Because no two experiences during the Holocaust were the same, this lesson seeks to provide students the means to be exposed to as well as analyze, synthesize, and reflect upon various aspects of life in hiding. This lesson will take between three and five days.
Goals for Student Understanding
- The Holocaust included a wide array of
- Hiding was not an easy solution or a
- Coping mechanisms exist within the human
psyche to survive extreme danger, dilemmas, the disruption of life, and
- The recording of feelings, experiences,
and daily life activities through writing can serve as catharsis, as
well as have far-reaching effects, including leaving a legacy and giving
a unique perspective into history.
- Students will DEFINE and consequently
IDENTIFY what choiceless choices are/may be.
- Students will DETERMINE commonalities
shared with others their age, whether now or 60 years ago, to COMPARE
and RELATE in some way.
- Students will DISTINGUISH significant
events within the chronology of the Holocaust.
- Students will EXAMINE a variety of
stories of hidden children to GENERATE and ASSESS factors associated
with hiding and surviving.
- Students will DIFFERENTIATE between
hiding that was physical isolation versus hiding where identity was
- Students will ANALYZE a first-person
story of hiding and WRITE their own personal response.
- Students will APPRAISE the significance
of using writing as a means of recording and expressing feelings and
3-5 class periods
Within my Holocaust studies
semester-long elective course, I approach this particular lesson within a
larger unit on resistance during the Holocaust, and more specifically, as a
part of the sub-theme “Choiceless Choices."
Procedure / Strategy
They couldn’t tell you where they
would take the children to. Because if you were caught, what you didn’t
know you couldn’t tell, should you be tortured. My aunt wouldn’t let her
child go; she could not bring herself to let him go. My mom took the
risk. We’re alive, my little cousin is not.
-- Flora Mendelowicz,
12 years old when she went into hiding in various convents in Belgium.
From Life in Shadows Study Guide.
- Share the above quote with students, either on an overhead or a
handout to begin the lesson on hidden children. Discuss it and the
notion of ‘choiceless choices’. Have the class create their own
definition that you record for them to see.
- Following the students’ definition, provide the reading, “A Letter to the Woman Who Will
Find My Daughter” from Michael Berenbaum’s Witness to the Holocaust (attached).
Read it to the class and discuss the choiceless choice here. Should
anyone ever have to make this choice? What does giving up that child
mean? What risks are involved to all sides?
- Now divide students into small groups of no more than three or four.
As a group, have them find out and record a list of all the things they
have in common with each other (ex., “We all have dogs. We all have a
little sister. We all take a family vacation in the summer.”)
- Then give each group a different USHMM identification card (of which
you have already sorted out all HIDDEN children, approximately nine;
link included in resources) and explain that these people were hidden
during the Holocaust in some way. Have students read it together as a
group and then record: Do they, as a group, have anything in common with
that person? If so, what? Do any of them, as individuals, share any
commonalities with that person? And if so, what?
- After groups have completed this task, give them a general timeline
of the chronology of the Holocaust (USHMM Teacher Resource Guide, link
attached) to compare to the ID card’s timeline. What do they notice?
What were the significant events in the chronology of both? How did
these events affect the individual? Have students turn in their group’s
recordings for today.
- Hand out copies of the National
Geographic online Adventure Magazine article, “The Darkest Days”
(attached), about a family of Jews in the Ukraine who survived the
Holocaust by hiding in caves. Read the article in class in whatever way
the teacher chooses—pairs, groups, teacher reads, etc. For the sake of
comprehension, discuss the story of this family’s survival, as well as
the legacy of a life in hiding still in existence today.
- Once again, divide class into small
groups and have them generate a list of factors they think would be
necessary to hide or escape detection. Once they have created this, have
them generate a list of factors that they think would constantly
threaten to expose those in hiding. Once both lists are complete, they
should compare these lists—does the group see any formulas for survival?
If so, explain. If not, why not? What do these lists of factors reveal
about the daily realities of life in hiding? Hand in group work.
- Come together as a group to discuss and
process what they have learned through this, including the factors
necessary for ‘hiding’, the factors that threatened exposure, and the
formulas (if any) for survival.
I also think I shouldn’t be writing all
this. I cannot imagine what would happen if they found it, God forbid.
On the other hand, I’m so lonely. So many important things are happening
in the world arena…. I have to express myself more often and… more
sincerely. I am reading what I have just written and it seems to be very
naïve and silly. But this is my way of thinking.
-- Else Binder, in
her diary written in the Stanislawów ghetto, Poland, December 27, 1941.
From Life in Shadows Study Guide.
- Share the above quote with students,
either on an overhead or a handout to continue the lesson on hidden
children, but to narrow the focus a little. Discuss it and why writing
can be a useful, necessary, or cathartic tool in surviving different
- Now give students an excerpt of a hidden
child’s diary or journal to read together as a class. Discuss how
writing can give a uniquely personal perspective of a firsthand
encounter with history, and how it can also be used as a tool to record
feelings, experiences, and events in your life. What historical
information is given within this piece of writing? What insight can be
gained through this particular piece concerning feelings the writer is
having? How is his/her life being disrupted or affected? Why do you
think he/she made the choice to record life in writing?
- This next part requires some work on the
part of the teacher, but is definitely worthwhile. Find enough excerpts
of different hidden children’s stories, diary entries, or journal
entries to give each student in class a different excerpt of a
first-person narrative authored by someone who was hidden.
Students could use this day to work on their
individual assignment, or if it was done as homework, the class could again
discuss and compare the different stories each read, making lists on the
board, and processing the variety of experiences that were all a part of the
Holocaust, specifically that of life in hiding.
As a conclusion that pulls the lesson all
together, provide some sort of visual for students. This can be done several
different ways: show a video clip or short excerpt of a story of someone in
hiding, perhaps from the newest Anne Frank movie or even a scene from The
Pianist (see also, Other Resources in the Life in Shadows Study Guide,
link included); visit the Life in Shadows traveling exhibition or have the
class take a virtual tour through the USHMM online exhibition (link
included); or create a power point for students of artifacts, maps, and
photos of hidden children using the USHMM photo archives (link included).
Materials / Resources
- Appleman-Jurman, Alicia. Alicia: My
Story. New York : Bantam Books, 1988.
Michael. “A Letter to the Woman Who Will
Find My Daughter” in
Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Jacob. We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died in the
Holocaust. New York: Henry Holt, 1995.
The Diary of a Young Girl. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1952.
Children in the Holocaust and World War II : Their Secret Diaries.
New York: Pocket Books, 1995.
Alexandra. Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
Evaluation / Assessment
Students may be assessed several different ways during this short unit, including classroom sharing and participation in discussions. Teachers can also collect and evaluate the commonalities list, the ID card comparison, and the timeline analysis from first set of group work completed. The list of factors of hiding/non-detection and of formulas for survival from the second set of group work can also be assessed. Teachers can also evaluate this lesson through the students’ personal responses to/analysis of first-person narratives.
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