I am half way through a long term subbing gig. One of the teachers at the local middle school is out on maternity leave. I had agreed (during a short time of obvious insanity) to teach a group of 7th and 8th graders.
During the 8th grade block we have been studying The Diary of Anne Frank. This diary was filled with the normal stuff of a young teenager’s life….with the exception of the time period being WW II….and being a Jew….and in hiding. It truly is amazing that she stayed as upbeat as she did considering her situation. My heart was touched as I read her story, her last words made me cry…because sadly, even though she survived in hiding for 25 months before the Nazi’s found her family, she did not survive her last few months in Bergen-Belsen. Typhus spread through that concentration camp in early 1945 and many, many who were already so malnourished and abused succumbed to the illness.
One of the activities that the students are journaling about is this: If you had to go into hiding–and had to do it quickly—what would you take with you? What are the things that are important to you? This activity was designed to make the students think. These 8th graders are the same age that Ann was when she first went into hiding with her family. As a teacher how do I make these children understand? How do I communicate what really happened during this period of history?
Some of my students are asking questions such as, “How did this happen? Who allowed it? Didn’t the German people understand what was going on? I don’t understand why the Jews were hated.” They have a difficult time understanding the horror of Anne’s circumstances–when all they’ve ever known in their own young lives, is freedom and privilege. How do I communicate truths to students so that their generation doesn’t let something like this ever happen again?