I recently sat down with comedian Sarah Silverman and LA Advisory Board member Jesse Stern. A few months ago, Sarah posted an image with Facing History's original resource book, Holocaust and Human Behavior, calling it one of three books that has most shaped her life.
This is the time of year many Facing History teachers introduce their students to a study of the Holocaust - humanizing an event that can otherwise seem overwhelming. Many teachers use art or writing as part of the way students both process and share their learning, and the Chapman University Holocaust Art and Writing Contest is one way to do that with the added benefit of an authentic, external audience.
Hear one teacher describe her experience.
Topics: Holocaust and Human Behavior
What do you choose to do with the trauma you have seen/experienced?
Wiesenthal, the one-man play, will be staged at the Wallis Theatre October 23 to November 8, 2015. While I haven't yet seen it, I had the pleasure of working with educators to prepare their students to see it, and the themes of justice, choices, and the power of an individual are great opportunities for any post-theatre discussions.
Zaption has received accolades from SXSW (winning the LAUNCHedu competition), Fast Company (in their innovation issue), and educators far and wide. We've been happy to have an initial set of Facing History videos available as Zaption tours since their launch last August, and are now thrilled to share two more collections for educators.
The Holocaust and Human Behavior pulls together five films used by Facing History educators to explore the pressures on individual and group decision-making, the ways Nazism affected cultural and religious institutions, and the insight gained from the recently-opened Soviet archives. In this film from the Zaption tour set, Professor James Waller explores how ordinary individuals can become perpetrators in genocide.
This month Facing History is the featured partner on Connected Learning TV for the series, Creating Upstanders in Today’s World. We are publishing the recorded webinars here with additional resources.
In this webinar, our knowledgeable panel guests dive into the core case study of Facing History and Ourselves: The Holocaust and Human Behavior.
People make choices. Choices make history."
My 7th graders know about Hitler. They are deeply curious about him. They ask questions about his childhood, how he died, how he got to be dictator of Germany. And while I understand their fascination with trying to understand one of the greatest demagogues of the last century, I try to channel their curiosity in a different direction; my students are not going to understand the Holocaust by uncovering everything there is to know about Hitler, but they will come much closer to understanding how the Holocaust could have happened just by looking at the everyday people who were living in Europe at that time.
This week I continue the conversation with my father. To read the first part of this conversation, click here.
Even though the book was based on stories from my Uncle, I knew my father had done a lot of research by reading and even travelling to eastern Europe, so I asked him to talk about the role of research in writing fiction.
Research was essential and extensive. I needed to know everything I could about the places where events unfold: Prague, Terezin, Auschwitz, the forests of Poland. Likewise with the tenor of life year by year, where the story begins in innocence on through the relentlessly accelerating horrors of Hitler’s occupation, displacement, war, and mass murder. I needed to know more about the partisans, who were of so many stripes in so many places. There was one group, for instance, the Army Ludowa, who fought the Nazis for reasons of Polish nationalism while being every bit as anti-Semitic and dangerous to Jews. I had to go to all those places and contemplate what it was like to be there at that time: to be evacuated to Terezin, to live there in fear of disease, starvation, and death; to face certain death at Auschwitz-Birkenau; but then to escape and be liberated enough to fight back.
By all accounts, my father is a brilliant writer with nine books under his belt. Despite this, I’ve somewhat avoided reading his books–finding it a little strange to discover our family revealed in print, even wrapped in the protective cloak of fiction. Despite his work’s critical acclaim, I have only read a handful of his books. When his most recent book, Five Bullets, was released, he mailed me a copy with the inscription: "Time to face a bit of history, world and family all at once." This book was not exactly fiction; it was based on my dad’s uncle's experience during the Holocaust.
From my childhood, I have vivid memories of my Great Uncle Martin and, his wife, my Aunt Flora. He was a wizened and stoic man who generously put us up in his Lincoln Center brownstone apartment when we visited New York. My strongest memory is of him getting in his oversized American car, a Cadillac or an Oldsmobile, and seeing the whole steering column come booming down to his level, enabling him to peer over the dashboard as he drove us into Manhattan from Long Island. When I was young, I had no idea that his wife and children had been murdered in Auschwitz. I had no idea that he had escaped the concentration camp and fought with partisans in the woods of Poland. It can be mind-blowing when we realize how much we don’t know.
As Halloween draws near, representations of ghosts, goblins, and vampires saturate the seasonal displays. Given the success of various Halloween events at local theme parks, it's clear that there is no shortage of people who want to be frightened. For a fee, we can go to a haunted house or staged zombie apocalypse, and experience the thrill of controlled panic.
I can't help but ask myself, "Why would we want to surround ourselves with these images? What is our fascination with monsters?"
Stories matter. The stories we tell have the power to effect history. By sharing and listening to stories, we recognize ourselves as part of the human story, as individuals who can change the narrative by making positive choices and shaping our world.