3rd Passage Seminar: Keeping history alive
Keeping History Alive: Reconnecting to your Roots
Several months ago the Passage team were sitting around the office (dining) table discussing possible themes for parenting seminars. We knew then that Steven Frank (WWII concentration camp survivor) was due to visit Luxembourg to talk to Secondary school children at St Georges International School and really wanted to give an opportunity to parents and children from other schools to hear his presentation.
Steven Frank, who has toured UK schools for more than 20 years doing these talks, tells his fascinating story complete with pictures and artifacts. This includes his journey from a happy home and early childhood in Holland to his grim and harrowing experiences in the Czech concentration camp Thereienstadt, where he was one of just 93 survivors out of 15,000 children!
For us, Steven’s story symbolizes everything that is at once truly horrible in History and yet looks towards Hope in the future. He tells his story so that we can learn never to make the same mistakes again. And he does it with great compassion, integrity and wit.
In the past our histories were only kept alive through our stories. Generation to generation would share their experience, knowledge, learning, values and beliefs through family or tribal gatherings. The Elders would teach the young people and in particular ‘story tellers’ or narrators would be elevated as an important member of the group. Stories may have been embellished with drawings but very little would have been written down.
Today we rely on books or the Internet, often secondary sources, for our History. There is of course a wealth of information out there but is it possible that we have lost something along the way? Listening to someone’s first hand experience of history, whether an experience like Steven’s or our own parent’s childhood stories, gives our families a different insight. Being able to clarify, to questions, to share the journey for a while is indeed a treasure.
To view the video of Steven’s talk, please click onto our Passage Youtube channel.
Practical Ways for Keeping our History Alive
Beyond Steven’s story we wanted to encourage families to create an environment where children are able to discuss not only the difficult or challenging things that go on in the world but also their own stories. Where do they come from? What are the experiences, knowledge, learning, values and beliefs of the generations before them?
As part of this exploration we hoped parents and children would go home with some practical ideas about how they can begin doing this. We discussed looking at other people’s first hand stories including autobiographies, diaries and interviews. But the main focus was discovering the treasure in our own Family Trees.
Family Trees are illustrative diagrams of how people are connected in families usually by genetics. There are various templates to download free off the Internet (see Useful Links below) In the field of Psychology Genograms are often used to show the strength of these family relationships. These are a great way to start a family history project. Children can colour or design their own Family Trees using photographs or pictures. They can be encouraged to speak to parents, grand- parents, aunts or uncles about what they know about their Family Tree. For older (braver) children they might want to investigate how strong the emotional relationships were in their family’s history using Genogram symbols. Naturally from this process they might also want to interview Grand Parents or other extended family about their childhood experiences.
Our Family Tree: The Roots of our Future
For Keeping History Alive we also shared another practical tip about sharing our stories with our children. By inverting the traditional family tree and using this as our roots we illustrated how our beliefs, values, and pre-occupying thoughts are effected by our ancestor’s. We then asked even braver parents to map out what they believed the values, beliefs and pre-occupying thoughts were that they were passing on to their children! See diagram above for reference.
As many of us in the International community are living away from extended family this can be a project that helps children connect not only to their family roots but their cultural background. These exercises can strengthen emotional bonds, create opportunities to share and can be a good fun way to Keep History Alive in your family.
As for Steven, his story is to be immortalized for future generations by a project to make survivors into 3D images. Children of the future will be able to hear his story and ask him the answer to over 900 questions. Click on the image below to learn more about this project.
For everyone involved it was an insightful and thought provoking evening, which we hope to repeat again in the future.
Further Information: Useful Links
Family Tree Kids: This is a website designed to give children templates to get started on their Family Tree as well as other ways of having fun finding out about their history.
Family Tree Templates: This website includes various types of free download Family Tree
templates for children.
Genealogy for Kids: Excellent resource for lots of ideas and link for fun keeping history alive projects for kids.
Family Echo: Family Tree templates for older children & adults.
Passage Parents Youtube: An uploaded video of Steven Frank’s complete presentation at St. George’s International School of Luxembourg.
Further Information: Recommended Reading
Write your Memoir: The Soul Work of Telling your Story by Dr Alan G Hunter (2010)
This book is a well-written introduction to self-exploration through writing modeled around a 15-week course.
Forgotten Voices of The Holocaust: True Stories of Survival From Men, Women and Children Who Were There by Lyn Smith (2006)
A collection of stories from survivors including Steven Frank. These first-hand accounts give a valuable insight into the reality of life for men, woman and children during the Holocaust.
Article by: Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.
Last updated: Friday 21st August, 2015