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Unit 2: pp. 14-25

Section 6 (pp. 14-15): Expulsion of Jews from the Town

This chapter again deviates from the story of Hannah's family to the general story of Polish Jewry. There are two main points:

  1. The section tells of the expulsion of Jews to the Treblinka death camp. Hannah and her parents lose their extended family, while the Polish wagon drivers watch indifferently, collaborating with the Germans. However, this chapter does not go into details and descriptions of the death camp and the killing of Jews. We mention the concept and do not expand on it, in a way that suits the students' ability to take in the distressing story. Some teachers may feel that it is too early to mention the killings, and they can skip this chapter and continue reading the story from the next chapter. Other teachers may consider it important to give this information. We recommend that each teacher give due consideration in advance to the difficulty of teaching this chapter, and consider whether to present it to the class.
  2. The memory of the world that was lost - Hannah describes how photographs of Jews who had been sent to their deaths flew out of the photography store. This line leads us to discuss with our students the memory of the Holocaust and of the world that was lost. How can we commemorate Jews who died and whose photographs blew away in the wind?

Q: How do you think Hannah feels when she sees both her parents crying? Is it normal to see your parents crying?
A: It is a difficult sight for a child, and not a common one, which we usually see only at very traumatic points in a family's history.

Q: In the first chapter we saw that Jews and Poles had a good neighborly relationship. What does this chapter describe?
A: The Polish wagon drivers brought their Jewish neighbors to an unknown place. In Hannah's description we see anger and disappointment in these carters.

Q: Why does Hannah tell us about the photographs from the photography store?
A: The pictures that were lost emphasize the loss of the Jewish world. The people were murdered and no trace was left behind - no grave, no headstone, not even their photographs.

Section 7 (pp. 16-19) - Escape and Concealment

These pages return to the story of Hannah's family. They have three main points:

  1. The story of the Holocaust begins to affect Hannah cruelly. Until now Hannah has remained relatively protected and the story of the Holocaust hardly affected her personally, but now the situation is different. Although she is still with her parents, their ability to protect her is limited and they themselves are dependent on the kindness of strangers.
  2. In this chapter the situation of the Hershkowitz family begins to deteriorate. Hannah makes use of a technique used by many children coping with distress: her imagination. She does this when she hides in a sack of potatoes. Hannah encourages herself, "I am a potato, I am a potato. I mustn't move, potatoes don't move. Don't make a sound - potatoes don't speak. You must even breath silently so that they don't hear. If the Germans come - you mustn't yell. Potatoes don't talk." We see that although the situation is serious, she draws on her mental strength to help cope with her fear and the danger of the situation.
  3. Regarding the issues of bystanders and rescuers, it is important to emphasize that there were different responses to the predicament of Jews among the Polish population. Previously, we met the janitor and the carters, from whom it can be seen that the Polish population did not help the Jews. But here we meet a woman who helps them despite the danger to herself. She goes from being a bystander watching indifferently to extending her hand and offering help, at risk to herself and her children. It is important to emphasize to students that the punishment that this woman will face if she is caught is death. It is also important to emphasize in the discussion with the students that not many people saved Jews during the Holocaust. At the same time, every Jew who was hidden during the Holocaust was helped by a number of non-Jews, Righteous Gentiles, who put themselves in danger in order to help.

Q: Hannah tells how, at the height of the war, she receives a new dress from her mother, which makes her very happy. How can you explain this?
A: Hannah is still a child, despite the terrible reality of the war. Therefore, the dress makes her very happy and perhaps even enables her to escape for a few moments from the difficulties of her everyday life during the war.

Q: So far, we have met Poles who didn't make any attempt to help Hannah and the Jews: the school janitor and the carters who transported Jews to the east. Here, for the first time, we meet two people who try to help Hannah's family. What will happen to them if they are caught?
A: The Polish woman doesn't say so explicitly, but the punishment for hiding Jews is death.

Q: Why was it difficult to help Jews during the Holocaust?
A: Practically, saving Jews requires enlisting resources, people who will cooperate and keep the secret. Beyond that, not everyone is capable of going against the tide and extending a hand to people in need when the norm is indifference to the fate of the Jews.

Q: Hannah describes how she was forced to part from her parents and hide in a sack of potatoes. How did she feel when she was hiding in the sack? What did she do to deal with her fear?
A: Hannah was very scared. To overcome her fear, she imagined that she was a potato and in this way withstood the nerve-wracking experience until she returned to her family.

Section 8 (pp. 20-23): Parting from Daddy

  1. Separation from the father - The situation becomes increasingly serious and the family's situation becomes more and more dangerous. In an attempt to find a way out, they are forced to make a decision whether it is better to try and stay together at any price, or whether there’s a better chance of surviving if they split up. Hannah's parents disagree and in the end the decision is made by her father.

    This is the place to note that an important way of teaching about the Holocaust is through discussing the dilemmas of the period. The discussion of these dilemmas is not intended to decide which decision is more correct, and it is necessary to avoid any note of judgment. The use of dilemmas is intended to bring the students closer to the people about whom they are learning and create an understanding and empathy towards them. The younger the students, the more caution is needed when discussing dilemmas in the classroom and the discussion must be adapted to the students' cognitive level.
  2. Rescuers - we meet more people who are prepared to put themselves at risk in order to help Hannah and her family.
  3. Reversal of roles between Hannah and her father - Hannah tries to persuade her father to stay with her and her mother, and even warns him of the dangers in the forest. Here we have a further expression of the reversal of roles between parents and children that was characteristic of the world of the Holocaust - Hannah tries to protect her father.

Q: Why does Hannah's father insist on leaving his wife and daughter and joining the Partisans in the forest?
A: Over and above the reason he gives to his wife, Hannah's father understands that they can no longer wait in hiding and that time is working against them. He also does not think that they will succeed in acquiring another false document, and therefore he decides that he has no other choice but to leave his family and try to join the partisans.

Q: How does Hannah react to the idea that her father will join the Partisans?
A: She tries to dissuade him from the idea on the grounds that it is dangerous. She tries to protect her father and look out for him.

Section 9 (pp. 24-25): Hiding in Warsaw

These pages deal with the life of Hannah and her mother in hiding in Warsaw.

  1. The Rescuers - The chapter describes the everyday price paid by the family which rescued Hannah and her mother. In addition to living in constant danger that they will be caught and pay with their lives for helping Jews, they pay a heavy daily price: not inviting guests to their home, not revealing the secret to anyone, and sharing their home and their food with strangers. This should be discussed with students.
  2. Hiding in Warsaw - Hannah describes the difficulty of living in concealment: not seeing the sun or breathing fresh air for two years, feeling like a guest in a stranger's home, and constantly being on guard in case an uninvited guest should turn up and discover Hannah and her mother.

Q: How does Hannah describe life in hiding in Warsaw?
A: Fear of being caught, many restrictions, a feeling of strangeness at home (only reading books when the girls are not there, not giving the answers to questions so as not to annoy them).

Q: How do you think the daughters in the Skovroneck family feel about the fact that Hannah and her mother are living in their home?
A: On the one hand, it is not easy to "host" strangers in your home, share your books with them, and be careful not to reveal your secret. On the other hand, there is the knowledge that you and your family are doing something very important and saving human lives.

Outline: