March 31, 2016
Holocaust Survivor Urges Kids ‘Don’t Hate...Stand Up To Hatred’
By Ben Kleppinger
Danville, KY (AP) - You’ve got to love. Don’t hate - it will only make you into a bitter person.’’
Those words were the central message from Fred Gross, a Holocaust survivor who visited Danville’s Bate Middle School last week to share the story of how his Jewish family survived in German-controlled France during World War II.
Gross, who will turn 80 in October, was just 3 years old when his family of five fled its Belgium home three days after Hitler’s Nazi forces invaded on May 10, 1940.
For almost six years, they moved around France and Switzerland, doing whatever they could to avoid capture. They moved among homes of people who would hide them; they were imprisoned briefly in a concentration camp; they made it to Switzerland and lived in a refugee camp there. Gross also lived with a foster family for a year.
Fred Gross kissing his baby shoes
``I’m alive - that’s what counts,’’ he said. ``I overcame all of these difficult circumstances because I wouldn’t let them destroy me.’’
Gross visited the school as part of its partnerships with the ArtsLiteracy Project from Brown University and the Anne Frank Foundation, through which it is providing a year-long study of the Holocaust for eighth-grade English and drama students.
Students have embraced the curriculum, which has had an emotional impact as they learn about the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II, said Linda Cottle, language arts teacher.
``When I told them they would take the babies and they would kill the babies, they were like, `But why?’’’ she said.
Cottle and drama teacher Darell Rickmers work together to teach the curriculum, which attempts to incorporate language art skills with music, drama and art so students are better able to express the stories they’re learning about, Cottle said.
In addition to Gross’ visit, during which he spoke to three groups of eighth-graders in the school’s theater, students have been reading about the Holocaust, including the book ``The Diary of a Young Girl’’ by Anne Frank and the play ``And Then They Came For Me’’ by James Still.
Students attended a stage production of ``And Then They Came For Me’’ in Louisville and drama students will perform ``A Child Shall Lead Them’’ by Michael Slade on May 13.
Gross, a public-relations specialist and former journalist, said he has been visiting middle and high schools to tell his life’s story since 1992, but more frequently since 2009, when his book, ``One Step Ahead of Hitler: A Jewish Child’s Journey Through France’’ came out.
``It’s important for them to know what happened in the Holocaust,’’ said Gross, who has been actively involved in the Jewish community in Louisville. ``I am grateful to teachers all around Kentucky who have been teaching the Holocaust and made (their students) aware of the evil that occurred during that time and not to repeat those evils.’’
Preventing anything like the Holocaust from ever happening again was a main point Gross made to Bate Middle students. Despite the evil things being done during World War II, there were good people, too, who helped some survive or escape, he said.
``If it hadn’t been for the love that was shown to us, even though we went through a lot, I wouldn’t be here today - I would have been long gone as a child,’’ Gross told students. ``Don’t take things for granted.
Gross’ shoes, worn during the escape
I know you’re living a good life - that you have freedom, that you can go to school and not fear being attacked. If you are fearful, or if you know somebody is fearful of what is going on in his or her life, you come to their rescue. You’re not simply an onlooker but you’re there to help. That’s what people do; that’s what good people do.’’
Gross told students it would be up to them to make sure the world is a better place. Even now, there are refugees in the world - from Syria, specifically - who are displaced by war and facing closed borders when they flee.
``Has anything changed? We’re living in a cruel world today and we have to be careful. Especially young people, as they grow up, they have to stand up and be counted that nothing like that - like the Holocaust - will happen again,’’ he told the students. ``That’s how the Holocaust began, when Jews were not able to cross boundaries to find freedom.’’
Eighth-grader Maddy Mullins said she found Gross’ presentation inspiring. His warnings made her think of current U.S. political discourse - particularly the rhetoric of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.
``He’s trying to push people out of their country after they’ve been living here,’’ she said, comparing Trump’s comments on immigrants to Hitler’s comments on Jews.
Mullins said through studying the Holocaust, she has gained an appreciation for just how difficult life was for Jewish children her age.
``Having to go into hiding - I think about that a lot,’’ she said. ``If I had been a child and I had been Jewish at that time, going into hiding would have been really hard for me.’’
Gross said he enjoys his trips to middle and high schools.
``I feel young. You know why I feel young?’’ he asked a group of Bate students. ``Because a lot of times, I’m with young people like you who make me feel young. Which is good - it keeps me alive, keeps me going.’’
Stratford Festival To Broadcast Three Shakespeare Plays
By Mark Kennedy
AP Drama Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - The Stratford Festival in Canada will this year commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death by broadcasting three more of the Bard’s work in HD, including its ``Hamlet.’’
The Ontario-based festival is attempting to broadcast the complete works of Shakespeare around the world over the next 10 years. It will kick off the next block of shows with ``Hamlet’’ starring Jonathan Goad (pictured here) on April 24, ``The Adventures of Pericles’’ beginning May 8 and ``The Taming of the Shrew’’ beginning May 29. The broadcasts will be available on U.S. screens.
``I think it’s got great balance. `Hamlet’ is the seminal title in terms of the oeuvre. Then you’ve got a great comedy like `The Shrew,’ and then a romance. So it has nice balance in terms of Shakespeare’s work,’’ said festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino, who also directed ``Hamlet.’’
The unprecedented effort started last year with productions of ``King Lear,’’ ``King John’’ and ``Antony and Cleopatra.’’ The live cinema event company SpectiCast Entertainment is helping distribute The Bard’s canon.
The comedy ``The Taming of the Shrew’’ stars Deborah Hay and Ben Carlson and is directed by Chris Abraham. ``The Adventures of Pericles’’ stars Evan Buliung and is directed by Scott Wentworth. The staged versions were recorded on HD film using 10 cameras and 128 tracks of sound.
``We’ve gotten a lot better at doing this in the last couple of years. We had a lot to learn,’’ said Cimolino, citing things like makeup for HD, the need for close-ups on camera and details like how costumes move.
``Things that were absolutely OK in a bigger theater become something that needs to be addressed when you’ve got a big camera just inches away from an actor’s face,’’ he said.
The company has a seven-month season every year with about a dozen plays in four Ontario venues performed by some 120 actors. This upcoming season, it will feature ``Macbeth,’’ ``As You Like It’’ and the North American premiere of the stage version of ``Shakespeare in Love.’’