2019 Spiegel Scholarship Honoree: Annabelle Muscatell, Old Town High Shool

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About Annabelle

The HHRC’s 2019 Lawrence Alan Spiegel Remembrance Scholarship winner Annabelle Muscatell of Old Town. Annabelle is a senior at Old Town High School. This fall she will be attending the University of Maine and majoring in Elementary Education with the hope to someday become a middle school teacher, and to teach in a juvenile correctional facility. Her interests include playing music, reading and writing. She has played the alto saxophone since fourth grade and has participated in the Maine All State Band as well as the Maine Jazz All State band. Annabelle says “I am very passionate about learning. I consider myself as a lifelong learner. My favorite subject in school is history. I am also very passionate about helping others. My family raised me in such a way that instilled compassion and empathy in me from a young age.” When she is not at school or playing music Annabelle enjoys spending time with her family and her dog, Rosie.

Lessons From the Past: The Importance of Holocaust Education

By Annabelle Muscatell, 2019 Spiegel Scholarship Awardee

For the first time since the beginning of the eighth grade school year, my classmates and l fell silent. Our naive thirteen-year-old faces looked upon the face of a man with deep lines in his face that each seemed to tell their own story. A closer glance at his forearm revealed a faded tattoo. A tattoo that nearly six million other men, women and children just like him were marked with during the Holocaust. That day I was changed. I was transformed by this survivor’s story, and by the unit we did in social studies that year about the Holocaust. It is the reason that four years later I still keep a golden paperclip in a special box under my bed in remembrance of the six million people killed during the Holocaust. It is also the reason I am pursuing a career as a middle school social studies teacher, I believe so strongly in the power of knowledge to make the world a better place. I will fiercely advocate for education about the Holocaust for students when I become a teacher. This topic is so critical to teach young people about so that they understand where this atrocity originated and how it originated. The Holocaust did not start all at once. It was borne from hate, from intolerance and from a slow progression of oppression. Young people must be taught how to recognize the beginnings of such events to prevent them from reoccurring.

The first time I learned about the Holocaust was in eighth grade. My teacher was Jewish and she took great care in helping her students understand the importance of education about the Holocaust. I thought I was just learning about another state-required topic, little did I know that

I was being taught invaluable lessons like empathy, tolerance, and the importance of speaking up.

It has been four years since i listened to the Holocaust survivor’s story in my middle school’s library, and there is one detail that has stuck with me. At the end, we were allowed to ask questions to the survivor. One of my classmates raised his hand and said, “Do you think that something like the Holocaust could ever happen again?” Without hesitation, the survivor said
“Yes.” The certainty in his voice sent a chill through me. I had a very difficult time accepting that there is any way that our society would let something so atrocious happen again. However the more that I learned about how the Holocaust began, the more I realized that this man was not far from wrong. There can be many parallels drawn to the treatment of Muslims in our nation today and the treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust there have been countless attacks on Jewish, Muslim and Christian institutions as well as on homosexuals.

The Holocaust taught us that we cannot ignore or move on from hate crimes. We must not tolerate them because such acts can progress into genocide. If we do not teach generations that an act as simple as making fun of another group of people’s appearance can progress into the death of six million, we risk repeating history. Just as if we neglect to teach our young people the impact that those such as Raoul Wallenberg and Dietrich Bonhoeffer had by simply speaking up during the Holocaust, we will produce a generation that is easily controlled by fear as so many were in Germany during the Nazi Regime.

It was just a couple of months ago that I sent a sample of my DNA to Ancestry to discover more about my ethnicity. As I dropped the box containing my DNA into the blue mailbox I expected that the results would confirm what I already knew. I was Italian and English.

On that fated day in which I received my ethnicity results, I discovered that I was European Jewish and that some of my ancestors were from Lithuania. There is something about being genetically linked to the group of people targeted during the Holocaust that gave me a new appreciation for my ancestors, and a whole new aspect of the Holocaust to grieve. Education about the Holocaust and the lessons it can teach such as empathy, tolerance and the importance of speaking up are so critical for our youth to learn about so that the world can become a place in which something like this never happens again, and we raise generations that are not afraid to speak up when something is not right.

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