Elie Wiesel knows firsthand the atrocities humans can inflict on each other.
Born in late 1920s Romania, Wiesel was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the specter of Nazi Germany eventually cast its shadow across the continent. Interred in concentration camps as a young teenager in World War II, Wiesel had to grow up fast.
He drew from his tortured experiences when he wrote “Night,” arguably the best known of the prolific author’s works.
Wiesel survived to tell his story. Millions others never got the chance, falling victim to the brutality and disease that came to define the Holocaust, one of the darkest chapters of the 20th, or any century.
A Camp Verde sophomore English class read Wiesel’s story, and felt the need to do something.
While anything a high school class could do can’t bring back the 6 million Jews who died, the students wanted to honor the memory of those who lost their lives.
From death, there can come life. It’s what drove Alissa Novoselick’s 10th-grade class to collect as many wildflower seeds as they could to remember those who never made it out of the places where the names have become synonymous with human cruelty — Auschwitz. Buchenwald. Dachau. Bergen-Belsen.
It was the students’ idea, Novoselick said.
“They really dictate what we do in the classroom,” Novoselick said. “But how do you fathom what 6 million is?”
The students ended up collecting around 1 million wildflower seeds to try and quantify that number in a physical sense. Still, even a million seeds look small when confined to a milk crate. But once scattered, they will grow.
“It’s symbolic of freedom,” Novoselick said. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”
The class had help in their quest to collect the seeds. They sent out letters to companies, corporations and politicians around the state and across the country, and plenty of people and organizations were willing to help.
President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain
[R-Ariz.] didn’t respond, but plenty of others did. Bailey Evans, a student in the class, asked her church to help. Calvary Chapel alone was able to contribute quite a few seeds, Evans said.
Evans, like many of her fellow students, had heard about the Holocaust. Reading about it first hand, however, helped give her “more respect” for the gravity of the crime.
“It’s different when you have a first-person view of what they were going through,” student Caleb DeGroot said.
Josh Collins agreed.
“It was a very sad book,” Collins said. “I’ve learned more about [the Holocaust] in this class than with anybody.”
The class was planning to scatter their seeds early this week, in a field across from the high school. Novoselick said some of the students wrote poems to mark the event, which would include some reflection, and the planned to eat Jewish bread.
Hopefully, the flowers will take root to serve as a reminder to anyone watching from the hereafter that there’s at least one group of Arizona students dedicated to the idea of “never again.”