A retired Camas High School teacher who has taught about the Holocaust since 1985 will lead a series of six discussions titled the “Holocaust Studies,” beginning at 1 p.m. Friday, March 16, at the Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave.
Hannelore Tweed, 67, was a recipient of two fellowships paid by the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., which allowed her to study at former concentration camps, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Document Center of Israel and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Tweed, who taught at Camas High School for 15 years, was one of 50 teachers in the United States selected for the fellowship to study abroad.
Tweed will continue to share her knowledge from these experiences at 1 p.m., on Fridays, March 23 and 30 and April 6, 20 and 27.
“I am very humbled, because there was no way that I had the kind of money to be able to do that,” Tweed said. “It was emotionally very difficult.”
The experiences gave her an excellent education, Tweed said, but it was difficult to walk through the gas chambers and watch the films of the camps being liberated.
The Holocaust series will explore numerous topics and ideas, including the rise of Hitler, Nazi ideals, Jewish life before the Holocaust, ghettos of Western and Eastern Europe and mobile killing squads.
The series also will look at the world today and explore the rise of anti-Semitism in 2018 and look where genocide is occuring today, Tweed said.
“I am just deeply honored that the library would ask me to speak,” she said.
Camas Library Associate Karen Nicholson said Tweed is one of the best teachers her children ever had in the Camas School District, and that she asked her to conduct the series after Tweed retired and she saw her in the library.
“She is also an incredibly nice person,” Nicholson said. “Her passion for the subject, as well as her great ability to teach, will come through at this program.”
Tweed said the Camas School District supported her in teaching the Holocaust through electives or post-AP testing for enrichment.
“I am just very grateful and I hope that I’ve opened a lot of minds of young people here in Camas,” Tweed said.
Now retired, Tweed serves as a docent two times a week at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, and leads tours for middle and high school students.
“I feel that I am honoring those men and women who died as well as the Holocaust survivors, who paid my way to study in Poland and at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum,” Tweed said.
As a child, Tweed was adopted from her second orphanage in Stuttgart, Germany, but her parents were from the United States.
The only thing Tweed knew about her birth mother was her name, she said. But after giving birth to her own set of identical twins in 1978, she felt an urgency to find out who she was.
“There had to have been suffering to give up a child,” she said. And so she began the journey to find her birth mom.
Tweed found her mother with just a name and her last known address in Germany.
“My background has certainly influenced my study of the Holocaust,” Tweed said. “Being German, being orphaned, there’s just a part of me that feels the deep need to share with the world what happened.”
When Tweed found her mother, she also found out her story.
“I think that I’ve always felt a deep tie to World War II and (compassion) for the suffering of the Jewish people, all of those who were marginalized, the Gypsies, the homosexuals, people of color,” Tweed said. “And I felt ashamed to be a German and I just felt like I needed to understand who I was.”
She found that her birth mother’s family was not supportive of the Nazi ideals and for that reason also suffered.
“I do not equate the suffering that my mother went through in any way to what the Jewish people did, or any of those that wound up in the gas chambers during the camps,” Tweed said, “But I think it is important for people to understand that those Germans who did not comply with Hitler also suffered.”
Tweed says her connection to Germany and her mother’s story is one of the reasons why she has delved deeply into the Holocaust.
“Our Holocaust survivors are dwindling,” Tweed said. “Most of them are in their 80s or 90s and who is speaking for them? It’s their children. And even though I am not a child of a Holocaust survivor, I am a child of a World War II mother and what she went through was unspeakable and someone has to speak for her and someone needs to speak for all the victims of the Holocaust, so that’s what I do.”
The Holocaust in today’s world
Tweed believes that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been honored.
“As a world right now, there is a rise of anti-Semitism, the rise of white supremacy again, neo-nazis, people throughout the world are being, I guess you call it, xenophobic, worried about who comes into their country,” Tweed said. “The immigrant issue is often some of the same issues that Hitler and his men and women wanted — this idea of a white race — and that concerns me again when I see countries throughout the world deciding who is welcome in their country and who is not.”
Although these actions are alarming, concerned citizens of the world are taking notice and participating in marches, demonstrations and really looking at who the candidates are that are to represent us, Tweed said, adding that, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the Holocaust that can be applied to life today, it would be for everyone to vote.
“I don’t care if you think your vote doesn’t matter, your vote matters,” she said. “Read about your candidates, if they’ve written a book be sure and read that. Read the newspapers and watch the news.”
Tweed said she encourages people, especially students, to watch a variety of news channels.
“There needs to be an openness to others that are different from ourselves,” Tweed said. “I believe our country was founded upon immigrants like myself, we shouldn’t be afraid of immigrants. They add diversity and they are the best of their countries that want to come here.”
Tweed said that people should lead by example and teach their children to be open to all people.
“Stand up for people who are being laughed at, stand up for ethnic jokes, help all of those who are in need, stand up for the marginalized,” she said. “Each person has to do those things, you can’t just talk about it. You have to get out there and do it yourself.”
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