The Nazi death camps were a dehumanizing place where many lost their lives. Survivors have different stories from their experiences that they pass down to relatives.
- 1How can testimonies help paint a picture of events of the past?
Explain to the students that they will listen to a podcast hosted by the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. The host, Rachel, tells bits of her grandmother’s story in each episode. This episode is about Rachel’s trip to Sobibor- visiting the extermination camp her family was sent to in 1942.
Warn students that the content can be unsettling.
Play the podcast episode Chapter IV: The End of The World by We Share the Same Sky. Explain to students that this podcast is hosted by the grandaughter of a Holocaust survivor. The host, Rachel, researches and retraces her family history in order to tell their story.
While they listen, ask students to write down something they found powerful.
Divide students into small groups of two or three to discuss the questions below. Come back together as a class and ask the students to share what their groups discussed.
- Rachel describes her trip to Sobibor as a journey “to the end of the world” and she wonders what the trees would say if they could talk. In your own mind’s eye, what would the trees tell us?
- Hana describes life during the Holocaust to “slowly being peeled off like an onion.” She says, “You are being conditioned to worse and worse situations…and to live a subhuman life…And when you are looked at like subhumans, no one has trouble killing you.” How were layers of humanity slowly peeled away from Jews and other victims during this time?
- What is dehumanization and why is it dangerous?
- The Nazis believed Jews and others- homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mentally ill, Roma- were subhuman. How did this portrayal of these groups of people impact the victims, soldiers, and ordinary citizens?
- Rachel describes the podcast as a ‘story of memory.’ In this episode, the details of her family’s deaths are only known from stories passed on from one person to another and may not be historically accurate. However, this is how many families, during and after the Holocaust, learned what happened to their loved ones. In what ways does this affect how we listen and understand survivor testimony? What do you take a “story of memory” to mean, as compared to what you might expect to find in a historic record?
Collect the answers to the major questions to be used in later discussions about the Holocaust and historical testimonies.
Wisconsin Academic Standards
This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.