were 3 years old, and his father was later able to immigrate himself and his two boys to America. Keisch and his brother were later separated from their father and adopted by a family in Connecticut.
Keisch tied his presentation into bullying so students could better relate to his message. He left them with the anti-bullying mantra, “we don’t allow that here.”
“The kids had nothing but good things to say about Captain Keisch after his presentation,” said O’Hanlon. “Many of them told me they want him to come back again or asked if we could take a trip to the Holocaust museum in Richmond. A lot of them also talked to me about how it was one thing to read about the Holocaust in class, but it was a whole new experience to actually meet somebody who was a part of it.”
O’Hanlon also said “it was beneficial to them because the majority of my kids didn't even know what the Holocaust was before we began reading our books. For them to take such an interest and be so responsive to Capt. Keisch shows me that they truly are engaged and learning. It was a unique experience that I am glad I was able to share with them.”
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