In Maryland, the first school year is coming to a close at Flora Singer Elementary in Silver Spring. But last night Montgomery County leaders finally dedicated the school, believed to be the first public school in the U.S. to be named for a Holocaust survivor.
The highlight of the night was not the many speakers, but rather a short documentary produced using interviews with Singer before she died in 2009. Born Flora Mendelovits in Belgium in 1930, she was ten when the Nazis invaded her homeland. She and her two sisters were able to avoid them for close to five years with the help of a Catholic priest and nuns who hid the three in a convent for much of that time.
"I knew that you're not supposed to lie. Lying is a very bad thing. But since they were very bad people, who wanted to hurt me because I was Jewish...I had to lie and pretend I was not Jewish," said Singer in an interview before she died in 2009.
Last night her son Mark played a violin sonata written by a composer who died in the Holocaust.
There was far more to Singer's life than the Holocuast. After coming to the U.S. after the war, she started her family and eventually got a Master's degree from the University of Maryland. She taught French and German for 14 years in the Montgomery County school system. Kyle Heatwole, the principal at Singer elementary, used one of her lessons last week when had his students line the cafeteria with paper flowers.
"Every flower is different and unique. Mrs. Singer often used flowers and used this analogy when speaking with children. While every flower is unique and beautiful...they are all still flowers," he said.
Singer also created the course that county teachers still take during in-service days on how to teach the Holocaust to students.