Teaching Lessons from the Holocaust on Kristallnacht

Jan Landau, Arlene Keeyes, Sonia Fox Ohlbaum and Patrick Henry’s 9th grade English Teacher

The Butterfly Project was co-founded in 2006 by educator Jan Landau and artist Cheryl Rattner Price. Jan and Cheryl started this as an initiative at San Diego Jewish Academy to take Holocaust education out of the textbook and bring it to life in a way that inspires students to make the world a better place.

The project draws on inspiration from The Diary of Anne Frank, the poem The Butterfly written during the Holocaust, and the documentary film Paper Clips. At this time, The Butterfly Project is now a global memorial with over 200 communities counting together, including Canada, Mexico, Israel, Australia, France, Tanzania, Cuba, Morocco and Poland.

On November 9, 1938, the windows of thousands of Jewish places of business were smashed and over 1,000 synagogues were burned to the ground in Germany and Austria. Many Jews were murdered and others were sent to concentration camps where they had to endure hard labor. It is believed that Kristallnacht, which in German means the night of broken glass, was the beginning of the end of Jewish life in Europe.

Teaching About the Holocaust

It was especially significant for The Butterfly Project’s education team to be presenting lessons about the Holocaust to a senior class at Patrick Henry High School on November 9, 2017, the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Sonia Fox Ohlbaum, Arlene Keeves, and I shared actual photographs taken before, during, and after the Holocaust. Students were asked to read quotes from people their age who endured atrocities during this horrific time. In addition, Sonia displayed the uniform her father wore in a concentration camp and Arlene passed around an actual yellow star worn by a friend of her family. She also told of her mother’s survival in a concentration camp which she attributed to the bravery of a fellow in-mate.

The seniors painted butterflies in memory of the children who were murdered in the Holocaust. These butterflies will be added to those already gracing the walls of Patrick Henry.

One student presented the team with a quote about The Power of One–by Iris Chang, Human Rights Activist. It is as follows:

“Please believe in THE POWER OF ONE. One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person-actually, one idea-can start a war, or end one, or subvert an entire power structure. One discovery can cure a disease or spawn new technology to benefit or annihilate the human race. You as one individual can change millions of lives. Think big. Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals.”

The Power of One

The Power of One is a major theme of The Butterfly Project. The importance of being an Upstander, a person who stands up for the rights of others, and not a Bystander, is emphasized in the lessons presented across grade levels.

According to Erin Mangahis, English teacher at Patrick Henry, her students were totally absorbed in our team’s presentation. Hearing the personal stories, seeing primary resources, and painting a butterfly in memory of a child who perished in the Holocaust, have not only reinforced the need to stand up against hatred and bigotry in the world today, but they also helped to prepare her students to negate Holocaust deniers who permeate our college campuses.

By Jan Landau, Co-Founder, Board Member, & Education Team Chair, The Butterfly Project


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