MONROE -- For several weeks, ninth graders at Monroe High School had been assigned to read Elie Wiesel's memoir Night.
The book Mr. Wiesel penned more than 50 years ago was used to introduce the approximately 300 students to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Last week, they learned about multiple facets of one of history's darkest chapters, with some of them getting a firsthand account from a woman who lived through it.
Over a one-hour period, students were jammed standing up into a space that simulated a railroad car. They tasted cabbage and bread, the typical meal given to Jews in concentration camps. In one class, they learned of the staggering number of people killed.
Mr. Wiesel's book, required reading for the ninth graders' English class, and the classroom sessions were for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1.
Deborah Mau, an English teacher who helped organize the program, said the main focus was to have students delve deeply into the Holocaust and World War II. "This gives them a lesson on tolerance and recognizing that not everyone has to look like you and to accept people for their differences and uniqueness," she said.
Nine segments ranging from stories about Holocaust survivors to slides on Dachau to poetry and Jewish holidays were available. Students could attend three sessions.
Marissa Maniaci, 14, attended programs on psychology and the Holocaust, disease and nutrition, and survivor stories, in which she studied the role of a woman who did not survive.
She said the book and the program gave her a greater understanding of the atrocities that took place.
"It hits home. It makes you think about you and your families and what it would be like to lose your parents and your siblings if you were in that situation," she said.
A group of about 100 students also attended a speech given by Irene Miller of Michigan. She and her family fled from Warsaw to Russia, where they were placed in a concentration camp.
Mr. Wiesel wrote Night in the 1950s. The book chronicles his family's placement in Nazi death camps. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for a lifetime of writing and speaking against hatred, racism, and genocide.
Monroe teacher Karla Perez gave presentations on genocide. She explained to students that more than 9 million were killed in the death camps, but that the atrocities of World War II continued with the genocides in Darfur in Sudan, Cambodia, and Rwanda.