Examples of student reflections created by the 10th grade English students of NEH participant, Brian Hanrahan, at Mount Vernon High-School.
Mr. Hanrahan's unit on the Holocaust included the reading of The Diary of Anne Frank, Night, and an excerpt from Mein Kampf, as well as the viewing of the documentary film, Hitler. Leo Hymas, a former US soldier and concentration camp liberator, spoke with the students. A culminating project included student research on a Holocaust topic of their choice.
STUDYING THE HOLOCAUST
The Holocaust is undoubtedly the most horrific even to take place in history. It is also one of the most important events in recent history. Although it was a horrific event, it was and still is a valuable tool, to be used in teaching us to avoid hate. We need to understand what pushed people to hate as much as Nazis did so we can hope to prevent similar happenings. This essay will be directed to show why the Holocaust is an important thing to study and how we can hope to prevent this hate.
The world is not yet beyond the Holocaust take Germany for example, the country is just barely coming to terms with the horrific events that some of their countrymen inflicted on others. Should it really take 50 years for a country to realize the magnitude of the torture that was inflicted by the Nazis? I think not, it starts getting scary when you hear of people denying the Holocaust; arguing its very existence. For a person to be able to ignore all the evidence showing that the Holocaust did in fact exist, to ignore all the testimonies from individuals that experienced the horrors of the Holocaust; should be a warning to us all. Until the world in its entirety comes to grips with the Holocaust, acts of genocide will continue to happen.
The Holocaust was perhaps the most hateful event to occur in history. While this hate was an awful thing, it can be used as a valuable tool in the hands of our teachers. Teachers are perhaps the only way that the horrors of the Holocaust can be conveyed, to America’s youth, and furthermore the only way events like it can be prevented in the future. By learning about the Holocaust students get a first hand look at the travesties that the Holocaust brought, while learning about the horrors, one learns to build a sense of morality. When students are able to understand the magnitude of the suffering, they will build up strong morals to fight against a similar event happening in the future.
The Holocaust was one of the first mass genocide, but it most certainly wasn’t the last. Since the Holocaust there have been several events of genocide in different areas of the world. From Cambodia to Serbia, genocide has occurred. Serbia is perhaps the most relevant example because the events happened very recently. Serbia’s genocide was horrible as are all instances of genocide, but Serbia’s offered a ray of hope. Several months ago the people of Serbia rose up to kick their evil dictator Milosovich out of office. The people of that country understood the magnitude of what was happening and acted, this realization and action give us all hope for the future.
Many people tend to forget what the United States itself did during World War II. The United States interned hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans just because of their ethnicity. In the United States people love to think that the United States is the best country in the world, the land of the brave and home of the free. Why then did the home of the free determine someone was inferior or a threat because of their race, and consequently determined that this group of people had to lose their freedom? The reason is, that the citizens of the USA were not, at that point, moral enough to know that what they were doing was wrong.
Recently the United States has taken big strides towards the understanding of this horrific event. Ronald Regan himself called the internment an act of wartime hysteria, he was a little late, but at least he understands that magnitude of what occurred. Reparations have been made, but it hasn’t been enough. The law that allowed the internment, Koramatzu, is still in the books. While I doubt that the United States would ever use this law again, I feel that the Supreme Court must overrule this earlier decision and send a symbolic message to society that such events as this are wrong.
In closing, the Holocaust as well as all acts of genocide was a horrible event that the world needs to come to terms. Until we do come to terms with these events, they can and will happen again. The students of today are the ones that can make a difference, and if we as students can say, “No this is wrong” then we will be well on our way from preventing future instances of hate.
By Jacob Dodd
In the three weeks that we have been studying this tragic event in our world’s history I have seen darkness in the hearts of man that though may sometimes be impossible to bear must be accepted or else an never be prevented in the future. From the eye witness of Mr. Hymas to the pages of Anne Frank’s diary have I been introduced to a period of time I thought was only a myth but now find a cold reality of mankind’s hatred. For money, power or a chance to spread prejudice about another were millions of people taken up and slaughtered leaving a gaping hole on our society so big we are still feeing it today. Though it is a moment few ever want to think about what we must because like all evil within we must accept it for what it is and learn from it so to better our future.
During our teachings of the Holocaust in class I was told of the Nazi’s foul treatment of the Jews and how our actions towards them were almost as cruel. In the beginning while they were being hunted down for their views on life we were staying home not showing assistance but instead rejection to those who pleaded for harbor making us an assistance to the killing. When we finally entered in the war against Hitler we received many improvements to our way of life (vast economy, technological discoveries, employment rise, etc) but the Jews still received the same punishment as before (concentration camps, ghettos, gas chambers, etc.) making us still as guilty in which we and the Nazis both improved on account of another’s sufferings. From these few lessons did I see I saw our country’s choice in this period and have come to the cold fact that sometimes to make a right in the world one must be willing to make many wrongs along the way.
Of the report I did on Adolf Hitler I was able to discover how a man with such unethical ideas could ever come to power and how a people could allow him to. As his culture was heading towards some of its darkest moments Adolf would be the one to preach words of change and encouragement for rebirth which he granted but at a cost few would ever be willing to pay. His people, being scared and desperate for change gladly accepted his commands which brought about great improvements that he promised but at the cost of their very souls and innocence which would prove fatal in the future. Upon reading about this man’s life have I seen how like sheep mankind can be and pray that we are not so again or else have time repeat itself.
On our reading of The Diary of Anne Frank I was able to see for the first time what life was like through the eyes of a victim and how one groups crusade can be another’s twilight. Through her words I was told of a little girl forced to grow up hiding with her family for three years not for being criminals or fanatics but purely on the count of not being the same as everyone else. Through all the problems and fear these three years had on her Anne Frank still tried to maintain a life and reams of a future which has given me a sense of confidence in which even the darkest of time there were still those with a glimpse of hope. Even after death at a concentration camp Anne’s diary still teaches the children of today the ways of the past and will hopefully continue so all will be able to see what their choices will do to other’s futures.
I was also fascinated by the speaking of Mr. Hymas who told me his experiences liberating a concentration camp at this dark time and how it would effect his life forever. From his telling I was given the account of how the prisoners of these camps were treated no better than wild animals and disposed of just the same which gave me a way to imagine of what Nazis rule resulted in long ago. His saying on what he and his fellow comrades went through after this massive ordeal which made me get a understanding on how can destroy a person not with bullets or bombs but with memories. It is because of his words that I can believe this time to be real and consider it a lesson needed to be learned before more people like Mr. Hymas must endure the same feelings and try again with yet another generation.
Because of the example of discrimination shown by Adolf Hitler in his period of power there are now thousands of people still following his rule even after his death. From his words and actions are these people inspired to take up arms against their own brothers and sisters which is a great sadness to us all. Palestinian against Israelis, Irish against Irish, or Chinese against Japanese are only some examples of people who are using Hitler’s message in their own struggle not remembering what that message led to in the end. Unless we can remind them of what prejudice lead the world to and get them to settle their problem before another Hitler may rise to power and all will be as it once was.
On this I must end my essay and with luck have shown you the importance the Holocaust is in my mind so you can see why its facts must be known. Even if it was a clear sign of mans unrelenting hatred towards ma and a tragedy few can stomach it has the right to be taught because for a people to really be whole they must know all the evil they can do as well as the good. Through these teachings people will be better prepared to handle prejudice within others and may have a greater chance of stopping it even if it seems out of control at the point. I hope you enjoyed my essay and have been able to see why we must learn from our mistakes and make sure that we do not do them again or else the present may be worse then past ever could.
by Sarah Lloyd
It was a time of hurt and hate, a time may would like to forget, but the haunting photos, stories, and memorabilia have and always will live on to remind us of the atrocities that once took place during the late 30’s and early 40’s. World War II, Hitler, the Holocaust, the Ghetto, concentration camps, for many of us these are just words, but for some they were reality. It is for them, the people, who feel the pain of these words that we must continue to remember, share, and educate ourselves on the horrific events that took place under Hitler’s rule. The burden now falls upon our shoulders to protect future generations from experiencing the enmity that those whom suffered through the Holocaust once felt.
When I see photos of all the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and Jehovah Witnesses that were tortured starved and, treated like some herd of diseased animals I feel enraged. I think to myself why? What was the point? And mostly I think HOW? How could any human being treat those of their own race with such harrowing hatred as the Nazis treated the Jews? I am disgusted at this cult of programmed killers for allowing such agonizing events to take place in a world where all was created equal.
It is from the testimonies of those who lived through the Dark Age and those (Anne Frank) who did not that I find hope. It would be thought that after an event such as the Holocaust that there would be great turmoil and bitterness throughout the world, but like a deep cut the Holocaust has healed leaving only a scar of remembrance in its wake. I find myself surprised at the acceptances of those who felt first hand the sorrow of the Holocaust. Their forgiveness to those who mercilessly hurt them is proof to me that the human race is overall powerful and loving. As Anne Frank wrote “I still believe people are really good at heart”. (251)
Through Mr. Hymas and Mrs. Ban’s lectures we see second hand how the Holocaust effected those involved in it. It is also through them that we see what reality of the Ghettos and concentration camps. Young boys being transformed into miniature Nazis, medical experiments so gruesome they would not be done on even animals, the anguish of seeing your mother, grandma, and sisters for the last time as they walk violated and naked into a gas chamber. These are the atrocities that haunt us into the realization that this must never happen again. For this reason alone, we continue to spread the memories of the Holocaust. It is so important for the entire human race to study this heinous event so that it or anything like it will never take place again.
Although genocide events still take place today they’re nothing as monstrous as the Holocaust. Flagrant acts will always be a part of society. It’s just one of those things that can’t be totally controlled. There will always be some group of people that have so much anger inside them they feel the need to blame it on the innocent. However due to what we have learned form the Holocaust we will hopefully never allow the world to experience that agonizing degree of hatred again.
Overall the Holocaust was a heinous and agonizing time in history. The stories and pictures prove that to us, but through the darkness of pain there shines a light. It is the golden light of hope that has lifted us out of this period of sorrow, and allowed us to learn from the mistakes made by our peers, so that we may become overall better human beings.
“I want to go on living even after my death,” (283) was Anne Frank’s wish, and it has come true for both her and the others who suffered the toils of the Holocaust. The memories of these people will haunt us for eternity. It is these memories that we will all hold close, so as to keep the hurt from repeating itself.
by Margaret Riley
Over the past few weeks, we have studied the Holocaust. The subject is now exhausted. I know more than I have ever wanted to know about the rise of Hitler, concentration camps, the ghettos, and The Diary of Anne Frank. But, I have learned a lesson, which I’m sure is why you have taught us about these atrocities. Nothing but nauseating pictures, sad stories, and lessons about evil could convince us to never let something like this happen again.
During the time when Hitler was in power, he killed many people, scarred others for life, both physically and psychologically. In a special issue of Life magazine, I saw a picture of a small girl, no more than eight, who had drawn a tangled web of lines on the chalkboard. The girl was a Polish Jew driven mad by her experiences in a concentration camp. In a recent issue of Time, they had a story about people who are going to die leaving notes to their loved ones, a recent example being a member of the Russian navy on the submarine Kursk. In the Warsaw ghetto, those who saw their fiends and families killed either by Nazis, starvation, or disease would find small scraps of paper, write notes to family members or friends, roll them up like scrolls, and stuff them in small cracks in the walls. These people experienced the horror of nazi Europe.
I have often heard my grandmother say that after World War II, they referred to what happened during the was as happening in “Nazi Germany.” In recent weeks, reading The Diary of Anne Frank and listening to lectures, I have started to correct her, reminding her that it wasn’t just Germany. It was all over Europe. I did not realize that until we started to understand that every country in Europe was influenced by the Nazis.
The main reason I was able to listen to the lectures and hear stories and look at the pictures is that I know there were still good people. In our history class, we went to see Noemi Ban, a woman who was in a concentration camp. She told us that her aunt and uncle were saved by Raoul Wallenberg, who helped many Jews escape from the horror. I did my research project on Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a town in France that saved five thousand Jews from the Nazis. These people took initiative and raged against the machine, refusing to give in. Andre Trocme, one of the first me in Le Chambon to take in Jews, actually went to jail because he would not give the Nazis the names of the Jews in Le Chambon. That is how we know that Hitler’s regime could never have won. People like Raoul Wallenberg and the people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon wouldn’t have let them.
Also heartening is the fact that this could never happen again. We have too often seen people try to commit hate crimes and succeed, only to be brought down by the justice system. Because ours is no longer a society that ignores ethnic cleansing and crimes against man. A look into the way these crimes are handled today will tell you that the Untied States is quick to cut down those who would commit them. Maybe the United States’ reluctance to get involved in such an awful war as World War II has an influence on the way ethnic cleansing and hate crimes are dealt with today.
These people did not realize it fifty-five years ago, but they may have inadvertently saved many who would have died had the United States not seen the dangers of such free and open genocide during the Holocaust. Their deaths, though tragic, were not in vain, for we now know what people like Adolf Hitler can do given half a chance.
I will always remember the faces, such as Anne Frank’s, that peered out windows and looked at trees they could not climb, people they could not talk to, and soldiers looking to kill them. I will be having nightmares for years about emaciated bodies behind barbed wire, but I know that nothing like the Holocaust will ever tear humanity apart. I can’t ever look at another picture of a starving child again and not think of Adolf Hitler. But he is gone now, along with his SS and his Einstatzgruppen and others who were too willing to hurt the Jews. I don’t know if there will be more like him, but if there are, it is nice to think that there will be more people like Wallenberg, people who will help. Knowing that there will always be somebody around to fight evil is a good enough reason for me not to give up on life. I might miss the final triumph of good over evil.
By Nick Hilden
6,000,000. That is the estimated number of people murdered by the Nazis during their reign of terror. Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other minorities were no longer thought of as human, but rather animals or rodents. Rodents that the Nazis believed needed to be exterminated. They were taken by the thousand to concentration camps, where they awaited their deaths in pain and misery. Never in human history is there a story of such evil.
After hearing Mr. Hymas talk about the atrocities that he saw during his service, and after seeing the pictures of the mass graves I can only conclude that there must be some basic human instinct that caused this.
I believe that humans hate anything that is different. Since the Jews broke off from the Christians, they have hated each other because of their different ideas. The Nazis persecuted the Homosexuals because their lifestyle seemed wrong to them. These differences are clearly religiously based. Hitler claimed to be divine and holy, yet his own religion said that killing is a sin. In my opinion, Hitler was a crazy guy who was just looking for a way he could gain followers. He knew the only way he could win is if he sparked all the Christian’s hatred toward the Jews.
Influence of World War Two is all around us. Movie, books, music and many other things are centered on the Holocaust. These are great tools for teaching the young about what happened. Educating future generations is very important to the survival of the human race.
Post-World War II ideas have also affected people in a negative way. The Aryan Nations, the KKK, the National Alliance, the Imperial Klans of America, and the World Church of the Creator are all extreme white supremacy groups that are in America. These groups follow Nazi ideas of anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-black, and Aryan empowerment. There are hundreds of hate crimes linked to these groups each year, and there are more and more each year.
Although we claim to hate the Nazis, today’s society unconsciously has many of the same ideas that Hitler brought about. A very large portion of the country is homophobic, due to their religious beliefs. Hitler had these same beliefs. Gay marriages are outlawed in several states, and Gay people were outlawed all together in Germany. Christians still look down upon all other religions. Racism is abundant in many parts of the country.
The Holocaust was a terrible shock to the world, and fifty years later, we are still trying to understand it. Historians try to put meaning to it or even go as far as saying that it never happened. They are wrong. Instead of denying it, we have to learn from it. When something like this happens, it should never be allowed to happen again, but still our hatred drives us against one another. Since World War 2, there have been at least 16 attempts to wipe out another race. In 1975 Khmer Rouge had 1.7 million Cambodians killed. In Rwanda one million Tutsis were murdered. Genocide has occurred in many other countries including Indonesia (200,000), Guatemala (200,000), and Yugoslavia (10,000+).
We have to end these horrible atrocities before we destroy ourselves. How many millions must die before we learn this? So far genocide has only been committed to fairly poor countries. What happens when a country with nuclear weapons decide that they want to wipe out a culture? If we don’t learn from our mistakes in the past, then we will have no future.
By Chris Tweedy
In answering the question, “What is your overall impression of this dark period of history? (referring to the Holocaust), Why is it so important to study these atrocities? As well as Why do other genocidal events continue to take place in our world?” All these questions will be answered thoroughly in my essay.
First off, my overall impression of the Holocaust is shocking. I’ve heard about the Holocaust, and have even been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., but I still never realized the ugliness of the Holocaust until researching this period of history. I honestly feel that the Holocaust was a gross period, and I wish it hadn’t happened, but since it did, it should be able to help people come to a better realization of things.
Learning and researching the Holocaust was a hard time, but I decided that I wanted to be strong and be able to handle everything. I felt that if I had not been able to take it, I might’ve missed out on something important. I also wanted to be able to handle everything because I wanted to prove to myself that I had the willpower to learn about something as sick as this, so I could walk away with a new understanding of life, and how awful people can really be, and what I could do to prevent things like this.
Now whenever I think of the Holocaust many things come to mind. I think of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the train after train of Jews being shipped to Death Camps. I think of Mengle’s medical experiments, and hearing about Leo Hymas’ story of trying to help Jews, but they didn’t have enough energy to do anything. I also think about the ditches full of dead people, and the other Jews sitting there, watching over them, just as they are about to get shot, as well as pictures of people dying in the street, getting no help at all from people walking past.
These are just a few things that I will forever remember about the Holocaust. This to me, was honestly a very sick, twisted, and gross time in History.
I personally feel it is important to study subjects like this, simply to become more aware, that things like this are possible. It helps us realize that we have an important role in life, and we shouldn’t let gruesome events like this happen again.
It’s also good for us to learn these things, simply because it has an astounding effect on the way people think. I honestly think that everyone in Honors English 10 has been changed in some way. These students now have a better understanding for what people have been through, racism, prejudices, etc. Just by learning this, a small change has occurred at Mount Vernon High School. If more students were to learn about this subject, and study it so thoroughly, people could understand what is morally corrupt about society, and try to make the world a better place.
Another reason to learn this subject is to teach students that life isn’t always good, and could always get worse. This harsh reality of the Holocaust makes it possible for students to realize that there isn’t always a silver lining to everything. Also, in showing us these grim facts, students are forced to realize this is the truth, and stop denying anything so nasty and sick.
Now, to answer the question, “Why do other genocidal events take place in this world?” I would have to say, there’s many reasons behind it.
I think one main reason is because people who make these harsh events a reality have not realized what could really happen, and were probably brought up poorly. Another reason, which I think is probably the greatest reason, is because of the way they were treated as kids.
I personally believe it could be because of their childhood. As I reflect on life at Mount Vernon High School, I could fully understand that. The people that cause these twisted parts in history, were probably made fun of and picked on during their childhood. Aside from that, they may have even been abused by their parents, and so forth. If this were to happen to me, I probably would want to do the same, by taking it out on other people. I bet that if these people had someone to talk to as a kid, they would’ve turned out all right.
One last reason is just plain and simple. They are probably crazy and need to be locked up for life. An example of craziness is if they were to think they are higher in rank than another race, sexuality, etc. Now, that is kind of harsh, but it may be true.
In conclusion to answering these questions, I have described my thoughts on the Holocaust in whole. I honestly will never forget about learning the Holocaust. I am just glad that I did not have to take part in this time of history. I guess I could consider myself one of the lucky ones.
REFLECTIONS OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Stacy Bunnell
World War II was one of the most devastating, brutal, senseless wars fought in all of recorded history. It was also one of the most recorded wars. With photos, eyewitness accounts, recorded film, documents, and even audio recordings. This gives us a more accurate account of what happened. With all this evidence a strong impression is left on those why study the war.
My overall impression of the war was that it was horrific. I felt strong disgust at the way the people who did not fit the Aryan race were tortured and killed. One of the most disgusting ways to me that they were killed was with the Einsatzgruppen. I remember the video we saw in class with the testimony of survivors who lost everyone they loved. I remember the girl telling of her and her friend and how they were naked and embraced begging the Nazis to stop. But instead they just shot them. I couldn’t help but think that if it were Claire and me put in this position. And it brings tears to my eyes. The other accounts described how everyone was stripped, the women were raped over and over again, and mothers were shot with their babies in their arms. I think “how can anyone do this, these people are human, not cattle?”
These genocidal events in our world happen because the people that commit these crimes think of their victims as sub-human, and deserving of the treatment. Often times they were brought up to hate, and were often treated harshly themselves. This enables them to detach from the suffering of another human. The power that they gain over their victims fills a deep inside feeling of powerlessness and fear.
Learning about what went on was not easy. It was stomach turning and sickening. It almost felt as if my soul was being damaged, just by hearing the awful things that went on. It was very tempting to turn my head and ignore what I was learning. However, I realize that it is important to study what happened for a number of reasons. One reason is if we don’t study history it will repeat itself in our own lives. We all have reasons to hate. But if we don’t examine ourselves and confront what angers us, we may end up taking our own victims, just as Hitler did. In other words we study these atrocities to better understand human nature, and our own impulses.
Another reason to study WWII is to help others fight ignorance and hate. And help them raise their level of consciousness. It is important to unite and speak out against injustices. We won’t gain the knowledge to do this unless we learn from others’ mistakes in the past. So as unpleasant as it is to study these crimes against humanity, it is our duty to do so. We can’t just ignore the past, and hope it doesn’t happen again!
What I understand about Germans and events of WWII is that they did not appear capable of the evil acts they committed. They seemed normal and some of them even nice. And they believed they were good and had good reasons for everything they did. Even after the war they were not troubled with what they had done. This is scary because it is amazing what people can justify to themselves. Everyone in the world justifies their point of view, and their actions. And I understand better than ever before that a life unexamined is not worth living.
When I think of the Holocaust, I get an aching feeling in my stomach; it was such a horrible thing that I can’t think about it without feeling miserable. Because of all the horrifying things that Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people, and anyone who he just didn’t like. I think that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to mankind. It makes me sick to think that people are actually capable of doing such horrific things to others.
I didn’t really have a clear understanding of what actually happened during that time until I heard Mr. Hymas tell his story. I realized that these were real people who suffered in the concentration camps, not just numbers in a book. When he described how the Jewish people looked when he liberated their camp and the conditions they were living in, I finally started to understand it. They were real people just like you or me. These people were tormented for no reason other than the Nazis didn’t like what they believed in. I can’t imagine how I would be able to live in such a horrible place; hardly any food, death and disease all around you, cold weather, forced labor, knowing that there were people around you that would kill you without thinking about it twice; I couldn’t take it.
Anne Frank reinforced my feeling that the things the Jews went through were incredibly unfair and it shouldn’t have happened at all in the first place. Anne Frank didn’t do anything so wrong as to deserve the punishment she got; she was forced to live in that small house with seven others for about two years of bickering and fighting and fear of being found, and in the end she was sent to a concentration camp and died after months of enduring that horrible torture.
Amid all the atrocities that were happening to the Jews, there were a few things that gave hope to them; Raoul Wallenburg was one of them. Wallenberg went to Germany to help the Jews in any way he could; he gave them food and clothing, he supplied them with fake passports so they would be safe, and he led many of the Jews to safe houses where they could be hidden. He is credited with saving over 200,000 Jews. I was extremely glad to hear about someone who helped the Jews instead of oppressing them, and I was very glad to get him for my project.
Even though this isn’t the happiest thing to learn about, I think we need to because it shows us that the human kind is capable of doing these awful things and we need to keep it from ever happening again. I don’t understand exactly how Hitler came to power; I know that the country was in shambles and needed a strong leader, but the thing I don’t understand is that if there were so many Jews in Germany and the surrounding areas, why didn’t they stop this before it got so far? Hitler had published a book on his exact thoughts and feelings toward the Jews, and he openly stated his ideas, I don’t understand why no one stood up and said that was immoral and wrong and prevent him from coming into power.
Studying this time period also helps people understand that we can’t just go around being prejudice against someone who is different from us because it can become uncontrollable and people can be hurt. You should celebrate the differences in our society and accept those who aren’t like you.
Even though we should know better, there are still genocidal things that happen in the world. I believe that these things don’t have to happen, it’s just that the person who starts it has a screw loose who know some more people with screws loose and pretty soon they have a whole group of crazy people who want to take over the world! I’m very glad that we now have better police and authorities that keep these grounds under supervision so they don’t have the opportunity to hurt anyone.
Whenever I think of the Holocaust, I will remember one thing in particular; it was on the video we watched, and I think it is the most appalling thing I have ever seen. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to look at the pictures because Mr. H said they were pretty bad and I didn’t feel like seeing that, but just for a second I looked up and saw the scene where the bulldozer was pushing the dead skeleton bodies of the Jews who had died in the camps into a pile. It was the worst thing that I have ever seen. To have so much hate and disrespect for a group of people to do that to them is too unfathomable for me to comprehend. I was appalled. I pray we never allow this to happen again.
by Leanne Jungquist
The Holocaust was a horrifying experience in which many innocent lives were taken. The effort of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany was to exterminate the Jews and other people that they considered to be inferior. As a result, millions of people, half of which were Jews, were killed. For many of us, the Holocaust is just stories and pictures shared with us by those who were there. But for many, it brings back disturbing and horrifying memories of lost family and friends, death camps, starvation and massive manslaughter. In our class focus of the Holocaust, I learned many aspects of this dark period in history from our study of Anne Frank to the guest visit from Mr. Hymas. After all these teachings, my impression of the Holocaust grew and I was filled with the knowledge I hadn't had before.
The Holocaust as a whole was a terrible time in history in which the lives of many were destroyed and forever changed. I believe this topic should always be taught, and the stories should be told in years to come to create an understanding by all, and to prevent an event such as this from ever happening again. The Holocaust was a time of discrimination against Jews and any other group of people that Hitler and the Nazis didn't like. Jews, the mentally and physically ill, homosexuals, and gypsies were all taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps, run by the Germans. It was there that they were exterminated by means of starvation, disease, shooting and gas chambers. Others died as they were tortured to death or died in horrible medical experiments.
For the most, many didn't survive the concentration camps or make it through the years if they were Jews. But as I learned from my research project on how the Danes helped to rescue Jews, I learned there were a few survivors. The Danes helped in the rescue of the Jews by smuggling them onto tightly packed boats and sailing them to Sweden where they could be free. The job was extremely risky and the fishermen who drove the boats as well as the Jews being rescued were at great risk. German spies soon caught on to the nightly rescues and security grew making it harder for the rescues to take place. By researching the Danes and their efforts to help the Jews, it helped to learn there were others against the ideas of Hitler and those who didn't agree with his extermination plans. It's hard to believe the option of one man and his influence on his people could result in such a horrible event such as the Holocaust.
Anne Frank's diary taught me a great deal of how the Holocaust effected the lives of individuals such as Anne who was forced to live in the attic of a building for several years to keep herself and her family from harm. It's terrible that Anne and her family had to spend years of their life in hiding to save their lives. Anne should have spent her teenage years as others do, but instead she was forced to live in solitary confinement for those years of her life to keep herself alive. The diary was very interesting in the sense you got to see the effect of war on a teenager your own age and the experiences and feelings he had during those years where she was placed in the middle of war. It makes you think, "What if I was in the situation and what would I do if I was in her place." It's amazing to see Anne face the events and situations she did and find a way to handle them during everything else that was going on. You are forced to look at your life from a different perspective and be grateful for all you have and all you don't have to deal with.
Mr. Hymas' visit was extremely interesting as well as informative. Listening to his story, you were able to see the Holocaust from his perspective, and hear some of what he saw. Hearing his words, and his story, the war seemed almost real in your head and you were able to picture the horrible things he went through. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for him to be involved in such a frightening experience and he should take great pride for the job he did.
I truly hope the world never witnesses an event such as the Holocaust again. Hopefully, by learning from the mistakes of others, we will be able to prevent another terrifying and horrible occurrence, such as this. Violence like the Holocaust is something no one should ever have to experience, unfortunately those Jews who were put through the suffering and humiliation were forced to go through unimaginable and terrifying experiences. Those who participated in the Holocaust and the mass killings of Jews and others are extremely heartless. It's hard to imagine people could possibly be so evil. For those such as Mr. Hymas and the others who helped liberate the death camps and put an end to the Holocaust, they will be forever appreciated and their bravery and courage will be celebrated forever.
by Brianna Prante
Learning about the Holocaust is an important thing for everybody to study. Even though the subject is dark and depressing, it is necessary for us to learn from others mistakes. People who were a part of the Holocaust need to share their stories to make it seem more personal to the others that didn't experience it. Learning about the Holocaust is the key to stopping another one from happening.
My personal experience with learning about the Holocaust has been very worthwhile. I started learning about it when I was in elementary school. Ever since I was young, the atrocities of World War II have always been present in my mind. I realized what mankind is possible of doing to each other because of some stupid prejudice. What is it going to take to get everyone to think like this?
Watching movies that portray the era of the Holocaust are very touching to me. They are another way to personalize the effects of the Holocaust. In Schindler's List, I was quite moved by the way that the Jewish people were treated. The documentary that we watched in class gave me an overview of what went on. There was a personal story in there about a young girl just about to be shot that made me tear up and wonder how anybody could put another human through this kind of agony. I personally do no have that kind of feeling of hatred towards anybody or anything. I am in awe of what people can feel towards other things, without even knowing anything about them.
I am much more sensitive towards the idea of genocide because I know that mankind is capable of doing something like that. I guess not something like that; they have done a genocide and are still doing some (on a much smaller level) today. I still have a hard time comprehending that anyone has that much hatred in them. It seems pointless to waste your life away hating something. When Mr. Hymas came and talked to our class, I couldn't help but have tears come to my eyes because war affects such innocent people, like Mr. Hymas. His story was so touching and I'm so sorry that anyone would have to go through that. Even though he was fighting to free the Jewish people, he still had to see the atrocities that they went through. He will have those memories in his mind for the rest of his life. After he told us his stories I was able to shake the gruesome pictures from my imagination, but he didn't imagine them and the pictures will be stuck so vivid, in his mind.
When I did my research project on Dr. Mengele, I was disgusted. I couldn't believe that someone could have no compassion towards his innocent patients. To do such horrid experiments on living things and get no scientific gain is so preposterous that I wouldn't let my mind grasp the idea of it. It was so very disturbing that I had to step back and take a breath after reading some of the things that he did.
Learning is the way to understanding the world around us. I may not understand why something like this happened, but I will be able to recognize the warning signs and the barbarity of the acts that were committed. I won't let someone tell me that this is the way to go because of some discrimination towards another person or thing. My mind is boggled on the whole idea of hate. Maybe one day someone will understand and be able to tell me why people hate and why we all can't just get along.
- One set of photos for each group
- A large piece of flip-chart paper per group
- Glue sticks
- Masking tape
Arrange students into groups of three or four. Give each group a piece of flip-chart paper, a glue stick, a marker, and a set of photos.
1. The prompt depends upon your goals and objectives, but here are some simple directions that we have used:
- Select six photos that answer the question, “Why remember the Holocaust?” (Recommended for teachers new to the topic)
- Select six photos that tell the story of the Holocaust. (Be sure to make it clear that you are not asking them to make up a story, but to relate the key events of the Holocaust)
- Select six photos that reflect your understanding of both how and why the Holocaust happened.
- For teachers: Select six photos that reflect what you want your students to understand about the Holocaust
2. Once you have reached consensus on the six photos and the order they should appear, glue them to the flip-chart paper, give it a title that reflects your theme, and place it on the wall (or some other designated spot)
Optional: Label each photo with a word or phrase that explains the reason it was chosen. For example, a photo might have been selected to represent “non-Jewish victims” or “warning signs.”
3. When your group is finished, write/discuss a short reflection that explains
- Why you selected the photos you chose
- Your group’s process
- Compromises you had to make
- A photo you had a hard time giving up
- A photo not in the original group that you would have used
- How well you feel this reflects your understanding of the Holocaust
- Topics of interest for further exploration
Give each student several post-it notes and ask them to do a gallery walk. As they look at each photo narrative encourage them to write observations, questions and comments about choices of photos and place them on the photo in question.
When they are finished, use these post-its and the results of Step 3 to frame a discussion about our perceptions of the Holocaust.
If used as a pre- and post-assessment, do the same exercise—in the same groups, if possible—at the end of the unit. Place the new narratives side-by-side with the first efforts (or give them the old versions for revision). The written reflections should show a change in understanding from the initial exercise.
If used with teachers designing a unit, this is the springboard to developing the unit since you will have defined the learning objectives during the exercise.
Teachers are encouraged to adapt the exercise according to their classroom needs.
While it is possible and even valuable to complete the exercise independently, teachers and students will derive the most benefit from working collaboratively.
The process of selecting six photos can be as messy or organized as each group allows. It’s best to allow them to work with little intervention.
Six is the number of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets that will fit on flip-chart paper; there is nothing else significant about it. Six also is a small enough number to ensure discussion and compromise as each group works toward consensus.
The process of selecting and reaching consensus will encourage critical thinking about the meaning of the Holocaust and a lively discussion. Students will inevitably reveal their preconceptions, and you should acknowledge that no one approaches this subject as an empty vessel.