Holocaust museum contest draws hundreds of entries

BY KEREN DOUEK, ASSISTANT EDITOR

This year’s Holocaust Museum and Learning Center Art and Writing Contest received 210 submissions in writing and 90 submissions in art, with entries from across the bistate area, as well as from Indiana, Wisconsin, New York and California.

“The HMLC’s art and writing contest, now in its fourth year, has become one of the museum’s most successful and important programs,” said Rachel Katzman, the chair of the contest, “because it gives our student visitors an opportunity to respond creatively to their visit and their study of the Holocaust. It also allows teachers to develop follow-up projects in the classroom and cause the history and lessons of the Holocaust to resonate beyond the museum visit.”

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Alexia LeClaire, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Meramec Valley Middle School who won first place in the art category for division one — sixth to eighth grade — for her entry entitled “Illuminated Memories,” said it was “a miracle,” and that she was very surprised to learn she had won. LeClaire’s entry was a stained glass piece with four different scenes from the Holocaust. LeClaire said she has been doing stained glass for several years and has taken a class in it, so she decided to try to create something for the contest, which she learned about from her art teacher.

Nancy DiFelice, a teacher at Our Lady of Assumption in Beloit, Wis., said her students did not have a choice of whether to enter the contest, and her entire eighth-grade class entered.

“They submitted all kinds of different entries, wrote stories, poems, some students did artwork.”

The eighth grade at Our Lady of Assumption takes a trip to the Holocaust Museum every year, which is how DiFelice knew of the contest.

DiFelice’s student Maureen Monahan entered a narrative poem that won first place in the division one writing contest.

“I asked her what inspired her to do that particular story,” DiFelice said, “and she told me she wanted to write something that wasn’t typical, like a victim in hiding. She wanted to write about the people who were neutral, and that’s why she wrote what she did.”

Emily Kathryn Curry, 17, who is home schooled, won first place for the division two — ninth through 12th grade — art category, with a DVD entry. Curry’s mother, Sharon Curry, said she thought it was a “big project for just the little bit of time we were talking about,” when she learned her daughter planned to create a DVD after hearing of the contest from a friend who knew she liked to do film work.

Emily, who was the writer and the director of the film and did the actual filming, said she was originally going to do a documentary interviewing survivors, “but that didn’t work out, so we decided to do a narrative and dress up as Jews and film it in St. Charles, a historic neighborhood with lots of historic buildings.”

Chana Devorah Florans, 17, of Bais Yaakov St. Louis, won first place in division two of the writing contest with an essay about heroes of the Holocaust.

“I chose to write about two heroes, my grandfather and a Japanese diplomat who actually saved my grandfather and thousands of others, named Sugihara,” Florans said.

Chani Smason, Florans’ teacher at Bais Yaakov, said Florans is a “natural writer, so I wasn’t surprised. I was very happy for her, but not surprised at all … She is a girl who loves language.”

Julia Woods, an eighth-grader at Nipher Middle School, won second place in the division one art contest for “Auschwitz,” with Jayvn Solomon, an eighth-grader from the same school winning third place for “The Truths of the Matter.” Honorable mentions went to Abby Abrams, a sixth-grader at Ladue Middle School; Rachel Robinson, an eighth-grader at South Middle School; Jack LaFontain, a seventh-grader at St. Ann School; Ethan Dize, a seventh-grader at Concordia Lutheran, and Madeline Lovell, an eighth-grader at Nipher Middle School.

In division two for art, Erica Jennings, a 10th-grader at Sturgeon High School, won second place for “Children of the Holocaust,” and Christa L. Gammon, an 11th-grader at Belleville East High School, won third place for “Testimonial Tree.” Honorable mentions went to Tracy Grapperhaus, a 12th-grader at Triad High School; KC Stahlhuth, an 11th-grader at MICDS; Emmah Schramke, a 12th-grader at William Henry Harrison High School; and Heather Gemmell, an 11th-grader at Marble Springs Academy.

Sarah McKnight, an eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School, won second place in the division one writing category for “Life of a Jew,” with third place going to Anna Fimmel, an eighth-grader at Crossroads School. Honorable mentions went to Miles McLane, an eighth-grader at Annunziata School; Joe Yi, a seventh-grader at Wydown Middle School; Andy Gaglio, an eighth-grader at Nipher Middle School; Chelsea Pepmiller, an eighth-grader at Bryan Middle School; Ellie Sonnenwirth, an eighth-grader at Epstein Hebrew Academy; Kelsi Porter, an eighth-grader at North Posey Junior High; Christina Cook, an eighth-grader at Fort Zumwalt North Middle School, and Emily Barker, a seventh-grader at Concordia Lutheran Elementary.

Marty Nachman, a 12th-grader at Westside High School, won second place in division two for writing, for “Light Shall Always Overcome Darkness,” with third place going to Jessica Montague, a ninth-grader at Brighton High School, for “The Eyes of the Holocaust.” Honorable mentions went to Thea Emmons, a ninth-grader at Parkway North High School; Rachel Erin Weisel, a 12th-grader at B’nai Amoona Religious School, and Sarah Weber, a home schooled 10th-grader.

The awards ceremony was held on Wednesday evening at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

The art and writing contest is dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust, in honor of the children of Dr. Ira and Judith Gall.

Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]