Winning Essays From High School Students

Inland Northwest students were asked to write essays or create art on the theme “Worlds That Kill: Nazi Use of Propaganda to Justify Genocide.”

Audry Burgess, a junior at East Valley High School, won first place in the ninth annual Eva Lassman Memorial Writing Contest, and a $500 prize.

Anthony Torchia, a sophomore at Mt. Spokane High School, won second and $250. Bryn Hines, a Lewis and Clark High School senior, won third and $100.

This year the Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust added an art contest.

Kaitlin Troy won first place. Kalil Taylor was second. Both are juniors at Gonzaga Preparatory School.

Sonya Larson, a Lewis and Clark High School junior, took third.

Art entries are on display at the Community Building, 35 W. Main Ave., this month.

The essays and artwork are reprinted and displayed below.

Audry Burgess, East Valley High School

“Influence of Youth through Propaganda”

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” (Saul Bellow). After their brutal loss in WWI, the German people would have followed anyone who promised them retribution. Hitler’s rise to power seemed glorious in the eyes of the Germans but underneath lurked something more sinister. Through the extensive use of propaganda, the Nazi party committed one of the most horrendous acts in human history; an attempted mass genocide of the Jewish people. Propaganda in the forms of movies, radio, and words acted as the ultimate weapon of animosity. By directing the use of propaganda specifically towards youth, Hitler was able to indoctrinate a whole generation. Even in contemporary society, propaganda is used to incite youth to exclude and dehumanize others. But just as words can be used for malevolence, they can also be used to counter such hateful material. In the end it comes down to the individual; how should propaganda be used?

“Give the German nation six million bodies with flawless athletic training, all glowing with fanatical love of their country and inculcated with the highest offensive spirit, and the national state will have created an army,” (Adolf Hitler). From the beginning, Hitler knew his key to unequivocal control was through the youth. The Nazi party became experts in using propaganda to persuade the youth into seeing Hitler as a father figure brought to “restore German greatness.” Posters of Hitler and copies of his book, Mein Kampf, were distributed throughout Germany. Children were required to join the Hitler Youth, which gave the kids’ weekend camping trips to instill their loyalty. Postcards advertised the joys of being in the Hitler Youth and nationalistic pride. Nazis also used propaganda to capitalize on pre-existing stereotypes of Jews, which blamed them for the economic depression and a poisoned culture. The key to indoctrinating the youth into believing this stereotype was education. Jewish teachers were expelled from schools and the subject of “racial science” became prevalent in all classrooms. Young Germans were taught how to differentiate themselves from “inferior races.” Individuals like Julius Streicher, editor of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer, utilized children’s books to spread hatred of Jews. Books like The Poisonous Mushroom portrayed Jews as despicable creatures worthy of death. Movies such as Der Ewige Jude, The Eternal Jew, offered the Nazi’s means for mass dissemination of ideologies, captivating to the youth. And with over 4,700 German newspapers, all controlled by the Nazi Party, children became even more exposed to anti-Semitic propaganda. This complete control of media by such a malicious group of people turned a generation of innocence into a mass of hatred.

In his speech to a group of Holocaust survivors on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, director Steven Spielberg warned of the resurfacing of “perennial demons of intolerance.” Spielberg stated that rising anti-Semitic actions are provoking hate crimes and stripping survivors of their identity. According to Forbes Magazine, violence and hatred against Jews is again on the rise, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe. Acts of prejudice are a re-occurring pattern. Jewish shoppers at a Parisian kosher supermarket were murdered, twelve people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed, and four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels were slain. Last May, an Anti-Defamation League study surveying 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories world-wide found “persistent and pervasive” anti-Jewish sentiments. 74% of those surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa held anti-Semitic attitudes, 24% in Western Europe, 34% in Eastern Europe and 19% in the Americas. What might be building this increased hatred? Persuasion of the youth. Future generations are growing up and being taught prejudice and bigotry. Propaganda is being used, just like in Nazi Germany, to spread hatred and violence. On the streets of Cairo, Egyptian copies of Mein Kampf are being sold to children. Cartoons are being shown that push youth into a mentality of hatred. Even in America media is being used as a medium of abhorrence. Bryan Fisher, formally of the American Family Association, uses his talk show to spread anti-Semitic, homophobic, and sexist views. In our own East Valley School District, members of the Neo-Nazi Party were found handing out flyers to children, persuading them to join their cult. Throughout our world it seems as if racism knows no bounds.

While derogatory propaganda still exists, benevolent words and ideas can be used to counter such hatred. In the words of David Thoreau, “let us be dictated by our conscience.” Great individuals like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. did not sit idly by with a deaf ear to their moral obligations. They took a stand against injustice no matter what sign, poster or law said they couldn’t. As members of a progressive society, we must educate ourselves about the power of propaganda and what can happen when it’s abused. We mustn’t allow ourselves to fall prey to conniving words and pejorative images. We must turn our attention to the youth who are the leaders, thinkers, and the decision-makers of our world’s future. They are born ‘tabula rasa,’ a blank slate ready to be shaped by virtuosity or vileness. We should be encouraging the youth to attend exchange programs and offering mixed religion education to spread ideas of acceptance and compassion. Through children we can build a future of amity and goodwill.

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others,” (John F. Kennedy). Propaganda is a powerful tool for either good or evil. But if the world learns the power of tolerance and acceptance, who knows what might change. Let us utilize the Nazi’s use of propaganda as a cautionary tale. Media should be used to spread the altruistic and genial qualities of society, not to persecute or subjugate. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Anthony Torchia, Mt. Spokane High School

My Grandmother Told Me

My grandmother once told me, many months ago,

About her childhood, in a country far away, in a time long afar, seven decades, 4,000 miles.

My grandmother often spoke of busy Berlin streets, filled with cars and people, people of all hair colors but all of one skin.

She spoke of the party, the Socialist party, the Nazi party, and how it didn’t matter to them if you had the same skin, but that if you loved the Star of David, if your nose was crooked, if you had brown hair and brown eyes, it didn’t matter who you were, you were just one of “them”.

First they started to mark them, with yellow stars stitched.

Upon their clothes, man woman and child, all carried the mark.

Then they started to move them, out of their old neighborhoods and houses, into ghettos, shab and dirt were there to accept them.

My grandmother began to speak of posters, covering the walls, of buildings and the subway.

They spoke of the “Eternal Juden”. She could still recall, blood and greed upon his hands, expecting Germany to fall.

The posters reached out to the husbands, reached out to the children, reached out to the fathers, instructing them to join.

To take up arms, to fight “them”.

Her father tried not to go, at night when he returned from work at the factory, he spoke of men who had left, to join the Wehrmacht, to fight “them”.

Every night, he turned off the radio, telling her and her siblings not to listen to the lies, the lies which the other children at school, the teachers, all seemed to believe so well. For the teachers taught the lies every day, and the students listened, and all had a joyous time doing so.

With Mein Kampf as their guide, they set out, to “cleanse” the Teuton nation, of all domestic aliens, the “bastard” races, those who were eternal.

And we sat there and watched.

Watched the lies spread.

Watched Germany become enveloped.

Watched the public be driven to madness, rising up in the night, burning books, smashing windows with Long Knives in their hands.

Watched the rise to power of the loud man, whom they called der Fuhrer, and watched his speeches swell the millions, resounding with applause.

Watched it conquer east and west, but only so far, stopped by the channel to the west and the cold Russian winter to the east.

Watched the trains set off into the countryside, cattle carts filled with those who wore the Star.

Watched those trains return, cattle carts empty, and watched more masses with more Stars be loaded on, never to return.

Watched it collapse.

Watched it become pressed, from East and West, towards the center.

Watched the city they had grown up in be turned to rubble.

Watched the men with Red and Green march through, chasing what was left of the Reich.

Watched the old propaganda be replaced by the new. Telling them the opposite of which they had previously heard, to look for Swastikas to catch, rather than Stars.

I watched as my grandmother paused, reminiscing.

She looked up to me and said, ‘this happened then. Then was the only time it shall happen I hope’.

But I replied, ‘by Grandmother, I think it still exists today.

The hate

The discrimination

Not on the scale you saw

Not in the schools, or at least not from the teachers.

But what about gays, Muslims, minorities?

Those of us that are not alike, that are different?

Media preaches hate and news about them, an unbearable tide, of hate and discrimination. The overall push—for supremacy, over “them”.

My grandmother looked up at me, past her crooked nose, through her brown hair, concentrating on me with her dark brown eyes…

‘So what are you to do?’

I took time with my answer, I wished to get it right, to impress her, to show her something new, after all she had experienced.

I responded, ‘well, I could start with a program, to preach that all people are alike, and unique at the same time. Then expand it, appeal to all who are different. To combat the media, the propaganda that exists. The messages that push for hate, push the minorities out of this country, where they thought they would be free at last. To make bigger steps toward equality than they ever did towards discrimination. To rise up against this aggression, it is our home too. Is that not what the documents, in the great halls and in my pocket say?

Is that a good start?”

She gazed up at me.

‘Indeed, my little, matzah ball, magnificent.’

Bryn Hines, Lewis and Clark High School

Propaganda killed like no other weapon during the Nazi regime. A weapon of words and images and corrupted emotions, it justified the systematic murder of eleven million people, while also annihilating the humanity within Germany itself. As Adolf Hitler outlined in Mein Kampf, “The first duty of the propagandist is to win over people….the second duty of the organization is to disrupt the existing order of things.” His propaganda distorted the thoughts and thus the actions of those it infected, leading everyday people to comply with doctrines of cruelty. Hitler understood that an enduring Nazi state hinged not only on the allegiance and obedience of German adults, but also on that of their children. He thus inundated German youth with a lethal combination of anti-Semitism and Aryan supremacy, extending his propaganda from the movies to the press to the classroom.

After rising to power on a platform of propaganda, Hitler continued with the same manipulation to solidify support for his ideology. The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, established in 1933, set the foundations of Nazi mass media. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, aligned virulent Nazi ideology with Germany’s vulnerable, post World War One mindset. In conjunction with the humiliating Treaty of Versailles, the War’s consequent economic and political climate left Germany dangerously receptive to Nazi propaganda. Goebbels harnessed this turmoil, subsequently turning Jews into the German scapegoat. Many of the demoralized rallied around Hitler, whom the Nazis deified as their savior. For instance, one widely distributed poster gives the larger than life Hitler a halo of light while others depict him watching over Germany from above, the ultimate hero in the eyes of a child.

Films, such as Fritz Hippler’s The Eternal Jew, emerged as a cornerstone of Nazi propaganda. While earlier media cemented Hitler’s power, this film focused on garnering support for the Nazi ideology, namely its antisemitism. Depicting Jews as degenerate, seedy parasites who spread crime and corruption, it claims that “among the animals, [rats] represent the rudiment of an insidious, underground destruction, just like the Jews among humans.” A montage parallels rats emerging from a sewer with Jews migrating into Europe, a poignant visual that resonated with all ages. The film’s main tenet alleges that the Jews insinuated themselves into Aryan life, hiding their true depravity and filth behind a veneer of European culture. With a force both visual and auditory, it elevated the Aryan race while simultaneously reducing the Jewish race to the worth of vermin. Drawing on centuries of anti-Semitism and Biblical references familiar to children, the film contends that a Jew mocked Jesus, thus condemning his race to “eternal” persecution.

Goebbels additionally overtook the news industry, carefully maneuvering the flow of information within Germany. The Attacker continued what many posters had started, publishing obscene caricatures of Jews while also reviving the medieval idea of blood libel, which purported that that Jews murdered Christian children to obtain blood for Passover. Impressing both fear and hatred, this visual propaganda elicited a simplistic “us verse them” mentality, reminding the youth that hatred was a national necessity. Not even toys or children’s books remained immune. Picture books portrayed Jews as chameleons (the liar), bedbugs (the blood sucker), and tapeworms (humanity’s parasite). The Nazis replaced fact with ideological fiction, replaced truth with toxic lies.

The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls blatantly indoctrinated children into Nazism. Originally intended to ready boys for the army, the program also became the vehicle by which the Nazis forcibly controlled youth thought and action. Rallies and rituals glorified Germany and further isolated the children from Jews. Viewed as the future of Aryan supremacy, boys endured physical training while girls were prepared for motherhood, expected to raise the next generation of Nazi vanguards. Nazism also overtook the public school system as well, integrating Nazism into everyday lessons. Hitler’s portrait was displayed in classrooms, and 97% of all public schools teachers had joined the National Socialist Teachers League by 1936. Furthermore, rampant censorship and book burnings carried out by University students presaged the destruction not just of “un-German” books, but also the “un-German” people. As Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote in 1820, “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

While Nazism ultimately collapsed, propaganda remains a mainstay of terrorism. The Islamic State (ISIS) has proved fluent in social media, disseminating sophisticated propaganda globally. Recruitment videos mimic games like Call of Duty or show American teenagers ripping apart their passports, submitting themselves entirely to radical Islam. The Al Hayat Media Center, specifically aimed at a young, Western audience, produced the so called documentary Flames of War, which chronicles Muslim unification “under one call, one banner, one leader.” ISIS propaganda has culminated with the publicized and unfathomable beheadings. Furthermore, Al-Qaeda’s Inspire, an English language online magazine linked to the Boston Marathon bombing, calls upon Westerners to espouse Islam’s most rigid interpretations. The magazines “hit list”, which claims “a bullet a day keeps the infidel away,” included the late Charlie Hebdo editor.

Propaganda becomes necessary when a group is too wicked for the truth. Just as with the Nazis, media facilitates modern day terrorism. To counteract this poison seeping through our society, we must see propaganda for what it is: an appeal to the vulnerable emotions within us all. If we understand it, we can thus destroy it. Current propaganda lives primarily on the internet, but sites including Twitter and Facebook already prohibit posts they consider connected to terrorism. If the media remains independent and cognizant, checking both emerging groups, like extremists, and more established institutions, like governments, people will do so as well. Reflecting on the Holocaust, we must remember that behind the movies and posters and books, eleven million died. While Hitler poisoned the minds of his Aryan youth, he massacred another one and a half million children. Now, as in then, propaganda is a weapons of lies, and only the truth the end it.

High school artwork winning entries

From left to right, Troy, Taylor and Larson.
Kaitlin Troy, Gonzaga Preparatory School


This sculpture depicts a man standing behind a fence, crestfallen. He is trapped inside the barbed wire cage of a concentration camp. The wire in the fence depicts the words, “The devil in human form.” This was a label given to the Jews by Franz’s mother in the “Poisonous Mushroom,” a story published in the 1938 children’s book Der Giftpilz. The book was written by an anti-Semite, Julius Streicher, who wrote the story as a piece of propaganda to teach children the so-called “evils” of Jewish people. I wanted to show how this kind of propaganda directly affected the Jews and ultimately helped to force them into the devastating life most lived in the concentration camps.

Kalil Taylor, Gonzaga Preparatory School


The reason I created this project was to create something to honor the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a tragic event in history that we cannot forget. “Those who forget about history are doomed to repeat it.” This horrible event caused whole families to be lost, separated, or even killed. I chose to make this as a reminder that we should not forget about persecution of religious groups and for basic human rights. “Der ist schuld am kriege” translates to “He is guilty for the War.” Nazis led the German people to believe that the Jewish people were to blame for the War. This propaganda was common during WWII. It was created to influence the public that the Jewish people were the reason why family’s fathers and sons were going to war and getting killed. My project displays a hand pointing at a Jewish prisoner accusing him for the War.

Sonya Larson, Lewis and Clark High School


In my Anti-Propaganda art piece, I incorporated two iconic women from WWII. I used the body of Rosie the Riveter to resemble a strong woman, capable of success. The head is of Anne Frank and represents the innocence, purity, and courage of many who were victims of Hitler’s Holocaust.

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Students offer a unique perspective on the role of animals in research.  Please check out the contributions from students on the page below:


2017 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Tully L. (Archmere Academy)

Grand Essayist- Kiera T. (Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School)

Finalist- Emily L. (Archmere Academy)

Finalist- Tao S. (Fox Chapel Area High School)

Finalist- Jenna T. (Spring-Ford Senior High School)

Finalist- Hafsa T. (Temple University Math Science Upward Bound)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- Siana F. (St. Ignatius of Antioch School)

2nd Place- Allison S. (Mellon Middle School)

3rd Place- Emmet Y. (St. Ignatius of Antioch School)


2016 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Elizabeth H. (Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School)

Grand Essayist- Hannah L. (Homeschool)

Finalist- Cailtin F. (Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School)

Finalist- Olivia H. (Sun Valley High School)

Finalist- Megan L. (Sun Valley High School)

Finalist- Maria S. (Southmoreland High School)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- Nico V. (St. Ignatius of Antioch School)

2nd Place- Olivia G. (St. Ignatius of Antioch School)

3rd Place- Nicole Z. (Arcola Intermediate School)


2015 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Zachary K. (Norwin High School)

Grand Essayist- Maura T. (Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School)

Finalist- Emma M. (Norwin High School)

Finalist- Elizabeth M. (Fox Chapel Area High School)

Finalist- Victoria P. (Downingtown East High School)

Finalist- Alice W. (Downingtown STEM Academy)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- Michaela C. (Shippensburg Area Middle School)

2nd Place- Tanner S. (Ringgold Middle School)

3rd Place- Olivia W. (Ancillae-Assumpta Academy)


2014 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Coryn C. (Cape Henlopen High School)

Grand Essayist- Caitlin R. (Juniata Senior High School)

Finalist- Billy A. (Saint Joseph High School)

Finalist- Morgan B. (Blue Mountain High School)

Finalist- Andrew H. (Norwin High School)

Creative Writing- Jacob I. (Norwin High School)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- James M. (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

2nd Place- Luke V. (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

3rd Place- Sanam P. (Dorseyville Middle School)


2013 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Andrew O. (Fox Chapel Area High School)

Finalist- Alayna G. (Norwin High School)

Finalist- Jeana L. (Saint Joseph High School)

Finalist- Brock S. (Norwin High School)

Creative Writing- Victoria C. (Norwin High School)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- Stephen C. (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

2nd Place- Meghan L. (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

3rd Place- Felicia J. (Propel Braddock Hills High School)


2012 Student Essays:

High School Winning Essays

Grand Essayist- Nathan A. (Norwin High School)

Grand Essayist- Simran P. (Fox Chapel Area High School)

Finalist- Amy E. (Seneca High School)

Finalist- Chrissy G. (Norwin High School)

Finalist- Natalia W. (Norwin High School)

Creative Writing- John D. (Norwin High School)


7th & 8th Grade Winning Essays

1st Place- Nikki S. (Muncy Jr/Sr High School)

2nd Place- Courtney R. (Pleasant Hills Middle School)

3rd Place- Gus C. (York Suburban Middle School)



Essays from Students at Drexel College of Medicine:

The Horse as an Animal Model by Maggie Wreiole

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Roundworms as an Animal Model by Neketa Kakar


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