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Examining the Holocaust Through Memoir, Diary and the Arts

Updated on October 14, 2012

We must be the change we wish to see in the world. ~~~ Mahatma Gandhi

The study of the Holocaust is difficult because it deals with disturbing events that will unsettle the human psyche. I would be doing a disservice to the survivors of the Holocaust and to those who perished if I were to water down any of the information, or if I subtracted any of the experiences I put before you today on this hub.

Some of the eye witness accounts and images will make you confront your own demons, core values, trust issues, tolerance and acceptance levels (tolerance and acceptance have important differences) and the supreme existence of man's inhumanity to man.

In the end, it is my hope that you will not only gain a better understanding of the subject matter, but that you will better comprehend why we say, Never Again and We Must Remember.

The Anticipation Guide for the Holocaust: Literacy Strategy #1

Upon entering the realm of this important study, we ask ourselves, what do we know about this era and this topic? We anticipate the immersion and by virtue of this fact, it is crucial to weigh and consider philosophies that are imparted. It is also critical to revisit these statements and belief systems after a course of study, particularly after learning about the Holocaust. This way we can attest to our own growth

Read each statement and write a Yes or No before the statement in the beginning and at the end when you have culminated this course.

___1. If I saw someone being bullied, I would help them. ___

___2. I would help someone even if I put my life in jeopardy. ___

___3. Prejudice doesn't exist in this country. ___

___4. Everyone is born a good person. ___

___5. Genocide is not possible in the U.S. ___

___6. Prejudice leads to violence. ___

___7. One person can make a difference.___

___8. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. ___

___9. Governments aren't corrupt.___

___10. Survival means succumbing to the enemy.___

___11. All religions are aligned.___

___12. People across race and culture get along. ___

___13. Acts of oppression warrant serious consequences. ___

___14. It is acceptable to dislike someone because they are different. ___

___15.Adolf Hitler was Jewish. ___

___16. The Holocaust only affected the Jewish people. ___

___17. Antisemitism doesn't exist anymore. ___

___18. History will not repeat itself. ___

___19. Genocide does not exist anymore. ___

___20. Only Jewish people helped other Jewish People during the Holocaust. ___

Books for this Course

Frank, A. (1967). Anne Frank: Diary of a young girl. New York: Bantam Books.

Gies, M. & Gold, A. L. (1987). Anne Frank remembered: The story of the woman who helped hide the Frank family. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Goldman-Rubin, S. (2000). Fireflies in the dark: The story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

and the children of Terezin.New York: Holiday House.

Roth, I. & Roth, E. (2004). Bondi’s brother. New York: Shoah Educational


Strasser, T. (1981). The wave. New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc. and

T.A.T. Communications Company.

Volavkova, H. (Ed.). (1993). I never saw another butterfly: Children’s drawings

and poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944. New York: Schocken


Zullo, A. & Bovsun, M. (2004). Survivors: True stories of children in the Holocaust.

New York: Scholastic.

The Importance of a Diary

For this course, you will need a diary. You may use whatever format you choose, meaning digital format via or you may use a notebook or standard journal.

There are a number of prompts I would like you to cogitate on and respond to in order to excavate and broaden your understanding of this topic. The prompts are as follows:

1. What personal experience do you have regarding being excluded or bullied? And how do you decide who to befriend in life?

2. How does a child's perception differ from an adult's perception? What does it mean to have a duty of care for another, particularly a child?

3. "Common people more readily fall victim to the big lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters, but would be ashamed to resort to small- scale falsehoods." ~~~ Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

The above statement should be responded to after reading the book, The Wave, by Tod Strasser.

4. What is the importance of a memoir? What does reading about a person's life tell us?

5. "And whoever is happy will make others happy too. People who have courage and faith will never perish in misery." ~~~Anne Frank Why?

6. "For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews." ~~~ Simon Wiesenthal

What do other genocides teach us? What do the survivors teach us? What other genocides do you know about that came after the Holocaust? Name some.

7. How can we reduce a memoir to 6 words? Visit Smith Mag and come up with 6 powerful words that speak volumes to you and post them.

8. "Painting is just another way of keeping a diary." ~~~Pablo Picasso

Explain as it relates to Terezin,a camp that was termed, The Model Camp . It housed children. Born out of this horrific encampment came beautiful art. Respond after reading, I Never Saw a Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp.

Never Again by Wu Tang Clan-Let the Journey Begin

Observe and Respond: Artifacts as Art We Learn From

Whose shoes are these? What can you tell about the former wearer? Walk in this person's shoes?
Whose shoes are these? What can you tell about the former wearer? Walk in this person's shoes?
How do possessions define us? READ THE POEM on the Cartload of Shoes
How do possessions define us? READ THE POEM on the Cartload of Shoes

Let's Start a Word Wall

We can begin to think of words that relate to this study. Some examples that come to mind: antisemitism, bullies, trauma, race, religion, stereotype, and so on. Our second literacy strategy can be executed online beautifully by visiting Word it out and collectively inserting your words into a word cloud.

For a traditional format, you can generate a word wall by placing the alphabetic letter above each word and you can also create an image under each letter and word as well.

A Prototype of a Bully

How would you recognize a bully? I doubt that he or she bears a tattoo or any visible evidence that anoints them of this title. What clues would you look for? Or are there any?

Well, believe it or not, we are domesticating children every day about bullying when we allow them to view and laugh at the treatment of others through the world of cartoons.

I will display a few cartoons and then I would like you to engage in a cartoon analysis by using a format designed by the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration.

Other cartoons to consider: South Park (The Passion of the Jews, Hitler for Halloween) and Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (Listen to the song, Under the Sea, what do you notice about Sebastian's image and voice? The merchant in Aladdin is a targeted culture as well.)

Literacy Strategy # 3, The Double-Entry Journal

Here, we divide a page in half (down the middle). On the left side, enter a quote or prompt. On the right side, enter a reflective response.

My prompt for you after engaging in the cartoon analysis is as follows:

Bullies often try to make people "respect" them by creating conditions that give them power over others. They exhibit a kind of charisma that makes people follow their lead. Is it really what we call respect or is it fear? What is the difference? How is bullying and violent behavior an act of disrespect?

Can History Repeat Itself?

In order to fully grasp this important concept, it is essential to read, The Wave, by Tod Strasser. In this Y A book, the author highlights the experimental lesson on The Third Wave, 1967 given by Ron Jones, a social studies teacher from Palo Alto, California.

This selection takes the reader through the experiential lessons this teacher planned for his class in order to teach his students about the trappings of propaganda and the charisma of certain personality types who can easily take power over others.

Think about this quote as you read through the text:

1. Events happen because they are possible. If they were possible once, they are possible again. In that sense, the Holocaust is not unique, but a warning for the future. ~~~ Yehuda Bauer

Two Movies

As Seen Through These Eyes (go to Rotten Tomatoes)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (go to Rotten Tomatoes)

Watch these movies and channel your inner child. How are these children heroes? How does a child survive such atrocities?

After this, I would like you to read The Diary of Anne Frank ,taking particular notice of her birthday poem. Think about what it might have been like for her, a young girl in captivity having to celebrate her birthday under such oppressive circumstances.

Make a photocopy of the poem. Circle words that move you and then use those same words to create a new poem authored by you (Bloom's synthesis).

Summing this Up

History can and does repeat itself given the right set of circumstances. Hitler seized the opportunity of a struggling economy and used it to spin his web of deception, targeting scapegoats who he thought would provide a solution, his final solution for the Jews. That is why we all need to stand up and take notice of everything around us (the unrest globally), especially today given the social media that drives us daily and the violent realia that we are spoon fed over the information highway.

Remember this and say, Never Again.........................

Holocaust Books: Other Resources


Submit a Comment

  • joedolphin88 profile image

    Joe 3 years ago from north miami FL

    Very powerful article. We must never forget what happened to our people. We can not allow history to repeat itself because if we don't take a stand who will. If everything is forgotten who's to say it won't happen again. Jewish people have had a lot of evil things happen to them throughout history. Thank you for writing about such an important topic and thank you for writing a great hub.

  • rcrumple profile image

    Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

    One never knows when history will repeat itself. We see indications of the past at every turn as man's greed continues to drive him to more and more injustices. It is an eye opener to remember the atrocities of the past. Let us pray we don't see them repeated any time soon. Great Hub!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

    Your thoughts are challenging and inspiring on the event of the Holocaust. What a wonderful blessing if this would not ever happen again. I fear for our world as it is today, people are not really thinking of their fellow man. The tendency to survive at any cost still exists today. Great hub post. Thank you.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

    Robin Grosswirth 5 years ago from New York

    Mhatter99 It is great that you lived a different realty once you left. When I visited Germany years back, the taxi driver tried to persuade my father and I to visit anything else but the concentration camp. Anyway, thanks for reading this.

    Lawrence Da-vid Thanks for reading this. As for the survivor, well, some engage in conversation and teach others, while other survivors remain silent, trapped inside.

  • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

    Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

    My next door neighbor is from Romania and was involved in the Holocaust at the very end. We have limited conversations about that time in her life. Her habitual covering up of the tatoo number on her arm, is evident. Yet! there are those that assert the Holocaust never occurred and it was all a ploy by people of the Jewish faith. I fear that the Holocaust history will repeat itself if certain events continue. Without further comment, consider the basis of conflict occurring today in the middle east.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

    Thank you for sharing. Being raised by one of Hitler's children, I understand and saw the depth of brainwashing. "There were no people in concentration camps" (my mother's reality). I was only permitted "white" friends. My first black teacher... Oh man! And even better, Mr. Land became an influential part of my life.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

    Robin Grosswirth 5 years ago from New York

    Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy hub. I agree with you that it is scary and sad. It appears to subsist on lower levels and can happen in a mass situation too. I know this personally. Unfortunately, some people enjoy, taking a pleasure in harming others because it feeds their egos.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Deborah Brooks profile image

    Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

    You are so right history does repeat itself. especially when people turn a blind eye to the past and to the present.. it is so scary and sad. You have wrote a weonderful hub here.. You should be commended and this deserves an award. Bravo to you



  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

    Robin Grosswirth 5 years ago from New York

    billybuc (Bill) Thanks so very much for paying homage to this hub and its lessons. I can't tell you how taken I am with the fact that you come here to read my work. Again, thanks.

    As for the lessons here and the message, unfortunately, it can happen again and again (microcosm and macrocosm) unless each person on this planet decides that they will not, under any circumstances, victimize another human being or become a bystander.

    People need to become "upstanders" in order to root out this evil.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Powerful lessons, Robin, and an even more powerful message....never again....and yet it happens around the world, daily! It sickens me and yet I cannot turn my head, because to do so is to give it affirmation, and that can never happen.