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Lesson Plan: Reconciling with the Past?

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OBJECTIVES:

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

ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED: 1 class period (includes time to view segment 3 of the film and post viewing activities)

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REFLECTIONS:

View Segment 3, Reconciling With the Past (Approximate film location: 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 were 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.

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TEACHING STRATEGIES:

  1. As a class, read the two speeches given in honor of the Mucha family for their courageous rescue of Menachem's father-in-law (see Reproducible 3). As a way of both understanding the content of the speeches and allowing for the students to comment upon them, use the directions on Reproducible 4, the "big paper" discussion 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.
  2. 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 director'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?

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EVALUATION SUGGESTIONS:

Lesson 3 in the study guide 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.

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Reproducible 3: Honoring the Muchas' and Recognizing the "Righteous"

Note: Reproducible 3 is available as a single page PDF file (16KB).

The following is the transcript of the speech given by the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, Professor Shevach Weiss:

I would like to say something face to face to the family of the righteous among the nations. Please let me to use my Polish, my Polish from my childhood as a Holocaust survivor from here.

[Speaking in Polish] I left Poland at age ten after the war. I was also saved by a Polish family and therefore I love you. Because I know exactly what it means to be "Righteous Among the Nations." It's more than just an expression. I am talking about real people, open hearted, courageous people. Courage, daily courage. I personally know that for you it meant the death penalty. And such heroes are very rare in the world. Such humanity.

I would like to thank you personally from the bottom of my heart. This is on behalf of your family, because family is the most important thing. And here we have the members of the family that was saved.

The second speech was given by one of Menachem Daum's sons, Tzvi Dovid:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. We have three generations of the Federman family with us today who have come from various cities in Israel and the United States to be here and pay tribute to a very special family. Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf" that conscience is a Jewish invention. By eradicating the Jews, Hitler sought to eradicate humanity's collective sense of conscience. The Holocaust was an extreme time; it turned some people into angels and others into animals. Mr. and Mrs. Mucha, you and your in-laws Mr. and Mrs. Stanislav Maryanov Matusik of blessed memory were four of those angels and for this we are eternally grateful. We know it's a thank you that has been late in coming. Please don't think for a moment that our parents and grandparents' lack of communication was due to a lack of gratitude. How do you repay somebody that put everything on the line for you? There's such an overwhelming sense of insurmountable debt that my grandfather has literally become paralyzed to act upon it. The question of how to recognize your heroic efforts has certainly been on our conscience. My grandfather and his brother Pincha have decided they would like to set up a fund for your... your grandchildren's education. There is no way that we could certainly repay what we owe you but we hope that you accept our expression of gratitude and may God bless you and repay the rest of this debt in full. Thank you.

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Reproducible 4: Big Paper - Building a Silent Conversation

Note: Reproducible 4 is available as a single page PDF file (24KB).

In this discussion strategy, students will:

  • Slow down their own thinking process to let them consider the views of others
  • Be encouraged to explore a topic/issue in an in-depth manner
  • Honor silence in the classroom
  • Create a visual record of their thoughts and emotions

MATERIALS:

  • Several pieces of flip chart paper
  • Markers or pens
  • Tape

In this strategy the idea is to have students, in pairs, have a conversation in writing around a document or image.

Examples for Big Paper activities in a Facing History and Ourselves classroom may include:

  • A text or visual image that reflects some difficult aspect of the September 11th events
  • A particularly moving testimony from a survivor
  • A speech by a politician
  • A speech or statement from the Taliban, a controversial op-ed piece or quote
  • A political cartoon
  • A piece of art
  • A journal or diary entry
  • A series of quotes from students themselves

The document chosen should be pasted or taped to the middle of a big sheet of flip chart paper or newsprint. This leaves plenty of room for students to write on the "Big Paper." This activity works best when each pair has the same text, but it could work well if pairs have different texts as well. The students should be told that all the writing they do on the Big Paper will be seen by other students.

Step One: Importance of Silence

Before this activity occurs, it must be made clear that for the first two parts of this process, there is to be absolute silence. All communication is done in writing. Students should be told that they will have time to speak in pairs and in the large groups later. Also, before the activity starts, the teacher should ask students if they have questions, to minimize the chance that students will interrupt the silence once it has begun.

Step Two:

Each pair receives a Big Paper and each student a marker or pen. The pairs are to read the text (or look at the image) in silence. After both students in each pair have read, they are to comment on the text, and ask questions of each other in writing on the Big Paper. The written conversation must start on the text but can stray to wherever the students take it. The teacher can determine the length of this step, but it should be at least 15 minutes.

Step Three:

Still working in silence, the students leave their partner and walk around reading the other Big Papers. Students bring their marker or pen with them and can write comments or further questions for thought on other Big Papers. Again, the teacher can determine the length of time for this step based on the number of Big Papers and his/her knowledge of the students.

Step Four:

Silence is broken. The pairs regroup back at their own Big Paper. They should look at any comments written by others. Now they can have a free, verbal conversation about the text, their own comments, what they read on other papers, and comments their fellow students wrote back to them.

Step Five:

The teacher should debrief the process with the large group. The discussion can touch upon the importance and difficulty of staying silent, the mode of communication, and the level of comfort with this activity. This is the time to delve deeper into the content. The teacher can use the prompts on the Big Papers to bring out the students' thoughts.





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