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Human Rights Violation, The Role and Dilemmas of Bystanders before and (at the time of) the Holocaust

The incorporation of teaching on human rights and the Holocaust allowed students to study the problems from another perspective. Not only did they analyze the cases of racism, xenophobia and Anti-Semitism in our contemporary world, but they also had an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and find out more about one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century – the Holocaust. This allowed them to formulate critical opinions on anti-Semitic views or examine websites on the Internet e.g. Holocaust denial, and become more aware of the existence of stereotypes and prejudice in everyday life.
The project also proved that teaching about Holocaust and human rights can and should be done from an interdisciplinary point of view – not only do history teachers have responsibility for teaching about the Holocaust and tolerance, almost any humanistic subject of the school curriculum is appropriate for teaching about Holocaust and human rights.
The project also revealed the important role that films and literature play (diaries, testimonies) which help to raise interest in the Holocaust and present students the way in which the tragedy meets its artistic expressions. The problem was to choose the appropriate materials according to the age of students.
It is necessary to stress the importance of survivors’ testimonies and meetings with those who are still alive and are capable of relating their personal experiences.

The project was also an opportunity to broaden students’ knowledge, teach about the Holocaust from another perspective (the role of bystanders) and to incorporate other fields of knowledge e.g. human rights.

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Task

Date

Cooperation with Foundation Monumentum Iudaicum Lodzense, preparation of a textbook for secondary school students about the Litzmanstadt Ghetto

March 2009

The analysis of the European Convention on Human Rights.

March-May 2009

2 hours in each class

Eclipse of Humanity” - What Can be done so that the Holocaust or any Genocide would not Happen Again?

April 2009

1 hour in each class, result – essays

Victims, Perpetrators and Bystanders – who are they and what was their role during WWII?

April-May 2009

1 hour in each class

Poles who Rescued Jews – the analysis of an educational material, discussion on the Righteous Among the Nations.

April-May

1 hour in each class

Meeting with Dutch history teachers in Auschwitz (the outline of cooperation)

May 2009

Workshop Preventing Prejudice, Stereotypes, Anti-Semitism and Human Rights Violation, the Analysis of Human Rights Violation during WWII”(posters, photos)

6th June 2009

Meeting with Jan Przedpelski, the author of the book “Jews of Plock” (video recording).

July 2009

1st Meeting with Halina Elczewska in Warsaw – a Holocaust survivor – (video recording).

August 2009

2nd Meeting with Halina Elczewska and students, presentation by students of a short artistic programme about Litzmanstadt Ghetto

(poems by Mieczyslaw Jastrun, Icchak Kacenelson, texts by W.Bartoszewski) - Video recording.

1st October 2009

Students take part in a workshop “The Life of Escapees from Warsaw Ghetto on the Aryan Side – a panorama of different attitudes” in “Dom Spotkań z Historią”(The House of Meetings with History) in Warsaw and watch the exhibition “The Faces of Totalitarian Systems”.

1st October 2009

30 students work on the parts of the book “Kartki z pożogi” by Symcha Guterman and prepare for discussion with Lithuanian and Dutch students.

September 2009- November 2010

Students prepare posters about Stereotypes, Anti-Semitism and human rights.

September-October 2009

Presentation of the film “Just Beyond this Forest”- discussion.

November 2009

Students gather real life stories from their neighborhood:

Danuta Helena Przybysiak - a great-grandmother of a student Paulina Borowska (16 year old) class 1C-written recording about great-grandmother’s adolescence and life and work at a Jewish family before the war and the fate of a young Jewish girl in a small village during the war.

[In Zakrzew, central Poland during the war there was a young girl hidden in a village. People knew she was Jewish and called her “Andzia”. When the war ended, the girl’s protector died and did not tell the girl her real surname. When the girl grew up she fell in love in a local boy and they decided to get married. The local priest helped the girl and wrote her a birth certificate. The young couple got married and left the village. Nobody knows about their further fate.]

The story was told to students as an example of different relations to the Jews in occupied Poland. They were asked to find other real stories in their villages and town.

A great-grandmother of a student Marta Cichocka (17 years old) class 2B– persecution of a Jew during the forced labor in the neighborhood of Plock, before the time of ghettoisation. [At the beginning of war the Nazis took Poles and Jews for forced labor. During the break when the workers were eating soup a Jew threw away a rotten potato. When a German soldier saw it forced a Jew to eat the potato and the man was mercilessly beaten.] The story was presented to the class; students were given the text of a Universal Declaration on Human Rights and with the help of the teacher found the articles which relate to the story.

November 2009- February 2010

during WWII. Quotes:

Magdalena Korycka (16 years old), Lublin, Poland, madzia-korycka@wp.pl

I have heard about the quote Those who rescue one life rescue the whole world.”

“I know that there were different attitudes of Poles towards the Jews: some helped because of compassion and some because of the money... I have learnt about “Zegota” and Irena Sendlerowa. Irena Sendlerowa helped children through the hell of war. Let it never happen again…”.”

 

Students become acquainted with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

December 2009 - January 2010

Final results of the project:

On the basis of the acquainted knowledge in the field of the human rights violation and Anti-Semitism during WWII and decrees such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students prepare their opinions and reflections for the Lithuanian and Dutch students to exchange during an e-mail correspondence (it has just begun in March 2010 with Dutch students from Rotterdam http:/algemeen.calvijn.nl and is going to start with Lithuanian students). It can be also a beginning for a possible meeting or exchange of students in the future.

February 2010 – March 2010

 

The end of the project

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Objectives and Rationale
a. Content and Context
The project is focused on teaching about Holocaust and the role and dilemmas of bystanders (who were they, the different shades of being a bystander) with the relation to contemporary world problems and incidents from school life (case study) and the problems of human rights violations, Anti-Semitism, prejudice and stereotypes.  

b. Pedagogical/Didactic Aims

  • Education about human rights and the Holocaust,
  • Presentation of the cases of human rights violation on the basis of the Holocaust and contemporary e.g. “school” incidents,
  • Teaching about stereotypes, prejudice, Anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination, defining these problems in everyday life,
  • Reflections on the role of bystanders during conflicts and human rights violation,
  • Formation of sensitivity to unequal treatment and unequal opportunities and social exclusion,
  • Development of consciousness of differences in society.


The motto of our project: “We must unmask the origin of the evil that can fascinate the fragile freedom of men. We must help young people recognize that some things that may entice them, lead them away from this high ideal of humanity and respect for the freedom and rights of all. ...show them that this ideal of humanity is essential to their happiness, and that this high ideal is always the fruit of a conquest, the conquest of intelligence seeking the truth, of freedom seeking and choosing what is good, placing the good of others before one’s own passions and satisfaction.”
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger

Methodological Approaches
Various interdisciplinary approaches were employed, including screening films, reading diaries and meetings with Holocaust survivors. Students examined case studies, held small group discussions, and focused on human rights and the Holocaust. Throughout the entire project, the students focused on the dilemmas of bystanders. During each stage of the project, pupils were asked to, relate to the following questions:

In the story/chapter you were acquainted with who were the victims, bystanders and perpetrators?
Did you notice any cases of behavior of the characters in the testimonies or films when the line between bystanders and perpetrators was blurred? What determines such changes?
What choices did people who still maintained contact with their Jewish friends make?
What impact did the choices of the bystanders have upon the efforts of the Nazis to persecute Jews?
If you witness human rights violations in your community, how would you react?

Practical Challenges Faced by the Coordinators and Resolution Strategies
Some activities connected with broadening the knowledge about the Jewish culture or visiting a synagogue, (especially in smaller towns), are necessarily connected with travelling to bigger towns. Not all students can afford such trips and, as a result, a smaller group of students (who pay for their trip) take part in an excursion to visit e.g. a synagogue or to meet a Holocaust survivor in another town.

It is necessary to prepare the students for the meetings with elderly Holocaust survivors and explain them that some parts of their biographies are painful to talk about.
A very important factor is the teacher’s own engagement in the subject and enthusiasm - the main factor which leads to success.

It may be difficult to find a professional place to organize a video conference (without payment).

Technical Equipment Requirements (if applicable)
Facilities for a video conference.

Primary Source Materials and Online Resources

Books
Symcha Guterman, Kartki z pożogi, TNP
Kazimierz Sakowicz, Ponary Diary 1941-1943, A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder, Yale University Press 2005
Jan Przedpełski, Żydzi płoccy, dzieje i martyrologia 1939-1945, Fraza, Płock 1993
Polacy ratujący Żydów w latach II wojny światowej, IPN, Warszawa 2008
Irena Steinfeldt, How was it Humanly Possible? – A Study of Perpetrators and Bystanders during the Holocaust, Yad Vashem 2002; http://secure.yadvashem.org/store/product.asp?productid=387
The European Convention on Human Rights – starting points for teachers. A publication of the Directorate of Communication – Public Relations Division, Council of Europe,
“Equal Voices” a magazine edited by FRA,
S’cool Agenda 2009, FRA, http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/your_rights/materials/scool_agenda_2010_en.htm.

Films
“Jeszcze tylko ten las” (Just Beyond this Forest), director Jan Łomnicki,
“Lista Schindlera” (Schindler’s List), director Stephen Spielberg,
“Korczak”, director Andrzej Wajda,
“Holokaust oczami dziecka” (Holocaust in the Eyes of Children), Shalom Foundation, Poland.
“Blue Eyed”- the educational workshop of Jane Elliot,
Irena Sendlerowa – educational materials for Polish students, Nardowe Centrum Kultury, 2009
“…As In Days Gone By”- Struggling for Cultural and Spiritual Life in Ghetto Lodz, edited by Yad Vashem,
Everyday Life in the Warsaw Ghetto, Yad Vashem

Visual Documentation (Photos, Scanned Materials)
Recordings in Polish of meetings, photos.

Practical Suggestions for Adaptation and Implementation in the Educational System
According to the views presented in the previous points the teaching about the Holocaust and the human rights can be realized interdisciplinary with the incorporation of variety of materials, technical solutions and the Internet.
On the basis of the real material such as interviews and meetings with survivors workshops can be organized during which the issue of human rights violation and reference to the contemporary days and human rights violation can be discussed and analyzed. It is important to create a step-by-step sensitivity in the students and let them learn about the problems of the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism gradually, in different forms, interdisciplinary to achieve natural sensitivity and teach them how not to be indifferent to injustice, humiliation of other people, xenophobia, racism and Anti-Semitism. To teach young people respect and love of human dignity.

The main subject of the project, “human rights Violation - Dillemmas of Bystanders”, was realized with the help of the chosen chapters from the book of Symcha Guterman “Kartki z pozogi” and meetings with PhD Jan Przedpelski, the author of the book “Jews in Plock”, which described life in Plock ghetto, testimonies of Ms Halina Elczewska – Lodz ghetto survivor, and the workshops in History Meeting House in Warsaw based on the life in Warsaw ghetto.
The combination of these three painful places demanded clear explanation to students as to what the differences were between them (Plock – open, small ghetto with guards at gates , Warsaw – more contact with “Aryan side”, Lodz – the most isolated ghetto from the rest of the town).

The students noticed there were different realities in each of the ghettos

In Plock and Warsaw there were more possibilities to help Jewish people (people brought food, helped to produce a false Kennkarte, smuggled children to hidden places, e.g. in Mariawits’ Convent in Plock).
At the workshops in The History Meeting House in Warsaw students found out about numerous hiding places for Jews in the city, the ways of masking them and hairdressers’ which helped Jewish women to dye their hair. They also observed another side of the openness of these ghettos – Polish blackmailers who threatened escapees from ghettos and demanded money from them.   
All the participants in the meeting with a Lodz ghetto survivor agreed that the ghetto functioned as a “small-scale city” and was one of the most isolated from the rest of town. The attitudes of the bystanders were analyzed by the students on the basis of Ms Elczewska’s story about a Polish technician who helped to repair telephone exchange. The man asked her if she needed any help and brought medicine for her father who suffered dysentery. The story raised students’ interest; they asked questions to find out more about the men, his reactions, motives and what he risked.
Although the realities in the three ghettos were different, for students, the possibility of finding out about the conditions of living allowed them to have a bigger perspective for the problem of the isolation of Jews at the beginning of war. What is worth mentioning for 20% of the students were not aware of this isolation? 70 % had heard about the ghettos and another 10% could describe the conditions of living and the fate of the Jewish people at the time of war. They reacted with compassion; the testimonies, workshops, stories and films triggered their interest in the subject.

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Katarzyna Korsak

Title of the Project
Human Rights Violation, The Role and Dilemmas of Bystanders before and (at the time of) the Holocaust.

Name of the Coordinator
Katarzyna Korsak

Name of the School
Zespol Szkol Ekonomiczno-Kupieckich, Plock; www.zsek.pl

EU Member State
Poland

Number of Students Involved and their ages/grades
90 students (16-19 years)

Involvement of Advisors and/or Other Institutions (if applicable)
Ingrida Vilkiene, the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania,
Foundation Monumentum Iudaicum Lodzense in Lodz, Poland; http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/article/lodz/20,culture-social-and-educational-projects/10031,foundation-momentum-iudaicum-lodzense/
Polish Jews Forum