This lesson plan uses group work, creative writing, and multimedia to teach subjects including History, Literature, Civics, Social and Political Education, Philosophy, Language etc. It is also useful in discussions about multiculturalism, war and peace, the Second World War, crimes against humanity, genocide and holocausts (e.g. the Jewish Holocaust), modern European history, moral and ethical issues, struggle for survival, etc.
Students bring in a family photograph they like. This can be from a vacation, a holiday celebration, a family life cycle event, any photograph that includes the student. In class, students look through the Centropa database to find a photograph that looks similar to the one they brought in – people might be posed similarly to the people in their picture, or doing the same thing, etc. Then they read about that photograph, as well as the Centropa interview to find out about the life of that survivor.
Students are each given a short, multimedia film from Centropa to watch. As they watch – they may need to watch it more than once – they are to write down words that important to the story: events (e.g., Kristallnacht), values (e.g., loyalty), or anything important to the person whose story they are watching (e.g., a violin, sports, family). Once they are clear about the story, they go to the Wordle website (http://www.wordle.net) and make a word cloud that accurately represents the story they watched.
In this lesson, which I adapt to different courses, students explore Centropa’s web page with Jewish recipes curated by Jayne Cohen, and read In Memory’s Kitchen, a collection of recipes women gathered while in the Nazi camps. As a way to learn about pre-war Jewish culture, and to bring that learning from the intellect to their senses, students are asked to find a recipe that they then cook with their parents.
Students in my class and Melanie Shaul’s class in Hadera, Israel, read the autobiography of Dr. Richard Bugajer, My Shadowlife. Melanie and I met his widow in Vienna, on a Centropa summer trip, where we designed this project. Each class read the entire book and then made PowerPoint presentations about each chapter – and then sent their presentations to each other to see how students in another country would understand the same story.
In this unit, selected 8th grade students worked with three teachers to prepare a multimedia presentation for the middle school using Centropa materials in observance of Yom Hashoah. The students read through Centropa interviews and watched related films. They then wrote a script using the interviews and created a slide presentation that was shown while students read brief biographies based on the interviews.