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Very often the rescuers made only a small commitment at the start—to hide someone for a day or two. But once they had taken that step, they began to see themselves differently, as someone who helps.

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What starts as mere willingness becomes intense involvement. Other rescuers say that the decision to act was neither gradual nor complicated. We had no time to think. When a problem came, we had to solve it immediately. The issue was: Do you think we are all brothers or not? Do you think it is unjust to turn in the Jews or not? Then let us try to help!

By examining the stories and choices of perpetrators, bystanders, upstanders, and rescuers during the Holocaust, we are not only better able to understand what happened during this crucial period of the twentieth century but can reach a deeper understanding of the range of human behavior in any time of crisis. By examining what led some to limit their universes of obligation and see the lives of others as not worth protecting, we can gain insight into the forces in our own lives that might encourage us to act cruelly or inhumanely, or to ignore such actions by others.

A Holocaust Reader , ed. Add these words to your Word Wall , if you are using one for this unit, and provide necessary support to help students learn these words as you teach the lesson. Take a moment to reflect with students on how the circumstances of each of these situations were different and how the range of possible choices and the associated consequences may have been different in each instance.

Students identify the social and cultural factors that help shape our identities by analyzing firsthand reflections and creating personal identity charts. Students create working definitions of stereotype as they examine the human behavior of applying categories to people and things. Students learn a new concept, universe of obligation, and use it to analyze the ways that their society designates who is deserving of respect and caring.

Students draft a working thesis statement for an argumentative essay about the impact of choices in history. Students analyze the socially constructed meaning of race and examine how it has been used to justify exclusion, inequality, and violence throughout history. Students explore the long history of discrimination against Jews and come to understand how anti-Judaism was transformed into antisemitism in the nineteenth century. Students begin the unit's historical case study by exploring the brutal realities of World War I and the impact of the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles.

Students reflect on the idea of democracy as they analyze the politics, economics, and culture of Germany during the period of the Weimar Republic.


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Students start to gather evidence that supports or challenges their initial thinking about the writing prompt. Students examine how choices made by individuals and groups contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party in the s and s. Students examine the steps the Nazis took to replace democracy with dictatorship and draw conclusions about the values and institutions that make democracy possible. Students consider the choices and reasoning of individual Germans who stayed quiet or spoke up during the first few years of Nazi rule.

Students respond to the writing prompt in a journal reflection and begin to evaluate the quality of the evidence they are gathering. Students analyze several examples of Nazi propaganda and consider how the Nazis used media to influence the thoughts, feelings, and actions of individual Germans. Students learn about the experiences of people in Nazi Germany through a variety of firsthand accounts and identify the range of choices that they faced. Students learn about the violent pogroms of Kristallnacht by watching a short documentary and then reflecting on eyewitness testimonies.

Students think about the responsibilities of governments as they consider how countries around the world responded to the European Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany.

World politics explainer: The Holocaust

Students share their ideas about the writing prompt in groups and continue to build their evidence logs. Students are introduced to the enormity of the crimes committed during the Holocaust and look closely at stories of a few individuals who were targeted by Nazi brutality.

Students deepen their examination of human behavior during the Holocaust by analyzing and discussing the range of choices available to individuals, groups, and nations. Students grapple with the meaning of justice and the purpose of trials as they learn how the Allies responded to the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Students approach the unit writing prompt in its entirety through journal reflection, evidence, gathering, and discussion.

The Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Students both respond to and design Holocaust memorials as they consider the impact that memorials and monuments have on the way we think about history. Students complete activities that help them think about the unit as a whole as they prepare a strong thesis statement for their essay. Get Started 2. Introducing The Unit 3. Exploring Identity 4. Universe of Obligation 6.

The Concept of Race 7.

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The Roots and Impact of Antisemitism 8. The Weimar Republic The Rise of the Nazi Party Dismantling Democracy Do You Take the Oath? Laws and the National Community The Power of Propaganda Youth and the National Community Kristallnacht Responding to a Refugee Crisis Race and Space The Holocaust: Bearing Witness For hidden children who often had few personal belongings, toys took on special meaning. They could help forge a bond between the children and rescuers or reaffirm a tie to their missing parents or family.

Just as importantly, playthings and games helped to restore some semblance of normal childhood to youngsters living under abnormal circumstances. Since ancient times, education has been an important element of Jewish culture. As Germany took control of Europe, however, opportunities for Jews to attend schools and universities were initially limited severely and eventually eliminated entirely.

Children who were physically concealed had few opportunities for formal study, but when possible, they too tried to educate themselves through reading and writing. In rural areas, they often tended animals and helped with planting and harvesting crops. In urban settings, Jewish children worked in factories or sold foodstuffs or other items on the open and black markets. In some cases, older youths fled to the forests to eke out an existence or to join the partisans in combating the Nazis. As Jews were forced to move into ghettos or were deported to concentration camps, the Nazis deprived them of most of their possessions by drastically limiting the amount of moveable property that they could take.

Once the Jews were moved, the Nazis then restricted the flow of goods to them. Children who went into hiding had to move quickly and inconspicuously and as a consequence, were forced to leave behind even the few possessions they owned.

Jewish Faith and the Holocaust: A Fragment

Most took little more than the clothes on their backs. Throughout the Holocaust, Jewish artists and writers poignantly documented their experiences in camps, ghettos, forests, and hiding places. While the opportunities and materials to express their joys, pain, longings, anger, and sorrows in literary and artistic creations were severely limited, an impressive body of work, done by adults as well as children, has survived, even if the creators did not.

Though it will never be known how many Jewish children recorded their thoughts in writing, art, or music, dozens of diaries, hundreds of drawings, and some poems and songs have been preserved to provide a tiny glimpse into their personal worlds, leaving a lasting legacy of both their oppression and resilience. Jews of all ages across Europe produced thousands of paintings, drawings, and collages during the Holocaust.

Works were made at the behest of Nazi overlords or initiated by relief agencies in internment camps or by Jewish functionaries in the ghettos. Many were secretly done in concentration camps. The drawings displayed here are a study in contrasts.

One set of images was created by a boy living as a non-Jew in France, where he was able to sketch nature and town in situ. For the second, a girl hidden in a Lvov apartment drew from her memories or from the glimpses of life she witnessed through her window. Diaries, among the most intimate forms of writing, record innermost thoughts, hopes, fears, and aspirations. They generally are not meant for the public or prying eyes.

While not all hidden children were able or allowed to keep diaries, those that exist offer a fascinating glance into the mind and experiences of these youths. Life in hiding was always hazardous. Throughout German-occupied Europe, the Nazis made a concerted effort to locate Jews in hiding. German officials and their collaborators harshly penalized those who aided Jews and offered rewards to individuals willing to turn in Jews.

Days of Remembrance Commemoration

Beginning in March , the Gestapo the German secret state police granted some Jews in Germany reprieve from deportation in exchange for tracking down their co-religionists who had gone underground. By spring , when the Nazi regime lay in ruins, these informers had turned in as many as 2, Jews. In other countries, neighbors betrayed others for money or out of support for the regime.


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In German-occupied Poland, blackmailers squeezed money or property from Jews by threatening to turn them in to the authorities. A slip of the tongue, improperly prepared false documents, or gossip could lead to arrest and deportation.

Parents sought out the children they had placed in convents, orphanages, or with foster families. Local Jewish committees in Europe tried to register the living and account for the dead. Tracing services set up by the International Red Cross and Jewish relief organizations aided the searches, but often the quests were protracted because the Nazis, the war, and the mass relocations of populations in central and eastern Europe had displaced millions of people.

The quest for family was much more than a search for relatives. It often involved some traumatic soul searching for children to rediscover their true identity.