I add colour to Auschwitz registration photos to educate people about the Holocaust | Metro News

I’ve been colourising photos professionally since 2015.

From Lenin to Winston Churchill; from the Titanic leaving port in 1912 to the Battle of Verdun. I have covered hundreds of years and added colour to iconic photos and to those in which the subjects will forever remain anonymous.

But it was colourising the photo of Czeslawa Kwoka in 2016 that had the biggest impact.

Czeslawa, pictured above, was a 14-year-old girl who was killed in Auschwitz. She was a Polish Roman Catholic and was murdered one month after the death of her mother.

The photo went viral in a matter of minutes. The reaction was absolutely incredible and shocking. I was contacted by TV channels, newspapers and magazines from all over the world wanting to know more about the photo and about Czeslawa.

More importantly though, I received messages from teachers asking if they could use the photo in their classes and a 12-year-old girl wrote a poem inspired by the photograph and sent it to me.

That’s when I realised how much people still had to learn about the Holocaust and the potential of something so simple as a colourised photo in helping to educate.

It’s important to share individuals’ stories and photos because it’s very easy to get lost at the sheer scale of the Holocaust.

Six million is a huge number, but when we break down this number and transform it into 6million individual and different lives, pairing a picture of their face when we can, people can begin to understand the impact that the Holocaust had, and still has, on lives.

Six million human beings had everything taken away from them due to pure bigotry and hate.

In the same week as the photo went viral I asked the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum permission to colourise more photographs. They gave me access to their archives, where almost 40,000 concentration camp registration photos are stored.

The photographs were taken between February 1941 and January 1945. The preserved photos, 31,969 of men and 6,947 of women, constitute only a fraction of a vast Nazi archive destroyed during the camp evacuation in January 1945.

The ones that remain were safe thanks to the heroic efforts of Wilhelm Brasse, the photographer, who was also a prisoner, and his colleagues.

They were ordered to burn the entire photo collection during the evacuation of Auschwitz, but instead they covered the furnace with wet photographic paper before adding a great number of photos and negatives.

This prevented the smoke from escaping and made the fire go out quickly. When the SS guard who was supervising left the laboratory, Brasse and his colleagues retrieved the undestroyed photographs from the furnace.

After getting permission from the museum to colourise the photos that Brasse saved I put together a team of volunteers who helped me create Faces of Auschwitz, a platform where we not only colourise these photos, but tell the stories of those in them.

I know that when I am colourising them that this is probably the last photograph ever taken of this person.

Staring at each face for two to three hours is hard, especially since I need to read their death certificates before I start to colourise. I spend the process wondering what was going through their minds while they were being photographed.

It is emotionally draining work but it is important because I cannot forget what they represent and what happened to them, something that really sunk in after I visited Auschwitz and the room in which the photos were taken.

When families of those we have colourised approach us to share the stories and photos of their relatives, it adds to the huge responsibility of our undertaking, but also proves that we are on the right path.

By the end of this year I would like to have colourised at least 200 of the photographs. Ultimately, I hope that our project, and upcoming documentary, reaches a broader audience and we can continue to share the stories and faces of those who so tragically had their lives taken away by hatred.

You can find out more about Faces of Auschwitz here, and Marina’s work here.

Active shooter training for schools: Teachers shot with plastic pellets

Cops, teachers, and more participat in ALICE training.
Staff video by Michael Izzo


An active-shooter training exercise at an Indiana elementary school in January left teachers with welts, bruises and abrasions after they were shot with plastic pellets by the local sheriff’s office conducting the session.

The incident, acknowledged in testimony this week before state lawmakers, was confirmed by two elementary school teachers in Monticello, who described an exercise in which teachers were asked by local law enforcement to kneel down against a classroom wall before being sprayed across their backs with plastic pellets without warning.

“They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing,’” said one of the two teachers, both of whom asked IndyStar not to be identified out of concern for their jobs. “They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times.

“It hurt so bad.”

Now, these teachers and the state’s largest teachers union want to stop this from happening in other Hoosier schools. The Indiana State Teachers Association is lobbying lawmakers to add language prohibiting teachers from being shot with any sort of ammunition to a school safety bill working its way through the Statehouse.

“What we’re looking for is just a simple statement in this bill that would prohibit the shooting of some type of projectile at staff in an active shooter drill,” said Gail Zeheralis, director of government relations for the ISTA during testimony in support of House Bill 1004 before lawmakers Wednesday.

First responders practice ALICE training methods during a hands-on simulation Monday, June 4, at the University of Sioux Falls Salsbury Science Center. (Photo: Rabekah Tuchscherer / Argus Leader)

Sheriff has stopped using pellet gun in teacher training

The White County sheriff said Thursday that his department has conducted similar training before but, after receiving a complaint, will no longer use the air-powered device, called an airsoft gun, with teachers.

Teachers at Meadowlawn Elementary School were supposed to be receiving what is called ALICE training, an “options-based” approach that encourages students and teachers to be proactive in their response to an active shooter and teaches tactics that include rushing a shooter in some situations.

Thousands of schools across the country, including many in Indiana, are using ALICE already. Shooting teachers with plastic pellets is not typically part of the training.

‘This is not normal practice’

“I’ve worked with teachers in other districts who have gone through ALICE and this did not happen,” said Barbara Deardorff, ISTA’s UniServ director for 16 school districts, including the Twin Lakes district and Meadowlawn Elementary. “This is not the normal practice.”

Deardorff said the Meadowlawn incident, which she said she learned about several weeks ago, marked the first time she’d heard of such practices being used on teachers in active-shooter training.

White County Sheriff Bill Brooks, whose department led the training in question, said it has conducted active shooter training with schools for several years and has previously used the airsoft gun. 

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The plastic pellets they used are 4.6 mm in diameter — slightly larger than a standard BB.

“It’s a soft, round projectile,” he said. “The key here is ‘soft.'”

‘It’s a shooting exercise’

Brooks became sheriff in January and said he couldn’t say if or how many times teachers had been shot with it previously. He was present for part of the January training, but not the portion in which the airsoft gun was used. 

“They all knew they could be,” Brooks said. “It’s a shooting exercise.”

Brooks said all the teachers involved signed up to participate. He said the department was told several weeks after the training that one teacher was upset by it. They’ve since stopped using the airsoft gun with teachers, he said. 

“We were made aware that one teacher was upset,” he said. “And we ended it.”

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Both of the Meadowlawn teachers who spoke to IndyStar said they were not warned by the officers beforehand that anyone would be shot. They said they were given paintball masks, which law enforcement said were a precaution for different scenarios throughout the training.

The teachers said the airsoft gun was used in several other exercises as well. Neither of them were hit with pellets during those scenarios, but several other teachers were. 

All teachers in the first scenario were shot, though, where teachers were lined up facing a wall and shot across their backs. 

Teachers whispered warnings to colleagues

One of the teachers said she was waiting in the library with her colleagues as the first small group of teachers was led into a classroom for that first session.

“The firsts group went in and we heard them scream and yell,” she said. “We thought, ‘What is going on?’”

The group came back out and whispered a warning to the next group — the officers had told them not to tell their colleagues what had happened — but she still wasn’t expecting what came next.

“It was like a quick spew of those pellets,” she said. “Most of us got hit several times in our backs.”

She said she had welts and one spot where the pellet broke her skin. It was scabbed over for several weeks.

Both teachers IndyStar spoke to said all Meadowlawn teachers and some cafeteria staff went through the training in January. There were two sessions, with kindergarten, first- and second-grade teachers and cafeteria workers getting trained in the morning and third- through fifth-grade teachers in the afternoon.

Training injuries on the rise

A picture posted to the school’s official Facebook page on Jan. 4 shows teachers sitting around wooden tables with a law enforcement officer standing before them.

It’s captioned: “Thankful for the partnership between our school and local law enforcement. Today our staff received training from The White County sheriffs department. Safety is priority at ML!”

Twin Lakes Superintendent Michael Galvin released a statement Thursday, saying that the district has met with the sheriff’s department and the local chapter of the teachers union about the ALICE training. 

“The Twin Lakes School Corporation is committed to providing a safe environment for its students and employees,” Galvin said. 

Juli Topp, vice president of member representation for Twin Lakes Classroom Teachers Organization, said she met with the Meadowlawn teachers last week and heard the same story from more than a dozen different teachers.

“They voluntarily signed up for this training, however they had no idea they were going to be shot,” she said.

Ken Trump, a school safety expert in Ohio who works with schools nationwide, said he had not heard of another incident in which teachers were shot with plastic pellets but that he’s heard many stories of teachers getting injured during active shooter training.

“Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “With some of these options-based trainings, we’ve seen (training) that’s just really over the top.”

Trump said he’s heard of a growing number of workers compensation claims and even some litigation stemming from teachers injured during these types of training programs. An Iowa school insurance company reportedly paid out more than $250,000 in claims related to active shooter training injuries over a two-year period. 

Oftentimes, these programs are taught in a “train the trainer” model. One or two law enforcement officers will receive the training through an organization and then go back and train others in their department. It can learn room for interpretation, Trump said.

One teacher said the officers told the Meadowlark staff that police had to go through this same training.

“But we are not police officers,” she said.

The two teachers who spoke with IndyStar said they wanted to do the training. Even after getting shot with plastic pellets that left welts, bruises and drew blood, they finished the rest of the training.  

“We didn’t want to quit the training because it seemed important,” said one teacher. “It really was more than it needed to be.”

She said the other training exercises were useful, including one in which an officer pretending to be an active shooter shot the airsoft gun while teachers hid under desks and were given tennis balls to throw at him until he stopped shooting.

One of the provisions included in House Bill 1004 is a requirement that all schools conduct an active-shooter drill at least once a year. However, it does not mandate any specific type of training program. The drill requirement was among 18 school safety recommendations made last year by a committee pulled together by Gov. Eric Holcomb in the wake of the massacre at Parkland High School in Florida and last spring’s shooting at Noblesville Middle School. 

The bill will be up for amendments in the Senate’s education committee next week, and Meadowlawn teachers are hoping language will be added to keep other teachers going from what they experienced.

Sheriff Brooks said that’s unnecessary, though. 

“We don’t need legislation in White County,” he said. “We’re just not going to do it.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wendy McNamara, seemed amenable Wednesday to an addition of some sort. The Evansville Republican is a high school principal in Evansville Vanderburgh Schools. Because the bill has already passed the House, though, McNamara will have to work with the Senate committee to get an amendment passed.

“I don’t believe something like that should take place in an active shooter drill,” she said.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

Read or Share this story: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/21/active-shooter-training-for-schools-teachers-shot-with-plastic-pellets/3231103002/

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China’s navy to join Thailand and Malaysia for training exercise as military seeks to build bridges with neighbours

China and the United States are competing in a new round of military diplomacy in Southeast Asia this week, as Beijing plays catch-up in an effort to build trust with its neighbours, analysts said.

A joint naval exercise to be held this weekend between China, Malaysia and Thailand in the Strait of Malacca follows US Defence Secretary James Mattis’s visit to Singapore and Vietnam, which started Monday.

China will send three destroyers and frigates, two shipborne helicopters, three Il-76 transport aircraft and a total of 692 servicemen to the nine-day exercise named Peace and Friendship 2018.

The drills start on Saturday and will be held off Port Dickson and Port Klang in Malaysia.

China’s defence ministry said the exercise was intended to demonstrate the common will of the armed forces of the three countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region, strengthen practical exchanges and cooperation, and enhance their ability to jointly respond to various security threats.

“It does not target any country,” it added.

The drill will be held amid the increasing bitter competition between China and the United States, which has spilled over into a stand-off between the two countries’ navies in the disputed South China Sea.

Last month an American warship and a Chinese one came close to colliding in the waters near the Spratly Islands.

It is the second time China has taken part in a drill in the Malacca Strait, which links the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

The exercise will follow US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’s visit to Vietnam and Singapore for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defence Ministers’ Meeting, which started on Monday.

Mattis will meet key leaders to reaffirm defence relationships and conduct bilateral and trilateral meetings with senior officials, the US embassy in Singapore said.

China claims a large area of the resource-rich sea, but other countries, including Malaysia, have their own competing claims.

Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam and the self-ruled island of Taiwan also claim various parts of the South China Sea.

Military and diplomatic observers said the trilateral exercise was a way to show how Asean countries and China can work together on defence and security issues, especially in less sensitive areas.

“For Malaysia and Thailand it’s a way of showcasing confidence-building with China and also signals that they aren’t choosing sides in the Great Power rivalries in the South China Sea.

“Their intention will be to demonstrate the resolve to promote regional peace and stability with anyone who wishes to do so,” said Collin Koh, a maritime security specialist at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

“China will likely see this as yet another showcase to prove that along with Asean countries it can safeguard peace and stability, and of course it may feed into the overall justifications China uses customarily to oppose external interference in the South China Sea.”

Zhang Jie, a South China Sea expert from Chinese Academy of Social Science said the drill could help China improve its military cooperation with Asean countries, which has long been a weak spot.

“Take into consideration that such a military exercise would have been prepared long ago.

“It would not necessarily be aimed at United States, but is more of a trust-building exercise between China and Asean countries,” said Zhang.

“A stable relationship between China and Asean is vital for China to push its Belt and Road Initiative further and empower China when competing against the US in the region,” Zhang added.

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