Delaney Sweet Werneke

Delaney Sweet Werneke

The Vermont Holocaust Memorial has announced the winners of its student essay contest “Rescuers in the Time of COVID-19.”

Local students in grades 4-12 were invited to honor an individual or group they know or have encountered in their Vermont community by sharing a story of modern day rescue and compare it to rescue efforts during the Holocaust.

Prizes were awarded in four age categories. Winning entries and students included: Madison Murphy, Cambridge, first place, 11-12th grade level; and Hilde Thoeni, North Hyde Park, second place, grades 4-5.

Other winners were from Hinesburg, Middlebury, East Fairfield, Fairfax, South Burlington, Braintree and Burlington.

Winning entries showed remarkable empathy for people caught in both faraway crises and people close to home.

A fourth grader from South Burlington was moved by a sixth-grade neighbor who raised money for a local food shelf, while students from Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax were inspired by Karolina Juszczykowska, who was executed because she hid two Jewish strangers in her house, and by Sofia Kritikou, who hid Jews even though she barely was getting by herself.

Others wrote about small acts of kindness, having a positive mindset, seeing a need in the community and stepping up, not being selfish, positively affecting other people and having hope.

As one Hinesburg student wrote, “In the concentration camps, you needed hope to survive … To rescue ourselves in the COVID-19 pandemic we make hard choices to protect our families and friends, but hope keeps us going and allows us to never give up.”

The Vermont Holocaust Memorial works to end hatred and prejudice through teaching the lessons of the Holocaust.

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