PA Distance Learning To Host Holocaust Survivor: Irene Skolnick

Posted by David Pierce on 10/17/19 10:57 AM

Imagine if you could take a history class where the figures you’re learning about came to life and told their story.  Sounds like something out of a movie right?  Well, in Mr. Peter Mysels’ History of the Holocaust class at PA Distance Learning, his students are getting to do just that.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Mr. Mysels worked with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh to bring Judah Samet, resident of Oakland, PA, and survivor of the Bergen-Belsen extermination camp, into the classroom. Looking to provide another opportunity to bring his students' learning to life, Mr. Mysels continued to coordinate with the Holocaust Center to bring Irene Skolnick, a second Holocaust survivor, intoIreneSkolnick PA Distance Learning to share her story. 

But this event will not be a repeat of the last. Irene has a much different story to tell.

Mr. Mysels stated about the upcoming event: "While Judah Samet’s story of life in the camps and the challenges he and his family faced throughout the Holocaust was gripping and fascinating, Irene's account provides an entirely different look at the Holocaust.” 

Irene and her family hid in plain sight during the Holocaust, less than a mile from the second largest extermination camp in Poland: Majdanek. To maintain their secret and avoid recognition, Irene and her family were forced to lie about their identities and purchase forged passports, just to narrowly avoid being captured or identified countless times throughout the war.

Mrs. Skolnick has written a book, In The Shadow of Majdanek which In The Shadow of Majdanekdetails her harrowing story of how her family survived the Holocaust.

Having a speaker like Mrs. Skolnick is exactly the type of opportunity Mr. Mysels seeks for his students where it brings what they are learning in the classroom to life.  

PA Distance Learning is thankful to have the opportunity to have Mrs. Skolnick speak at our school and share her personal stories with our students. 

As Mr. Mysels reflects on his classroom: “On the very first day of class, my students analyze a powerful quote reflecting on the Holocaust: ‘Thou salt not be a victim, though shalt not be a perpetrator, but aboThe Majdanek Concentration Campve all, tough shalt not be a bystander.’ My job as their teacher is not just to provide them knowledge and understanding in a given content area, but to educate them to be active, kind, and supportive people in the world around them. Visits like Irene’s bring to light how being an upstander allowed people like her to survive during the Holocaust. When speaking with Irene personally before the event, she told me that if it wasn’t for the kindness of others, many of whom she did not know well, she would not be alive today. I hope that through Holocaust education my students will truly understand the importance of being there for one another, no matter what.”

Irene Skolnick will be speaking on Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 from 1:00-2:30 PM to hear her story and answer questions.  All PA Distance Learning students and their families are invited to the school’s office to attend, and there will be a live virtual session held for students and their families across the state.

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