CLEARFIELD – A ninth grade English student, Erica Hanes, from the Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School traveled to Philadelphia and interviewed a Holocaust survivor for a recent research project.
Erica had a few research topics in mind but chose to study one she’s most passionate about – the Holocaust. In the fourth grade, she first learned about a man by the name of Adolf Hitler.
According to Erica, her mother was the first one to educate her about the Holocaust. “She did so in a way that a fourth grader could comprehend. Ever since [then], I have wanted to know more about the Holocaust.”
She said her mother reached out to the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia to assist her in requesting information for her research project. She said they were provided with contact information for Holocaust survivor David Tuck.
“When we called him, I was hoping to schedule a phone interview,” said Erica. “But by the end, he invited me to his home; we drove down two days later to meet him.”
According to her, Tuck was 10 years old when he was sent to Auschwitz. However, she said he lied to soldiers, telling them he was 15 years old and a mechanic.
Soldiers, she said, used Tuck for work and translation because he was fluent in more than one language. She said, “He stressed to me that education is very important. He also believes that knowing more than one language can get you far.”
Erica shared that Tuck doesn’t dread over the fact that he is a Holocaust survivor. Instead, she said he’s embraced it as motivation to inspire other people, such as herself, and she finds that he’s a role model.
“I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I didn’t have knowledge to the extent that I do about the Holocaust,” said Erica. “Knowing what others lived through gives me a totally different perspective of life and how I live it.”
Erica’s mother, Jeannine, thanked the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center for its open opportunity to request to speak with a Holocaust survivor. She thanked both English Teacher Erica Chawla and the district for granting this opportunity to Erica.
“Mrs. Chawla provided support and encouragement, which is driving students to the next level,” said Jeannine. “It’s what we need from our teachers. These kids have a lot of potential that they don’t know they have inside of them.”
Jeannine said she was extremely proud of Erica, who “understands and honors those who have faced religious persecution before us, so we can live in freedom.”
Since Erica’s interview with Tuck, Jeannine said they have remained in contact and have plans to bring him to the CAJSHS on April 20. She said they hope to arrange for Tuck to visit again in the fall to speak to the community.