A Danish woman who was a leader in Denmark’s efforts to protect Jews from the Nazis during World War II would be proud of the work of her great-granddaughter – PSEA member Lise Marlowe.
Marlowe, a sixth-grade teacher in the Cheltenham School District, Montgomery County, is passionate about teaching students about the Holocaust, and making sure they and other people don’t forget the deaths of 6 million Jews.
To do that, she brings in Holocaust survivors to tell their stories to her students and students at other schools.
“This is the last generation of survivors and the last generation of students who will hear from them in person,’’ said Marlowe, who received a PSEA Celebrating Excellence Award in May for her work. “By getting these survivors into schools, the students will not forget about the Holocaust.’’
Stick figures honor child survivors
Marlowe actually got involved with Holocaust education by using a $5,000 grant she received for being named the History Channel’s Teacher of the Year in 2006 for a project she did on an African-American Civil War training site in her area.
With the grant funds, she created a documentary on the Holocaust that featured interviews her students did with survivors. Marlowe began incorporating it into her teaching, and got involved connecting survivors with other school districts to tell their stories.
“Many survivors didn’t want to speak during their lifetimes because it was too painful,’’ Marlowe said. “But they realize their lives are coming to an end, and they feel it’s time to speak and honor family members and others who died.’’
One project Marlowe started several years ago was having her children draw stick figures representing each of the 1.5 million children up to age 12 who died in the Holocaust. The students spend five minutes a day drawing them and put about 2,000 on a page.
Right now they are through the 9- year-olds, which is 1.3 million children. When the stick figures are spread out they cover the entire gymnasium floor of Elkins Park School where she teaches.
“When students see that collection spread out on the gym floor, it has a huge impact,’’ Marlowe said.
Inspired by great-grandmother
Marlowe’s inspiration comes from her great-grandmother on her mother’s side, Victoria Madsen.
Denmark was famous for helping Jews escape the Nazis – only 100 Danish Jews out of 7,000 were captured – and Madsen was editor of a resistance newspaper.
“She helped rescue Jews in Denmark,’’ said Marlowe, who went to Denmark in 2018 to trace her great-grandmother’s story.
The PSEA Celebrating Excellence Award is far from the only recognition Marlowe has received.
She wrote a book on renowned Jewish artist Harry Somers. “Bringing Beauty into the World: The Life of Harry Somers,’’ is available on Amazon. Proceeds go to the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia, where Marlowe is a board member. She said educators looking for speakers for their schools should visit the center’s website at www.hamec.org.
“What Holocaust survivors show students is that you can overcome anything in life,’’ said Marlowe.
“They always teach our students not to hate, and to be an upstander, and not a bystander. The Holocaust happened because of bystanders.’’