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April 24, 2014

Lidice & Lezaky: their stories through stamps – Lesson Plan

By Paul Weiser, Mandel Fellow of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the former director of the Braun-Glick Holocaust Institute for the Anti-Defamation League.

Introduction

The purpose of this lesson is to have students explore the historical reality of the massacres that occurred in the villages of Lidice and Lezaky, Czechoslovakia, in 1942 through the use of stamps commemorating the events.

Subjects

Holocaust, Social Studies

Estimated Time

1 – 2 class periods

Grade Level

Middle and High School

Materials

  • Equipment suitable for a power point presentation (If this is not available, copies of the stamps can be used as student handouts)
  • Lidice & Lezaky presentation (in pdf format that can still be used like a powerpoint)
  • Student handout of a blank stamp
  • Markers
  • Chalk, smart board or flip chart
  • Student access to the Internet

Procedure

NOTE: This lesson may be accomplished with students working in small groups or individually.

    1. Explain to the students that they will be using postage stamps to examine events that took place in two small villages in Czechoslovakia during WWII.
    2. Display the first slide (2 stamps: 1 of Lidice and 1 of Lezaky) and ask the students the following questions:
      • By looking at each stamp, can you tell what might have occurred at these villages?
      • Is there any reason you can discern why stamps would be created/issued that featured these two places?

NOTE: Teachers may want to list student responses on the board or on chart paper. Add to the list as you progress thru steps 3-6 below.

    1. Display the second slide (2 stamps: 1 of Lidice and 1 of Lezaky) and repeat the questions asked above.
    2. Display the third slide (1 stamp of Lidice) and repeat the questions asked above.
    3. Display the fourth slide (2 stamps: 1 of Lidice and 1 of Lezaky) and repeat the questions asked above.
    4. Display the fifth slide (1 stamp of Lidice) and repeat the questions asked above.
    5. Divide the students into small groups. Give them time to search the Internet for information relative to Lidice and Lezaky in 1942.

NOTE: This research component could be a homework assignment. The lesson could resume at this point the following day.

    1. Students will report their findings.
    2. Show the students the slides again. This time they will be organized by year of commemoration/issue: 5 years, 15 years, 20 years, 25 years and 30 years. Tell the students that they will be viewing the stamps once again but this time they will be arranged differently. Ask the students to compare the stamps from year to year and if they notice any differences in how these events were visually portrayed. What does this say about how we remember the past? Which image for them best captures the reality of what took place?

NOTE: Once again teachers may choose to list student responses.

    1. From what the students were able to learn from their Internet research, ask the following questions:
      • Who was responsible for the massacres at Lidice and Lezaky?

NOTE: Several critical points need to be made here:

      • Czech policemen, trained professionals, took part in the massacre at Lidice, i.e., registering and guarding property, rounding up the women and children and escorting them to designated sites.
      • Members of the German Order Police, among others, acted as executioners.
      • Not all victims of the Nazis were Jews
      • Why would Czech policemen cooperate with the Germans to the extent they did in the murder of their fellow citizens?
      • Why would German police play such as active role in the murder of innocent civilians

NOTE: No doubt student responses will include things such as peer pressure and fear of retribution if they refused to follow orders. At this point in the lesson the teacher may choose to mention that not a single member of the German military was ever punished for refusing to take part in the murder of innocent people. Reference to the findings of Christopher Browning in Ordinary Men would provide valuable insight into this relatively little known aspect of the Holocaust.

      • Do you think the Germans would have been as successful as they were in perpetrating the Final Solution without the help of collaborators?

NOTE: It might prove helpful at this point in the lesson to provide the students with an example of collaboration. For example, approximately 90 personnel were assigned to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the death camps; only 30 were Germans; the remainder Ukrainians.

  1. Distribute the handout of a blank stamp. Ask the students to imagine that at the 100th anniversary of the events at Lidice and Lezaky, the Czech government will issue a new commemorative stamp. Taking into consideration what they have learned about the massacres and how they have been portrayed on past stamps, assign the students the task of designing their own stamp/s suitable for such recognition. (This may be done individually or as a group.)
  2. Once the assignments have been collected, the teacher may choose to scan the images into his/her computer system and create a power point presentation. The lesson would then culminate with a teacher-led discussion while viewing the students’ renderings.

Suggestions for extending the learning

  • Have the students continue their study of the Holocaust by identifying instances of collaboration with the Nazi government and evaluating the impact this cooperation might have had.
  • Have students explore the reality surrounding the Nazi assault on non-Jewish populations. What were their motivations? Were there any similarities to the situations Jews faced?
  • Given what the students have learned about events at Lidice and Lezaky, in a thoughtful essay ask them to explore the decision by the Czech underground to assassinate Heydrich? Was it an informed decision? Was it worth the risk? Were there other options?
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