Identity and the Holocaust unit design

The unit I designed centered on the Holocaust. Every school teaches The Diary of Anne Frank as part of a Holocaust unit so naturally we had to design a unit on it. Students in all grade levels hate this time of the year. I can’t really blame them. Anne’s diary is kinda interesting but it’s mostly about family dynamics and how the adults are mean to the kids.

The prior knowledge activity I designed went over well with my advanced students. The regular students didn’t really understand what they were supposed to do.

November 27, 2007

Teaching Literature and Media                                                                   Annotated Bibliography

Unit Conceptual Focus:                    Identity and The Holocaust

Primary Text:                                    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Summary of Primary Text: On June 12, 1942 Jewish German girl Anne Frank received a blank diary, which she named “Kitty,” as a gift for her thirteenth birthday. On July 9, 1942 Anne, her family, and some friends began hiding in the attic, known as the “Secret Annex,” of a friends business to escape persecution by the Nazis. The German government had been gathering Jewish people and sending them to concentration camps where they imprisoned before being executed. Anne continued to write in her diary until August 4, 1944, when the Secret Annex was raided by the German Secret Police (SS) and she and the others were arrested. The last entry of the diary is dated August 1, 1944, three days before her arrest. This entry is a letter directed to her diary and Anne considers herself to be a contradiction. There is one part of her that refuses to accept the opinions of others, her public face, and the other nicer side of her personality that she keeps hidden. She writes that she is surrounded by “dismayed looks, mocking faces and people who dislike you,” all of whom are close friends and family members with whom she has been sharing the Secret Annex. This view contradicts with first full entry over two years earlier when Anne writes about her birthday party, excitedly writing about the gifts she received, her friends and how she admires the movie canine Rin Tin Tin. The last line of the diary Anne writes that if there were no other people in the world how she would be able to be “what she wanted to be.”

            After the war Anne’s father collected what remained of Anne’s diary and published it in 1947.


* Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of world cultures; to acquire new information; and for personal fulfillment.

                        (NCTE 1)

* Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions of human experience. (NCTE 2)

* Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience and their interactions with other readers. (NCTE 3)

            * Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and

                        nonfiction texts. (PDE 1.1.8 G)

            * Analyze the use of literary elements by an author including characterization, setting,

                        plot, theme, point of view, tone and style. (PDE 1.3.8.B)

            * Analyze drama to determine the reasons for a character’s actions taking into account

                        the situation and basic motivation of the character. (PDE 1.3.8.E)

            * Write multi-paragraph informational pieces. (PDE 1.4.8.B)

            * Contribute to discussions (PDE 1.6.8.D)

            * Participate in small and large group discussions. (PDE 1.6.8.E)

            * Select and refine a topic for research. (PDE 1.8.8.A)

            * Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies. (PDE 1.8.8.B)

            * Organize, summarize and present the main ideas from research. (PDE 1.8.8.C)

Rationale:      Holocausts, mass killings on a destructive scale (Oxford Dictionary of Current English), might appear to be rare occurrences, but they are not. At least one instance of a group of people being murdered based on their ethnicity happens in a generation. In the current generation the killings of the Yugoslavian civil war and in Burundi are good examples. Pointing out these occurrences to school students will make them more aware of world events and enable them to identify holocausts when they occur. It should also cause them to ask themselves if such killings are just, why they happen, and what could be done to prevent future occurrences.

Anne Frank is thirteen at the time she went into hiding and fifteen at the time of her death. She went through all the normal changes that people do at this age and recounted them in her diary. At the same time her and her family were undergoing persecution based upon their religious affiliation. The feelings and experiences that Anne had (loneliness, isolation, ostracism among others) are the same that eighth-grade readers may be having. Though her situation is different in that she was hiding out of fear for her life, the concepts and themes found in her diary can be identified with by most adolescents.

                        The target audience for this unit is eighth-graders.

Secondary Texts: Since a Holocaust unit is mandated by school curriculum, the secondary texts used will be related to the Holocaust and Anne Frank.

Spiegelman, Art (1973). Maus I. New York, New York: Pantheon books.

    Maus I is the story of a man, Vladek Spiegelman, and his experiences during World War II, inside a German concentration camp, and his life after he is freed from the camp and moves to New York City after the war. It is told from the perspective of his son, who is also the author Art Spiegelman, and fluctuates in time from past to present. The novel’s human characters are represented by anthropomorphic animals. Mice for Jews, cats for Germans, dogs for Americans, etc. The animals were chosen because of their relationship to each other: Cats kill mice, dogs chase cats, etc.

        The plot of the story begins in the mid-1930’s Poland as Vladek is seen pursuing the woman who would become his first wife. The story continues as Poland is invaded and Vladek and his family are forced to hide from the Gestapo. Eventually they are caught. Most of Vladek’s family dies in the camps but he survives. He moves to New York city, marries another survivor of the Holocaust, and they have a son, Art.

        Spiegelman used the graphic novel format to attract people who are either like this style of art, or who normally do not read but may take to reading something if it is not in the traditional book style format. His character in the novel explains this to his father and step-mother. I think the graphic novel will appeal to my students because it is a graphic novel so may appeal to readers of comic books or graphic novels, and also because it uses animals to           represent the human characters. This may pull readers back a little bit from issues directly related to the Holocaust and look at things that may be relevant to them personally, like friendship and trust.

Goodrich, Frances & Hackett, Albert (1955). The Diary of Anne Frank. New York, New York:          Cort Theatre.

        This is a play based upon Anne’s diary. It has one setting, the annex where Anne and her family hid. It has two acts, with five scenes in each act. The first scene and the last scene take place after the war when Anne’s father returns to the annex and finds her diary.  Otherwise, the play takes place chronologically from the day the Frank family goes into hiding to the day the Franks are arrested.

        This play will be performed in class while the diary is being read outside of class. No time out of class will be spent on the play. It will be saved for in-class time. I want it to present another way of looking at the play’s and diary’s characters or people as real people. They  were, and are, real people, but the perhaps the diary represents them one-dimensionally; that  is they are words on a flat piece of paper. By performing a play written about those same                people it may take on a third dimension. They will become people because they are being played by actual people, the students in the class.

Kappes, David R. & Ellis, Kirk (Producer). (2001, May 20). Anne Frank: The Whole Story.           (Television mini-series). Hollywood: American Broadcasting Company.

        This is a television mini-series based upon Melissa Muller’s Biography of Anne Frank. It begins when Anne is ten-years-old and shows her family life before she went into hiding. It also shows Anne’s final days in the concentration camp before she dies. There is also speculation on Muller’s part about the identity of the Frank’s betrayer, which is not present in Anne’s diary or the play. Showing this movie will provide a second interpretation of the diary, as well as providing another dimension for the play, one that is between the diary and the play that will be performed.

Wagner, Richard. (1859). Tristan and Isolde (Recorded by Budapest Symphony Orchestra). On Masters of Classical Music Vol. 5: Wagner (CD). Los Angeles: Delta EntertainmentCorporation.

        The composer Richard Wagner was said to have been Adolf Hitler’s favorite, with the opera Tristan and Isolde being his favorite composition. Anne Frank also enjoyed Wagner’s music, with her favorite piece by him being Ride of the Valkries. Tristan and Isolde is an old English love story that has two lovers, Tristan and Isolde, being separated by Isolde’s engagement to a king. Eventually the lovers are united but they die. Hitler and Frank  were both lover’s of the arts. So it may be worth exploring what they may have had in  common, even though they were on opposite sides during the Holocaust.

Balance:   Balance in terms of multiculturalism or diversity may not be present in my text selection, but with the unit’s focus being the Holocaust of Jews by Nazis and the primary text being Anne Frank’s diary, I felt it best to keep all texts relevant to the focus. The Jewish holocaust of World War II is not the only holocaust that has been committed, and      certainly many others, including the murder of Native American’s by European settlers, could be brought in to the unit for comparison purposes. But with a limited amount of time available, four weeks, there is already much reading to be done, so I thought it best to hold-off on assigning more reading.

Overarching Questions:

            1) How can a stressful event affect a person’s identity?

            2) How does a person’s thoughts and actions reflect their identity?

            3) How do people acquire their identity?

            4) How does a person’s identity affect how they are treated?

Sequence of Texts: 

            1st – The Diary of Anne Frank and the play are introduced and distributed. The play will

                        be performed in class while the diary is read outside of class.

            2nd – Maus I will be given to one student who volunteers to read it. It will be read by that

                        student while the others are reading the diary.

            3rd – Music and television series will be listened to and watched at the end of the unit.

                        This will be done in class while students are finishing their final projects outside

                        of class.

Comprehensive Questions:

            1) Who are the characters in the diary, the play, and the graphic novel?

            2) What do we know about them?

            3) How do they relate to each other? 

            4) What events are happening in the assigned reading selections?

            5) Who are the protagonists?

            6) Who are the antagonists?

Interpretive Questions:

1) How does the act of “branding” Jewish people affect how they are treated?

2) How does being in hiding have an effect on people?

3) How does the manner in which Jewish people are treated by non-Jews affect the way they behave towards each other?

4) How does being or not being Jewish make any of the characters different or unique to the other characters?

5) What differences become apparent in Anne’s diary entries the longer she spends in hiding?

6) How does being in hiding affect the way Anne matures as a teenaged-girl?

Analysis of Text:

            1) How did the act of naming her diary affect the way Anne wrote her entries?

            2) Why does Anne chose to use dialogue to relate some, but not other, events in the


            3) Why does Anne use the letter format for some of her entries?

            4) How does Anne portray the other people living in the annex?

            5) What is Anne’s social world?

Retrospective Work:

            Once the unit is over, I plan to have students write a short paper outlining everything they have learned from the beginning of the unit until the end of the unit. This will include factual information about Anne, the Holocaust, and World War II, as well as the things they have noticed about the way the reactions they received while doing the various homework assignments.

Activities and Assignments:

            1) A design of the secret annex is included with the edition of the diary that will be read. Students will be required to imagine that they must go into hiding and draw a similar diagram of their hiding spot. This would be their home, a favorite relative’s of friend’s home. Someplace they think would be a good spot to hide in. They will also have t consider who would be in that hiding spot with them, meaning who would they take or who would naturally go with them (like their parents would as did Anne’s). They will then have to find their spot, or private area, in the hiding place and spend a whole day or several hours in it. Once in the spot they will have to stay there and not leave or have contact with other people. Once that time is up they will write what it is like to be alone in their secret hiding place and away from everything and everyone else, and also away from their normal life.

            2) Prior knowledge activity. This will begin the unit. Students will be presented with images, pictures, words and terms relevant to Anne Frank and the Holocaust. Ideally this will be done using giant post-its placed around the classroom, with one post-it for every student. Students will then be given colored markers and told to write on the post-its what they know about the image or term taped to it. This will be an internal discussion activity. Talking to anyone but themselves will be prohibited; it must be done in silence. This activity is attempting to access what students already know and to share it with their classmates. They will have to write something on every post-it, even if it is to say they know nothing about it. Soft classical music will be played during this activity to accentuate its introspective nature.

            3) Isolation activity. Anne was isolated from normal society because she was Jewish. Before beginning the activity students will write a short essay describing how they are treated by their peers, friends, teachers, family members, acquaintances and other people in their lives. The purpose of this is to form a base line of content by which their findings in the isolation activity will be compared. One-by-one students will be “made” different from their classmates for a day. This could be done by having them where a peculiar hat or sunglasses, for instance. They will then observe how people treat them while they are “different” in that way and how it differs from the way they are treated normally. They will write about their experiences using the essay written before the activity to compare and contrast the way they were treated when they were themselves and when they were different from their usual self.  The objective of this activity is not to compare what students go through during the activity to the Holocaust, but instead to help them recognize when they are being picked-on for an insignificant difference they have from others and also when they are the person picking-on other people for an insignificant reason.

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