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San Diego woman brings the history of the Holocaust to classrooms

10News Leadership Award: Jan Landau
Posted: 12:37 PM, Nov 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-01 20:59:14-04
jan landau butterfly project

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - One San Diego woman is changing the world, one butterfly at a time.

Jan Landau’s family knows the horrors of the Holocaust. She made a promise to them, never to forget.

She co-founded the Butterfly Project. It brings the history of the Holocaust to the classroom and introduces an art project, painting ceramic butterflies.

Each beautifully painted butterfly represents the life of a child killed in the Holocaust.

The Butterfly Project is being taught in schools throughout San Diego County. Volunteers have also brought the lesson to schools around the world. Now ceramic butterflies are displayed on walls on every continent of the world.

"We have hope that even in difficult times….things will get better," Landau said.

This lesson is told, not by teachers but the children of Holocaust survivors, bringing the past to life in a way that helps students make the world a better place.

It starts with understanding history. Landau brings the Jewish star to show students. The star was required to be worn on the outside of clothing.

“To identify them as Jews and be treated poorly," Landau said.

Jews were stripped of their names and given only a number and a uniform. The living were forced to take pieces of clothing from those who passed. If they were fortunate to find a way to sew pieces on their uniform, it would keep them warmer in the winters of Poland. A volunteer speaker tells how her father used a pocket.

“My dad took this pocket in hopes he’d find food to put inside this pocket."

Another volunteer speaker show slides of Jewish prisoners sleeping, one on top of each other, on wooden planks, so tightly they couldn’t turn over. They had to rest their heads on their metal food bowl.

“There was no mattress, no blanket, no pillow."

The mission of the Butterfly Project is to honor and remember the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust by creating a butterfly for each life lost.

“It represents their voice. They have a voice…we remember these children that were killed," said Landau.

Landau and her team share the trait that gave their families a happy life: gratitude.

“The most important lesson of the Holocaust is to have perseverance; we all go through stuff, but we have to persevere.”

They teach the dangers of hate and bigotry and the importance of being what they call an ‘upstander.’

“To stand up for not only our rights but the rights of others," Landau said.

For her mission to spread love and remembrance around the world, we rewarded Jan Landau with the 10News Leadership Award.

Thank you for giving us beautiful butterflies, and the knowledge to make us better people. People who will rise together against the darkness of evil.