Montevallo Middle School students hear from Holocaust survivors

Holocaust survivors speak to Montevallo Middle School class members. (Contributed)

By JUSTINE HEFNER / Special to the Reporter

Montevallo Middle School eighth grade students had the privilege of hearing from two Holocaust survivors earlier this month.

The journey began with eighth grade Language Arts teacher Justin Hefner attending the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer National Holocaust Conference for Educators in Washington D.C., and concluded with the dynamic story of Aisic and Riva Hirsch.

Through the years, Aisic and Riva Hirsch have shared the agonizing story of their past and now happier stories of family and friends today.

Aisic and Riva told of an experience that happened 1,000 miles away from each other.

While Aisic’s story took place in Poland and Riva’s in Ukraine more than six decades ago, Aisic and Riva were both children stripped of a childhood because of Adolf Hitler’s movement through Europe.

Though their stories are very different, they are a common story of one in the same: survival. Aisic and Riva married in Haifa in 1950 and continue to tell their story today in hopes of teaching future generations to fight against injustice from happening again.

When hearing Aisic and Riva’s experience, eighth grade student Sara Beth Smith said, “I had a hard time realizing how bad the Holocaust actually was until Aisic and Riva came to speak to our school.

Now I think about the way I treat people. You never know what someone is feeling inside, or going through at home, so everyone should be treated with respect.”

For seven weeks, students in Hefner’s Language Arts class studied the inner workings of the Holocaust, while reading The Diary of Anne Frank.

Students have recently completed the study with the unique opportunity of hearing Aisic and Riva’s story and now have been challenged to bring change to their school and community through fighting against injustice, racism and hatred.

Eighth grade student Levi Layton said, “Aisic and Riva’s story made me realize how important life is. Through this experience, I am now aware of the injustice and hatred in our community and world and want to make a difference.”