Incorporating Literature into the Study of the Holocaust Pam Gannon Teacher Librarian September 2007 The soul of man is a candle. Proverbs 20:27
The “Whys” “Our first task is comprehension, understanding what at first seems incomprehensible.” Berenbaum, The World Must Know, p. 220. Literature is a vehicle that can take us to that understanding.
The Incomprehensible A Sample of Losses of Lives 2 our of 3 European Jews 9 out of 10 in Poland Lithuania Latvia Czechoslovakia How to we comprehend that each number is a person without listening to their stories?
Considerations When Choosing Literature • Goal or objective of lesson • Age appropriate • Readability • Timing in the unit • Choice of genre and form • Fiction vs. nonfiction selections • Remember, a memoir is an individual’s memory of the events.
And… • Accuracy/authority • Events true to location and time • Night Crossing by Karen Ackerman -- many inaccuracies ex. describes a nonexistent war between Austria and German, 1938 • Doesn’t romanticize events • Code Name Kris by Carol Matas
The Error of Omission • Doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes, misconceptions • Through simplistic writing, ex. The Children We Remember by Abells “The Nazis hated the children because they were Jews.” (unpaginated) Lacks sufficient information about antisemitism Toten & Feinberg, Teaching and Understanding the Holocaust, p. 146. Watch for what isn’t there
Lastly… • What gives you the “best bang for your buck”? • Will the piece of writing encourage and lead students to examine their lives and world to see how the theme connects to themselves personally?
Starting Points Key Concepts to understand • Prejudice • Stereotype • Scapegoat
Activity • Piece of scratch paper, fold “hot-dog” style, place fold on your right. • Part 1 Number from 1-5 • Turn paper • Label Part 2, and number 1-5
Rankings • 15 - 19 Points Very open minded honest, willing to study facts • 10 - 14 Points Average • 5 - 9 Points Likely to jump to conclusions • 0 - 4 Points Very prone to prejudice; easily influenced by others
Discussion of Prejudice • What does this very unscientific questionnaire teach us? • Can you really judge something if you have had little or no experience with it? • Can you think of a personal experience when judgments are made about others without knowing the individual? • How can we develop the habit of not being prejudice?
Other Kinds of Activities • “The Hangman” (video or poem) by Maurice Ogden • The Terrible Things by Eve Bunting • The Wave by Todd Strasser
Discuss Answer the following questions: • Since this is an allegory, what is a lesson that it teaches? • How does this story relate to the poems “First They Came” or “The Hangman”? • Put the lesson in today’s terms. What is a dangerous “Terrible Thing” you see in teens’ lives today? How do you take the action described by Little Rabbit? In other words, how do you stand up to the “Terrible Thing”?
Teaching a Historic Topic in ELA • Readers need historical knowledge • Good Literature: a classic human experience woven together by an art of language • Literature allows for a deeper understanding and respect
History = Faces with Facts “The largest single difference between History and Fiction…is that each establishes quite different relationships between writer and subject, and writer and reader.”
Literature = Faces with Emotions • Literature presents facts and people and events • Can “pole-vault” one’s imagination into a world of increased understanding and self-reflection • Enables readers to transfer empathy
Literature in Social Studies • Framework • Introductory course • Time Constraints • Transmit information about broad periods of history • Literature • Gives a face for the numbers/facts • Allows students to construct meaning of an event
Power of Literature • “Fiction and autobiography, if chosen judiciously, have the power to foster historical insight, knowledge, and understanding. By showing how the events of a previous age touched the lives of ordinary people, these forms of literature inject vitality into otherwise arid facts and thus help to excite and sustain historical interest.” Short, Geoffrey, “Learning Through Literature: Historical Fiction, Autobiography, and the Holocaust.” Children’s Literature in Education. 1997.
Across Geographical Areasand Time Periods • Events and stories in context of place and time • Ex. Hungary 1942 vs. 1945; invasion of Netherlands • Balance of time periods, events • Ex. Concentration Camps only focus of Holocaust study
Across Time Periods • Pre-World War II -- 1920’s, early 1930’s • Often neglected study • Important for students to see normal lives of all citizens • Photo Activity: Pre-World War II European Jewish Life Photo Project • Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Exemplary Lessons initiative
1933-1939 Short Stories, Poem, Video • Kristallnacht poem “Crystal Night” and survivor testimony on video • USHMM Survivor Testimonies • Kurt Klein: America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference
Compare the Experiences of Youth • “The Ball” by Hans Peter Richter from Frederich • “Serving Mein Fuhrer” • Alfon Heck’s biography written by Eleanor Ayer • Confessions of a Hitler Youth -- Emmy winning film in 1992
Kindertransport Goodbye Marianne by Irene Kirstein Watts Also authored Finding Sophie and Remember Me. Kindertransport by Olga Levy Drucker
1939-1945 • Ghetto Island on Bird Street • Concentration Camps Night • Forced Marches All But My Life • Resistance Movements White RoseSociety The Man from the Other Side • Hiding/Rescued Tak for Alt; Anne Frank • Escape My Hundred Childrenby Lena Kuchler-Silberman
Post WW II Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming Anton the Dover Fancier by Bernard Gotfryd
“I don’t know how to teach literature.” Always allow opportunity for • reflection • discussion • synthesis • comparison …all higher thinking levels
Reflection • Night by Elie Wiesel • Dialectic Journal
Reading Strategies • Most Important Word strategy • Making Connections via sticky notes • Four Corners activity
Synthesis • What does it mean? So what?
Comparison • Characterization of a main character • Elie Wiesel as a dynamic character in Night • Orlev’s fictionalized autobiography of Island on Bird Street • Compare novel to The Sandgame • Compare novel to the movieversion
Good Literature… • Content and visuals in text appropriate, not overly graphic • One Yellow Daffodil • Personalizes the statistics • Island on Bird Street • Fosters empathy, compassion, and involvement • The Devil in Vienna
In Addition… • Feature the Jewish experience, its diversity and the specifics ordinary life Number the Stars by Joan Lowry Nixon Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter
Good books • Brings students from the Holocaust era into the reassuring present, giving hope to the readers. • Gerda Weissmann Klein - All but My Life • Challenges us to examine our lives • Elie Wiesel - Night • Spoke to fight apathy and indifference
Resources • Not all resources are created equal • USHMM: Annotated Bibliography Videography USHMM: Teacher’s link http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/
Yad Vashem http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/bibliography/home_bibliography.html • Bibliography • Online sales • New Title: Rutka’s Notebook: January - April 1943
Holocaust Teacher Resource Center • http://www.holocaust-trc.org Tak for Alt (Thanks for everything) Judy Meisel’s story Teacher Resource Center’s Annotated Bibliography and guide to videos
Additional Book Lists • Can be found on my webpage http://lhs.lps.org/media • What to Read and When to Read it: Part 1 and Part 2 (Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies by Karen Shawn) • An ADL publication, but not on their website • Using Literature to Teach the Holocaust by Carol Danks, Regional Ed Corps • Sydney Taylor Book Awards (Association of Jewish Libraries)
Caution! • Book Reviews, ex. Booklist • Lists off websites -- libraries, educational resource pages • Always apply what you know about teaching the Holocaust to your choices of materials. Your students depend on YOU.
Remember the Starfish Become a reader and share your “finds” with other Holocaust Education Teachers. Remember WHY we teach about the Holocaust…and the parable of the starfish.