From Holocaust to Hope

By Emily VanEcko

On Wednesday January 31st students in the AP Human Geography class went on a field trip to the Clinton Library to hear the holocaust survivor, Dr. Irene Butter, speak of her life.

Irene Butter is the daughter of John and Gertrude Hasenberg of Berlin, Germany. Her father was a banker, as was her grandfather. The family practiced Reformed Judaism, but had assimilated into German culture and considered themselves primarily German. Irene had a very happy early childhood throughout her schooling in Berlin and she was very close to her father.

However, Irene and her family were greatly impacted by the German invasion of Holland in May 1940. Ms. Butter was expelled from school and entered a Jewish school for children with all Jewish teachers. Discrimination of Jews had just started to spread across Europe, and they were barred from public places, not allowed on public transportation, restricted to certain hours for store purchases, forced to walk everywhere, and had to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothing. Anticipating what was to follow, Mrs. Butter’s father initiated efforts to obtain a foreign passport or visa from contacts in Sweden.

In a roundup of Jews in June 1943, Mrs. Butter and her family were given ten minutes to pack before they were transported on trucks to a train station before being forced into cattle cars to travel to the transit camp, Westerbork. There they lived in barracks witnessing the weekly departures to Auschwitz. Dr. Butter talked about the horrific conditions she had to endure like malnourishment, disease, and horrible hygiene conditions. While at Westerbork, the documents Mrs. Butter’s father had solicited arrived in the form of Ecuadorian passports or visas; Mrs. Butter isn’t certain which. These documents prevented their deportation to Auschwitz and instead they were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1944. On their way to the new camp they had hope that it would be better and less harsh than their previous one.

At Bergen-Belsen the family stayed together while being housed in special barracks for those with foreign papers. The intent was to exchange individuals held in those barracks for German nationals being held by other countries. Conditions at Bergen-Belsen were unexpectedly worse than the previous camp. Sleeping facilities were wooden bunk beds, three tiers high – two people per bunk. Food was scarce and sanitary conditions were extremely poor. Mrs. Butter’s father was required to do hard manual labor. A brief contact was made with Anne Frank who was in an adjacent section of the camp when she handed off clothes to the girl who only had a blanket to clothe her body.

There was a count to see all the people who were healthy enough to trade for prisoners of war. She and her brother went and got verified for transport during the day. Later that night when her father returned from his daily labor and he was too tired to walk, the children insisted that he get checked by the doctor. So Dr. Butter got dressed and half-carried her father to the doctor’s office where the doctor mistook Irene for her father’s wife. He gave all four the passes they needed for the family to stay together. To this day she does not know if the doctor was trying to help her family stay together, or if he truly did mistake her for her mother.

In January 1945, Mrs. Butter and her family were selected for the exchange of foreign nationals. They took a four-day train ride to Switzerland in which the health of her parents diminished due to the harsh conditions. Mrs. Butter’s father also died and his body was left on a bench at the railroad station of Biberach, Germany. She believes her father died from malnutrition and the effects of internal injuries resulting from beatings received while at Bergen-Belsen. Her mother was still unconscious when he passed.  Upon arrival in Switzerland, the exchange took place and, thereafter, her mother and brother were taken to a hospital. Dr. Butter, who was only 14-years-old at this time, was sent to a DP (Displaced Persons) camp in Algiers, North Africa. There she was able to thrive and regain her emotional and physical strength. This was her first separation from her family and it was incredibly challenging for her.


Through the assistance of relatives in the United States, Mrs. Butter was able to come to America in December 1945. Her mother and brother followed about a year later. She resumed her schooling and with a scholarship was able to go to a university and then pursue a Ph.D. in economics; she graduated as the only woman in her class.

Today she is living with the memories of her scarring childhood but is also finding ways to create peace. She goes around the country speaking to young children, and has created a organization that works hard to promote peace. She is the co-founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Medal & Lecture series at the University of Michigan, and one of the founders of Zeitouna, an Arab/Jewish Women’s Dialogue group in Ann Arbor.

Her biggest message to future generations is that it is your choice to be an enemy or to not be. Her goal is that children in the upcoming generation will never repeat history but instead learn from the violence of the past.

In Little Rock, at the Clinton Center there is a sapling from the only tree Anne Frank could see from her window. The memorial is there to remind us to choose peace and not repeat history.



DIY Winter Decorating

by Emily VanEcko

The Christmas season is finally here, and if you are like me at all the Christmas season will rush by in a flash. Here are three easy DIY decorating ideas that you can do without the stress. Pictures and decorations by Pinterest.

1. Snowman door/ wall decoration

This budget-friendly decoration is definitely a “snow-stopper”!

Just take some black paper and leftover ribbon from your Christmas tree to make a unique and friendly fellow. Even if your door isn’t white, feel free to use any wall or fridge in your house. 

2.  Paper Christmas Lights

These adorable and super easy bulbs will certainly light up any Christmas season. All you need to do is shape construction paper into a light bulb and string it together.

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3. Sock Snowman

This cute little guy is an easy project, and can be made with materials you already have in the house. First, take a spare sock and fill it with rice or cotton balls. Then tie a spare cloth and add a few beads or buttons for a holly jolly buddy.

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4. Popsicle Snowflakes

These special decorations will provide festivity to any wall or room. All that you need

to do is hot glue popsicle sticks together in any shape you choose. Then you can paint them and stick them up on the wall.

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5. Flameless Fire Pit

This radical decoration will create a cozy mood in any room, and is sure to spark a conversation. Click here for step-by-step directions on making your own!

Photo from


Beatification of Father Stanley Rother

By Emily VanEcko

Stanley was born on March 27, 1935, in Okarche, Oklahoma. He was the oldest of  four children and attended the Holy Trinity Catholic Church and school. He worked hard on his chores, went to school, played sports, and was also an altar boy. In high school he made the decision to discern to the priesthood and went to seminary in Texas.  

While in seminary, he struggled with Latin studies to the point that he was asked to leave the seminary because of his inadequate grades. He went to speak with the bishop at the time, Bishop Victor Reed, and he decided to let Stanley have a second chance. Stanley then enrolled at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, and was later ordained as a priest on May 25, 1963.  For five years he worked as a pastor in Oklahoma, then Pope John XXIII sent him to the mission in Santiago, Guatemala.T6e-QSXy0XN8OKgN0UbpAJz5IKA53ysrv9Wp9P7phtOrcIw4nFjFVyboM866NjVU9Ooocwm-AdS_GAgE3KGdotnXvyM=s2048

Although he was in a new and intimidating country, he instantaneously made a great connection with the people of Santiago Atitlan. The main tribe there are the Tz’utujil, the main descendants of the Ancient Mayans. To be able to evangelize and spread the faith, Fr. Rother had to learn both Spanish and the Tz’utujil language. One of his great achievements is his translation of the Catholic bible’s New Testament to the Tz’utujil language. For years he assisted the people with agriculture, helped the sick, and provided faithful company.

A few years later, a civil war between the government and the Catholic Church ravaged the city; Father Stanley was stuck in the war-torn city. The violence grew and spread to the point that Stanley discovered a Hit-List with his name on it. He went back to Oklahoma for his safety, but was majorly conflicted about whether he should return to the village or not.  Finally, he decided that he had to go back and give his life to his people.

He stated that “the shepherd cannot run,” meaning that he has to help guide his people and cannot leave them by themselves. He went back knowing that there was a high chance he would be attacked or murdered. On July 28th,  three men entered his rectory, fought with him, and finally murdered Father Rother. The killers were never found, but the Catholic community was shaken by the execution.

The people of Santiago Atitlan lamented over the loss of their leader, priest, and friend. The people, who were inspired by Father Stanley’s bravery, nominated him for the process of canonization.

On December 2, 2016, Pope Francis officially announced Father Rother as a true martyr for the Catholic Church. He is the very first recognized martyr for America and the first American born priest to be beatified.


The beatification was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, at the Cox Convention Center. Catholics and believers from all over the country attended.  The village’s people that he so dearly loved and that so dearly loved him also came to honor their old friend. The mass started with thousands of people and hundreds of priests and holy people. There were four magnificent choirs who performed individually. Then, the people of Santiago Atitlan walked all the way around the stadium while drumming and marching. After that, the swordsmen took their places around the priests.  Once they were completely ready, Cardinal Ángelo Amato, S.D.B. walked in with the Gospel and many bishops training behind him. The beatification process began with Archbishop Beltran reading a brief biography of the Venerable Servant of God Stanley Rother.  Cardinal Amato then read the Apostolic Letter, which was written by Pope Francis, and deemed Stanley a Blessed person. A giant velvet curtain fell down and a beautiful image of Blessed Father Rother was unveiled underneath. In the final process of the beatification, the cardinal blessed Father Stanley’s relics which were then infused with incense.

Father Rother is an inspirational example of how we should live our lives while accepting God’s plans for us. His bravery is noteworthy and motivating.