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German teens present research to son of former student killed in Holocaust

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center connected a history club at Düsseldorf’s Comenius Gymnasium with Gershon Willinger, who lives in Canada.

Teenage members of the history club at a school in Düsseldorf, Germany, uncovered findings about the family of Gershon Willinger, whose father, a former student at the school, perished in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy.
Teenage members of the history club at a school in Düsseldorf, Germany, uncovered findings about the family of Gershon Willinger, whose father, a former student at the school, perished in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy.

The history club at Comenius Gymnasium in Düsseldorf, Germany, decided to research what happened to 41 Jewish students who attended the school between 1900 and 1945.

The German teenagers learned that seven of the 41 were killed in the Holocaust. One was Guido Willinger, who attended the school in 1915 and 1916.

With help from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, the student club contacted his son, Gershon Willinger, a resident of Toronto, Canada. In a nearly two-hour video call, 15 students and four teachers shared their research with Gershon and his wife, Jane.

That included student identification cards and grades for Guido and his brothers, (Gershon’s uncles) Kurt and Izmar, and locations and photos of the family’s home and business. The school sent materials to Gershon after the presentation.

The call, which Daniella Lurion, an educator at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, facilitated during a trip to Düsseldorf in March, left Gershon “deeply moved and overwhelmed,” stated the nonprofit agency.

An hour-and-a-half recording shared with JNS included eight students and a teacher sharing their findings, including things Gershon didn’t know about his family, and the survivor sharing his thoughts and experiences and posing questions.

“It gives me my family history,” he told the group.

He referred to himself at one point as a “hearsay child,” who had to find out about his family from others since he barely knew his parents.

“It means an awful lot to me,” he told the group.

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