Discussion with contemporary witnesses Petra and Franz Michalski

Bild von Petra und Franz Michalski

Through the initiative of the AG Begabungsförderung, Mrs. Michalski and Mr. Michalski were invited as contemporary witnesses to the elementary level of the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule on November 5, 2018. The 80 seats in the auditorium quickly filled up with pupils from the elementary and secondary school levels who had come accompanied by their teachers, parents and teachers.

It became quiet and the seven-year-old Joona B. opened the event with the words: “We welcome Petra and Franz Michalski. They are the grandparents of the boy who was insulted and attacked for months because of his Jewish faith at the secondary level of our school.”He then reported on how the pupils had dealt with the subject of anti-Semitism and the role of the “silent heroes” up to now.

The next ninety minutes were about the silent heroes and their actions. Mrs. Michalski stood up and began to talk about her husband’s memories from the National Socialist era. Franz Michalski, who was the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, documented them in his work: “When the Gestapo rang the front doorbell: A family in a mixed marriage and those who helped them [1].”

Through the powerful depictions and the pictures hanging on boards in the auditorium, on which the family members, relevant places and individual heroes of their survival story were depicted, Petra and Franz Michalski made it clear to the students to what extent anti-Jewish policies and the associated restrictions imposed on Jews in the population continued to intensify and to what extent the deeply shocking experiences from that period continue to have an impact on those affected to this very day.

The eyewitness accounts of the Michalski family not only served to remind us of the crimes that led to the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews under National Socialism, they also served to remind us of the increasing violence and discrimination against Jews in Europe, which are linked to the rise of anti-Semitic attitudes.

At the end of the event Franz Michalski read the names of his silent heroes: Alfons Thienelt, the policeman; Erna Scharf; Gerda Mez; Marquis de Respaldizza; the hoteliers, Horst Schneider and Mr. Hetschel. Franz Michalski and his closest family members owe their lives to these people. In Yad Vashem they were honored as “righteous among the nations”: Gerda Mez, Erna Raack and their parents Ida and Ernst Scharf. Unfortunately, the other helpers could no longer be located at the time of the tribute.

“We, Petra and Franz Michalski, would like to stress that even in the worst times it was possible to help people in need if you had courage, wisdom and charity. We hope that today’s youth will recognize and observe the signs of the times and will promptly protest against any form of injustice.”

We feel greatly honored and grateful that Mrs. Michalski and Mr. Michalski will speak again on January 21, 2019 as contemporary witnesses for the students of the Friedenau Gemeinschaftsschule.

Christian Discher PhD

[1]Edited by Barbara Schieb: METROPOL Publications of the Silent Heroes Memorial, Volume 3.

Above the clouds – Students from the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule are guests for the second time at the Kinder-Uni on September 20, 2018.

Under the motto “Above the Clouds”, the Brandenburg University of Applied Science (TH Brandenburg) opened its doors again this year on September 20, 2018 and invited students to take part in an experimental lecture.

Accompanied by their parents and with the active support of our educator Janina, 22 children from the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule made their way to Brandenburg an der Havel, Magdeburger Straße 50, in the early morning with plenty of sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. The university students directly supported the course of the event after our arrival at 8:30 a.m. with a program organized especially for the children. They were also available to us during the day as a contact person and escorted the children to the workshops.

All seats in the lecture hall were occupied when Ms. Steinicke promptly asked the attendees to congratulate a student who had their birthday by singing the song “Happy Birthday” at 9:00. The room became quiet once more and the president of TH Brandenburg, Professor Wieneke-Toutaoui, appeared in front of the audience.

In addition to the thematic introduction, Professor Wieneke-Toutaoui explained to the children how important it is to question facts, to “not believe everything that is said” and encouraged them to check out various books from libraries. The ability to critically question circumstances and to understand learning as a process of constant reflection or as a task of one’s own positions is vital for scientific work.

With his introductory lecture on the history of flying, Dr. Sturm was not the only one who captivated the audience. The audience was also amazed when Professor Flassig and the scientific staff let the homemade hot-air balloon float through the hall and nitrogen fogged the screen on which our camera child projected the event.

In the workshops that followed, our children had the opportunity to dive into virtual worlds in three different scenarios with different tasks, to discuss the basics of programming games and to get to know the structure of the hardware.

After a guided tour through the machine hall, a video sequence explained to the students how the fuel cell works. Afterwards, those interested in building fuel cell cars developed their own ideas for maintaining the cars’ drive using the materials provided, such as installing a second fuel cell or generating energy using solar cells. In an additional workshop, another group of our students were able to demonstrate their basic knowledge on models in order to boost their performance.

This is not the first time that we have been given the opportunity to visit the Kinder-Uni of the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. We were already on site as guests in September 2017 and enjoyed an extensive offer. However, it is not only the attractive campus and high-quality program that make us happy to return to TH Brandenburg. The individual and friendly support in connection with the organization of this event is by no means a given nowadays.

Visiting extracurricular learning venues and taking part in scientifically guided workshops extends beyond familiar forms of standard teaching. Due to the link between theory and practice, the curricular connection and not only within the framework of talent promotion, offers an opportunity to make it clear to children that knowledge and skills acquired at school are of considerable importance to our society.  The Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule would like to thank the Brandenburg University of Applied Scienes for this eventful and exciting program; we are looking forward to further visits in the future. My special thanks go out to Janina and the parents who accompanied us for their support.


Dr. Christian Discher

Urban Farming – June 2018 A Peek into the Bee Colony

After the theoretical examination of the nature of the bee as part of the AG Begabungsförderung, the students at the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule gained insights into the inner workings of an example of a superorganism: a bee colony. The student’s parents and grandparents came along to this event, which took place in the Berlin neighborhood Pankow on June 12, 2018, a lovely day with pleasant temperatures. Those present were able to get up close and personal to examine the differences between the three types of bees (workers, drones and queen) as well as observe various developmental stages of the breeding cells of the workers and drones and the differences between harvest-ripe (capped) and unripe honey. While enjoying freshly harvested honey in the garden, thanks to the active support of my husband, we gave the children practical insights into the work of the hobby beekeeper, discussed the interdependence between humans and bees and addressed questions such as the threat and control of varoa mites, among others.