Testimonial of Lisa Wiater

Lisa Wiater
English Teacher
Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, NJ
2017 Asia Study Tour Participant

It is with profound gratitude that I would like to thank Don Tow and NJ ALPHA for providing me with this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about World War II in Asia. The two-week immersion program allowed me to learn about the Nanking Massacre, slave labor, sex slaves, and biological and chemical warfare in a unique and memorable way. The visits to the various museums and historical sites, including Unit 731, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, as well as the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum, left an indelible impression regarding the atrocities perpetrated at that time. The trips to the many cities in China, as well as the visit to South Korea allowed me to not only learn about the various histories, but to experience some of their modern day cultures.

Moreover, after meeting with curators, researchers, authors and survivors, I was once again reminded that regardless of the historical event, all of history is a human story. I found it humbling to hear the stories of survivors who courageously agreed to recount their most harrowing times, all so that we could learn from them. Further, spending time with scholars who have dedicated their lives to studying, in some cases, the worse in humanity, is inspiring.

As a public school teacher, I believe it is important for students to be exposed to the impact of people’s actions; this includes the perpetrators and victims, but also the upstanders–those who make a positive difference through their involvement. History seems to focus on those who commit heinous acts, but students should also learn about individuals such as John Rabe, Minnie Vautrin and John Magee. These people helped innocent victims during the Nanking Massacre. By teaching students about moral courage, we are all reminded that one person can make a difference. This is an important lesson that needs to be taught and reinforced.

Whether it is the Nanking Massacre, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide or another mass killing, all of these terrible times in history share similar characteristics. Unfortunately, some of these common themes can also be seen in the world today. The 2017 Peace & Reconciliation Asia Study Tour helped me to further solidify these commonalities. It also provided the necessary information and materials that can be used with my students, colleagues and administration; thus working to ensure that the events that occurred in Asia during World War II will not be forgotten.

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