To the average ninth grader in San Antonio, Texas, World War II feels nearly as ancient and remote as the Civil War. The stories of those who lost their lives under Hitler’s reign are often little more than footnotes in a history book. But thanks to Francesca Garrett, the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s volunteer social media consultant, history is accessible and relevant to students who often feel most at home behind a screen.
Students too shy to raise a hand after hearing the museum’s three local survivors speak in person can log on to www.facebook.com/hmmsa, and receive an answer to their questions within 24 hours. Francesca’s weekly stories of historic heroism, highlighting individual rescue and resistance efforts during the Holocaust, offer students and parents alike a sense of hope and community. Her featured news stories frequently relate the central roles of the Holocaust (the rescuer, victim, persecutor and bystander) to modern bullying, encouraging students to speak up against a form of injustice they experience daily. Finally, her calls to action allow students to fight modern genocide through awareness and activism.
Francesca’s work also provides a vital connection to the past that will become all the more important as the number of living survivors continues to dwindle. As the museum loses its ability to bring visitors in to hear living history, it must turn to new and innovative ideas like Francesca’s to engage visitors from the comfort of their own homes – and to inspire them to come in to learn more.