Thursday, January 28, 2010

Resistance During the Holocaust - White Rose Student Essay Contest Resource

There is no date on the booklet, and I cannot remember how long I have had it in my files. I came across this little gem again when I was looking through my file drawer of Holocaust material to see what I happened to have on the topic of “Jewish resistance” since that is this year’s White Rose Student Essay Contest topic. I had forgotten about this booklet tucked away in the middle of the drawer: Resistance during the Holocaust published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I sat down and re-read it...41 pages of text not including the table of contents, notes, chronology, or index. It begins with a discussion of the reasons why it was difficult for people to resist. Then it gives examples of unarmed and armed resistance in the ghettos and unarmed and armed resistance in Nazi camps. The next section tells about partisan activities in both eastern and western Europe. The final two sections deal with spiritual resistance and resistance inside Germany.

As I was re-reading I realized that this booklet was a primer for anyone who was planning to tackle the White Rose project this year – my students among them. Next problem: I personally owned five copies of the booklet, but that wasn’t enough to cover my class. Solution: the World-Wide Web. The booklet is available on the USHMM website at

I created the following questions and instructions for my students to guide them as they read:
  1. What does the word resistance mean in the context of the Holocaust? (Although this question is listed first, you may actually answer it last.)
  2. What are the differences between armed, unarmed, and spiritual resistance? (Do not answer until after reading page 37.)
  3. What obstacles to resistance did Jews face? (Make sure you can explain each of these – don’t just name them.)
  4. Describe examples of resistance – the places it happened, the various forms it took, the people who implemented it. You should have notes for each of the headings and subheadings in this largest portion of the book. (For your White Rose essay, you will be choosing one specific person or group of people to focus upon for your research project; this booklet may give you some ideas. Caution! The booklet discusses non-Jews who resisted the Nazis. You must choose a Jewish subject for your White Rose essay.)
I reserved two days in the computer lab for my students to read and take notes over the booklet. I knew that might not be enough for them to finish, but it was enough to give them a very good start. And then the snow fell... We lost both of our work days to school cancellation. That meant my students had to do all of the reading and note-taking on their own. (The best laid plans of mice and men...)

My students did a good job on the obstacles to resistance and understanding the difference between armed, unarmed, and spiritual resistance. However, the notes they produced about the examples of resistance were very general. They missed the point that the book was a gold mine of names, places, dates, and events – the sorts of information that could be used as key words for searches on web sites and in the indices of books. They didn’t read with that question in the back of their minds: “Does one of these examples of resistance sound interesting enough to me that I would like to research it further?” (Ah – 8th graders have so much to learn!) Thus, my advice to you, my fellow teachers... Coach your students to search for the answers to the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? about the individual examples of resistance that are mentioned in the booklet. Not all of the answers are in the book, but it is an excellent starting point.

Many of you who are working on White Rose have probably found this excellent resource on your own already. For those of you who haven’t, my goal with this blog entry was to introduce you to Resistance During the Holocaust and help you avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced using it with my students. I hope I’ve accomplished my goal!


1 comment:

  1. Love this! Thanks for pointing out this great resource for the White Rose Essay. I plan on encouraging students to write this and this source will be perfect!