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- ROMAN KENT, JEWISH SURVIVOR
Below is information to keep in mind when teaching the content in this unit. This material is intended to help teachers consider the complexities of teaching about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.
This unit provides an opportunity for students to explore Jewish resistance efforts during the Holocaust—focusing on the period from the establishment of the ghettos through the implementation of the “Final Solution.” An opportunity is provided for students to learn about the risks of resisting Nazi domination and the means, scope, and intensity of resistance efforts. These ranged from cultural and spiritual resistance in the ghettos to armed resistance of partisans and ghetto and camp prisoners. At their core, these forms of resistance are expressions of the capacity to preserve what is best in humanity in the face of the worst humanity has to offer. This unit also provides an opportunity for students to consider the role of personal and cultural identity in their lives.
ESTIMATED COMPLETION TIME
Spiritual and Cultural Resistance
|1||Begin this lesson by writing the word “resistance” on the board. Have students brainstorm the meaning of the word and suggest situations when an individual or group of people might decide that resistance is appropriate or necessary. Record students’ responses on the board or on chart paper.|
|2||Introduce students to Roman Kent and show his clip of testimony. Discuss the following questions:|
Info Quest: Roman Kent
|3||Ask students to think about the term “resistance” in the context of the Holocaust. Have them consider and respond to the question, “What were Jews resisting during the Holocaust?”|
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|4||Explain to students that there were many examples of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust even though the risks of opposing the Nazi regime were grave. Using the board or chart paper, record students’ thoughts on possible reasons why most people could not resist (e.g., hunger, sickness, isolation, lack of weapons, care for children, parents, or other family members).|
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|5||In addition to the term “resistance,” have students think about the term “survival.” Take a few minutes to discuss how these terms are similar and how they are different. Ask for volunteers to look the words up in dictionaries and compare the dictionary definitions.|
|6||On the board or on chart paper, write the heading, “Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust” and below write the subheadings “Cultural/Spiritual Resistance” and “Active/Armed Resistance.” While providing students with the definitions and examples from the corresponding Note, have a volunteer(s) write key ideas for each form of resistance under the appropriate heading.|
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|7||Explain that spiritual resistance can often be seen as an attempt to maintain one’s previous way of life and his or her unique identity. The terrible reality in which Jews lived was expressed by the teacher, Chaim Kaplan who lived in the Warsaw ghetto: “Everything is forbidden to us, but we do everything.” Have students consider the meaning of this statement.|
|8||After introducing students to Helen Fagin and Ruth Brand, show their clips of testimony and discuss the following questions:|
Info Quest Helen Fagin
Info Quest: Ruth Brand
Cultural and Spiritual Resistance View More »
|9||Distribute the Cultural and Spiritual Resistance handout. Have students read the excerpts that were compiled from a variety of documents and then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to use the excerpts and clips of visual history testimony that they watched to discuss the following questions:|
|10||End this lesson with a whole-group discussion whereby students respond to the following question: How, if at all, has your understanding of resistance, especially as it pertains to the Holocaust, changed over the course of this lesson?|
ESTIMATED COMPLETION TIME
Partisans and Armed Resistance
|1||Begin this lesson by reviewing the definitions of spiritual and armed resistance and provide examples of each.|
|2||Introduce students to Mira Shelub and Sol Liber and then show their clips of testimony. Follow with a discussion using the questions below.|
|3||Prepare students for the material on partisans by asking the questions below.|
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|4||Distribute the Partisans handout and instruct students to read the material and identify textual evidence to support their responses to the questions below.|
Partisans View More »
|5||Distribute or show students the Pronouncement by Abba Kovner, a pronouncement written and read by Kovner at a meeting in Vilna on January 1, 1942. To provide context, explain that Abba Kovner was a young Lithuanian Jew who was a leader of a youth movement that hoped to take part in building a Jewish state in Israel. A young activist in the ghetto, he eventually became the leader of an armed underground. After a wave of murder during the second half of 1941, in which 2/3 of the Jews of Vilna were killed, Kovner was convinced that the Germans had a plan to murder all Jews everywhere. He had no real solid proof, but a strong feeling based on the events that had occurred in Vilna. Thus, the underground members decided to enter the ghetto and when it was about to be liquidated, they hoped to lead an armed uprising. After reading the pronouncement together, have a discussion based on the following questions:|
Pronouncement by Abba Kovner View More »
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|6||Explain to students that, in addition to the underground partisan resistance that occurred in the villages and countryside of Nazi- occupied territories, there were forms of active resistance including armed revolts that were organized in the ghettos, concentration camps, and even extermination camps during the Holocaust. Stress that it was very difficult for Jews to conduct armed resistance, and have students brainstorm possible conditions or other factors that made armed resistance so difficult. To help put this in context, tell students that the German army in World War II was a very powerful army, and it took nearly six years from the start of the war and an effort unparalleled in history to defeat it.|
|7||Distribute the Armed Resistance in the Ghettos and Camps handout. Have students read the information aloud or in small groups. Discuss the reading with emphasis on the following questions:|
Armed Resistance in the Ghettoes and Camps View More »
|8||After a general discussion of resistance in the camps and ghettos, distribute the Personal Testimonies handout. After the class has read the handout (either in groups, individually, aloud, or for homework), have them respond to the following questions, citing specific information and examples from the text to support their answers whenever possible.|
Personal Testimonies View More »
|9||Assign students the writing prompt below as a culminating activity for this lesson or unit.|
Prompt: Sometimes people who have not studied the Holocaust will ask, “Why didn’t Jews fight back?” In his testimony, Roman Kent addresses this very question when he says, “I’ve heard so many times [it] being said that Jews didn’t do anything, that they went like sheep to the ovens, but it’s not true…”
Based on materials studied in this lesson, prepare a written argument to support the claim that Jews did resist the Nazi regime in a variety of ways. The argument should introduce the topic, establish the significance of the claim, and provide relevant and sufficient evidence from primary and secondary sources to support your argument.
The questions below, used in class or as homework, prompt students to reflect on what they are learning and its meaning in their own lives and in society.
These queries are excellent for journaling, allowing students to create their own primary source material. Keep in mind, the sensitive and emotional nature of the topics may preclude teacher evaluation. If journaling is used as an assessment tool, assure students that they will not be evaluated negatively for expressing opinions that may be different from others in class or from the teacher’s.
The additional activities and projects listed below can be integrated directly into the lessons in this unit or can be used to extend lessons once they have been completed. The topics lend themselves to students’ continued study of the Holocaust as well as opportunities for students to make meaningful connections to other people and events, including relevant contemporary issues. These activities may include instructional strategies and techniques and/or address academic standards in addition to those that were identified for the unit.
|1||Visit IWitness (iwitness.usc.edu) for testimonies, resources, and activities to help students learn more about Jewish resistance in the ghettos and camps.|
|2||Using a variety of print and digital sources, have students research other examples of underground movements or partisan resistance during World War II: Italian, Slovakian, Polish, French, Yugoslavian, and others, and prepare a written, oral, or multimedia presentation on their findings. Encourage students to identify how the partisan movement they researched was both different from and similar to the Jewish partisans’ movement.|
|3||Using the information discussed in this unit, break students into small groups and have them construct their own underground newspaper from one of the camps or ghettos. Articles, announcements, and advertisements should reflect what they have learned about the culture and environment in the ghettos or camps.|
|4||Have students read Excerpts from On Both Sides of the Wall. After reading the text, instruct students, either individually or as part of a small group, to prepare up to five questions they would ask Vladka Meed about her experiences as part of the underground if they could have interviewed her (Vladka Meed passed away on November 21, 2012, at the age of 90). Students should then research the answers to their questions using a variety of sources including Vladka Meed’s testimony (available on IWitness (iwitness.usc.edu), her Biographical Profile, and her autobiography. Their final piece of writing should be written in interview format, clearly indicating what questions were posed and how Vladka Meed might have responded.|
Excerpts from On Both Sides of the Wall View More »
|5||Throughout history, music has been used as a form of resistance and as a catalyst for societal change. During the Holocaust, music was secretly composed and performed in the ghettos as a way to uphold traditions, escape the harsh existence that Jews faced, and to document ghetto life. One such composition, created by Hirsh Glick, became the official song of the partisans. It was translated into several languages and was well known in both the ghettos and concentration camps. Show or distribute a copy of Never Say and have students identify specific words, phases, or lines that reveal Glick’s intended audience as well as the message/s he was attempting to convey in the song. Refer to Yad Vashem’s Heartstrings exhibition so students can hear the song. Ask students if the rhythm is what they had expected or if they had anticipated the song to sound different, and if so, in what way.|
Extend this activity by having students research the role of music in resistance efforts, protest, and/or in raising awareness of social issues in the United States, and prepare a multimedia presentation to share their findings. Encourage students to visit History Now: The Music and History of Our Times at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History website for primary source materials and soundtracks that will support their research (gilderlehrman.org/history-now).
Never Say View More »
|6||Have students gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources about resistance efforts by enslaved African Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries or interned Japanese Americans during World War II and prepare a multimedia presentation. Their research should include information about both active/armed resistance and cultural/spiritual resistance. Examples of primary source materials (e.g., a newspaper written in an internment camp, photographs, interviews) should be included in the presentation. Have presentations posted on the class website so students will be able to learn about resistance efforts by the group that they did not study and to see a variety of primary sources.|
|7||Have students pretend they are a film critic for a local media outlet and their assignment is to review one of the following films: Uprising (2001), Escape from Sobibor (1987), or Defiance (2008). After watching the film, have students write a review of the film and recommend whether people should see it or not. The review should comment on such things as acting, cinematography, etc., but the focus of the review should be on whether the film is historically accurate based on what students have learned in this unit and through additional research on the topic addressed in the film.|
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tyrannyundergroundWarsaw ghettoWarsaw Ghetto UprisingYom KippurZionistZ.O.B.