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Facing History & Ourselves

Facing History & Ourselves

Students enrolled in the course Facing History & Ourselves recently met with Dr. Rita Goldberg, an author and Harvard lecturer who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and resistor.

Through this course and the Facing History & Ourselves initiative, Central Catholic students explore the history, causes, and aftermath of the Holocaust.

Thank you to Dr. Goldberg for sharing her stories and insights, and thank you to Religious Studies teacher Ms. Anne Martino, who coordinated her visit.

Ms. Martino summarized the experience below!

Cover of "Motherland"

"Ordinary People Can Do Great Things"

By Ms. Anne Martino, Religious Studies Department

On Wednesday, January 4, 2023, the Facing History & Ourselves class welcomed Dr. Rita Goldberg to class. Dr. Goldberg is the daughter of Holocaust Survivor and resistance worker Hilde Jacobsthal,  and she is the author of Motherland: Growing Up with the Holocaust. She is also a professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. This was her third time speaking with CCHS students, but the first time she was able to do so in person. Dr. Goldberg was accompanied by Jeff Smith who is the Resource Speaker Coordinator for the organization Facing History & Ourselves. CCHS has been working with Facing History since 2011.

Dr. Goldberg graciously shared her mother Hilde Jacobsthal’s story of peril during the Nazi’s occupation of the Netherlands. Hilde Jacobsthal was in her teens when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. She worked as a nurse at an orphanage that was across from the Jewish Theater in Amsterdam. The theater was used as a holding place for Jewish people who would soon be deported to concentration camps and death camps. Together with other Jewish nurses in the Orphanage and Gentile students from a nearby school for education, she helped to smuggle Jewish children to relative safety. While doing this work, Jacobsthal managed to save her parents from deportation several times. In the end, however, she was unable to save them and they were murdered by the Nazis.

After her parents’ deportation, Ms. Jacobsthal disguised herself and managed to hide her identity as a Jewish woman. She survived the war and went to work with organizations in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just days after it was liberated. While there she helped survivors with medical needs and eventually set up a day care center for children who were living in the camp. She met her husband at Bergen-Belsen. They moved to the U.S. in the late 1940s. Hilde Jacobsthal Goldberg died in 2015.

Dr. Goldberg’s visit provided a vivid and honest account of the experience of Jewish people in Europe during this painful time in history. The students were able to ask questions and reflect on the implications of the Holocaust on the families of the survivors.  Students learned that most of the resistors and rescuers did not consider themselves heroes but rather felt that they were doing what was necessary because it was right. Rita Goldberg reminded the students that "ordinary people can do great things."


Dr. Rita Goldberg

About Dr. Rita Goldberg

Dr. Rita Goldberg is a Comparative Literature lecture at Harvard University and the author of several books.

She is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and resistor.

Dr. Goldberg shared her mother's story with students, discussing the stories in her book Motherland: Growing Up with the Holocaust.

This is her third year speaking to the class and the first time she was able to meet in person.


Facing History & Ourselves logo

About Facing History & Ourselves: The Holocaust & Human Behavior

Students explore the history, causes and aftermath of the Holocaust in this one-semester senior elective course. Themes are explored through a series of reading, videos, activities, and reflections. Students reflect on racism and social justice, as well as the importance of global awareness and their own potential for making a difference. Based on the curriculum developed and sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves in Brookline, MA, connections are made to Catholic social teaching, St. Paul’s image that we are all one body in Christ, and our Marist call to reach out to the least favored.

Thank you to Dr. Rita Goldberg for sharing her insights and experiences to broaden the perspective and understanding of our students and faculty.


Dr. Rita Goldberg, in center, with Mrs. Aliali Silverio Belkus '97, Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, on left, and Mrs. Sarah Downs, Director of Library & Media Services, on right.

Central Catholic High School
A College Preparatory High School of Excellence in the Marist Tradition

Founded by the Marist Brothers in the heart of Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1935, Central Catholic High School enrolls 1,200 students from over 60 cities and towns and several countries. Students come from diverse backgrounds to form a caring community of faith, learning, and service. They advance to college in overwhelming numbers (nearly 100%) and move on to successful careers and positions of leadership in government, business, industry, academia, and professions.

Central Catholic High School is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

For more information, please visit www.CentralCatholic.net, call 978-682-0260, or email website@centralcatholic.net.

Mission: Central Catholic High School makes Jesus known and loved.
We educate the whole person for college and for life, with particular care for the least favored and those in need.