Seventeen sixth-graders from Harrison’s Washington Middle School journeyed to the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Center in Whippany on Dec. 20 for an eye-opening experience.
There, they viewed the premiere of “Be An Upstander: The Fred Heyman Story,” a documentary about Fred Heyman, a Holocaust survivor, who was at the screening and interacted with the youngsters.
The program was sponsored by the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest NJ. The film’s producer, Howard Goldberg, was also at the event.
Mary Ann Dunphy, a sixthgrade language arts teacher who organized the trip, accompanied the students, along with her husband. “We had several of the students’ mothers and even two grandmothers who came as well,” she said.
Dunphy had met Heyman during a prior visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and now, she said, “Fred is a good friend of ours.”
“This was a great opportunity for our kids to see the documentary film and to hear Fred tell about his experience since this may be the last generation that will have a chance to meet survivors,” she said.
The students learned that Heyman was born in Berlin in 1929 to a Protestant mother and Jewish father who fought for Germany during World War I and was awarded the Iron Cross, the nation’s highest medal. Heyman was raised as a Jew and, after Hitler came to power, the family was subjected to religious persecution. But they managed to live through the war and later immigrated to the U.S. He now lives in Morris Township.
Heyman, through the MetroWest Council, has spoken to many groups of adults and youngsters about his legacy, hoping to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. For younger people, in particular, Heyman stresses the importance of active civic-mindedness and not to be passive bystanders.
Because the trip was scheduled on short notice, not all the school’s sixth-graders could go, Dunphy said. “But the kids who did make the trip shared their experience with those who didn’t go.”