Rationale and Teacher's GuideRationale and Teacher's Guide
According to Nazi racial ideology, all Jews were deemed unworthy of life, regardless of age. During the Holocaust period, Jews were robbed of all liberties. They were starved, beaten, forced into hard labor, packed into closed ghettos, and murdered. Those still alive faced a daily struggle for survival. Despite and perhaps because of these hardships, we see a phenomenon of widespread diary writing, as well as personal and organized documentation efforts. The children, like all Jews, faced similar hardships, and many of them kept diaries as well, though only a very few of these personal accounts survived the war. Ultimately, between 1939 and 1945, one-and-a-half-million children and teenagers were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
In this teaching unit, we present brief segments from the diary of one young Holocaust victim, 13-year-old Eva Heyman, and outline in more detail the historical events in what was then part of Hungary, described in the diary. By comparing historical background information with the viewpoint of one person, sharing her thoughts, observations and fears with her diary, we gain a deeper understanding of the rapidly unfolding catastrophe engulfing this girl’s world in particular, and the Jews of Hungary in general.
How to Use this Unit
We may open the lesson by asking about this phenomenon generally: Why might a child decide to keep a diary in such chaotic, uncertain and threatening circumstances? Is there one typical goal, or are there perhaps several - owing both to particulars of circumstance as well as personal inclination? (Documentation of the events for posterity; sharing distress in a situation that makes empathy difficult? Escape from the harsh day-to-day realities to an inner world? Shyness? Embarrassment?)
Following this, present the brief biography presented at the beginning, and then proceed to the unit itself. Start by reading the diary segments. Consider at relevant points asking: How does Eva's character emerge from these brief quotes? Does she strike you as familiar?
Then proceed to presenting the historical background, which for every quote is featured in the “Learn more” icon on the opposing page. Discuss the realtionship between the two aspects presented: What deeper meaning can we gleam from reading a personal diary entry, above and beyond the "dry" historical facts from the Holocaust period? For each historical background entry, you can find additional related resources from our website by clicking the button at the bottom.