Through the Eyes of Youth: Life and Death in the Będzin Ghetto is the result of an undergraduate research project offered by the Martin-Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University. The original idea of creating an exhibit on the Jewish ghetto in this Polish town was to honor the Institute’s founder Doris Martin. She and her family lived in Będzin. Miraculously, the whole family survived the Holocaust.
From the very beginning, this project was designed as a Public History Project by working with an interdisciplinary team of students. By weaving Doris’ story of survival into the larger life of the ghetto, this applied research project aimed at serving as a case study of how the Holocaust and the Nazi ideology of antisemitism manifested themselves in one particular location in Poland.
This project began in January of 2013 and consisted of four different phases.
Phase I began in January of 2013 with the goal to create a traveling exhibit. Under the faculty mentorship of Dr. Björn Krondorfer and Dr. Martin Kalb, students from multiple academic disciplines conducted the historical research, interviewed survivors, conceptualized the display, identified exhibit vendors, created the narratives, and proposed initial design. The materials were eventually handed to professional graphic designer Jen Saunders. This stage was completed in the summer of 2014. The exhibit opened on September 30, 2014 at Northern Arizona University.
Phase II began in the fall of 2014. A new team of undergraduate students started to work on a Digital History project with the task to turning the traveling exhibit into an online version with additional resources.
Phase III started in the spring of 2015 to expand the Digital History Project and also to include educational and curricular guide for teachers and students. The team consisting of students from graphic design, computer science, and history was joined by students of education.
Phase IV (Fall 2015 to Spring 2016) with a NAU Computer Science Senior Capstone team who redesigned, revised, and improved the first version of the webpage on the Będzin ghetto, and who made the page compatible for different platforms.
Reflections of Students working on the Traveling Exhibit:
We wanted people to see a face rather than a number when thinking of the victims. I became emotionally invested in the narratives we read. I wondered about their friends, families, and neighbors.
– Gabriella Perez-Medoza
At the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., we were lucky to come across a large collection of photos from the Będzin region, which were found in Auschwitz after the war. They helped us to understand life before the war and in the ghetto. Yet, so many people from Będzin perished in labor or death camps, so we know that much has been lost.
– Paisley Green
I hope that people who see the exhibit leave with a more individualized impression of the Holocaust. When they think of the effects of terror and genocide, I want them to see a face and know a name. Looking at young people helped us to relate to their experiences.
– Justin Bigelow