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Holocaust Museum exhibit coming to Gulf Middle School

By Staff | Feb 21, 2009

Gulf Middle is the first school in Cape Coral to be visited by a genuine World War II boxcar on loan from the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida. Teachers at the school coordinated the arrival of the historical item with its annual history fair.
The Holocaust Museum recently acquired the boxcar, a 10-ton freight car that measures 10 feet in width and 30 feet in length. According to officials from the museum, 100 to 120 prisoners were transported at a time on board the boxcar to concentration camps during World War II.
Students at Gulf Middle and the community will be able to tour the interactive boxcar next week and listen to local holocaust survivor and author Anatole Kurdsjuck.
The seventh grade also had an assembly with another survivor, Renee Beddouk, on Feb. 12.
Curt Soderstrum, a social studies teacher at Gulf Middle, said he organized the arrival of the boxcar — worth a $200 transportation fee — after attending an in-service for teachers held by Amy Macera from the Holocaust Museum.
He said many students have never had the opportunity to experience this part of history before.
“It was used in Germany and they reconditioned it,” said Soderstrum. “It is a solemn artifact.”
According to Soderstrum, while the boxcar has been to other schools in Lee County its stop at Gulf Middle is the first in Cape Coral. It will sit at the school for a week and the general public will be able to tour it on Thursday, Feb. 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The boxcar includes a 17-panel historical exhibit entitled “Holocaust: History and Memory.” Staff from the museum also will be on hand to answer questions related to the Holocaust.
Gulf Middle will simultaneously display exhibits from its annual history fair. Kathy Adams, media specialist, said Gulf Middle is one of the only schools where every single student completes a project for the fair.
“It’s one of the few schools where every student does a history project,” said Adams. “It gives them experiences they won’t get any other way.
For the history fair, students can choose to complete an historical paper, exhibits, documentaries or ensemble performances. Some of the topics included historical reports of Picasso, Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston Churchill.
Judges for the history fair include other Cape Coral teachers, students who are part of Rho Kappa or the history honor society, representatives from the Cape Coral Historical Museum, the Holocaust Museum and those with a visual arts background.
“We try to get a lot of different types of people to come in to do judging,” said Adams. “They give excellent feedback to improve the projects.”
Students at Gulf Middle are allowed to make improvements to their projects before submitting them to the county history fair competition. Adams said the exact location of the county fair has yet to be decided.
For more information on the Holocaust Museum, visit www.hmswfl.org