Portrait of Anne Frank, age 13
Credit: Courtesy of the Anne Frank Stichting in Amsterdam,the Netherlands.
One of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read."
—Eleanor Roosevelt in her introduction to The Diary of a Young Girl
"So much has happened it's as if the whole world had suddenly turned upside down."
—Anne Frank, June 8, 1942
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's online introduction to Anne Frank states, "Anne Frank was one of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish children who died in the Holocaust." In that sense, she is not unique; however, through the very ordinary act of writing a diary, through her youthful wisdom and budding literary talent, Anne remains today an extraordinary "symbol for the lost promise of the children who died in the Holocaust."
This lesson invites you to supplement your students' reading of The Diary of a Young Girl by connecting the diary to the study of history and to honor the legacy of Anne Frank, the writer, as she inspires your students to use writing to deepen their insights into their own experiences and the experiences of others.
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to
German pride had been wounded by its defeat in World War I; moreover, Germans resented the forced changes to their country's pre-World War I borders. According to the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum website, as a result of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Germany had lost "13 percent of its European territory (more than 27,000 square miles) and one-tenth of its population (between 6.5 and 7 million people)."
"At the Lausanne Conference of 1932, Germany, Britain, and France agreed to the formal suspension of reparations payments imposed on the defeated countries after World War I. Thus, when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933, the financial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (the post-World War I peace agreement) had already been revised. Hitler was determined to overturn the remaining military and territorial provisions of the treaty and include ethnic Germans in the Reich as a step toward the creation of a German empire in Europe." (From the EDSITEment-reviewed U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum website.)
In a series of diplomatic maneuvers, propaganda campaigns, and, finally, devastating attacks using the blitzkrieg tactic, Germany rapidly took control of a series of European countries. In each, Germany implemented a particular set of governing policies. To each country, Germany attempted to export its racial ideology.
Based on the information from each group, students will fill in a chart, World War II in Europe, summarizing the information.
Students interested in learning more about The Holocaust can explore The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students: "Organized by theme, this site uses text, historical photographs, maps, images of artifacts, and audio clips to provide an overview of the Holocaust. It is the first step in a growing resource for middle and secondary level students and teachers, with content that reflects the history as it is presented in the Museum's Permanent Exhibition, The Holocaust."
Students can read authentic stories of some Dutch citizens in Netherlands Stories, from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Included are four brief videotaped accounts of eyewitnesses.
Students can read and react to a contemporary diary written by a young woman in a war torn part of the world through Zlata's Diary, by Zlata Filipovic. (Viking Press, 1997. Grade levels: 6-12.)
Students can use the resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to research "Blacks During the Holocaust," including learning about Joseph Nassy: ". . . a black expatriate artist of Jewish descent. Nassy was living in Belgium when World War II began, and was one of about 2,000 civilians holding American passports who were confined in German internment camps during the war." The site also includes examples of works by Nassy.
Students can use the resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to research the 1936 Olympics and read Witness to History: John Woodruff, African-American Gold Medal Winner, 1936.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also provides information about contemporary incidents of potential genocide through Alerting the National Conscience to Threats of Genocide Today.
Have students read (or read to them from) Tales from the Secret Annex by Anne Frank (Doubleday Books: 1983. Grade levels 9-12.).
Students who want to learn more about Anne Frank can view some photos of the rowhouse and the attic in which Anne spent two years confined with her family and four other people, available from the website Anne Frank House, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. As one recent visitor to the house described it: "Amsterdam rowhouses are very tall, very narrow, with incredibly steep staircases. You walk up the steep narrow stairs, go through the secret doorway behind the bookcase, then all of a sudden there's this surprisingly large space. … From the windows of the Anne Frank House … you can look out and see the windows of other houses and of the street and canal below; for us this was a picaresque detail, but for Anne and her family it presented an incredible danger, as their eventual betrayal by a Dutch neighbor attests." Some editions of the diary include a sketch that Anne herself made of the rooms in the house.
Teaching about the Holocaust: A Resource Book for Educators (available for free download at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Outreach Page for Teachers) contains an extensive, annotated bibliography of readings for middle school students wanting to know more about World War II in Europe and/or the Holocaust.
3 class periods