|Sparks Tribune (Reno) 26th May, 2000|
A Closer Look – Holocaust Awareness
Austrian interns encourage peace
By Janine Simonoski
When faced with the choice to promote peace through the military or through the minds of high school students, two Austrian men chose knowledge, and have brought the terrors of the Holocaust to life for more than 1,000 Nevada students.
Heinz Boesch, 26, and Andreas Feuerstein, 22, spoke about the Holocaust and ways to recognize prejudice and promote peace to two classes at Proctor H. Hug High School Thursday.
Boesch and Feuerstein have been working full-time with the University of Nevada, Reno’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Peace Studies since last fall, as part of an Austrian national program to promote Holocaust and peace education worldwide.
“Prejudice is everywhere, not just specific to one country or another,” Feuerstein said. “If I make an impact on only one child, it was worth my doing it.”
The two chose the 14-month “commemorative service” program instead of eight months of mandatory military service. Although both receive funding for some living expenses from the Austrian government, differing monetary rates have added extra expenses for the two, who are using money from relatives and savings to survive.
“For both of us, this is much more meaningful than military service,” Feuerstein said. “It’s more meaningful to talk to young people about peace education, than go into the Army and learn how to use rifles and fight wars.”
While some students may have seen Steven Spielberg’s film about the Holocaust, “Schindler’s List,” many students learned of the Holocaust for the first time Thursday from Boesch and Feuerstein, whose relatives experienced it first-hand.
Participating in the Holocaust and peace education program has also increased Feuerstein’s knowledge of his own family’s history.
Feuerstein spoke with is parents by telephone a little while ago, and discovered that his grandparents on his father’s side were Jewish and were sent to a concentration camp during the war.
Once while visiting Feuerstein’s grandmother on his mother’s side, she told him of one big house in the village where she grew up that was occupied by the Nazis as office space. But no-one spoke out because of the totalitarian government, he said.
Boesch’s father, who was a teenager at the time, speaks to his son about his experiences on occasion.
Much of their work focuses on how young people can stop the cycle of prejudice and violence.
“We as human beings, are responsible to see the early sings of persecution of other people, in racist jokes, prejudice, laws and propaganda,” Feuerstein said. “We need to make them aware of these things. Genocide just doesn’t happen overnight. If we don’t do something, these things can get out of control.”
One solution suggested by Feuerstein, a political science major, is for students to learn more about people and cultures that are different from their own.
“I would encourage young people to see another culture and another way of life, because we all have prejudice, but this would take it away,” Feuerstein said. “Other people have the same needs – food, shelter, friendship – no matter what they believe in. You learn very quickly that differences always are smaller than the similarities.”
Feuerstein and Boesch will continue making presentations at Nevada high schools through September and October of this year, respectively. This branch of the program, run through the Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Peace Studies, will continue when two other interns replace Feuerstein and Boesch.
“Commemorative service” interns are spreading their message of peace in Poland, France, Italy and the U.K. In the U.S., interns are working at Holocaust centers and museums in San Francisco, Tampa, FL., Montreal, Canada, and at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and at Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation in L.A.
- Date 2. July 2016
- Tags Pressearchiv 2000