Trudi van der Tak
Trudi became interested in the Holocaust as a young girl after watching the film The Diary of Anne Frank. On her first visit to Europe in the late 1960s, it was the train stations, still unchanged, that rekindled her curiosity: What were the stories of the millions who got on those trains? Some from these very stations? Marrying into a Dutch family, some of whom are Jewish, led the way to uncovering many personal stories, the locations of which were often just around the corner, still visible to all passersby yet past events seemed somehow masked.
As a native New Yorker, who has lived in The Netherlands for 40+ years, Trudi studied history at Hunter College and The University of Leiden. An 8th grade social studies teacher at the American School of The Hague, Trudi co-designed and teaches an extensive unit on World War II that focuses on the war in The Netherlands, as well as Anne Frank’s diary. Her students deepen their exploration of the history by visiting authentic sites and examining eyewitness testimony. Trudi says, “It is the stories of survivors combined with being in authentic historical sites, which creates powerful experiences and connections for young people.”
Trudi also designs workshops for teachers that typically include visiting authentic sites and memorials, and speakers. She has planned engaging and meaningful workshops for international school conferences, namely the European League of Middle Level Education (ELMLE) in Amsterdam, Terezin and Berlin. She has also worked at Terezín (the former concentration camp near Prague) in cooperation with Terezín’s International Festival of Tolerance.
Kathleen was not even 10 years old when an important World War II eyewitness and former member of the Dutch Resistance, Ms. Corrie ten Boom, spoke at her church in the United States. This compelling story of sacrifice and courage intrigued and overwhelmed Kathleen. Why would a non-Jew risk her life for her Jewish neighbors? She would later marry a first-generation German-American whose German relatives fought in the war. Her husband’s father and grandfather were both captured and interned in a POW camp in the Soviet Gulag system. These family stories of World War II changed the way Kathleen looked at the war.
In her middle and high school classes, Kathleen approaches complex subjects like Hitler’s rise to power and genocide through questions. For example, how can a nation be swept up into such nationalistic fervor that they become blinded to the injustices around them? She knows from experience that when students visit authentic historical sites it changes the way they feel about and perceive history. Her hope is that students will learn to see the warning signs of civil and human rights abuses, and take action.
Kathleen has over 16 years teaching experience in the U.S. and Germany, and a Master of Science in Educational Technology. She is currently based in Frankfurt where she also shares her writing on this subject on her blog Lehrer Werkstatt.
Jennifer’s commitment to Holocaust history and human rights was sparked when she was fourteen years old, and the son of a Holocaust survivor spoke to her class about his mother’s survival. She followed her interests to Dachau where she worked as an educator for three years in the former concentration camp—now called a memorial site. Jennifer holds a M.Ed. in International Education and is a qualified teacher with 8+ years teaching experience in international schools.
More about her personal story: http://dachauisalsoatown.wordpress.com
© 2014 Visit Memorials and Jennifer Wood. Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are property of the author.