SAN ANTONIO — The first Holocaust Remembrance Week in Texas was made possible because of legislation written by State Senator Jose Menendez.

  • Over 600 students took part in 21-day unit on Holocaust
  • New law requires Texas public schools to dedicate week to the Holocaust
  • Plessner made donation towards the program

It became truly memorable because of an educational donation made to the SAISD Foundation, and the over 600 middle school students that participated in a 21-day, in-depth unit on the Holocaust itself.

Rene Plessner is the man behind the donation, and it wasn't his first gift in an effort to increase awareness of the Holocaust.

It just so happened that this time, his kindness coincided with Menendez getting SB 1828 unanimously passed during the 2019 legislative session. It requires all Texas public schools to have a week dedicated to learning about the Holocaust.

The wheels were in motion for something big.

Sixth grade teachers Jacob Brenckle from Longfellow Middle School, and Susann Whitecotton from Harris Middle School took up the challenge of combining forces and coming up with a unit on the Holocaust. The task was daunting, but they got it done.

"We actually had to cut it down. We had enough material to do an entire semester class," said Brenckle.

Working with this material, and the age of the students involved was tricky at times.

"My students are still very young at heart. It's difficult to give them this curriculum, this kind of information, without destroying their innocence," said Whitecotton. "I also realized how open-minded my students could be, and how much they want to make a difference."

The donation will cover two years of the program. The funding paid for supplies, teacher training over the summer, and two separate field trips to the Holocaust museums in San Antonio and Dallas.

For Senator Menendez, who met with students who participated in the unit, the first Holocaust Remembrance Week was a mixed bag of emotions.

"I saw a lot of emotion. I saw some tears. I want them to feel a little bit of that pain, so that they can empathize, because we all have to be able to find that empathy in our hearts," said Senator Menendez.