Lesson
Duration:
Two 50-minute class periods

Learn the History: Deportations in an Anonymous Boy’s Diary

Learning Objectives

In this lesson students will gain an understanding of the final liquidation of the Łódź ghetto. Through reading diary entries from the Anonymous Boy and examining other historical sources from the period, students will have the opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of his diary entries in the context and character of the moment.

Educators and students are encouraged to read the introduction to the Anonymous Boy’s diary in Salvaged Pages, pages 361–68, before beginning the lesson. It provides valuable information about the writer’s life and a historical context for a reading of the diary. 

Overview

This lesson was initially drafted by Holocaust educator Lisa Bauman.

Core diary entries from Salvaged Pages used in this lesson: Anonymous Boy, ​August 3, 1944

In May 1944, the Anonymous Boy began writing a diary in the Łódź ghetto. That spring the Nazis decided to destroy the ghetto, which was by then the last ghetto remaining in Poland, and deport the last remaining Jews.1 Deportation from the Łódź ghetto occurred throughout its existence with several periods of mass roundups and deportations of adults and children. With the Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy (D-Day) in early June 1944 initiating the liberation of Western Europe, and the Red Army continuing its advance in the East, the Nazi urgency to erase all evidence of crimes perpetrated against Jews became ever more pressing.

Focus Questions

  • How does the Anonymous Boy’s diary add to our understanding of the final months of the war and the importance of documenting the Jewish experience?
  • What do we learn about the climate in which the Anonymous Boy writes his diary? 
  • What can we learn about how humans experience vulnerability, frailty, anger, and compassion from the diary of the Anonymous Boy?  
  • What is the purpose of reading such intimate descriptions of people’s experiences during the Holocaust?

Citations

Activities

Opener: Read an Entry from the Anonymous Boy

Begin by reading the following entries from the Anonymous Boy's diary:

6/6 1944 [D-Day, the Allied landing in Normandy; in English]

Today the news of the . . . . . . . . penetrated into the Getto. Who knows?2

7/6 1944 [in English]

It is true, the fact [of the Allied landing] has been accomplished, but shall we survive? Is it possible to come out of such unimaginable depths, of such unfathomable abysses?3 [June] 9, 1944 [in English]

We are quite at sea about what is taking place, only roumouring and canarding—I am very hungry. I have to b[e] five days without the ration of bread because I finished it, as alas I usually do during three days. God be in our help.4

26/6 1944 [in Hebrew]

I am writing these lines in a terrible mental state. Twenty-five thousand of the remaining inhabitants of the Litzmannstadt ghetto are slated for deportation. Every day about five hundred people leave the ghetto. We would be happy if we knew that our brethren were destined for work, for being slaves. . .because if so. . .Can we believe that despite promises of work they won’t be sent to a fate that they already meted out to millions of our brethren?  They say the transport wagons returned after eleven hours. Some say one thing, others another. This one cried and that one cried, and I belong to the generation that “merited” this! Woe to the world in which children like my little twelve-year-old sister have to ponder matters of life and death!5

Reflect upon the sequence of these entries. What is he describing? How do events outside of the ghetto filter into his entries? 

Read with your students the summary of the history of the Łódź ghetto and watch the animated map of the Łódź ghetto, both from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Students may also find it helpful to review a general timeline of 1944 and World War II from the USHMM.

Main Activity: Close Reading for Historical Understanding—The Final Deportations from the Łódź Ghetto

View the images of the Anonymous Boy's diary below.

 

Photograph of the last entry, written in English, from the diary of an anonymous writer in the Łódź ghetto.

Photograph of the last entry, written in English, from the diary of an anonymous writer in the Łódź ghetto.

Next, closely read the Diary Entry on Deportation from the Łódź Ghetto, August 3, 1944. Have students choose and share one line that stands out for them. 

Discuss the following questions:

  • What does the Anonymous Boy understand about events occurring outside the ghetto? Cite passages that reveal his knowledge.
  • What was the tone of his entry?
  • Describe the climate of the entry. What further information do students  feel they need in order to better understand this diary entry?
  • Discuss his question, “What sort of people are the Germans that they managed to transform us into such low, crawling creatures, as to say “Jahwohl.” Is life really so worthy? Is it not better not [to] live in a world where there are 80 millions of Germans? O, [is] it not a shame to be a man on the same earth as the Ger-man?”
  • What is the Anonymous Boy suggesting or implying by asking such questions? What terms are purposefully provocative? How do you understand these terms in the context of this entry? 

Citations

  • 2 : Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 371.
  • 3 : Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 371.
  • 4 : Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 371.
  • 5 : Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 374.

Assessment

Have students select one document from the workstations that they believe enriches their understanding of the August 3, 1944, diary entry from the Anonymous Boy. Have students write a short essay explaining their reasoning and how the document corroborates with the diary entry. Students may cite other source materials, but the focus of their essay should be based on one document.

Extensions

Deeper Exploration: Workstation Exercise

Students can gain a deeper understanding of the significance of this entry from the Anonymous Boy by examining supplemental primary sources. Just as historians rely on multiple sources—of different media and of varying usefulness or accuracy—to build an understanding of past events, students can engage in a similar process. They can have the opportunity to collect evidence, make new connections, and deepen their historical content knowledge of the closing months of the Holocaust.

The workstation model is an engaging practice for examining multiple sources. This process involves students circulating around classroom tables and analyzing the primary source materials assembled at each station. These can include documents, video, photographs, testimony, art, and more.

Have students move from table to table and examine the documents at each workstation.

We recommend using the following analysis process for Deportation from the Łódź Ghetto, Letter on the Fate of the Łódź Ghetto, and Announcement of Final Liquidation of the Łódź Ghetto.

  1. Identification:  Attempt to identify the Who, What, Where, and When of the document. Who was the author? Who was the audience (if it is stated?) What kind of document is it? When was it created or written?

  2. Analysis:  After gathering background information, what was the document’s significance or purpose? What new information does the document contribute to your understanding of the historical moment?6

Citations

  • 6 : The document analysis process was adopted from National Archives, Docs Teach website. Accessed November 10, 2014.  http://docsteach.org/resources

 

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.