Category Archives: World War II

Auschwitz Survivor Turns to Facebook to Find his Identical Twin

Birkenau_gateMenachem Bodern (born Eli Gottesman in the Ukraine) left Auchwitz on January 27, 1945 with an adopted father who took him to Israel. Now 73 years old, the survivor of the Third Reich’s most notorious death camp has turned to Facebook in the hopes of finding out what happened to his twin brother, Jeno Gottesman.

Equipped only with his faded Auschwitz ID number (A7733) and limited Nazi records, Menachem has sought assistance from Social Media to finally learn the fate of his identical twin brother. The search has turned up some promising but also disturbing news. Both boys were subject to twin testing by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele (a fate that Menachem fortunately does not remember).  Additionally, he learned that he had a younger brother that died at Auschwitz along with their father. However, amongst the sad news there is also a ray of hope, that his brother Jeno was officially declared healthy and alive by medical staff at Auschwitz on February 9, 1945.

Menachem and his family have set up a facebook page, A7734 (the number given to his brother Josef). To learn more about his journey, please visit his page on Facebook and the story on CNN.

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Six Sites for Primary Source Materials

It is officially August and most educators are beginning to feel the pressure that is the beginning of school. As we start to look at rosters and enrollment, we start to pull out and revamp old lesson plans and search for new material. As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. My youngest kids are ninth graders and often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am focusing on six websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well! So, here are my favorite five (presented in no particular order):

1. Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone focuses heavily on American History, but includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics (heavily focused on American political history), religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

2. EDSITEment – Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

3. Smithsonian Education – Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, Language Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

4. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

5. The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

6. Perseus Digital Library – Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), Arabic, Germanic, 19th century America, Renaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The six that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

Identifying the Children of the Holocaust

More than one million children died during the Holocaust, many of them separated from their families and alone. Now, the United States Holocaust Museum has begun the “Remember Me Project,” a program aimed at identifying more than 1,100 children of the Holocaust who as of yet remain nameless – girls and boys, blondes, brunettes, some teens, some infants, all unique but with one unifying factor – they remain nameless victims of the Third Reich.

To learn more about the project and to help if you can, please see the Remember Me Project and read these articles from the Associated Press and MSNBC.

Today in History – The Bombing of Hiroshima (Aug 6, 1945)

Aerial Photograph of the Explosion at Hiroshima

At 8:16 am in the morning of August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped the atomic bomb on the civilian town of Hiroshima. Three days later, the atomic bomb would be dropped on Nagasaki. On August 15, 1945 the Japanese would officially surrender, drawing the conflict in the Pacific to a close after four long and grueling years of battle.

The dropping of the bomb is one of the most controversial events in military history and Harry S Truman’s Presidency. The awesome power of the atomic bomb even haunted those that participated in its development – the famed “Manhattan Project.” Upon seeing the staggering destructive power of the bomb after its testing in New Mexico Kenneth Bainbridge, the testing director, leaned over and reportedly told his colleauges “Now we are all sons of bitches.” J. Robert Oppenheimer later recounted:

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-GitaVishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

The effects of the bomb were enduring and remains the only instance in which nuclear weapons were employed in armed conflict. The death toll in Hiroshima alone are estimated at between 90,000 – 165,000 people, half of whom died immediately from the explosion, approximately 25% within months after the blast from radiation poisoning, and the remaining (and hardest to determine accurately) from diseases (such as leukemia and other cancers) resulting from acute radiation exposure. It remains the most deadly single attack in military history.

To learn more about the bombing, check out the Wikipedia Article on the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the “This Day in History” Article via History.com.

Watch African-American Jesse Owens Win 100m at the “Nazi Olympics”

I came across a great video of famous African American athlete Jesse Owens (courtesy of HistoryToday.com) that depicts the Olympic legend (and personal her of mine) winning the final for the 100m.

Jesse Owens represented the United States during the 1936 Summer Olympics – hosted in Berlin and often termed the “Nazi Olympics.” Hitler was the state representative at the festivities (the head of the host country often serves in this position even today). The 1936 Summer Olympics were famous for the prominent displays of Nazi paraphernalia and propaganda. Hitler had intended for the Olympics to be a demonstration of the superior athleticism of the “Aryan Peoples” of Germany. However, after the clear victories of Owens at the games, Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) reported the Führer as saying:

Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made him happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Jesse Owens’ participation in the game was controversial as America still practiced wide-spread segregation throughout the country. Even so, while in Germany, Owens was allowed to use public transportation and stay in desegregated hotels.

Owens’ success in the games was highlighted by his four gold medals – 100m, the Long Jump, 200m, and the 4 x 100m relay. He was a hugely popular participant at the games and was adored by the German spectators. In spite of his success and popularity, on his return Owens was snubbed by the President (Franklin D. Roosevelt) – receiving no acknowledgment from the President recognizing his immense success.

Veteran History Project now on iTunes U

Thanks to my friend Michael Hulshoff-Schmidt for inspiring me to write this post. The Library of Congress has begun their “Veteran History Project,” officially recording the experiences of American Veterans in their own words for future generations.

Interested in hearing about the veteran experience directly from those that served? Know a veteran and want to preserve their personal accounts? The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. This collection makes personal histories accessible, as well as providing a Field Kit for preparing and submitting your own veteran stories.

The Library of Congress is making these records available for free on iTunes U.

Looted Nazi Art Gets Online Database

Looted Nazi Art and monies are often the center of public and emotional debate. The catalogue of looted art pieces has now been digitized in the hopes of helping victims’ estates reclaim items and to assist curators in identifying stolen pieces.

“By digitising and linking archival records online, researchers will be able to piece together the stories of what became of cultural objects,” said Oliver Morley. chief executive and keeper of the National Archives.

You can read more about this issue on the BBC.