Suskind and US
Aparna Bryan Alfa
In September '98, I became a paid intern of the Wang Center and I was issued the title of "Teen Ambassador," while not really knowing what my job fully entailed. But soon enough, probably during the first week of work, my two bosses made over two pounds of popcorn and led the other four Teen Ambassadors and myself to the "Walter Suskind Memorial Fund" section of the theater.
There, I slowly learned of a man named Maurice Vanderpol and his wife Netty who had so much veneration for one man that they decided to create a weighty endowment fund in his name. Walter Suskind was the individual whom they wished to honor through the endowment fund. Suskind's life story unraveled as I watched videos on his involvement in W.W.II and his relationship with De Hollands Schouwburg, the Dutch Theater in Amsterdam. As the year flowed by I was approached by Bryan who wanted to partake in the Seevak Scholarship project in which groups of three students would build web sites on individuals who have somehow contributed to humanity. Suskind's name had long faded into the back of my mind and I was busy with thoughts of other humanitarian activists as Bryan, Alfa Tiruneh(the other group member) and I searched high and low for someone to focus our project on. For weeks we discussed, debated, and disagreed on who would be the subject of our project. Eventually after having led many tours around the Wang Center and having discussed Suskind's life work to other students, I was hit by the idea that Suskind would be the ideal subject to base our project on. Also by creating a web site for this man, he would finally receive long-overdue recognition as a savior. Alfa and Bryan, who were also involved in Wang Center activities, agreed that Suskind was the man that we were looking for.
Although creating a web site on Walter Suskind and trying to do his spirit and name justice had not been an easy process, it has definitely been a worthwhile experience. After extensive research on Suskind, it became apparent that the project was more than a group competition, it is a way of honoring a man who saved hundreds of lives and struggled against the greatest adversity and triumphed, in many ways. Hopefully other people who access our web site will realize this too.
History has always been my favorite subject but until this year I never understood why. The mere idea of being able to understand another person's past experiences or another civilization's culture lit a flame of intrigue within me. The harder it was to understand a past occurrence, the more interested I would become. Perhaps that is why I am so fascinated with Walter Suskind. The Holocaust is a rare event in history which seems to defy logic and reason, shadowed by a cloud of pain and a wish that it never occurred. I have never been able to understand how humans could commit such atrocities and I don't think anyone else can either. However the window of opportunity to hear the stories of the Holocaust from the actual survivors is rapidly closing, and this project presented the opportunity to keep it open permanently.
I have participated in the Wang Young at Arts program for the past three years. Through this program I have grown a great deal. I have learned so much about drama and the arts, I have looked inside myself and found potential I never knew existed, and I have established relationships that I will continue to cherish and build upon for the remainder of my life. It is scary to think that for me to benefit the way that I have, the Holocaust had to have happened. Walter Suskind had to have happened. However, at the same time it brings light out of the darkness. A man was put into a horrible situation and in that situation he built as others destroyed. His actions had repercussions that will be felt by thousands for years and years to come. However, his story could not have lived on by itself. It takes the enormous efforts of others to ensure that his tale will continue to inspire and affect others. Maurice Vanderpol, to me, is the reason that Suskind's story is alive today. By his determination and remarkable vision, I have gained so much. So to Mr. Vanderpol and Mr. Suskind: Thank you. Thank you so much. I truly feel blessed and although I can never repay what you have given me, I can do my best to see that others receive your inspiration that I hold so dearly.
When I first heard of a drama club for youth in the Wang Center, I was in utter disbelief. The summer before I entered the 11th grade, I had contacted every theater in the city to inquire about available programs. Every time the answers were the same: " Okay - we would be happy to have you and the first check for $50 is due..." If it wasn't the financial burden that disqualified a possible program it would be its location, the level of safety, and the amount of creativity involved.
When I finally checked out the Wang Center program, I found out that it wasn't a mere dream to acquire training in the arts in one of the most safest and distinguished places in Boston for free. I joined Young At Arts: Drama Club during my junior year in high school. The drama Club was a unique ensemble that was made up of people from every corner of the city and its suburbs. Besides the presence of diversity, ultimate freedom is given to the ensemble members to write the contents of the show.
The most amazing advantages of this drama club is the availability of resources to create and explore talents. Having worked on the project and having learned of Walter Suskind's difficulties in taking great risks with extremely limited resources...I feel highly appreciative. I think he would like the Young At Arts at the Wang if he was to see it now. His work in saving the lives of so many had not just ended with them. His heroism has motivated others such as the Vanderpols to preserve the quality of life among the youth of the country that Walter and his family had once dreamed of coming to. Even in death, Suskind is gradually touching the lives of youth on different sides of the ocean.
After my first year with the drama club, I reapplied the next year and was again lucky enough to get involved. Throughout both years I have had an amazing experience at the Wang Center; I owe it to the dedication of the Vanderpol family and to the memory of Walter Suskind and his incredible deeds. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to share Walter Suskind's greatness with the world.
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