This activity features several short videos depicting the lives of Jews at different locations during the Holocaust. The videos provide an overview of the lives of Jews who were forced to fight their personal, unique battles as part of the collective battle for survival on behalf of the Jewish people.
Each of these figures have since become symbols of the struggle for survival, each for their own reasons - be it through their creative and ethical endeavors, armed resistance against the Nazis, or their desire to document and to dream in an impossible reality. Some of them also provide us with a glimpse of the communities to which they belonged, their backgrounds and fates. Thus these videos create a kind of human mosaic of events during the Holocaust.
Since some of these figures have since taken places of prominence in Holocaust memory, we have chosen to discuss their stories not individually, but in a wider context of the unfolding events of the Holocaust in time and place.
Students may watch all the videos, or focus on one or several relevant figures. After viewing, discuss the following points. The discussion can take place in the classroom, or in smaller groups, where each group focuses on one character.
- Can we learn something from these stories about the human spirit in the Holocaust period? What coping methods and mental fortitude arises in these videos?
Teacher - You may instruct the students to place a special focus on how each character, in a period of chaos and helplessness, managed to show unique expressions of courage or mental strength.
- Which human story particularly impacted you while watching? Which sections particularly “spoke” to you and why?
- Do you know any stories of inspiring people - in any context - that reminded you somewhat of the strength displayed by the people in these videos? What challenges did they face? How did they deal with them?
For the next stage, we recommend returning to a full class format, and discussing the somewhat more ambiguous picture that follows:
When we approach such a massive number like the murder of six million during the Holocaust, it is difficult to grasp, and to an extent it becomes meaningless. A personal story, by comparison creates more empathy with the listener, who then more easily connects with the character, which to an extent makes it easier to connect to the wider historical context of the Holocaust.
These videos present the stories of some people who are better known, and who occupy comparatively a more central in the general memory of the Holocaust. However, there is often a tendency to “make do” only with the better known, more iconic figures, in approaching the subject of the Holocaust. This not only narrows the topic but to an extent warps it. As educators, it is important that we present as real a picture as possible, telling the stories of the many, the “anonymous”. Knowing the stories of more victims and survivors, from a variety of locations, gives a more rounded, complex view of the Holocaust. One way of doing is this is by watching and discussing survivor testimony
- Teaching the Holocaust through Literature
- "Never Shall I Forget That Night..." Elie Wiesel
- Video: Elie Wiesel: Universal Lessons of the Holocaust
- "From Where Shall My Help Come?" - The Story of Fanny Rozelaar and Betty Mayer
- The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
- Holocaust Survivors Describe the Last Months in the Warsaw Ghetto
- Defiance and Rebellion during the Holocaust: Marking 70 Years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising