Having read numerous recent essays and articles commemorating the passing of renowned Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, I noted that many consider his memoir “Night” to be the definitive account of the Holocaust.

Wiesel’s narrative is powerful and important, but the work of Janusz Korczak is equally compelling and indelible.

Korczak was one of the world’s first advocates of children’s rights. On Aug. 6, 1942, the Polish-Jewish doctor, writer and educator was forced to gather together the 200 orphans under his care in the Warsaw Ghetto. Refusing all offers to secure his own safety, he led them with quiet dignity to the train that would take them to Treblinka, where he perished with them.

While studying for my master’s degree at the University of Southern Maine, I was fortunate to enroll in the last class taught by E.P. Kulawiec. Kulawiec translated Korczak’s “When I am Little Again and the Child’s Right to Respect” to not only expose the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also, more importantly, to promote being present for children in the most profound and selfless manner.

For close to 30 years of teaching, I continue to gain inspiration and perseverance from Korczak’s words: “You say: ‘Dealings with children are tiresome.’ You’re right. You say: ‘Because we have to lower ourselves to their intellect. Lower, stoop, bend, crouch down.’ You are mistaken. It isn’t that which is so tiring, but because we have to reach up to their feelings – reach up, stretch, stand on our tiptoes – as not to offend.”

I often reflect upon Dr. Kulawiec’s gracious insight and how he mentored me to include Korczak’s ideas in my own teaching and to inspire others to do the same.

Wiesel’s passing invites us to read, reflect and remember the atrocities of war and our responsibility to educate and protect children for the survival of future generations.

Elizabeth Coates

South Portland