BFA Fairfax Students Help Launch Vermont's First Holocaust Education Week

FWSU Transferable Skill: Responsible and Involved Citizenship: Demonstrate ethical behavior and the moral courage to sustain it.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27— the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau— as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year for the first time in Vermont’s history, the Vermont Holocaust Memorial and the Agency of Education are launching a Holocaust Education Week. The week of curated courses and presentations include fundamental history and vital lessons of the Holocaust. Vermont teachers and their classrooms (and the community) are invited to attend any of the ten live, web-based presentations given by Holocaust survivors, their children, grandchildren, and others. 

The students in Sara Villeneuve’s Holocaust Studies Language Arts class played a very important part in helping to launch the project. Villeneuve, who serves as an educational consultant with the Vermont Holocaust Memorial, has been using many of the lesson plans in her classes throughout the fall semester.  On January 18th, the students traveled to the Vermont State House to be part of the press conference announcing the bipartisan resolution declaring January 23-27, 2023 Vermont Holocaust Education Week.  

Students were able to meet many of the key government officials that made the resolution possible including Chittenden-Southeast District Senator Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Legislator Avram Patt,  and President Pro Tempore Philip Baruth.  “At a time of continuing increasing antisemitism, hate, and intolerance throughout the United States, Vermont students must understand this timely history,” said Senator Lyons.

Student Bryce Fontaine shared, “It is important to educate children about the Holocaust because of the horrifying events that occurred and how they can never happen again. It will help the students build a moral compass to help them know right from wrong in the future.”

Eric Wimble expressed, “Learning about the Holocaust helps us to honor the victims and survivors of the tragedy. It is a way of paying tribute to those who suffered and lost their lives, and a way of ensuring that their memories are not forgotten. By remembering the victims of the Holocaust, we can recognize their bravery and resilience in the face of immense adversity.” Teachers throughout BFA Fairfax have been encouraged to participate in the upcoming Holocaust Education week. 

Sara Villeneuve shared this speech at the Holocaust Education Press Conference:

Why is Holocaust Education Important?  As an educator in a small, rural, preK-12 school I am often asked this question.

Today I stand with my students– students who just successfully completed an 18-week intensive study of the Holocaust.  They are just one small sampling of the many that I have had the privilege of working with at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax.  

These students now carry with them a deeper understanding of how Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected;

These students now carry with them a deeper understanding of how Silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringement of civil rights in any society can— however unintentionally— perpetuate the problems;

These students carry with them a deeper understanding of how The Holocaust was not an accident in history— it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately, mass murder, to occur.

When I look at these students I am reminded of the possibilities that each day holds for them.  

It is my deepest hope that by studying the Shoah, each of these individuals will use the courage within themselves and stand up against hate of all kinds, especially the growing anti-Semitism and xenophobia in our society. One focus of our course is the study of Survivor Testimony.

At the 2002 Conference on the Legacy of Holocaust Survivors, Polish survivor Zvi Gill said, "In Jewish tradition, the command to remember is absolute. But its obligation does not end with the cognitive act of memory– it must be connected to both meaning and action.”

Action.  It is what I hope these students will continue. They now have the knowledge coupled with their powerful futures to take action. Action to be witnesses to the Holocaust. Action to stand up for themselves. Action to stand up for others. Action to never forget.  

The inclusion of Holocaust education is critical in our schools. Vermont Holocaust Remembrance week is only one step in the imperative work we educators must do to ensure that all students learn about the Holocaust, all students remember the victims, Upstanders and survivors, and all students confront genocide, antisemitism and hate. 
- Sara Villeneuve

Resources and more information can be found at

Written by:
Sara Villeneuve
BFA HS Teacher

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