A touring virtual reality experience designed for educating youth on the events of the Holocaust came to Southmont on Monday.
The visit from the Eva Virtual Reality Traveling Exhibit comes on the heels of a trip to Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau by South teachers and administrators earlier this month.
Through the joint efforts of WFYI Indianapolis and Ted Green Films LLC, Hoosier students and educators alike will have the opportunity to experience “the next best thing” to making a trip to the former concentration camps.
“We’ve been going to one school a week for the entire school year, so we’ve been pretty busy,” WFYI Eva Project Distribution and Impact Manager Jessica Chapman said. “We’ve been going all over Indiana — as far (north) as Angola and as far south as Leopold. We’re booked up the rest of the school year.”
Roughly 150 students each week participate in the optional sessions, Chapman said. Instructions on how to use the devices and what participants can expect to see are clearly explained before each session.
Multiple videos featuring historic and modern-day imagery are viewed by participants who don the Google Goggles utilized by the program. Three short videos are highlighted with one narrated by Kor, a well-known Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate.
Taking about 15 minutes to complete, the virtual reality portion is followed by a question-and-answer session. Schools can prepare for the event with the help of an educational toolkit delivered in the days leading up to the visit. It includes a one-hour version of the film, an educators’ guide and Kor’s book "Surviving the Angel of Death."
Despite its short length, Chapman said the video presentation has a noticeable impact on those watching.
“We’ve found this to be a really powerful experience,” she said. “It really puts the students in the shoes of Eva. They feel like they are actually standing in these locations.”
In her years as a Holocaust educator and advocate for forgiveness, Kor would lead tours of concentration camps throughout eastern Europe. Kor passed away at Auschwitz on July 4, 2019, while accompanying a CANDLES tour group.
She was 85 years old.
“How many of these students from Indiana are going to have that chance to go to Poland,” Chapman asked. “Unfortunately, none of them are going to be able to go with Eva since her passing.”
The videos transport viewers to four locations at Auschwitz where Kor had her experiences. They include the selection platform where she and her parents were separated, the blood labs where she was experimented upon, barracks similar to those in which Kor stayed, and a crematorium where Kor’s family is believed to have passed.
The crematorium is also where Kor announced her forgiveness for her captors.
“I have to say, more than in any other area, (Montgomery County) has amazing donors who have stepped up and seen the importance of this,” Green of Ted Green Films LLC, said, citing the recent South teacher trip to Poland. “It really hammered home the idea of this incredible obligation we all feel ... to carry these messages forward.”
The exhibit is set to visit North Putnam Middle School today in Roachdale.
For more information about the exhibit, visit www.wfyi.org/programs/eva.