Artists from Springfield High School recently participated in the 27th annual Holocaust Arts and Writing Contest held by the City of Akron.

Artists from Springfield High School recently participated in the 27th annual Holocaust Arts and Writing Contest held by the City of Akron.

Senior Erica Swope, sophomore  Jenna Ford and sophomore Francesca Thurston all received honorable mention in the visual art division II. The theme for this year’s contest was “Helpers and Bystanders: Rescue and Indifference.” The contest is for students living in Summit County in grades six through 12.

Their works included a charcoal, “It Only Takes One,” by Thurston, mixed media, “Through the Glass,” by Swope and charcoal “Discreet Justice,” by Ford.

The students were honored April 14 at the Holocaust awards ceremony in the auditorium of the Main Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Their works of arts were on display in the library. Ford was unable to attend the ceremony.

Swope said she found the experience to be a real honor.

“There were many other pieces entered and the fact that I got recognized was pretty awesome,” she said.

The City of Akron Holocaust Committee states on the city’s website that the lessons of  Holocaust are important because man’s inhumanity to man continues to threaten world freedom.  It is their goal, through education, to enlighten youth and help ensure that history will never repeat itself.

Speaker for the event was Erika Taubner Gold. She was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1932 and had a normal childhood until Hitler’s Nazi regime came to power in Germany.  Gold spoke about the year she was 12 when the Nazi’s started enforcing laws in Hungary that mandated where the Jews could live.

Her family was forced out of their home. Gold and her mother lived with three other families crammed in four rooms. Her father went to work at a forced labor camp for Shell Oil Refinery. The Nazis raided the uniform factory and removed 300 women and children including Erica and her mother. However, Erica, her mother and another woman jumped off the Nazi driven truck and escaped to safety.

Art teacher Nancy Michel said she was so grateful that her students were able to hear the Holocaust survivor’s story.

“As we all know, the survivors are aging and it is such an honor to hear their stories,” Michel said.

“Our speaker was very inspiring. I was very moved,” said Swope. “Her story gave me a deeper appreciation and insight into the hardships they endured.”

Michel said it is her hope that by doing this art contest with her students that they will see how discrimination starts.

Before doing their projects for the Holocaust contest, Michel discusses how to avoid discrimination even in the halls of a high school, such as cutting someone out of a group because he or she might be different.

Thurston said the highlight of the Holocaust ceremony for her was being able to see the chosen artwork.

“Each piece was just amazing,” Thurston said. “It was crazy seeing how different every piece of work was done, but how well the message of rescuers and bystanders was represented.”

She said she also was fascinated by the story by Erika Gold.

“It was amazing,” Thurston said. ‘The experience I had that day was once in a life time.”

Gold graduated from Heights High School in Cleveland and earned a degree from Western Reserve University. She said she wished people would have taken action rather than being bystanders. She honors those that she remembers and lost by speaking to groups of students. She encourages all young people to always think about how their actions affect others.