Holocaust Survivor’s Story Comes to John Marshall High School in Glen Dale

John Marshall High School students saw history come to life Thursday with the help of Classrooms Without Borders.

The Little Lake Theater of Canonsburg, Pa., performed “Letters to Sala,” a play recounting the story of a 16-year-old Sala Garncarz Kirschner’s experience in Nazi labor camps. Adapted from a book written by Kirschner’s daughter, Ann, the play dramatizes over 350 letters from friends and family written to Sala which she was able to keep hidden during her time at seven labor camps.

The book on which the play is based, “Sala’s Gift,” tells the story of a 16-year-old Jewish girl’s survival during World War II.

According to Barb Lewine, program director for Wheeling Classrooms Without Borders, a “Letters to Sala” exhibit, on loan from the New York City Public Library, traveled to John Marshall, Wheeling Park, Wheeling Central Catholic and Bishop Donahue high schools, Corpus Christi School and Temple Shalom in November, starting conversations about the role of slave labor camps during the Holocaust.

“The play brings another survivor’s story to life,” Lewine said. “It allows the students to see someone who was their age. It’s something they can relate to — not to the experience, but the person, which is a conversation starter in the classrooms to understand the history as well as the importance of teaching kindness and understanding.”

Little Lake Theater Assistant Director Jena Oberg, who traveled with Classrooms without Borders to Sala Kirschner’s native Poland in June, said it’s important for people today to remember the horrors of the Holocaust.

“We have a responsibility not to forget what happened. If we forget, it’s like we’re almost allowing it to happen again,” Oberg said. “The world right now is so delicately balanced that I think we need to remember to be not just tolerant but accepting of everyone around us. Differences are a good thing.”

Tracey Filben, a music instructor at John Marshall, said freshmen, seniors and band and choir students were in the audience for the performance.

“Many of the students were able to come see the items shown in the play, so this reinforces that from a theatrical standpoint,” Filben said. “It makes it more accessible to kids.”