The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

September 20, 2013

Trip allows South Stanly teacher to preserve history

By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer

Friday, September 20, 2013 — Cathy Troublefield admits she has a very unique hobby.

“People will ask ‘What’s your hobby?’ and I’ll go ‘the Holocaust’ and they’ll go ‘Really? You’re really weird,’” Troublefield said with a smile.

What she’s referring to is the incidents that happened during World War II where the Germans, under the control of Adolf Hitler, killed approximately six million Jews in the biggest mass murder in recorded history.

Generations of families were essentially wiped off the face of the earth forever in a state-sponsored campaign of murder by the Nazis that was one of the triggers to the war itself.

Troublefield has always been interested in history, even at an early age. So much so that she’s been a part of two trips to Germany to help document the accounts of the Holocaust and the impact it had on the lives of Jewish people.

Her first trip took place about eight years ago and involved 12 days where she visited eight concentration camps with a group of teachers through a program called Centropa, a Vienna-based organization that also has offices in Washington, D.C. — which is the route she took to make both trips. Her second trip was this summer.

“It’s really great for bringing the Holocaust to life. This is what we were doing. We were making films, writing lesson plans,” said Troublefield, a librarian and part of the media and technology programs at South Stanly High School.

“They paid for me to come to stay 10 days. The North Carolina Holocaust Committee funded part of my travels. I stayed 10 days in Berlin. Everything was planned out wonderfully for us.

“We had diplomats come and eat dinner with us. We went to the seder dinner on sabbath. I’m not Jewish, so many of these things were marvelous and wonderful because I read about them.”

Centropa gives educators like Troublefield the chance to work with other educators from around the world in preserving accounts, information and stories of elderly Jews who experienced the Holocaust and other events of World War II.

“I guess since I was a little girl and read (“The Diary of A Young Girl”) Anne Frank, I’ve always been amazed by the fact people can be so smart, so organized and so evil,” Troublefield said.

“They kept records. They numbered people. They kept records of who they killed and how many train loads of people came in and out.”

It’s nearly impossible to document just how many survivors of the Holocaust are still alive around the world. A number of the survivors live in Israel, but many others either fled Germany and eastern Europe during the war or after.

In addition, untold numbers of children were placed in countries such as Great Britain during the war in a program called Kindertransport.

From 1938-40, a series of rescue efforts took place that brought refugee Jewish children to the country from Nazi Germany.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. estimates up to as many as 10,000 children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were saved through this process.

One of the unique things Troublefield saw during her trip were stumbling blocks placed in front of homes where Jews lived. These blocks marked the names of the Jewish families that lived in the houses and, in most cases, documented their fates.

“Every home that they can track back to know that a Jew was taken out of that home, a cobblestone that’s made out of brass is embedded among the others. It has the name of the Jewish family and the date when they left. They called them stumbling blocks,” Troublefield said.

“So you’re just traveling down the street and there’s a brass block and it’s got a name. You know in that house, at that day, those folks were forced out of their home. If they can tell where they went and where they died, that’s on the stone, too.

“You’ll also just be going through the park and there’s a statue that has children all huddled up. That’s where the Kindertransport was.”

Through these experiences, Troublefield has been putting together an online class that will deal with Holocaust literature. She’s hoping it can be used to further educate her students about the events that essentially happened at least two generations before they were even born.

“What I’m doing now is try to incorporate these kinds of things, modern-day things, not just the historical point of view. Could this happen again? Is that happening now?” Troublefield said.

“A lot of the literature I’ll have in my class will be stuff like primary documents. History is made by victors. Right now, we are looking at it from the winners’ side. It was horrible, mean and all that. But if (Hitler) had won, what would have happened? How would it have been rewritten?

“So I want to look at the primary documents, I want to look at the diaries, I want to look at the records the Germans kept of what we called atrocities and they called experiments.”

Susan Norris, who works for Stanly County Schools as a curriculum specialist, has been working with Troublefield and others who will be putting on such online classes in the spring. She’s been fascinated with Troublefield’s experiences.

“Holocaust literature has been a longtime interest of Mrs. Troublefield, and she has read extensively in this genre. From what she has shared in a brief conversation, her study abroad this summer provided her with an opportunity to collaborate with other educators on instructional strategies and resources that will help today's students gain a better understanding of the Holocaust,” Norris said.

“Our students will benefit from her own learning experiences and she, as a lifelong learner, will be an excellent role model for our students in exploring this topic.”

To submit story ideas, contact Jason O. Boyd at (704) 982-2121 ext. 21 or email at jason@stanly