Poetry and anthems during the Holocaust, as well as in today’s society, work wonders in gaining traction behind a movement.
- 1What impact can a song or poem have on a movement?
Begin by asking students, what is an anthem? What anthems do you know? Do they all encourage resistance?
Before you begin the lesson, provide some historical context about the author of the poem by reading the passage below to the class. This context, as well as other points from this lesson plan have been taken by elirab.me/study. The full version of this lesson plan can be found here.
Hirsch Glik was born in Wilno (now Vilnius) in 1922. He began to write poetry in Yiddish in his teens and was a co-founder of Yungwald (Young Forest), a group of young Jewish poets. Glik entered the Vilna ghetto after the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. He was a participant in both the ghetto’s artistic community and the underground movement and took part in the 1942 ghetto uprising. Glik wrote the poem you will be reading right after this in early 1943. He was able to flee when the ghetto was being liquidated in October 1943 but was recaptured. He escaped once more in July 1944 and was never heard from again. It is presumed that he was captured once again and executed by the Nazis in August 1944.
Divide the class into groups of three or four. Give each member of the group a copy of the Partisan Poem. When giving them the poem, provide them the instructions below. Allow approximately 15 minutes for this initial discussion.
- Have one member of the group read the poem aloud while the others read along.
- Look closely at the language of the poem. What themes can you identify from it?
*Hint* Notice the use of the present tense: “will grow” and “will come”.
- What do you think was the author’s goal in writing this poem?
Take a few minutes for groups to share their responses.
After the students have had some time to go over the poem, tell them that the poem (albeit not the exact wording) was also used as a song, or anthem amongst the resistance. The song, Zog Nit Keynmol, translating as “Never Say” and, to this day considered the anthem of Holocaust survivors.
Listen to the song as a class. Watch the video from beginning till 2:38 (when the English ends) unless you would also like to have the class listen in its original form, Yiddish.
Have the groups discuss the questions below after listening. Allow an additional 5-10 minutes for this section.
- What do you consider when you compare the poem to the song?
- Can you think of any reason why the poem was translated into a song?
Come back together as a class. Open up a class discussion with the questions below:
- This song has been adopted by others as a protest song. How relevant is this poem to the world today? Is it effective as a protest song?
- When and how does a poem or song become an anthem? Is it considered as such at the time? What impact can an anthem have on a movement?
Wisconsin Academic Standards
This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.