2018 Wwiisurvivors

Middle School

Students Converse with Panel of World War II Survivors

Seventh grade Humanities students had the unique opportunity on Thursday, April 19, to interview individuals who were directly affected by World War II. The interviews were part of the culmination of a curriculum unit on the war.

"This is a special chance to witness a sort of living history,” says 7th grade Humanities teacher Tamara Bunnell. “Our students can see how the same war affected people's lives in many different ways."

Students split into multiple groups and listened to personal stories of Lillian Horita and Louise Kashino, Japanese Americans incarcerated in U.S. internment camps as children; Dave Wolters, who served in the U.S. Air Force; Anita Stein, who grew up in Stetting, Germany (now the city of Szvzecin, Poland); and Lou Satz, a veteran who served in the U.S. army.

For nearly an hour, students asked their special guests questions about specific war time experiences. Louise was in high school and Lillian was 11 years old on Feb. 19, 1942, the day President Roosevelt signed the executive order to remove all Japanese Americans, despite their U.S citizenship.

Louise expressed what it felt like to be forcibly removed from her community and treated like the enemy. "There we were, behind barbed wires, with no idea what our future would be," she said.

Louise and Lillian were first bussed to the Puyallup Fairgrounds, where some Japanese Americans were put in horse stalls. After that, they were sent to Minidoka, Idaho, where they suffered through extreme heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.

"I learned a lot about life in the internment camps from Lillian and Louise that I wouldn't have learned just reading a book," says Malachi M. '23.

The personal nature of the conversations allowed the guests to paint the entire picture of their wartime experiences. Humanities teacher Julie Kim and Tamara encouraged the students to treat the interviews like oral history and to ask open-ended questions as well as listen carefully to the answers.

Many of the students who spoke with Anita Stein were captivated by her tales as a young girl in Germany, surviving the war and the numerous occupations by German, Russian, and Polish troops in her hometown.

Seventh grade students finished the WWII unit with a research paper on a topic of their choosing. Some of the interviews provide invaluable sources for some of the students' research. Says Tamara: "One student’s research paper focused on the German home front. You can't find a more real source than listening to Anita speak."