Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


The Angel of Theresienstadt
Author:
Jesse McClain
Course:
Modern World History
Time Frame:
Two days
Subjects:
Displaced Persons

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Through this activity, students will learn to analyze primary source materials such as pictures, letters, and diaries, and synthesize that information with material presented in the classroom to produce an original story.  It exercises research and writing skills, and allows students to personalize the Post World War II experience.

Rationale:

The teacher will explain the assignment to the students at the beginning of the unit on World War II in order for them to work as the unit is presented.  The teacher will present the unit information on World War II to the students in whatever manner planned.  At the end of the unit, as a capstone experience, the students will write an interpretation on the journal.  Students will be given a section of the journal.  Students will conduct a detailed analysis of the journal entry to make some determinations about their composite “survivor.”  Using available information, students should research the camp the author was in.

 

Students will use the research they have done as background to interpret the journal entry and create a detailed analysis.  The story should be approximately 1-2 pages double spaced and should include at least five realistic details from their research.  These details can be specific to their soldier, from his letters and available background information, and historical facts from the war materials. 

 

Peer editing, teacher editing, and use of the writing lab are recommended as the paper will be graded on grammar and spelling in addition to creativity. 

 

Optionally, teachers can allow class time to work on the story, peer edit, and presentations to the class.  Other options would include expanding the assignment to include people other than soldiers, such as the Red Cross nurses.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


National performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

 

 

Reading Standards for Reading In History

National Common Core

 

9th – 10th Grade

 

 

 

 

11-12th Grade

 

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. (RH.9-10.1.)

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole. (RH.11-12.1.)

 

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. (RH.9-10.2.)

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. (RH.11-12.2.)

 

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. (RH.9-10.3.)

Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain. (RH.11-12.3.)

 

 

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts. (RH.9-10.6.)

Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence. (RH.11-12.6.)

 

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. (RH.9-10.9.)

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. (RH.11-12.9.)

 

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (WHST.9-10.7.)

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (WHST.11-12.7.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Standards for History- National Common Core

 

 

 

9 – 10th Grade

11- 12th Grade

 

Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (WHST.9-10.9.)

Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (WHST.11-12.9.)

 

 

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

DP Camps in Europe Intro, from: DPs Europe's Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 by Mark Wyman

 

 Antony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5

 ISBN 1-57087-204-X "Thirteen is My Lucky Number" Chapters 7 and 8

 ibid - p.47 and subsequent

 "Michigan Family History Network report". Dpcamps.org. Retrieved 2012-05-14.

 "United States Policy Toward Jewish Refugees, 1941-1952". Ushmm.org.       Retrieved 2012-05-14.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Copy of the journal will be provided.  See Below

 

 

 

THE ANGEL OF THERESIENSTADT

 

    It was all over.  The fear, the unspeakable terror; the starvation.

 

    The last of the guard; the cocky young SS; the Slovak hangmen; all fled from the onslaught of the approaching Russian tanks.  It took weeks to separate the skeletons from the living, to group the sick and the healthy, but weak and to organize special barracks for special cases.

 

    I, together with six others, occupied a large room furnished with mirrors, neat and newly painted furniture and seven wide, clean-smelling beds.

 

    I knew that much, that the seven of us must have had something in common, but what?  All of us were in fairly good physical shape, although terribly underweight.

 

    All of us were of higher learning and education - lawyers, physicians, teachers -- myself, a chemist.  Five different nationalities - myself, a Hungarian.

 

    As the days passed with routine meals, walks, small conversation, reading; twice a day visit by Czech, Russian and volunteer Swedish and French doctors and nurses, I did make some observations.

 

    Dr. Gagis, the Greek medical doctor, had hair and beard as long as reaching to his shoulders.  They could not force him to shave.  Occasionally, he pounded his chest with both fists and he uttered only one sentence, “I am a man, I am a man.”

 

    Dr. Muslav, the Polish linguist had nails grown so long that they interfered with everything he attempted to do and hindered the nurses in handling him.

 

    Van Urn, the Holland lawyer, never wanted to change pajamas, never wanted to take a bath or even wash his face or hands.  He screamed with terror when several orderlys finally subdued him and put clean clothing on him.

 

    But what was wrong with me?  I surely did not belong to this weird group of mental cases?

 

    I let the barber shave me four times a week.  I enjoyed the long, soothing sessions in the bathtub, I refused no food.  I engaged myself in pleasant conversations with anybody on any subject.

 

    But one thing I knew for sure – all the miseries of the past years were written all over my face; I knew I looked at a monster’s face and I was surprised that every time roommates or the doctors and nurses looked at me, they did not scream out as if they had just seen a nightmare.

 

    I was convinced that tremendous will power controlled their emotions when they even tried to smile at me.

 

    But I knew different and no power on earth could force me to look in the mirror!

 

    What confirmed my belief was the fact that nobody forced me to face a mirror!

 

    One morning – it must have been around the middle of July, 1945 – at the end of the long line of visiting doctors and nurses, a new and attractive face caught my attention.  My eyes followed her and so did all the others in the room.  A blond, extremely well-shaped young woman with smiling blue eyes closed the line.

 

    And, she was the only one who stayed behind after all the officials had left.  She spoke briefly.  First in French, then in English, finally in German.  She was our new supervisor, nurse, mother and sister.  She would listen to all problems, would try to make our monotonous life easier to bear, help to speed up our recovery, whatever was ailing us.

 

    So she spoke – then left the room.  Something, somewhere – inside my skin and muscles, something was stirred up.  I looked at the others and I had the feeling they all were disturbed.

 

    I did not count the days.  From then on, the early sunshine brought her in the room and until the lights were turned off, I lived, ate, washed and breathed only for her or because of her.

    It was an unusual bright and pleasant evening when she entered the room unexpectedly.  Instead of greeting us all as she used to do and throwing individual remarks and encouragement to each of us, she walked straight to Dr. Gagis’s bed.  He lay there on his back and his deep seated, black eyes watched her approaching.  His beard already reached below his stomach and but for his eyes, one would not think he had a face or chest.

 

    “Come on, Dr. Gagis” – she whispered, although I heard her clearly and so did the others.  “Let’s take a walk to the lake.  I am lonesome and this night is too beautiful to waste alone.  Come on, keep me company.”

 

    And he got up slowly, like in a trance and they walked out, arm in arm.  The following hours were very difficult for me.  Why?  What was the purpose of the walk?  None of us went as far as the lake before.  Not that we were forbidden – we never cared.  And how long are they going to stay and why?

 

    He came back alone.  The room was very dark, I heard him stretching out on the bed.  Then I thought I heard some cry, some sighs coming from his direction.  Next morning, Dr. Gagis decided to get rid of his beard and long hair.

 

    I did not like her as much any more as I did before.

 

    She came in routinely as if nothing had happened.

 

    Hardly a few more days passed and suddenly, around nine in the evening, the door swung open and there she appeared.  Slowly, deliberately, she walked over to Dr. Muslav’s little table, where he was sitting, staring at her.

 

    “Dr. Muslav?  This is a splendid night, is it not?  Why should you sit here alone, when we both need companionship!  Come on, join me for a few, happy hours.”

 

    And out they went, arm in arm.

 

    If I thought of her before as my saint, my angel, our helping, smiling sister, now some anger, some frustration, almost hatred, had overcome me.

 

    She is nothing but a common, crude woman who wanted love, no matter how she gets it.

 

    Yet, how I wished I was the chosen one!  A few days and Dr. Muslav’s nails were clipped and neatly filed.

 

    And so it went on, week after week, date after date with another one, until only two of us were left.

 

 

**************************************************************

 

God Bless You, wherever you are, The Angel of Theresienstadt.

 

January 24, 1967                    Lawrence Rawl

 

                                     University Heights, Ohio

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • This is designed to be an individual capstone project for a unit on Post World War II by using primary sources to allow student insight into the personal side of the individuals in DP camps.  The students will use a personal journal entry of a gentlemen who survived the DP camp of THERESIENSTADT to write their thoughts and feelings of this story about one particular survivor.  If possible, find names and pictures of other survivors from DP camps to further extend the experience.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

 

 

 

 

Strong

Moderately

Strong

 

Average

Moderately Weak

 

Weak

 

Provides at least five realistic details regarding their subject and his/her circumstances

 

5

4

3

2

1

Provides specific examples from the letters or photographs to support their details

 

5

4

3

2

1

Demonstrates understanding of the situation Americans found themselves in during the War

 

5

4

3

2

1

Conveys clear meaning by using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation

 

5

4

3

2

1

Follows instructions with regard to mechanics of writing the paper

5

4

3

2

1

 

A 5 paper interpretation presents a well-developed story and demonstrates good control of the elements of effective writing.  A typical paper in this category

  • clearly identifies important features of the analysis and develops them in a generally thoughtful way.
  • develops ideas clearly, organizes them logically, and connects them with appropriate transitions
  • sensibly supports the main points of the analysis
  • demonstrates control of the language, demonstrating ability to use the conventions of standard written English but may have occasional flaws.

A 4 paper interpretation presents a competent analysis and demonstrates adequate control of the elements of writing. A typical paper in this category

  • identifies and analyzes important features of the analysis
  • develops and organizes ideas satisfactorily but may not connect them with transitions
  • supports the main points of the analysis
  • demonstrates sufficient control of language to convey ideas with reasonable clarity generally follows the conventions of standard written English but may have some flaws.

A 3 paper interpretation demonstrates some competence in analytical writing skills and in its control of the elements of writing but is plainly flawed. A typical paper in this category exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • does not identify or analyze most if the important features of the discussion, although some analysis is present
  • devotes most of its time to analyzing irrelevant issues
  • is limited in the logical development and organization of ideas
  • offers support of little relevance and value for points of the analysis
  • does not convey meaning clearly, or contains occasional major errors or frequent minor errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

A 2 paper interpretation demonstrates serious weaknesses in analytical writing skills. A typical paper in this category exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • does not present a critique based on logical analysis, but may instead present the writer's own views on the subject
  • does not develop ideas or is disorganized
  • provides little, if any, relevant or reasonable support
  • has serious and frequent problems in the use of language and in sentence structure, containing numerous errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that interfere with meaning.

A 1 interpretation paper demonstrates fundamental deficiencies in analytical writing skills. A typical paper in this category exhibits more than one of the following characteristics:

  • provides little evidence of the ability to understand and analyze
  • provides little evidence of the ability to develop an organized response
  • has severe and persistent errors in language and sentence structure, containing a pervasive pattern or errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that results in incoherence

0----Off-topic