Testimonial of Michelle Myers

Michelle Myers
French Teacher and Advisor of the World Culture Club
Sterling High School, Somerdale, NJ
2015 Asia Study Tour Participant 

Thank you NJ ALPHA from the bottom of my heart for the generous award, which allowed me to participate in the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Asia Study Tour.  It certainly was a life changing event.  As a result, I’ve discovered an important part of world history that was virtually unknown to me.  From 1931-1945 the Japanese bombed Chinese cities, attacked, raped and slaughtered, created biological  and chemical warfare units which unleashed disease and other chemical horrors onto the Chinese population and conducted barbaric medical experiments, all of which resulted in the suffering and deaths of millions of Chinese.

As a World Language teacher who is also very involved in Holocaust education and participated in the 2014 NJEA Infamous Sites of the Holocaust Summer Seminar, experiential learning is paramount and I believe it was the best way to capture the essence and lessons of the Holocaust and Asia-Pacific War. The Peace and Reconciliation Asia Study Tour opened my eyes to the “other side of the Holocaust” which took place in Asia during WWII.  I recognized significant commonalties between testimonies of the Jewish survivors and Chinese and Korean victims of WWII. They all experienced cruelties and staggering losses beyond imagination that stemmed from being dehumanized by the culture and leadership of their aggressors, which filtered down to the ranks of soldiers and ordinary citizens.  The tears they shed and pain that is still evident as they recount their stories is a thread that binds them all.  It was a great privilege to experience and learn from the survivors’ and victims’ testimonies, as well as from the outstanding researchers, professors, museum curators, film makers and others who are dedicated to keep the history and stories of the Asia-Pacific War alive for future generations.

I believe it is more important than ever in this time of intense polarization in our country and around the world to build a positive culture for diversity and acceptance of others by encouraging student advocacy in the classroom, the school, and the community. My students are the last generation to have contact with Holocaust survivors.  I too, am passionate about keeping their stories alive and inspiring my students to respect others and become “upstanders” who speak up in the face of hatred and bigotry and not “onlookers”.  It is my intention to expand interdisciplinary Holocaust programming to include the voices of Chinese and Korean victims and link the lessons of the Holocaust and the Asia-Pacific War to educate students about the past to ensure it does not happen again. These victims’ memories cannot and must not be forgotten.

 

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