Mr. Mariusz Bieniek is a teacher at Tadeusz Kosciuszko High School in Kraśnik, Poland. After delving into the history of the local Jewish community, he began to write articles on the subject and explore the history of the Holocaust. While participating in a 2010 seminar for Polish educators at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies, Bieniek came across a fragment from the diary of a survivor named Hania Pomeranc…from Kraśnik. "I could feel my heart beat stronger," recalled Bieniek. "It was no coincidence that among twenty-five educators from Poland, it was me who got the text about a Jewish woman from Kraśnik."
Hania Pomeranc was born in Kraśnik, 1910. She had seven siblings and her father worked as a carpenter. She married several years before the war and had three children by the war's beginning.
Following the invasion of Poland 1939, the Nazis set up a ghetto in Kraśnik and forced the Pomeranc family and the rest of the Jewish population inside. In 1943, the Nazis transferred her to the Budzyń forced labor camp, where they murdered almost her entire family. Against all odds, she survived Auschwitz, Majdanek and Bergen-Belsen. After being liberated by the U.S. Army, she stayed in the Mariendorf DP camp in Berlin until 1947. She paid her respects to her murdered family in Kraśnik and then left for an unknown destination.
After two years of searching, Bieniek acquired a copy of the survivor's memoirs and received approval for assistance from Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies. Adopting Yad Vashem's emphasis on the personal stories of survivors, Bieniek produced an educational booklet for high-schoolers on the life of Hania Pomeranc before, during and after World War II. Containing materials in Polish and English, the booklet includes entries from Pomeranc's diary, excerpts from her testimony to Yad Vashem, and a map and photos of sites connected with her life in Kraśnik. The finished product, Utracony Świat Hani Pomeranc, uses the individual survivor's story and an age-appropriate approach to teach older children about the Holocaust. The booklet served as the basis for a workshop meeting with Polish high-schoolers and their Israeli counterparts from Jerusalem's Dror High School.
Bieniek credits his seminar experience in Jerusalem as the inspiration for his pedagogical project. "Taking students to a Jewish cemetery to clean it up is still doing too little," he wrote. "As a graduate, I felt it was my moral duty to preserve the memory of the Holocaust in the community of Kraśnik." Yad Vashem lent its support to the project, which Bieniek will continue to use to teach Polish students about the Holocaust and introduce them to their Israeli peers. He is currently exploring the possibility of creating a documentary film about Pomeranc's life and will soon launch a website about for the project.
Group: Age: 16-18
Number of People: 30-40 persons, mixed Polish and Israeli
Time: 90 minutes
Aim: The story of Hania Pomeranc is an example of building a bridge between two worlds: Polish and Jewish. Her life means learning together and maintaining a dialogue on Polish and Jewish relations before and during the Second World War. It is an example of not only willpower, but also moments of pessimism which helped Hania survive the cruelty of the Holocaust. The aim of the course is also to inspire sympathy for the people who survived the Shoah and understanding its consequences for contemporary Poles and Israelis.
- developing and improving knowledge about the local history of Jews
- improving skills concerning cooperation, observation and thinking
- creating an attitude of respect towards the victims of the Shoah
Materials Needed: source material / diary fragments / felt-tip pens, sheets of paper, a set of photographs
Requirements for the Teacher:
- Knowledge of key facts concerning the Shoah
- Knowledge of the location of places connected with the killings
- Knowledge of Hania Pomeranc's diary
Requirements for the Participants: Readiness to work in groups
- Work with written records, maps and photographs
- Discussion, drama, brainstorming
- Source 1-5 – Fragments of Hania Pomeranc's Diary
- Source 6 – Pomeranc Family Tree
- Source 7 – Plan of Prewar Kraśnik
- Source 8 – Map of Europe with Camps Where Hania was Interned
- Source 9 – Information About the Camp of Budzyń
- Source 10 – Information About the Camp of Majdanek
- Source 11 – Information About the Camp of Auschwitz
- Source 12 – Information About the Camp of Bergen - Belsen
- Source 13 – Information About the Camp of Berlin - Mariendorf
- Source 14 – Photographs of Prewar Kraśnik
- Source 15 – Photographs of Contemporary Kraśnik
a) Explain to the participants that they will get to know the history of the Jews through the history of Kraśnik-native Hania Pomeranc's experience in the camps
b) Divide the students into 6 mixed Polish-Israeli groups consisting of 5-6 people. Each group shall sit at their own table.
c) In each group, students themselves should decide their respective roles:
- Analyst - a person who analyzes the material, looking for the answer to the question.
- Writer – a person who takes notes, writes down the results of work on a card
- Presenter – a person who presents the results of work on behalf of the group
- Manager – a person who supervises the work and contacts the teacher
- Time guard – a person who keeps track of time.
d) Give out the auxiliary materials
a) The teacher presents the subject: I lost my father, I lost my mother, I lost my whole world…
b) Then the teacher asks Polish and Israeli students to read the motto of the course in the Polish and Hebrew languages
c) The teacher asks the participants questions:
- What made Hania Pomeranc write a diary?
- Where does the title of the course come from?
III. Work in Groups
- Preparing answers to the questions. Time – 15 minutes.
- Tell the groups that they have 15 minutes to do their tasks. After that time, presenters will show the results of their work. Everybody in each group is responsible for their duties and cooperating to achieve the best results.
IV. Presentation of Work in Groups.
On the basis of Source Number 6 (Pomeranc family tree):
- Describe Hania Pomeranc's family tree. Write the names of Hania’s parents and siblings on a sheet of paper in Polish and Hebrew.
- Where did Hania’s husband come from? What was his profession? Write their children’s names on a sheet of paper both in Polish and Hebrew.
- On the basis of Source Number 7 (the map of Kraśnik), show the places where Hania, her husband and parents lived.
- At the end, the teacher shall show students a photo from 1932 of the Zylberg family, living in Kraśnik. The teacher should explain that although we have no photo of Hania’s family, a typical Jewish family from Kraśnik probably looked like that.
- Read all the participants short information about the camp in Budzyń.
- Ask students to find the first camp where Hania was interned on the map and mark it.
- Answer questions on the basis of Source Number 1:
- When was Hania in the camp in Budzyń?
- How does Hania describe the executioner from Budzyń?
- Who was he? What methods did he use?
- Read all the participants short information about the camp in Majdanek.
- Ask students to find Majdanek on the map and mark it.
- Answer questions on the basis of Source Number 2:
- What was daily life in Majdanek like?
- Under what conditions did the prisoners live?
- Why did the prisoners have to leave this camp?
- Read all the participants short information about the camp in Auschwitz.
- Ask students to find Auschwitz on the map and mark it
- Answer questions on the basis of Source Number 3:
- Describe the conditions on the transport to Auschwitz
- Who was “the Angel of Death”?
- What happened to women and children in Auschwitz?
- Read all the participants short information about the camp in Bergen - Belsen.
- Afterwards ask the students to find and mark this camp on the map
- On the basis of Source Number 4 answer the questions:
- Why were the prisoners evacuated from Auschwitz?
- Describe the conditions on the transport from Auschwitz
- What were the camp conditions in Bergen-Belsen?
- Read short information to all the participants about the camp in Berlin - Mariendorf.
- Afterwards, ask the students to find and mark this camp on the map
- Answer questions on the basis of Source Number 5:
- How much time did Hania spend in the camps?
- Why couldn’t Hania go back home after the war?
- To sum up, all participants answer the questions:
- How much distance did Hania Pomeranc cover during her time in the camps?
- What, in your opinion, helped Hania to survive the Holocaust?
- Why, in your opinion, do the words I lost my world appear in the diary so often?
- In the end, the teacher will elaborate on the postwar life of Hania and her family.
- The course shall conclude with a walk around Kraśnik. The participants will have the opportunity to visit places where Hania Pomeranc lived.