• 2016 Stop Hate Now Essay Contest - DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 31ST

    The 2nd Annual Stop Hate Orange County Essay Contest is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County, The Newburgh Ministry, Inc. and the Orange County Human Rights Commission. The purpose of the contest is to promote tolerance and understanding through education. The essay is open to all students, grades 7-12.

    Prizes Will Be Awarded in Two Categories: 7-9th grade... $200 award 10-12th grade... $300 award


The Courageous Act of Gaston Vandermeerssche
By Logan E. Pitt   

Imagine yourself in a town taken over by German Nazis. The fierce fires spread throughout your small village, and people are dying all around you. No one will offer you help because everyone is looking for it. The Nazis start destroying more homes, and killing more people just because of their Jewish faith. Everyone is in a panic, and all hope is lost, or is all hope lost? Will you stand up to the Nazis, will you risk your life for freedom? Will you save the lives of others and be a hero? There were many people who chose to do nothing, and let the Nazis have control, but then there were those people who chose to stand up to the Nazis, and fight for their freedom. One of those people was Gaston Vandermeersch. Vandermeersch was an undercover agent for the Belgian Army,and helped the resistance. Gaston Vandermeersch showed moral courage because he made an underground organization to act for the resistance. His underground organization transported goods through a network of secret routes In the Pyrenees Mountains, so agents could get what they needed without being tracked.
     The Holocaust was a massive killing of Jews,and was a very horrific lime. Jews would gel tortured and abused just because of their ethnicily.They would get burned alive or die because of inhalation of toxic gas. The Holocaust was led by Adolf Hitler. Hitler wanted to eliminate all Jews because he believed the Jews were evil, and he convinced millions of people to join his army. When Hitler had an army, he set fire to
Jewish properly and killing many of Jews in the process. Nazis captured the majority of Jewish people and put them in concentration camps, where they would be eliminated in horrifying ways. People would ether be shot, experimented on (which would lead to death), intoxicated with toxic gases, or Nazis would demand them to do too much manual labor since Jews had to work 12 hours a day. Jews would also starve to death
in these camps because they were not fed corr(lctly, and they would get so skinny their bones would show. Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Sobibor were just three of the thousands of concentration camps. In the article, Concentration Camps 1933-1939, it says, "The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy"(USHMM 1 ). Concentration Camps were very harsh, and the conditions were unbearable. Jews were killed and tortured in horrible ways. The Holocaust is a point in time nobody can forget.
     Many Jewish Holocaust resisters and rescuers were affected by the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a very disturbing time and affected many people's lives. Vandermeerssche was effected by the Holocaust in many ways. One way he was affected was that he had to move around a lot to stay safe. If he got caught by the Nazis they would kill him on the spot. Another way Vandermeerssche is affected by the Holocaust is that his life was on the line all the lime. If a Nazi from the holocaust had found him he would have been killed. If the Holocaust didn't happen, Vandermeerssche would have probably lived normally and continued studying Mathematics and Physics.
     Vandermeerssche made two different organizations supporting the Jews . He helped the Jews by transporting goods and information through his courier lines so Jews could get what they needed. In the article Gaston Vandermeerssche WW/1 Dutch intelligence leader's story inspired book, film it said, "Vandermeerssche established a courier line over the Pyrenees Mountains, delivering microfilmed intelligence information to Spain, to be forwarded to Belgian military headquarters in London" .(Silvers 11)
Vandermeerssche established his courier line and organizations up in the Pyrenees Mountains to stay hidden and so he could help the Jews without being caught. 
     Vandermeerssche's act of of courage was complex in a way, and well thought out. Gaston started off riding bikes and going 800 miles to get to Toulouse. He cycled a lot to get to Toulouse, showing his determination. At Toulouse, Vandermeerssche led a platoon settled by a close chateau. A chateau is a kind of fortress. In the article Gaston Vandermeerssche it says, "With no money, and their only food supplied by villagers who had little themselves, they shuttled from town to town as the army tried to establish a secure base in front of the Germans who were, by now, advancing into France" (Telegraph 3). Vandermeerssche barely had anything, but he still cycled all the way to Toulouse. Then Vandermeerssche started a courie line. A courier line transfers money or other goods by hand. In the article Gaston Vandermeerssche It says, "eventually established a new courier line over the Pyrenees supported by a network of around 2,000 Dutch and Belgian agents"(Telegraph 10). Vandermeerssche established the
courier line up in the Pyrenees mountains to stay hidden. In the courier line, the transport of intelligence material to the Belgian consulate in Barcelona. All kinds of goods, information, and money were sent through the courier line. The agents probably used the goods to either feed or supply Jews. They used the information to know where to go to stay safe or to develop plans on fighting against the Nazis. The money was probably mainly used to follow through with their plans or buy what they needed.
     An agent from London asked Vandermeerssche to make an organisation . This organization was named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherland since she was the one who asked for the organisation. This organization was also in the Pyrenees mountains, and it supported a group of over 2000 Dutch and Belgian agents. In the  article Gaston Vandermeerssche it says, "In July he was contacted by an agent from London and given a new assignment. The agent told him that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands had asked the Belgian government-in-exile to help "pick up the pieces" of the Dutch Resistance that had been heavily infiltrated by the Gestapo. He had been chosen to form a new organisation"(Telegraph 9).  Vandermeerssche also participated in many resistance activities such as dropping sugar cubes in the German trucks to ruintheir engines. He also made an underground newspaper La Libre Belgique.
     Vandermeerssche was very smart ever since he was a child. He got many scholarships and went to college practicing many studies. According to the article it states, "A bright child, Gaston won scholarships from a fund for gifted children and went on to study Mathematics and Physics at the University of Ghent"(Telegraph 1). Vandermeerssche also was good at staying hidden, which helped him make his courie line and organization. His ability to be stealthy helped him be able to help the resistance in a way that they wouldn't get killed in the process. Another skill that helped Vandermeerssche is his organizing skills. If he had no organizing skills his courier and organization would of failed and went out of control. But, Vandermeerssche was organized so his organization and courier did well and the information and goods were transported through them with no trouble. And of course there is always determination. Vandermeerssche was very determined, and to make an organization and a courier you need determination to keep them going. Also, when Vandermeerssche was younger he cycled over 800 miles on a bike to get to Toulouse. This shows he was determined because cycling 800 miles on a bike isn't easy, but he did it and got to Toulouse.
     Vandermeerssche had many admirable actions, and I learned a few things from them. The first admirable action he had was the amount of determination he had. Vandermeerssche had a lot of determination which led to his accomplishments. I learned if you are determined you can accomplish any goal you're trying to accomplish. Another quality of Vandermeerssche was his organizational skills. He was organized which helped him run his courier and organization. I learned if you are organized you can control your thoughts and your work, and keep everything organized. I learned that helping people can make a difference. Helping people can make their lives better and also can solve problems occurring in their lives.
     Students should stand up like how all of the rescuers and resisters did in the Holocaust. Students can start by combating prejudice and hate. They can do this by being friendly to everyone,and if someone is causing a problem tell someone, tell your teachers, your parents, or even your principal. Do not be a bully, Instead be a friend. There is no reason to hurt someones feelings on purpose, and if a student sees anyone
who is feeling sad or unhappy they should invite them to hang out with them. You never know, maybe that student will get a new friend. Gaston Vandermeerssche helped the Jews and let them have their Jewish belief, so why don't people help too and let everyone be equal.
     The Holocaust was a really harsh time but people like Gaston Vandermeerssche, and all the other rescuers and resisters help fight for their freedom. They stood up to the nazis, and eventually because of them the holocaust was ended. Because of them everyone with the Jewish religion can continue having their religious beliefs without having to worry about someone taking their freedom away. Students can do that, too, students can fight prejudice and hate. Students can stand up to bullies and put hate crimes to an end. We can all just work together and end racism and the act of being prejudice.

Unsung Heroes
By Abigail Bachyrycz

During the Second World War that began on September fust nineteen thirty-nine and ended on September second nineteen forty-five, a horrid, hateful group of people known as the Nazis persecuted millions of people because they did not agree with their beliefs and ideals. These Nazis came fi'mn Germany. Their leader was Adolf Hitler. Hitler had a very strong hate against African Americans, Czechoslovakians, the Polish, the handicapable and especially Judaism. He had a very strong sense of nationalism and believed that Germans were the best race of people and they should have control of everything and everyone. Hitler ignorantly believed he needed to purify the country and the world from Judaism, African Americans, the handy-capable, the Polish, and the Czechoslovakians. He knew it was wrong therefore he planned the transition to prejudice of these groups slowly, secretively, and strategically. He slowly pushed the ideals of
the Third Reich on his people through propaganda campaigns. The main focus of the campaign was the Jewish population. Once the people accepted his ideas as the truth he began to move the Jewish people to ghettos. "These ghettos were small, dirty, and were more like a cage then an actual place to live. There was no food and strict rules that if not followed could result in injury and possibly death" (Bartoszewski, Wladyslaw T. The Warsaw Ghetto: A Christian's Testimony).Then they were moved to concentration can1ps. At the concentration camps the Nazis would get rid of the weaker parties (the ill, children, and elders) and split the women and the men into separate groups. From there they were starved, tortured, humiliated, and worked to the point of death. Once they were no longer able to work they were killed and buried in mass graves. For years Germany hid this from the world. It was later known as the Holocaust. Millions of people were killed out of cold hatefhl blood during this time. We remember this saddening dark event in human history because we never want anything as evil as the Holocaust to ever happen again. Luckily, there were people who did not just sit down thinking about how horrible the situation
was. There were people who stood up and fought to save their brothers and sisters from the hands of hate.
     One of the organizations that helped rescue these people from the Third Reich was Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants. Located in France, this organization translates to the Children's Aid Society. This organization is one of the several French institutions dedicated to providing hiding places for Jewish children. "This group along with the Eclaireurs Israelites de France (a Jewish scouting movement) and the Mouvement des Jeunesses Sionistes (a Zionist youth movement) saved as many as twelve to fifteen thousand Jewish children from deportation and almost certain death" (www.ushmm.org) Not only did organizations emerge to help save people from the Holocaust, but sometimes individuals took on this dangerous, righteous task. A German industrialst named Oskar Schindler saved over a thousand Jewish people by himself. He used his ammunition factory in Poland to employ Jewish slave laborers. "Oskar Schindler was appalled by the treatment given to them by the Third Reich and decided to smuggle children out of ghettos. Then he used his wealth and connections to get another adjacent factory" (networks.h-net.org/h-holocaust) He claimed that women, children, handicapped people, and unskilled workers were all important to his business.
     With these courageous acts of morality also came physical and emotional risks. One of the physical risks was that Oskar Schindler worked closely with the Nazis. He did the whole "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" scheme. If someone found out that he was against the Nazi cause and their propaganda or if someone figured out he was smuggling Jewish people to other countries, Schindler probably would have been murdered along with the innocent people he promised to help. Also, there were heavy emotional tolls taken on by the rescuers. The operations and individuals could not let people know they were smuggling people into countries. Technically smuggling is illegal, even if it is for a great, morally acceptable reason, it is still illegal. Besides the illegal activities, the rescuers often witnessed the terrifying treatment of the persecuted, had to live with those images in their minds and had to make promises to traumatized people that they were not positive they could keep. If you were in Germany at the time you had to be even more secretive because the Third Reich had propaganda everywhere. Adolf Hitler's plan had brainwashed his citizens into hating the Jewish people. A large portion of Germany's citizens were wholeheartedly loyal to Hitler and his army of Nazis. Most of the people of Germany persecuted were Jewish because Hitler used them as a scapegoat for all of the problems in Germany.
     Personally, I have tremendous respect for the rescuers of the Holocaust who did not hesitate to help their fellow human beings. Through their courage and heightened sense of morality they gained friends and helped family names survive and grow. They aided in comforting and relieving the threats of the Third Reich by getting them to a safe haven. These people did not contribute to rescuing because they wanted to feel superior or to feel better about themselves. They did it because it was simply the right thing to do.
Today, prejudice and hate are still present in our everyday lives. We see this in the bullying that occurs in our educational setting. Sometimes kids are picked on because they are "different". How do you combat uniqueness? You can not expect to change a person because you do not like their differences. There is no good reason to degrade their personality and humiliate them. What I believe we need to do is educate the juvenile populace and help them understand that everyone is different and unique. They need to be exposed to different people and cultures. In the United States we even make fun of people from different areas of the same country we live in. Children should be told not to laugh or whisper to their friends when they see someone they think is "weird". They need to accept how each person looks, how they act, how they dress. They need to accept each person's humor, and learning style. I believe we need to stop playing the "Which doesn't belong" game. When we can love easier then we can hate, acceptance will come naturally with it.
     To conclude, the Holocaust was a time in history that the whole world should be embarrassed with. It was a period that focused exclusively on the hate of other people and how to destroy them. In the end, Nazi Germany was defeated in WWII and the Zionists were given their own home land. Nothing will ever redeem the inhumane acts that were forced on millions of people. We can not go back and fix what happened. Now, all we can do is learn and grow from our mistakes. We can make sure that history does not repeat itself. Together we can teach future generations that hate is more than a strong word, it can be an act as well. We need to learn to cooperate and live with one another. Look at Africa and the Middle East; Africa has tribes killing each other and the Middle East is actively killing people in their country that don't believe in the same religion as they do. We can talk about what happened during the Holocaust all we want, but until we put these "stop hate" ideas into action around the world and not only in our own country will things change.