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A Mother’s Shoah, Lesson Plan for Book and CD-ROM

Lesson Plan for Book and CD-ROM, titled:

A Mother’s Shoah
by Judy A. Kingsley
Third year student. Education Major
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey

The materials contained on this page are reproduced with the permission of:
© AlL NewMedia Publishing, 1999-2000
http://www.newmediapublishing.com

OBJECTIVES

  1. To read the book “A Mother’s Shoah” and to listen to it on the CD, if available.
  2. To discuss the book.
  3. To define the meaning of the “Holocaust.”
  4. To describe the author, Mrs. Susan Kaszas.
  5. To identify victims, bystanders, and perpetrators.
  6. To interpret the feelings and fears of the author.
  7. To analyze the publisher’s use of images and narration.
  8. To speculate about the author’s main reason to survive.
  9. To explain the use of short, one page sections in the book.
  10. To summarize the experiences of the author.
  11. To evaluate the lessons of the book and the impact it has made.
  12. To write a story about Mrs. Susan Kaszas and the book, based on information in the book and in the procedure section below.

PROCEDURE

  1. Read the book aloud, section by section to the students without comments or explanation. Ask for their response and interpretations. Do they have a better understanding of what the Holocaust was?
  2. After reading the book, ask students if they feel comfortable sharing their interpretations and understanding.
  3. After reading and/or listening to the book, have the students study it and write a description of the author. What did she think and feel when she wrote her book? What emotions do you think she experienced when she realized, after liberation, what had really happened to her? How do you feel about her?
  4. Explain to students that the author was a young wife during the Holocaust. She was born in 1920, in Gyor, Hungary, the largest city in the western part of the country, only half an hour from Vienna, Austria. She married Alex Kaszas in 1942, who managed a small family store and moved to Tapolca, a small town north of Lake Balaton. By that time anti-Jewish laws were in full force in Hungary too. Her husband, Alex, was taken away to a forced labor camp and while she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, along with their families. The small general store and everything else they had were also stolen away from them.
    Having survived under unimaginably cruel conditions in the concentration camp, she was then sent to an underground weapons plant , where she and thousands of others were forced to work extremely hard as slave laborers. She was exposed to highly poisonous materials every day and almost died there.After liberation, when she recovered enough so she could write, she sat down and penned a long diary letter to her husband, who had also been taken away to a forced labor camp. She did not know at that time if he, or anyone else from her family also survived. She went back to Hungary in April of 1945 and found him and only a handful of distant relatives who’d also come back alive. Everybody in her immediate family perished.They started to rebuild their lives and lost everything again when the Communists nationalized their country store in 1949. This forced them to move to Budapest, the capital, where they lived in the Stalinist Hell till the revolution of 1956 and the Goulash Communism which followed. During these years she had three heart attacks, yet she carried on at full speed, making sure they could raise their son under the best circumstances possible.Her reward was the times she could come to visit her son’s new family in America, especially her two grandchildren. Her husband died in 1975; she passed away in 1990, right after her 70th birthday.
  5. Discuss with the students the author’s use of restraint and simplicity, as a tool to highlight the indescribable evil and death she faced. Ask them where in literature they have seen this method used effectively before.
  6. Have students answer the following questions on paper as an assignment and then discuss:
  7. What made author write the “longest letter”, which became the book?
  8. Why was it so hard for her to write at all? How did the suffering she’d gone through affected her writing? Could you imagine being forbidden to write for nine months?
  9. How would you feel if the government or the mob evicted you and your family from your house, appropriated or stole everything you had and you couldn’t do anything about it?
  10. Why did author call on God, when she and all other Jewish inhabitants of the town were herded like cattle along Main Street to the deportation train?
  11. Why did the Germans wanted to deport only the young and mature population from the ghetto? How did the Hungarian police “get rid of” the children and the elderly?
  12. The author describes the torture they were subjected to, as follows: “When the search was over, we were benevolently allowed to enter the ditch. My older cousins were waiting for us there, as they had been kept there since yesterday. Even before getting to the bottom, I witnessed such a horrid sight that my blood begins to boil whenever I have a flashback of it. Bodies of people, beaten and tortured, were rolled down by the Gestapo and their more than willing allies, the Hungarian police troops.” What was the reason so many people were tortured so mercilessly?
  13. How was it possible that the police, charged with maintaining law and order, did just the opposite, by attacking, torturing and killing innocent civilians?
  14. What happened when the deportation train arrived at its destination, Auschwitz-Birkenau? How big was this concentration camp? Where was it? What was it like?
  15. How were the inmates treated? How many were forced to “live” in a room, not bigger than a dining room? What happened when it rained incessantly for three days?
  16. Why was the author taken away to Allendorf, after five weeks in this Hell called Auschwitz? What happened to the inmates that remained there?
  17. What kind of work were people, like the author, forced to do? Why did the Germans need to use slave labor? Describe some of the weapons this plant produced.
  18. How did the author escape? What was the name of the town where the Americans liberated her and the group she escaped with?
  19. How did she react, when she could comprehend for the first time the crimes and inhumanity she and countless others were subjected to by the Nazis? Did she think their lives will have any meaning?
  20. During the Holocaust, what actions could have been taken by individuals to stop the genocide? By groups? By governments? How might history have been changed if more individuals, groups, and governments would have taken those actions? What actions were taken by those entities in Finland, Denmark and Norway?
  21. Any study of the Holocaust recognizes three participants: perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. How are they represented in the book? What do you know about their behavior during the Holocaust?
  22. Define PREJUDICE. In what environments would a child learn prejudice? Who or what could lead him or her to judge others with prejudice? Does a lack of knowledge and understanding about a person or group add to prejudice?
  23. What are some examples of discrimination, prejudice, and racism today? What can you do to promote understanding and tolerance around you?
  24. Have you every been threatened, held hostage, or felt trapped in a life-threatening situation? How did you feel? What thoughts did or would you have in such a situation?
  25. Are there hate groups today that preach an unforgiving message of violence and prejudice? What media do they use? Are there music groups that promote violence? Does the violence so prevalent in television and the movies demean human values? Are some people more affected than others by violence and prejudice? Why or why not?

RESEARCH TOPICS

  1. In The “Nature of Prejudice”, Gordon Allport proposes that prejudice can escalate from verbal abuse to genocide. Show how his analysis applied to the Holocaust.
  2. Locate and read children’s books from the era like The Poisonous Mushroom to analyze how prejudice was taught to impressionable children at home and in school.
  3. Analyze and document the use of propaganda to spread antisemitism through film, print, and other media in Germany, Hungary, or other European countries, starting in the 1920-ies.
  4. Determine why and how the Versailles treaty, which ended the First World War, contributed to the rise of Nazism at first and to the Holocaust later.
  5. Trace and account for the steadily growing violence from the time Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany until his death.
  6. Research the Hitler Youth Movement and the League of German Girls to learn the methods used to capture their hearts, minds, and allegiances.
  7. The Wannsee Conference spelled out the “Final Solution”. Research the testimonies and documents of this conference. What were the results of this meeting?
  8. Explain the actions and “contributions” of the Hungarian police and Arrow Cross troops, along with the German Gestapo and SS troops, to the “Final Solution”.
  9. Research the actions of the people and governments of the Scandinavian nations of Finland, Denmark and Norway, as they related to antisemitism and the “Final Solution”.
  10. Analyze how the Nazis prepared and utilized slave labor to keep their weapon and ammunition factories going.
  11. Analyze the actions, effectiveness, and fate of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, who saved thousands of people from the Hungarian and German Nazis in 1944 and 1945.
  12. Kurt Gerstein was an SS officer who developed a conscience and began taking notes while delivering Zyklon B to death camps. Learn what happened to him and to his notes.
  13. Find the testimonies of liberators using sources like The Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberators, Chamberlin, B. and Feldman, M., eds.
  14. Research the writings — journals, diaries, biographies, autobiographies — of other victims to learn about the period and to find any qualities/similarities in their stories or character that may have helped their odds of survival.
  15. Find themes of violence and racism in schools today. What happened in Columbine High School. Why?

Footnote to “A Mother’s Shoah” by the author’s son, Steven Kingsley

I found my mother’s diary letter among her belongings, upon her death in 1990. Reading about her survival in Auschwitz and as a slave laborer in a Nazi weapons plant made me cringe. It also made me and my family stronger. I translated it and had our children, Judy and Mark edit, proofread and narrate it. We’ve created an illustrated printed book as well as a number of electronic versions, both narrated and non-narrated on CD-ROM, for computers and WebTV type devices.

This work is based on the faithful translation of the original diary. Photographs from the U.S. National Archives, images of paintings from David Olere and images of pages from the diary itself are interspersed with the text, to add visual impact. David Olere was a survivor too, who as a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau was made to cremate the dead bodies coming out of the gas chambers.

The book’s prologue sets the background on the first page, followed by the Table of Contents and events in a chronological order. This gives the book and the electronic versions a very easy to follow, unified structure. In fact, the layout is the result of a design to combine the literary book format with the hypertext based web page format. The “Credits, Copyrights and Links” page at the end even lists or connects directly to similar web sites, adding a truly interactive, worldwide dimension. There is a CD and Web browser guide as well on the last page of the printed book.

Our aim in publishing “A Mother’s Shoah” is simple. We want to make sure that every one of us stands up and says, when confronted with any kind of organized cruelty and inhumanity:

NEVER AGAIN!