Monday, February 28, 2011

A Sobering Look at History: The Holocaust

We took a field trip last week to see a play "My Heart Is In A Suitcase".  It was a story about a Jewish family living in Germany during the Holocaust.  The family suffers persecution that gets progressively worse.  The father's business is taken away and he can't get a job. Things take a turn for the worse after the Kristallnacht and the parents decide it's best to send their daughter away on the Kinder Transport to Great Britain. Their hopes are that her parents will not be far behind her, even though the parents realize they probably will never see her again.  Sadly, the parents never make it out.  They were denied a passport to emigrate before the borders closed down.  In the end, the mother and father were sent to separate concentraion camps and neither of them survives.  Needless to say, it was a tear jerker.

I hadn't planned on learning about the Holocaust this year since we are doing history chronologically and are still around the Middle Ages. But, in preparation for the play last week we started reading about Anne Frank. Jenna and I had read it before, but this was pretty much new for Jared so I wanted him to have an understanding before we went to see the play. We also read a few Holocaust survivor stories.  I came upon a story that I'm still reading about a survivor, Stanislaw Smajzner, of the Sobibor death camp.  I wouldn't recommend it for young children (under 7th or 8th grade) since there are some horrific details.  I also found some resources here as well as a virtual tour of the Auschwitz & Birkenau concentration camps here.  I was surprised by the degree of complexity of these camps (I have a hard time using the word "sophisticated" for this instance).  I always imagined them to be much more primitive than what they were and didn't realize the extent of premeditation involved.  It's hard to believe that it was only around 70+ years ago. It is estimated that approximately 6 million Jews were victims of Germany's deliberate and  systematic attempt to annhialate the entire race of the Jewish popluation in all of Europe. 

Some of the topics we discussed in our study: propaganda, genocide, persecution, ghettos, World War II, euthanasia, emigration, Nazis, Hitler.  We looked at a map of Europe throughout our study to see where all of this was taking place, including Lithuania, where my husband's family immigrated from.  We talked about standing for who we are and what we believe, no matter what.

This was definitely the most sobering unit we've covered so far this year.  I think we can all walk away from it having a new appreciation for the value of life and liberty!

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