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Activity Day 2016

Holocaust Memorial Activity Day - June 2016

Arrangements for the day -

Year 7 - Year 7 researched Kinder Transport and watched 'The boy in the striped pyjamas'.

Year 8 - Year 8 researched activities in Terezin during the war and did some work on the poem "The Butterfly"; they explored the food eaten by the Jews in the concentration camps and researched statistics around the holocaust.

Year 9 - Year 9 watched clips of survivors and their stories to stimulate some creative writing; developed ceramic artwork to reflect the holocaust and researched the White Rose Resistance (The Germans who resisted the Nazi regime).

Cross year group - Play in a day

Below is some of the work produced:

 

 

Terezin – Holocaust Activity Day

As Hitler transported tens of thousands of communal objects to Prague, their owners were rounded up and shipped first to a city built northwest of Prague in 1780 by Joseph II. Ironically, this city served as a fortress to protect Prague from invaders to the north. Joseph II named this village after his mother, Maria Teresa, calling it Terezin.

 

Hitler, the world was to be told, had built a city for the Jews, to protect them from the stresses of the war. A film was made to show this mythic, idyllic city to which his henchmen were taking the Jews from the Czech Lands and eight other countries. Notable musicians, writers, artists, and leaders were sent there for “safer” keeping than was to be afforded elsewhere in Hitler’s quest to stave off any uprisings or objections around the so-called civilized world. This ruse worked for a very long time, to the great detriment of the nearly two hundred thousand men, women and children who passed through its gates on the way to the east and probable death.

Of the vast majority of Czech Jews who were taken to Terezin 97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children. Only 132 of those children were known to have survived.

The Red Cross was allowed to visit Terezin once. The village of Terezin was spruced up for the occasion. Certain inmates were dressed up and told to stand at strategic places along the specially designated route through Terezin. Shop windows along that carefully guarded path were filled with goods for the day. One young mother remembers seeing the bakery window and shelves suddenly filled with baked goods the inmates had never seen during their time at Terezin. Even the candy shop window overflowed with bon bons creating a fantastic illusion she would never forget.

When the Red Cross representative appeared before this young mother, she remembers being asked how it was to live in Terezin during those days. Her reply implored the questioner to look around. Be sure and look around, as she herself rolled her own widely opened eyes around in an exaggerated manner. The Red Cross reported dryly that while war time conditions made all life difficult, life at Terezin was acceptable given all of the pressures. The Red Cross concluded that the Jews were being treated all right.

 

Terezin developed a deep feeling of family according to many of the survivors. As larger numbers of people were crammed into smaller spaces, a sense of community deepened. In the town of Terezin, the population had normally been around 5,000 people before the war. At the height of the war, the Ghetto/Concentration Camp Terezin held over 55,000 Jews. As a consequence, starvation and disease proved rampant. Thousands died of malnutrition and exposure. Their bodies were cremated at the small crematorium with its four gas ovens.

This was not a death camp, by the usual definition. There is no way to compare Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka or any of the other death camps where hundreds of thousands were gassed or murdered in other ways each year. Terezin, by comparison was a place to which people would apply so as to avoid a worse fate.

The elderly and families were brought in large numbers to Terezin. Then, in large groups, they were transported to the east, to Auschwitz-Birkenau, when it was fully operational in late 1942. There, the elderly were sent immediately to the gas chambers while the younger inmates who still could work, were temporarily spared. Terezin families were, in some instances, kept together at Birkenau, in family barracks, until their fate was met.

 

In Terezin, there were art classes taught by well-known artists. One of these artists was Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. She would tell stories, and the children drew pictures and wrote poetry. It was their work which allowed the outside world to know dramatically about life in Terezin. Six thousand drawings were hidden and later successfully retrieved to be displayed telling their poignant stories to the world. One of the poems in this collection is ‘The butterfly’ by Pavel Friedman, which I will read to you now.

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone...

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished
to kiss the world goodbye.

For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
In the ghetto.

 

Pavel died in Auschwitz in 1944. Today, we will remember Pavel, and all of the children who suffered during the Nazi Holocaust. I see the butterflies as a symbol of hope, and we will, for today at least, in our tiny part of the Earth, attempt to fill the world with hope.

Some photos from The play in a day...

Pupils worked with Mrs Holder to put together a play during the day which was performed at the end of the activity day to the whole of the lower school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Thomas More Catholic School, Palace Fields, Buxton, SK17 6AF

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