Lesson 2
Duration:
1 class period

Reconciling with the Past

Overview

This lesson is the third in a series that accompanies the documentary film, Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust. In this lesson, students view the final segment of the film and reflect upon some of its more complex aspects, including how some risked their own lives to rescue others during the Holocaust. In addition, students further explore the personal values of the film's characters and observe the ways parents often try to pass down their own values from generation to generation.

Learning Goals

Students will:

  • Consider the ways parents try to pass down their values from generation to generation
  • Understand the importance of recognizing courage
  • Explore the relationship between experiences and ideas about "the other"

 

Context

It is preferable for your students to have at least a basic understanding of the Holocaust--especially a sense of the long history of antisemitism in Poland before and in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust--before watching the film. Between the years 1939-1945 the Germans, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, invaded much of Eastern and Western Europe and killed millions of people, including civilian populations of men, women, and children.

One of the groups singled out by the Nazis for the most brutal attack were Europe's Jews. Almost 6 million died in ghettos, concentration camps, death camps, or as forced laborers. They died of disease and starvation, but most were systematically murdered in killing operations between the years 1941-1945. One of the hardest hit countries was Poland, a country where Jews had been living for a thousand years and that had the largest Jewish population in Europe aside from the former Soviet Union.This history is well covered in the Facing History and Ourselves resource book, Holocaust and Human Behavior and The Jews of Poland.

  1. "Outsiders in Eastern Europe," an excerpt from the introduction to The Jews of Poland, provides a helpful background to the history of the Jewish people living in Poland. Students should use this resource to explore the following questions:

     

    • How did the Jews of Poland interact with their non-Jewish neighbors at different periods of time?
    • What are the historical circumstances that impacted these interactions?

    You also may choose to create a web quest for your students in which they will explore the Jewish Virtual Library, which gives a history of Jewish life in Poland. Students should explore the website to find answers to the questions listed above. If you do not have access to a computer lab you can print out materials from the website for students to read and gather information.

  2. Facing History's Rescuers of the Holocaust: Boston Exhibit study guide provides background information on this topic as well as related activities.

     

Materials

The central resource is the documentary film, Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust. It can be borrowed from any of the regional Facing History offices or purchased directly from PBS.

Additional Print Resources:

 

Additional Online Resources:

 

Activities

  1. View Segment 3 - Reconciling the Past (Minute 67:27- End)

    After watching this segment, allow time and space for students to react personally to the film. Invite students to write a response to one or more of the following questions in their journals or notebooks:

    • Why do you think that Menachem's sons felt the need to ask their grandfather if he would have saved a Polish family if the situation here reversed? How do you think his answer affected his grandsons?
    • If you were Menachem's son or daughter, what additional questions would you want to ask your grandfather?
    • Why is it important to publicly recognize acts of courage and heroism?
    • What impact do you think the ceremony had on Honorata and Wojciech Mucha and their family?
    • What impact do you think the ceremony had on the Daum family?
    • What impact do you think the ceremony had on the people of the town of Dzialoszyce?
    • What impact did the ceremony have on you?
    • Do you think that even after the passage of time, someone can make up for their past actions and deeds?
    • Do you think that Menachem achieved his goal of expanding his sons' consciousness?

    Invite students to share their responses with another member of the class. You may choose to open up these conversations to the whole class.

  2. As a class, read Honoring the Muchas' and Recognizing the "Righteous," two speeches given in honor of the Mucha family for their courageous rescue of Menachem's father-in-law. As a way of both understanding the content of the speeches and allowing for the students to comment upon them, use the directions in Facing History's Big Paper - Building a Silent Conversation teaching strategy. As a follow-up to the discussion, invite the class to write their own two-minute speech to honor the Mucha family in a public ceremony.

    Ask your students why they think Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky called this film Hiding and Seeking.
  3. As a class, brainstorm any remaining questions they may have for Menachem or any of the other characters in the film. Post them on the discussion forum of the film's website.
  4. At the end of the film, Menachem speaks of a Tsava, a Jewish ethical will. He says:
    •  There used to be a Jewish tradition called a Tsava. When you reached a certain stage in your life and you realized you weren't going to be around forever to guide your children, you would take the most important values that you wanted them to live by and you would commit them to a document, sort of like an ethical will. I hope that the trip I took my sons to Poland on, in a way, I hope they see that as my Tsava to them. I think it's like planting a seed; it could take years and years. But that's my hope.

    Invite the students to create their own ethical wills. What values would they hope to pass on to their friends and family and how do they think they can pass on these values in their lifetime?

Assessment

Lesson three provides several activities that can be used to evaluate student understanding of the main themes and concepts presented in the film. Teaching strategy 1 in lesson 3 invites students to write a speech they would give to honor the Mucha family. The speech should demonstrate what they learned from watching the film about the risks that individuals and families took to save the lives of others. Students should also demonstrate what they learned about the complexity of forgiveness and the legacy of the Holocaust.

Teaching strategy 2 in lesson 3 is a good activity for helping students identify the main idea and themes of the film. In this strategy, students are asked to think about why the filmmakers chose the name Hiding and Seeking for the film. You can ask students to write a paragraph explaining the title of the documentary.

  • Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity and behavior.
  • Standard 2: Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership and different ways that groups function.
  • Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation and interdependence among individuals, groups and institutions.
  • Standard 41: Understands the causes and global consequences of World War II. Benchmark 2: Understands the Holocaust and its impact on Jewish culture and European society (e.g., the chronology of the Nazi "war on the Jews," and the geography and scale of Jewish deaths resulting from this policy; personal reasons for resistance to or compliance with Nazi policies and orders; the brutality of Nazi genocide in the Holocaust as revealed in personal stories of the victims.)
  • Standard 1: Conflict, cooperation and interdependence among individuals, groups and institutions.
  • Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.
  • Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
  • Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
  • Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

Behavioral Studies Level IV (Grades 9-12) World History Level IV (Grades 9-12)
Era 8, A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945 Historical Understanding Level IV (Grades 9-12) Language Arts Level IV (Grades 9-12)

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