For January we are exploring documentaries on the Holocaust and today I will be reviewing The Secret Diary of the Holocaust documentary.
In 2005, a school notebook was discovered. It was written by a 14-year-old girl named Rutka Laskier. The diary was discovered in the floorboards of her home. She was dubbed the “Polish Anne Frank.” In here she recorded the last few months of her life in the ghetto of Bedzin. She wrote about the atrocities that she saw, the hunger, and the physical hardships she endured. This documentary tells Rutka’s through the eyes of her half-sister, Zahava Scherz.
The diary that Rutka wrote was kept hidden for 60 years. Her half-sister Zahava was not aware of Rutka’s existence until she was 14. She was looking through her family photo albums and discovered a picture of two children: her half-sister Rutka and her half-brother. It was a shock and surprise to her. Her father did not talk about the family that died in the Holocaust. So in Zahava’s mind, there would be no conversations about her half-sister.
That is until 2005 when the diary was discovered. When the diary was found, Zahava found herself going on a journey to discover her half-sister. The original handwritten diary is kept at the Yad Ysehm museum. Rutka’s diary provides a unique testimony about life in the ghetto. Menachem Lior was the scholar who found the diary. He was also a friend of Rutka’s.
Zahava was able to read a translation of the diary. She was able to hold the original diary. The diary covers three months from January and April 1943. Rutka was a veteran of the ghetto at 14 years old. Rutka’s diary provides vivid detail about the ghetto and the Nazi’s atrocities. It is the voice of a child becoming an adult. Menachem Loir, who works at the Yad Yshem museum, knew the diary was Rutka based on comments about a boy that was made in the diary. Rutka had a crush on Menachem’s friend.
Then Zahava makes her way to Poland to discover more about Rutka’s life. She grew up with no extended relatives and felt empty. So she decided to go to Poland to get to know this family that had been killed. She goes to Bedzin and sees the man who published the diary in Poland. He takes Zahava to the house where she hid the diary. During the war, the house was owned by a Polish family who was forced to move out. However, the family was allowed to check up on the house.
Stanislawa, a member of the family would be the one who looked over the house. She met Rutka and they became friends. On a tour of the house, Zahava sees where the diary was hidden. Rutka hid the diary between steps. Stanislawa had shown where Rutka could hide the diary and found it in the spot where Rutka hid it when the family returned to the house. Stanislawa treated it like her personal memory of Rutka and it was only by chance that the diary was discovered. As a thank you, Zahava gave Stanislawa a copy of the diary.
Zahava then tours a school in Benzin. The diary is now part of the Polish curriculum in Benzin. She discusses with the students about the diary. The students then read passages from the diary. Continue to watch this documentary to find out more about Rutka’s and Zahava’s story.
This is a fantastic documentary about the Holocaust. This one I would highly recommend showing to a history classroom, no matter what grade level. Zahava’s story about discovering her sister is very touching. There is no hesitation when it would come to show this documentary in a classroom. If I had a list of Holocaust documentaries to show, this one would be at the top of the list.
Good morning and good afternoon my readers, we will continue to explore stories from the Holocaust. In 1947, a Nazi officer was put on trial in Vilnius for his part in the Holocaust. Several survivors came forward to share their extraordinary stories. Historians have descended on Vilnius to scan the buildings that survived the labor camp this Nazi officer ran. Historians, survivors, and scientists come together to examine and scan the buildings to help determine where people were buried and how the people survived.
Karl Plagge was a Nazi officer who tried to save his Jewish workers. When World War II ended, he was put on trial for his part in the Holocaust. Surprisingly, several Jewish workers came forward to support him during the trial. The people were survived at the lengths Plagge went through to save his Jewish workers. They told their story about how Plagge helped them survive. Plagge employed 1,240 Jews and managed to keep them safe while the Nazis exterminated Lithuanian Jews.
Michael Good, an American doctor, discovered that his mother was saved by Plagge’s actions. He decided to investigate the story further. It was through his investigation that Plagge’s story was brought back to life. It was a surprising story. Plagge ran the labor camp in Vilnius. He created workshops and employed Jewish workers to save them. These workshops repaired vehicles. To help ensure quality, Plagge argued that families should be kept together. The workers would be more enthusiastic if they had their families.
The workers in his workshops were ordinary people. They were shopkeepers. They had no mechanical skills. Plagge certified them all as mechanics. Plagge eventually employed the women as clothing makers. He was the middle man between the Jewish workers and the SS. Sometimes his plan worked, sometimes it did not work.
Historians try to find out where a massacre of Jews took place in Vilnius. The historians drone the whole area to determine where the mass grave was. This is called non-invasive archelogy. It gives historians an idea of what the area looks like currently to determine differences in the surrounding area. Then they use ground-penetrating radar. What will the results show about the area the labor camp is in?
Karl Plagge was born in Darmstadt, Germany. He joined up with the military because it was a family tradition. Plagge fought during World War I and was a prisoner of war. During the 1920s, he suffered from ordinary German families through the deprivations. He wanted to be a doctor and heal people. However, in 1931 he joined up with the Nazi party. He believed that Hitler could change things and get the people employed. His membership in the Nazi party would lead him to Vilnius.
It was in Vilnius where Plagge’s eyes were opened to Nazi atrocities. It was here he decided to work against the Nazis. He was ashamed and saw unbelievable things. He came up with a plan to save Jewish families. A survivor of Plagge’s plan joins Good as they explore the former labor camp. Sidney Handler, was 9 when he moved into the labor camp. There were other children in the camp, however, he was not aware of any other child who survived. Good and Handler explore the buildings of the camp.
The Good Nazi is a surprising story to come out of the Holocaust. To learn about Plagge’s fate, continue to watch the documentary.
This is an excellent documentary to show in a history classroom during the World War II and Holocaust section of history class. This would be a good documentary to show in a science class too. There are several applications of science in this documentary.
January 27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. So I will feature blogs about the Holocaust during January. I hope that these blogs will give teachers plenty of options for documentaries to show about the Holocaust.
Anne Frank’s Diary is the most famous in the world. Her parents had given her the diary for her birthday. She started to write in it. When her family went into hiding, she took the diary with her. This diary was discovered after the war. When it was published it became a worldwide sensation. It revealed the persecution of the Jews. It also revealed the lengths one family took to hide. Anne became a symbol for all the children that were killed in the Holocaust. When Anne started the diary could not have imagined the legacy she left behind.
The Frank Family lived in Germany. They lived quietly and raised their two daughters Margo and Anne. When Hitler came to power, life for German-Jewish families became hard. Jewish books were burned. They were attacked in the streets. The Jews were forced to wear the yellow star. Eventually, Jewish families were arrested. Once arrested they vanished. Nobody knew where they went. Families fled from Germany and the Frank family chose to move to Holland. Anne and her sister Margot adapted well to life in Holland. She was raised as a Dutch girl. She loved reading. She always got into trouble with her teachers.
Eva Schloss and her family lived in Austria when Hitler took over. Her family fled to Holland too when the Nazis took over. They were lucky to escape. Eva enjoyed Amsterdam. They could be a normal family. It was here that Anne and Eva would meet. Eva was a tomboy while Anne was interested in boys and movie stars. Anne helped Eva learn Dutch. Eva met Anne’s family too.
Many Jewish families thought they found a haven from the Nazis. During World War I, Holland was a neutral country. This meant that the Germans did not invade Holland during the war. World War II was different and Hitler invaded Holland. They were afraid about what was to come. The cycle of persecution began again. They could no longer attend Dutch schools. They had to wear the yellow star. They had yellow benches in the park. Young men were arrested in the streets and started to disappear. There were rumors of the Germans gassing the Jews. Life became hard for the Jewish families. In July 1942, Jewish families received a call-up notice. This call-up notice was a deportation notice for young people. They were going to be sent to Germany to work in the factories.
Margot Frank was one of the young people called up. After the Franks received the call-up notice they went into hiding. The Franks hid together in the annex with a second family. Eva and her family went into hiding as well. However, the Schloss family split up because nobody wanted to take in a whole family. Life in hiding was difficult for both families. Eventually, they would be betrayed.
To find out more about Anne and Eva continue to watch the documentary on YouTube.
This is a fantastic documentary to show in a history class dealing with the Holocaust. It is appropriate for a middle and high school classroom. The story’s pace is well done. Eva Schloss shares her memories of Anne, hiding, Otto Frank, and the aftermath of World War II. She also talks about the diary. She witnessed the rise of the diary as a piece of literature. This documentary would be a good addition to your classroom documentary arsenal.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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