sealPurdue News

March 24, 2003

Ackerman Center sponsors Holocaust conference student program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Elementary school students will learn about the Holocaust from a journalist and author who helped save the lives of more than 1,000 people being persecuted in Europe.

For the seventh consecutive year, Purdue University's James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship is sponsoring a student program as part of the 22nd annual Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Conference.

"The student program was developed to provide area students and teachers with educational experiences about the Holocaust," said Phillip J. VanFossen, director of the Ackerman Center. "Holocaust education is a clear case of learning from history in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. An important step in preventing the future occurrence of such atrocities is for current generations to learn the lessons of the Holocaust."

More than 150 local students will attend the 2003 program at 10 a.m. Friday (3/28) in the Morton Community Center in West Lafayette. Students and teachers will hear a presentation by Ruth Gruber, a journalist, writer and scholar.

Gruber was a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes during World War II. She was sent by the U. S. government to escort more than 1,000 Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe; many of these were survivors of concentration camps.

Gruber described the 1944 secret rescue operation in her book "Haven," which was later made into a CBS miniseries that was awarded the Humanitas Prize in 2001. Her presentation for students will be based on her memories and experiences as outlined in "Haven. "Gruber will take questions from students following the presentation.

The Ackerman Center supports Holocaust education as part of its overall mission of education for citizenship, because an understanding of history is an important part of effective citizenship in a democracy, VanFossen said.

Other activities during past student programs, included presentations from Holocaust survivors and artistic groups.

"Even though the Holocaust is 'ancient history' to these sixth-graders, they are developing an understanding of the suffering and an empathy for the victims of this terrible human tragedy," said Janet Tipton, Happy Hollow Elementary School teacher. "Through literature, poetry and art, the students' emotional ties to the Holocaust victims are deepening and having a profound impact on their lives. They ask the unanswerable question, 'Why?'"

More information on the 2003 Ackerman Center Student Program can be found at the center's Web site.

The James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship, housed in Purdue's School of Education, was created in 1994 with a $2 million gift from James Ackerman, an Indianapolis cable television executive, and his wife, Lois.

The center sponsors an annual Summer Institute on Citizenship Education for teachers, various workshops and civic education projects for teachers and students, and serves as a national resource center for citizenship education materials.

The Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Conference, "Confronting Terror in the 21st Century," will open at 1 p.m. Saturday (3/29) and conclude at 9:30 p.m. A complete schedule of conference events is available online. All lectures and workshops are free and open to the public.

CONTACT: VanFossen, (765) 494-2367,; Anatoli Rapoport, student program coordinator, (765) 496-3029,

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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