Akron’s annual Holocaust Arts & Writing Contest is reaching across the globe.
Students from Chemnitz, Germany, one of Akron’s sister cities, are participating in the contest this year and Akron has invited students from Kiryat Ekron, Israel, another sister city, to join in the future.
“This will be the first international Holocaust arts and writing contest,” said Billy Soule, Akron’s assistant to the mayor for community relations. “Few cities do this kind of contest.”
Soule shared the expansion plans for the contest Monday with Akron City Council members, who will vote next week to approve $10,000 for the contest. The city acts as a pass-through agency for the funds, which are raised through private donations.
The idea to expand the contest was born out of discussions between Akron and Chemnitz leaders, who have had a close relationship for many years.
Akron opened up its arts contest to Chemnitz students this year, with plans to later also include them in the writing and multimedia portions. Ninety Chemnitz students submitted entries, with teachers in Germany selecting the winners.
Soule, who provided Chemnitz teachers with the brochures and rules for Akron’s contest, plans to travel to Chemnitz in May to further discuss the contest and how to make it successful. His trip will be paid for through the donations as opposed to by taxpayers.
“This is where all this history took place,” said Soule. “They have a different perspective.”
The five winning Chemnitz entries will be displayed, along with the top submissions from Summit County students, at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St., from April 7 to May 5.
The library also will host the Holocaust Arts & Writing Contest Awards Ceremony and Holocaust Commemoration on April 29. The awards program will be at 11:30 a.m., followed by the commemoration, which will feature Nelly Toll.
She will discuss her award-winning book Behind the Secret Curtain: A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood During World War II.
Toll was a child living in Poland when she was forced with her mother into hiding from the Nazis during World War II. She imagined a better world, creating 60 watercolor paintings. She will share her stories and artwork during her talk in Akron.
A larger exhibit of Toll’s work is on display at the Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, Massillon, until May 18.
The theme for this year’s art and writing contest was “Women of the Holocaust: Stories of Loss, Resistance and Survival.”
Locally, the contest was open to students in grades 6-12 in public and private schools in Summit County. First-place winners and their teachers win a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Esther Hexter, who has been involved with Akron’s Holocaust commemoration and contest for more than 20 years, is thrilled to see it expanded beyond Summit County. She said a Jewish synagogue in Chemnitz was destroyed by the Nazis and was later rebuilt.
“Why should kids outside of the Holocaust care about the Holocaust?” Hexter asked. “Halfway around the world, we are having a cultural exchange on this specific topic. I think it’s amazing — from both ends.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.