PCA’s fifth grade students got what might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear a first person account of World War II and life in Germany under the rule of Hitler. Lily Gangway, who is a current 5th grader, invited her great grandmother to share her experiences with her classmates. Mrs. Brigitte Gangway grew up in Nazi Germany and clearly recalls her childhood days during the deadliest conflict the world had ever seen.
She brought mementos from her days in Germany, and shared fascinating and deeply personal stories with the students who sat captivated throughout her presentation.
Looking back, Mrs. Gangway says throughout her school days, the propaganda was powerful. German children were taught that they were “super special” and that they should have great pride in being German. They were told that Americans were evil and called them the enemy.
Mrs. Gangway also talked about her life during the height of the war. Two of her brothers had been called to fight for Germany, one of them, only 16 years old. She also shared that during the school day, sirens would suddenly shriek and bombs would explode nearby. The young students quickly learned how to make their way to hide in underground tunnels that had been dug underneath their school building.
Each story brought to life what PCA fifth graders are studying in Ms. Dorothy Jones’ history classroom. They shared what impacted them the most from Mrs. Gangway’s personal account:
"I thought it was nice that your mom let the American soldiers in her home and fed them because she hoped someone was caring for her son since he was off fighting the war."
"It was interesting that Hitler's propaganda made you think that Americans were mean and ugly, but when you saw American soldiers, you realized they looked just like you did. You ran home crying and told your mom."
"I liked the advice you gave us to always respect our flag and the soldiers who defend our freedom."
"You told us that you did not know what Hitler was doing to the Jews, and that you feel ashamed about that."
Perhaps the greatest message that came from Mrs. Gangway’s story of survival and life in Germany, then in America... was to consider what love versus hate would do. She looked at the students, and with a tender heart and soft voice, simply reminded them, “Think how wonderful it would be if we could open our hearts and all love each other.”
Thank you Mrs. Gangway for a beautiful lesson!