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Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County announces History Day awards

What do Helmuth James von Moltke, a German lawyer during World War ll and Mordechai Anielewicz, the principal leader of the armed Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, have in common? Both are heroes who paid with their lives and are the subjects of the winning entries in the 2017 Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County Connecticut (JHSFC) National History Day Contest.

Claire Faulkner

Claire Faulkner, a senior at the Journalism and Media Academy Magnet High School in Hartford created a documentary about Helmuth James von Moltke, a distant relative. Her research helped her gain a perspective on what it was like to be a German citizen before and during the war and to understand why Helmuth James took a stand against Hitler and Nazis.

The first in her school to compete in the contest, Faulkner took home the JHSFC Special State Prize for the entry that best incorporates Jewish History, heritage and/or a Jewish personality. Her film also two national awards at the University of Maryland: one, for the Senior Outstanding Entry in World War II History; the other for the Senior Outstanding Connecticut Entry.

Staples High School senior James Gikas of Westport is the recipient of the JHSFC Fairfield County Special Connecticut National History Day Prize for Senior Individual Performance. In “Let Us Not Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter: The Jewish Resistance Movement During the Holocaust,” Gikas assumed the role of Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Jewish Combat Organization which was instrumental in engineering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

While visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Gikas was struck by the tragic, largely unheard stories of Jewish resistance to the Nazis during the Holocaust. Using his performance skills and intense research, Gikas wrote and performed a piece that depicted the efforts made by the resistance. “However tragic or ineffective they may have seemed [they] served as a beacon of hope, giving Jews across Nazi-occupied Europe the will to survive,” he said.

In addition to his experience performing, James is also an accomplished violinist. He spent the summer at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute which is recognized nationally as a premier summer training program for aspiring young musicians.

Both prize winning entries can be viewed at the JHSFC Archives. For more information, visit

CAP: James Gikas

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