Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Holocaust has been a part of education curriculum for years. We have learned about the larger than life villain, Hitler, that started the mass slaughtering of Jewish people, we have learned Anne Frank’s story, and we have heard of the concentration camps that so many have died in. We have heard from a few people who have lived in during the Holocaust, but it’s hard to make each individual story sum up the mass amount of people affected and hurt during this time. Ruth Thomson gathered facts, stories, maps, artwork, and true accounts of survivors in her book Terezin: Voices From The Holocaust to accurately tell the stories of the Holocaust.

We all know about the Holocaust, but Thomson’s book Terezin: Voices From The Holocaust offered clarity with facts and stories to make complete the true accounts from every angle. For starters, Thomson doesn’t only talk about life hiding from the Nazi’s, or what kind of madness swept over the nation with Hitler as their leader. Thomson tells the story of the victims, and starts from the beginning.

Thomson writes about life in the Terezin ghetto where Jewish families lived in horrific poverty. The ghetto’s name was eventually changed to Theresienstadt by the Nazi’s and was turned into a concentration camp. Theresienstadt served as a “transport” camp that hosted thousands of inmates. The Nazi’s used this camp as propaganda and acted like life for the detained was not bad at all. The camp was supposed to stand as a disguise or mask for the gruesome death camps, and it tricked the people of Germany. The inmates had to tell their stories by keeping secret journals, artwork, and letters, and Thomson displays the hardships they faced as she unveils their work.

Thomson’s book is well researched, educational, and a truly griping read. She supplies readers with statistics. For instance, there were 86,934 who were transported from Theresienstadt, but less than 3,000 inmates survived. The number is astounding. Thomson does not just supply readers with facts, she tells stories of survivors. The survivors explain what life was like when they describe life living among the dead corpses. They describe the hardships of mourning when they would pass around the ashes of their dead friends and family.

Thomson’s book reads like a text book with headings, factual information, and some pictures. However, her use of survivors’ stories was the most interesting, yet devastating part of the book. Having learned about the Holocaust while I was in school, and then assisting in teaching a Unit on the Holocaust, this was my favorite book I have read about the Holocaust as well as the most useful.

Prior to reading this novel, I did not know that the Nazi’s even tried to mask any of the conditions of the death camps from the people in Germany. The Teresientstadt ghetto was supposed to deflect attention from the real crimes being committed. Thomson digs for the truth and quotes survivors in mini passages to explain what life was like there on a daily basis by explaining the jobs, the food, the death, and the setting in their own words.

I would include this novel in my classroom if I was teaching about the Holocaust. I would read it along with Anne Frank’s Diary. The content and gruesomeness of the Holocaust is very evident in the text, which might be too much for younger teens. I would teach this book in an eighth grade or high school setting.  I also found a video on YouTube that exposes some of the truths about the Teresientsadt ghetto that Thomson talks about in her book. The clip is long, but I think it goes hand in hand with Thomson's book. The video pasted below is different; its a shorter clip of what Terezin looked like then and today.
Thomson's book recieved rave reviews. She even won an award for her writing; she won the 2012 ALCS Educational Writers' Award. Here's the link to the website that talks about her winning the award for her book  Terezin: Voices From The Holocaust. Her book states that it is intended for audiences 11 years old or older.
Here's a link for additional information about Terezin that includes some pictures. For those who are interested in reading this book, the information here can be helpful for you.
This book is not just a great read for a classroom setting. It's fascinating, and it is an enjoyable read. It's a shocking book that helps you better understand the Holocaust, and after you read it, you truly feel impacted.


Alexandra Klitz said...

I personally believe that Anne Frank's diary should not be taught in English classes. It is not a piece of literature. It is the diary of a young girl while hiding from the Nazis, which she doesn't write about as much as she does about herself, family, and friends, which is what one would expect in a diary. However, I think that non-fiction accounts of the Holocaust could be very valuable to an English class. This sounds more appropriate than Anne Frank for an English or history class.

maria rendon said...

It does seem like a more interesting book than Anne Frank's Diary. I think its time that more Holacaust victims are introduced to our younger reader. Different perpectives and other life stories are always more engaging than one person's perpectives and life events.