Spence News

Grade 9 History Assembly with Holocaust Survivor Sami Steigmann

As a part of Grade 9 history students’ study of World War II, they are learning about the historical development of antisemitism and how the Holocaust began. In support of this study, a Grade 9 student proposed and worked with her history teachers on a plan to bring in Holocaust survivor Sami Steigmann. She prepared her interview with Mr. Steigmann as a way to introduce her classmates to the personal story and perspective that is not always captured in history books. In introducing the speaker, History teacher Aleysha Taveras shared, “We as historians typically rely on written documents and records to piece together the past, but survivor testimonies allow us to learn from the many singular and collective human choices that led to the Holocaust.”

Mr. Steigmann and his parents were kept at a labor camp, Mogilev-Podolsk in Ukraine, from 1941-1944. At the time he was only a year-and-a-half old, and he credits a German woman for saving him from starvation, although he never knew her name. While he has no direct recollection of the experience at Mogilev-Podolsk, he shared that he has “suffered every second of my life” from the medical experiments that were conducted on him. 

Questions posed during the student interview led Mr. Steigmann to share his personal story as well as the historical background of the Holocaust, which he described as the “best example of what hate can do to people, to a nation, and to the world.” Mr. Steigmann recalled the experiences that finally compelled him to identify as a holocaust survivor, and how a Grade 6 student “saved his life” by inspiring him to share his story and use education as a way of fighting hate.
A K-12 independent school in New York city, The Spence School prepares a diverse community of girls and young women for the demands of academic excellence and responsible citizenship.


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