Holocaust testimony a life-changing time
It’s not everyday you meet someone whose job title is Nazi hunter.
But former Matamata woman Saskia van Waaijenburg had the opportunity as part of a scholarship to visit Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel.
The Massey High School history teacher and assistant principal, whose family still live in Matamata, says the scholarship has forever changed her life. It has also changed the way she teaches her students about the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem was established in 1953 by an act of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during 1933-1945.
The memorial complex contains a Holocaust History Museum and memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance and the International school/Institute for Holocaust Studies. The scholarship awarded to Saskia was by the Wellington Holocaust Centre and Yad Vashem.
‘‘I was one of few that got to go and study from professors who are top in the field.
‘‘I have done a lot of study at university on the Holocaust, I was interested to develop my understanding further. The fact that I learnt different testimony and how to use that in the classroom was great.’’
She was also able to meet survivors, including Eva Ratz Levi - a Schindler Jew and Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.
‘‘To meet survivors in that place that was historically amazing.
‘‘Efraim said in 25 years, not one (surviving Nazi) has ever acknowledged or had remorse for what they had done.’’
While Saskia said she knew the experience would be emotional, she was in no way prepared for the impact of real life testimony.
‘‘I get quite emotional still. And that’s one thing I have noticed now, I sometimes have to stop teaching when reading testimony - I get to a point where it’s too much.’’
Saskia said her teaching method focused on the ethos of ‘‘safely in, safely out’’.
It means rather than students seeing graphic movies about the Holocaust, she leaves enough room at the end of each lesson to discuss what they have learned.
Massey High school teacher Saskia van Waargenburg originally from Matamata, attended Yad Vashem Holocaust Centre, Israel.
Holocaust survivors Daniel Gold (Lithuania), Yehudit Kleinman (Italy) and Rena Quint (Poland).