Pre–World War II European Jewish Life Photo Project
Day 3: All work due, in-class discussion
The entire project is due, but in stages. Usually I give the following directions, and then 15 to 20 minutes of class time for completion, before our final processing and discussion. First, students are to attach their own family photo to the prewar one it relates to, so that both can be seen. (I have also had students put their photos on one board and the Jewish life photos on a separate board to compare and contrast.)
Either way, students are to hang the collected photos (including their own) on a chalkboard or bulletin board so that it will be one large visual collection. Third, students are to mark with a pushpin on the posted classroom map the location researched during this project. Fourth, students are to staple together and turn in the remaining photo analysis sheets (two, one for each photo), writing assignment, and locale research.
After those tasks are completed, a final project synthesis takes place: first, students gather around the boards, and we look at the class photographs together and discuss the similarities and differences we notice. Then, students take their seats so that we may continue our discussion. The focus of the discussion should be on how the students and people pictured are similar to each other, and how the community of the students and those pictured are similar, as well. Discussion questions include but are not limited to the following:
- What did you find out?
- What were you surprised by?
- What was Jewish life like before the German occupation?
- What are the similarities and differences of life in both sets of photos?
- Which European Jewish communities were affected?
- How were European Jewish communities affected?
- How did the Germans gain control?
After assessing students’ understanding of the project through the previous questions, discussion should then focus on the magnitude of six million lives lost through the visual on the wall of the people in the photos. Students have already counted them for their analysis sheets, so involving the entire class by adding up the numbers then dividing into six million can be powerful; however, it can also be confusing.
Try to make a connection between the individual lives lost and the statistic of six million by gauging the space filled by the photos and number of people there, and then approximately how many walls that would be, and then rooms, floors, and so on.
Finally, emphasis in the discussion should move toward the respect for individual lives lost in the Holocaust as a way of renewing those lives, recognizing them. Focus should also be placed on the recognition of Jewish cultural and communal life in pre-occupation Europe, how diverse it was, and what was ultimately lost.