Pre–World War II European Jewish Life Photo Project
Over the last couple of years that I have used this particular lesson, I have found that even if modifications are made, it is integral to the understanding of students that they find their own photo that parallels at least one of those researched. It is likely they will say, “But how am I going to be able to find one that relates 70 years after this?” To which I reply, “Just try, you’ll be surprised.” When they come to class that next day, they can’t wait to share, and as the photos are placed on the boards, a very interested but quiet perusal takes place as the students look at the photos together. It is also vital to the project that the class then discuss the collections’ similarities and differences.
While researching, some students choose to find out more about the people pictured in their photos, so certainly other assignments can grow from this one; yet, depending on time constraints, or whether students are having trouble researching, this project can be extended a few days or perhaps even shortened.
In directing this project, I must point out that the objectives of the lesson fall into place easily: it is an organized, complete, fun assignment that is highly interactive in many different ways. The biggest challenge presented in this project is helping the students find information on some of the locations where photos were taken; again, I tell them to keep searching, and ultimately, they find the answers on their own. The school librarian becomes an invaluable resource.
Students seem to know from the very beginning of this lesson what they will find: life is not any different for them than it was for the Jews of Europe, and individuals and communities who had much to offer were destroyed. Weeks down the road in class, when we are looking at photos of the ghettos or watching documentary footage of the “Final Solution” being carried out, it is obvious from student reactions, questions, and comments that the connection has been made: the photographs of life are ingrained in their minds, and therefore the ultimate loss is understood. Students remember who those people were, and then remembrance of lives lost continues.