The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust announced the winners of their annual Creative Arts Student Contest, and Dalton Middle School students took first and second place.
Each year, eighth grade literacy teacher Gretchen Abernathy does a unit on the Holocaust, and her students submit an entry to the contest as a class assignment.Linda Olvera-Jones received first place for her poem and Edward Ramirez received second for his allegory.
The theme of the 2018 contest was "Incite, Resist, Document: Weighing the Power of Words." Both students used the opportunity to look at how words were used in powerful ways during WWII.
In Linda's poem,"The Motives of the Inferno," she discusses Nazi book burning as a strategy for "cleansing Germany."
"I wondered how many people back then believed that book burning would work, and highlighted that message particularly in my last stanza," she explained. That stanza reads:
"The Nazis burnt those books because they understood
That those words had more power than they ever could.
They could unbind the public from the party's deceit,
Allow them to judge, resist and be free."
"When I wrote it, I pictured it being from the point of view of a non-supporter who was looking back and telling the story to his grandchild," said Olvera-Jones. "Hitler knew that if people could think for themselves, he would lose power."
Ramirez added that Hitler used words to rise to power. His allegory,"The Shepard," follows a village of animals in a time of distress and great poverty. A new group called the Highlanders move in with their leader, Hans, who is not physically strong, but uses words to establish power. He manipulates the animals and eventually rules as their dictator.
Ramirez said his story must have stood out to the judges because it does a good job of illustrating the idea that words are powerful and allow humans to control so much around them. He said the line 'the pawns are in the palm of my paw' reveal just how much power Hans gained through the careful selection of his words in the story, in the same way that Hitler did.
The students will travel to the state capitol on April 20 to be recognized as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day.