A Symbol of Courage and Hope

Tree Dedication Commemorates Holocaust Connection
Posted on 06/01/2017
Dede Harris Dedicates Terezin Tree

A little tree with a big history was dedicated on Thursday at Northbrook Junior High School.

The tree is a direct descendant a tree planted in the Terezin Concentration Camp and nurtured by children during the Holocaust.

Longtime Northbrook residents Sam and Dede Harris donated the sapling to serve as a valuable educational tool and a symbol of courage and hope.

Dede shared the story of the Terezin tree at the ceremony, which was attended by seventh-grade students, who just completed their studies of the Holocaust, along with staff, parents, community members and special guests.

As the story goes, a teacher who was a prisoner at the camp wanted to teach the children about a Jewish holiday known as Tu B’Shavt, the celebration of trees, Dede said.

The teacher bribed a guard to bring her a sapling. Then the children planted it, watered it, danced and sang.

Six hundred places around the world were given saplings of the tree, including the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Two years ago, the Chicago Botanic Garden took saplings from the Holocaust Museum tree and nurtured them until they were ready for planting. It is one of those saplings that is planted near the garden classroom at Northbrook Junior High.

“This sapling is a direct descendant of the Terezin tree. Use it to remember the bravery these children had. It stands as a symbol that no matter what our circumstances, we can rise above and make this world a better place,” Dede said.

Sam Harris attended Crestwood School in District 28 for seventh and eighth grade after he arrived in Northbrook as a Holocaust survivor and orphan.

After learning the story through their work at the Holocaust museum, Dede Harris spent two years researching and writing a children’s book, “The Children’s Tree of Terezin,” which was illustrated by Sara Akerlund.

During the ceremony, students Kyle Burke and Sophie Cohn were selected by their teachers to read their own essays on the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivor Steen Metz also spoke at the dedication. He was imprisoned at Terezin as a child and his father died at the camp. “Let’s make sure that we never forget the memory of the people that passed away,” he said. “We must never forget the Holocaust.”

The event concluded with seven students watering the tree as a ceremonial dedication, echoing the children to Terezin who took rationed water to nourish the original tree.

The seven students had participated in the Power Of One Student Leadership Day at the Illinois Holocaust Museum earlier this year. The students were Morissa Lambert, Joanna Gusis, Ari Harkavy, Madison Steele, Kate Rassin, Jonah Prober and Benjamin Earle.

“What better place to plant our sapling than at this school?” Sam Harris said after the ceremony. The Harris’s have been involved with the museum since its beginning and were given one of the 20 saplings for their work.
Kate Rassin waters the Terezin Tree
Students who participated in the Illinois Holocaust Museum Power of One Student Leadership Days conducted the ceremonial watering of the sapling to dedicate the tree.

 Sam and Dede Harris
Sam and Dede Harris donated a sapling descendant of the Terezin Tree.
Kyle Burke reads his essay on the Holocaust
Kyle Burke reads his essay on the Holocaust.
Sophie Cohn reads her essay on the Holocaust
Sophie Cohn reads her essay on the Holocaust.