While the soldiers were fighting the war, it was slowly becoming known to the world the horrors of what was going on in Nazi occupied territories.Through Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, he brought with him an intense hatred that would kill millions of people. In what became known at the Holocaust, Hitler orchestrated the systematic murder of 6 million people, most of them Jews. Hitler was a man full of hatred for these people, and because of that, he had Jewish people rounded up and sent away from the Germans, or Aryan people, who he believed were better than everyone else. At first, Hitler and the Nazi police, known as the SS, forced the Jews to leave their homes and live in a much smaller area with only other Jews. These places were called Ghettos, and they were not much better than prisons. They were crowded, dirty places where people starved and were treated worse than animals. One man, named Pavel Friedmann, wrote a poem about his experience living in the Ghetto of Terezin. It is called “The Butterfly,” and it talks about how harsh life was living in Terezin. Below, you can read the poem, and color a picture of the butterfly that you think Pavel was thinking about.
After you read “The Butterfly,” think about how hard life must have been under those conditions. The Jewish people had to leave their homes, work very long hours, receive very little food, couldn’t leave their rooms at certain times, and were often beaten. What do you think that would have felt like? It would have been painful, scary, and disgusting. What do you think would have been written about?
From these Ghettos, the Jews were being forced to leave yet again, this time to a place even worse. Jews were being taken to concentration camps, or places where they were forced to work or die. At these concentration camps, millions of Jewish people would be killed. Slowly, word began to spread about what was happening to the Jews. Rightfully, they were terrified of what could happen to them. But some non-Jewish people stepped up to help their neighbors. One family, for example, was the Ten Boom family, who lived in Haarlem, Holland. When the Ten Boom family found out what was happening, they made the decision to build a secret room in their house and hide Jewish people. The Ten Boom family saved nearly 800 people before they were found out by the SS. After it was discovered that they were hiding Jews, the Ten Boom family was arrested and sent to concentration camps. After the war, only one member of the family survived, a woman named Corrie, who wrote about her experience in a book called “The Hiding Place.” The home where Corrie Ten Boom and her family had hidden Jews is now a museum in Holland, and you can see the very room where so many people were hidden and saved! If you go to the museum’s website, you can take a virtual tour of the Ten Boom house.
In Amsterdam, a family of Jews became fearful seeing what was happening to Jewish people under Hitler’s rule. So they decided to hide. The Frank family, along with several others, hid in part of a house that was concealed by a book case. Within this family were two children: Margo and Anne Frank. Anne Frank was just 13 years old when she went into hiding, not allowed to leave her house for fear of death. While you and I are at home because we were asked to stay home to help stop this virus, Anne could not ever leave her house, and she was often very afraid. Anne was given a diary for one of her birthdays, and she used it often while in hiding because she had to be very quiet. She named her diary Kitty. Unfortunately on August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family were found by the Nazis. They had been in hiding for just over 2 years. They were taken from their home and forced to concentration camps. At the young age of 15, Anne Frank died in the Nazi concentration camp named Bergen-Belsen. Only her father would survive the Holocaust. After it was over, her father, Otto, returned to his home and found his daughter’s diary. He decided that the world should know her story and published it under the title “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Anne Frank’s house is now a museum, like Corrie Ten Boom’s, and you can watch a new series about Anne Frank’s life on their website. You can also fill out the worksheet below with all that you know about Anne’s life.
After the Allied Powers won World War II, the true horrors of what had happened to the Jewish people were found out. 6 million innocent people had been dehumanized and murdered. But why should we learn about this? It sounds like a really scary topic and a very brutal thing to talk about. But it is so incredibly important that we remember what happened during the Holocaust. I want to challenge each and every one of you to research and remember what happened during that time. But why? Because you are the future! And it is up to you to make sure that something that awful never again happens. Thinking about everything that you learned today, you would never want this to happen to you. So it is up to all of us, all of you, to make sure that it doesn’t. In the activity below, I would like you to reflect on how terrible this was, how terrible it would be, and why we should never forget that it happened.
I hope you all learned a lot about World War II with these three lessons! Be sure to come back tomorrow so we can start learning about another part of history!