PRE-WAR JEWISH LIFE INTRODUCTION TO THE HOLOCAUST INTRODUCTION CONTENT & USAGE

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1 INTRODUCTION It is now well known that during the Holocaust all manner of atrocities were inflicted upon the Jews of Europe, with murder standing as the most extreme and final act in a catalogue of violent persecution. However, amidst the widespread destruction and horror of the Holocaust it can be easy to forget the victims were individual people, and instead reduce them to mere statistics. The figure of 6 million is undoubtedly shocking and significant, but it is equally important to remember that this was more than just a number; it was also an enormous collection of human beings. In light of the dehumanisation experienced during the Holocaust, it becomes crucial that we restore the humanity of the victims. One way of doing this is to avoid showing our students horrific images of dead bodies or images that depict Jews in a manner that the perpetrators perceived them. This approach also avoids unnecessarily shocking or disturbing students. Another way of rehumanising the victims is to explore the lives that they had before they became targets of the Nazis. This activity combines both of these strategies. CONTENT & USAGE The resource consists of 15 double-sided cards, each of which carries a photograph on one side and a number of questions related to the image on the other. The photographs are appropriate for all ages, while the questions are accessible to a wide range of abilities. All photographs are taken from the online photo archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which can be accessed via Contained in the further notes section of this document are the access numbers for each photo. You will also find additional detail about the photographs themselves and the fate of people within them, although in some instances information is minimal. This resource serves as a means by which students can begin to explore the lives that victims of the Holocaust had before the outbreak of war in The photographs relay scenes and relate to events that are recognisable to students, and serve to both rehumanise the victims and create points of commonality between them and students themselves. Crucially, with the exception of the old man on the right of photograph 9, it is not possible to tell by looking at the cards that any of the people are Jewish. This is something which teachers should emphasise and encourage students to explore, for it directly challenges Nazi stereotypes and antisemitic thinking. The cards can be used in a number of subjects for a variety of purposes; they can be employed as material for lesson starters, or can be used to form a main lesson activity. Similarly individual cards can be chosen as exemplars, or all the cards can be used as a complete set. 1

2 THE CARDS FURTHER NOTES Photograph 1: Irma Klipstein and her daughter Ursula taken on a visit to Volendam, Holland (99701) This photograph of Irma and Ursula was taken in the 1930s, and shows them on holiday in Holland. A German-Jewish family, the Klipsteins managed to escape Germany and find refuge in Belgium, where they lived by working in the underground economy. In 1942 they went into hiding with a non-jewish family in a suburb of Brussels. The family was denounced to the Gestapo in 1943, and Irma and her husband, Leo, were arrested. Ursula was not arrested as she was presumed to be the daughter of a Christian family. Ursula spent the rest of the war living in a convent. Irma and Leo survived the war in the Malines Transit camp; they escaped deportation as the Camp Commandant recognised their accents as being from the same part of Germany as his own. The family were reunited at the end of the war and emigrated to the USA in The Klipstein story touches on a number of important themes. These include escape and rescue, betrayal and hiding, and the rebuilding of family life after the Holocaust. Photograph 2: Class picture of an elementary school Bedzin, Poland (25495) No details are available about this photograph, except its origin. Bedzin was home to a vibrant pre-war Jewish community which was decimated by the Holocaust, so it is highly likely that all of the people in this photograph were killed. Nevertheless, the scene depicted is instantly recognisable to all students (and teachers!) making it an excellent illustration of the humanity and ordinariness of individuals who would become Holocaust victims. Photograph 3: Engagement Party for Herman Weigl and Olga Goldstein, Prague Czechoslovakia (26094) Herman is 4 th from the right, Olga is 1 st on the left. They lived in Prague where Herman was a dentist. They had a son born in 1937 and all three died in the Holocaust. While students may not have direct experience of an engagement party, they are more likely to be able to relate to the gathering of a family to mark a special occasion. 2

3 Photograph 4: Group portrait of Jewish Boy Scouts in Salonika, Greece (42637) Among those pictured is Samuel Rouben. Sometime later Samuel was due to be transported from Greece with his wife, but they managed to escape from the transit camp. They drove to the Italian consulate where they were given papers and train tickets to Athens. They then hid with a Greek Orthodox priest for the final two years of the war. The Boy Scouts will be familiar to many students and a number of students may themselves be members. Samuel s story draws our attention to the geographical scale of the Holocaust, whilst also raising issues of aid and rescue. Photograph 5: Market in Sczerow, Poland (97194) No details are available about this photograph, except for its place of origin. That said, this image is useful in illustrating the nature of pre-war Jewish life in Poland. The people selling their wares are likely to be peasants, and this reflects how many Jewish communities in Poland tended to be agrarian, self-contained entities which were neither urbanized nor fully assimilated into Polish society. This is a stark contrast to Jewish life in Western Europe, where families were usually found in urban centres and well-integrated into national cultures. Photograph 6: Esther Moszczenik and husband Lou Gordon visit her parents in Eisiskes (39407) In this photograph Esther is shown alongside her husband Lou, with her mother Leah and father Reb Dovid der Kirchier Moszczenik either side of the couple. The photograph is taken at the family home in Eisiskes a city in south eastern Lithuania. Reb Dovid died a natural death before the war, but Leah was shot in September 1941 during a mass shooting action in Eisiskes. It is likely that this shooting would have been organised by Einsatzgruppen A; the mobile killing unit which operated in the Baltic States after the invasion of Soviet Russia and was renowned for the ferocity of its killing. Esther and Lou meanwhile spent the war at their home in Boston, Massachusets, in the USA. Photograph 7: The Kupfermann Family, Zagreb, Croatia (91339) This photograph shows the Kupfermann family together with others by a swimming pool in Zagreb, Croatia. The Kupfermanns lived in Romania during the 1930s, and the two children in this picture are called Marta and Aurel. Marta attended a British Anglican School and her brother went to a French School, but the family still attended synagogue and marked Jewish holidays. Aurel is in the middle of this picture, and next to her is her mother Blanka, who was originally from Croatia. The family survived the antisemitic pogroms of Bucharest in the early 1940s, partly because the children s father was protected by the Swiss company that he worked for. After the war the Kupfermanns emigrated to Israel in

4 Photograph 8: Berta Rosenheim, Leipzig (12479) This is Berta and she is shown here holding her Schultute school cone. The cone is full of sweets, and was (and still is) traditionally given to all children on their first day of school. We do not know what happened to Berta, but there is a possibility she was killed during the Holocaust. As a German Jew she would have suffered from the effects of anti-jewish legislation passed during the 1930s, though she may have been able to have escaped the country. It was not until 1941 that the systematic deportation of Germany s Jews began, by which time Berta s chances of survival would have dramatically reduced. Photograph 9: Religious Jews in Kazimierz in Krakow (08788) Aside from the origin of this photograph, we do not have any detailed information about it. However, it is still useful in helping to think about pre-war Jewish life. This street scene comes from the area of Krakow known as Kazimierz after the Polish King Kazimierz the Great a monarch renowned for his tolerance towards Jews. The district was traditionally home to a vibrant Jewish community, before it was decimated by the Nazis. In this photograph we can see the interaction of orthodox Jews (as seen by the man on the right) with more assimilated Jews (such as the man on the left). The drawn shutters on the shop indicate that it is the Sabbath, and it is possible that the men are on their way to synagogue. Photograph 10: Family outside a café (32399) We don t know who everyone is in this picture, but we do know that it is of a family and that the lady in the lower right corner is Hilde Jacobsthal. Hilde was born in Berlin, but the family moved to the Netherlands in Her father worked with Otto Frank in the political movement in Amsterdam, while Hilde worked in a child care centre during the early years of Nazi occupation. After her parents were deported, she joined the underground movement in Belgium. At the end of the war Hilde went to work with the Red Cross at Bergen-Belsen, a camp liberated by the British Army. A few years later Hilde married a doctor from Switzerland, immigrating first to Israel and then moving to the USA in Photograph 11: Heinrich and Alice Muller, children (14802) The photo shows Heinrich and Alice in Hlohovec, Czechoslovakia. The family led a comfortable life, being one of the few that owned a car and took regular holidays. The family escaped to Canada, having had to hire a private plane to fly from Bratislava to Vienna, from where they caught the train to London. This escape demonstrates that while escaping the Nazis was neither straightforward nor guaranteed, it was easier to do with connections and money. 4

5 Photograph 12: Ruth Wottitzky (26120) This image shows Ruth feeding chickens outside her home. Ruth was born in Austria, where her family had a general store. A family friend suggested that they apply for visas to the USA, which they were fortunate enough to be granted. They left Europe on April 15th 1939 on the Queen Mary. Photograph 13: Greta Mayer (22551) Greta (left) was a restaurateur and is shown here behind the counter of her coffee house in Vienna. We do not have any further information about this photograph, but it is virtually certain that Greta would have lost her business as soon as Austria voted to enter into a union with Germany in A wave of antisemitic violence soon followed this Anschluss, as Jews were attacked and their property seized. Photograph 14: The Littmann Family (97135) In this photograph we see the Izio and Anda Littmann with their son Otto, sunbathing on a beach in the resort town of Skole in Poland. We know that the picture was taken in July 1939, two months before the Nazi invasion, but we do not have any more details about the Littmann family. Photograph 15: Sledding in a shtetl (39407) We have very little information about this photograph, other than that it was taken in January 1932 and that it shows a group of friends sledding in a shtetl. Shtetl is a Yiddish word for a village or small town, and before 1939 there were thousands of shtetls across Eastern Europe. All of these disappeared during the Holocaust, but we do know that there were three people in this photograph who actually managed to survive. One immigrated to Palestine, another to Colombia, while the third went into hiding. 5

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