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Showing posts with label Yom HaShoah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yom HaShoah. Show all posts

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - 73rd Anniversary Begins Erev Pesach

73 years ago this week, German soldiers entered the Warsaw ghetto, intending to deport its remaining Jewish population to Treblinka, a nearby extermination camp. Months earlier, they were met with gunfire and suffered casualties when they tried to deport several thousand Jews. For a few months, the deportations stopped, but the Germans and their collaborators returned on the eve of Passover, hoping to clear the ghetto of its inhabitants in three days.

Instead, the Germans were met with fire and bullets. Sparsely armed with a handful of handguns and Molotov cocktails, the Jewish resistance - led by Mordechai Anielewicz - repelled the initial German assault, killing German soldiers and setting fire to armored vehicles. Though the Germans came back better-organized and under the leadership of a different officer, the resistance held out for several more days. In the end, only a few dozen fighters managed to escape the ghetto through the sewers as the Germans and their collaborators systematically destroyed the entire ghetto with fire and explosions.

The legacy of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, during which approximately 750 Jews fought off Nazi invaders longer than the entire country of France, stands as a testament to the strength of human determination and an example to all. In 2013, the Polish government dedicated the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which stands on the site of the Warsaw ghetto.

For more on the Uprising and its aftermath - as well as the 2013 commemorations of the event - please see:


Jews forcibly removed from their dugouts, on the way to deportation. One of the most famous photos of the war.

German sentries at ghetto entrance

A bunker with the Kotwica symbol of the AK resistance

Resistance fighter coming out of bunker

Housing block set on fire by German army to suppress uprising

Center-left, looking up to the left: the commander in charge of suppressing the uprising, Jürgen Stroop.

Resistance fighters captured by the Germans.

The ruins of the Warsaw ghetto after the suppression.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Hymn of the Jewish Partisans

The Days Of Remembrance are marked with ceremonies, processions, speeches, school activities, seminars, and other public events. The mood is somber as the generations of the living commemorate the millions who perished at the hands of Nazi evil and attempt to convey the enormity of what had befallen the world to those who are too young to remember or fully understand.

Yet it may surprise some to learn that, for many across the world, this day will be commemorated by the singing of a song.

The song is called Zog Nit Keynmol in Yiddish, and is known simply as the Hymn of the Partisans. From the ghettos and the camps it has journeyed across generations to become the official hymn of many Remembrance ceremonies in Israel and abroad. The words were originally written by Yiddish poet and resistance member Hirsh Glik, who was only 21 years old when he first recited it at a Yiddish literature event in the Vilna ghetto. Though Glik disappeared and was presumed to have died a year later, his song quickly spread beyond Vilna — the song's tone and mood perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the various resistance movements around Europe.

Four years after the fall of Hitler, the tune would be used as a form of resistance against another 20th century tyrant. Paul Robeson traveled to Moscow in June of 1949 to give a performance to an audience that included many Communist Party elites, as well as what little remained of the Jewish intelligentsia after Stalin's purges. At the end of the concert, Robeson stunned the audience with a surprise rendition of the Partisan Hymn. His introductory remarks contained references to the Yiddish language, the deep and enduring cultural ties between the US and Russian Jewish communities, as well as to leading Jewish intellectuals who had been "disappeared" by the regime.

The remarks, the spontaneous translation of the song to the shocked audience, and thunderous applause that followed were cut from the recording by Stalin's censors, but the chaos is evident in the mixture of applause and jeers that follows the actual performance. Lamentably, Robeson kept his criticisms of the Soviet Union to himself when he returned to the United States, not wishing to be used by right wing political groups to advance their causes. But the recording remains, as does the pain and fury in Robeson's voice.

“Zog Nit Keynmol” Hymn of the Jewish Partisans

Zog nit keyn mol az du geyst dem letsten veg,
Khotsh himlen blayene farsthtelen bloye teg.
Never say you are walking your final road,
Though leaden skies conceal the days of blue.


Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sha'ah,
S'vet a poyk ton undzer trot mir zaynen do!
The hour that we have longed for will appear,
Our steps will beat out like drums: We are here!


Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysen land fun shney,
Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mit undzer vey.
From the green lands of palm trees to lands white with snow,
We are coming with all our pain and all our woe.


Un vu gefalen s'iz a shpritz fun undzer blut,
Shprotzen vet dort undzer gevurah, undzer mut.
Wherever a spurt of our blood has fallen to the ground,
There our might and our courage will sprout again.


S'vet di morgenzum bagilden undz dem haynt,
Un der nekhten vet farshvinden miten faynd.
The morning sun will shine on us one day,
Our enemy will vanish and fade away.


Nor oyb farzamen vet di zun in dem kayor,
Vi a parol zol geyn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.
But if the sun and dawn come too late for us,
From generation to generation let them be singing this song.


Dos lid geshriben iz mit blut un nit mit blay,
S'iz nit keyn lidel fun a foygel oyf der fray,
This song is written in blood not in pencil-lead.
It is not sung by the free-flying birds overhead,


Dos hot a folk tsvishen falendike vent,
Dos lid gezungen mit naganes in di hent!
But a people stood among collapsing walls,
And sang this song with pistols in their hands!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New JPEF Resources For 2013

Ideal for Days of Remembrance / 70th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Revolt

April 19, 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where the vastly outnumbered Jewish underground managed to force the German army outside of the walls of the ghetto, holding them off for over three weeks (two weeks longer than the German invasion of France).

Most students don't realize that the astonishing story of the Warsaw revolt was more than just an isolated incident and represents only a few of the millions of acts of Jewish resistance that occurred each day of the Holocaust, forming a vast pattern of Jewish defiance in the face of genocide.

JPEF recently released two new lessons to help you dramatically teach your students about the broad spectrum of Jewish armed and unarmed resistance. We also have four new e-learning courses and other resources that you can use during Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah (April 7, 2013) and the National Days of Remembrance (April 7-14).

Two New Lessons

(available at www.jewishpartisans.org/elearning and www.jewishpartisans.org/resist)

Tactics of Resistance: Give your students tools to analyze conflict and make better choices in how they respond to aggression in their own lives. Includes:

  • The ‘Resistance Matrix’, a framework for analyzing historical and current events throughout the rest of the school year
  • Jewish Resistance Slideshow of archival images (accessible via e-learning - can be used with or without the lesson)

Strengthening Jewish Pride: Transform student perceptions and foster a more positive sense of Jewish identity

  • Can be used in as little as 30 minutes
  • Includes resources for integrating this transformative lesson into nearly any Jewish context (History, Holidays, B’nai Mitzvah/Youth Groups, etc.)

Free Online Professional Development

Four New Teacher Trainings to help you use these and other lessons:

Improved Interface - faster, easier to use
Free CE Units for New Jersey educators; more locations coming soon
Now accessible via iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices

Additional Recommended Resources:

Putting the Gevurah Back into Yom HaShoah — The full name of this Remembrance Day, and the way it is marked in Israel, is Yom HaShoah v'HaGevurah - Holocaust and Heroism Day. The two are mentioned as one. Click the link to learn more.

New partisan profiles:

USHMM Days of Remembrance — Information for teachers and events, including DVD of remembrance planning resources.

We Fought Back — New young adult nonfiction reader from Scholastic books; features several partisans from the JPEF website.

Beyond Courage — A well-researched and visually rich new text on resistance during the holocaust for young adult researchers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Educator Guest Blog: Jaclyn Guzman Zarrella - Partisans, Parallel History, and Teaching with the Youth Writing Contest

"Teaching a partisan unit is not teaching an 'instead of' history of the Holocaust ... it is learning about a parallel story. An incredible story of strength, courage, and - above all - humanity."

Jaclyn Guzman Zarrella, who recently received the 2012 Hellen Diller Award for excellence in Jewish Education, is a Bay Area educator whose students have been winners in JPEF’s Youth Writing Contest for two years in a row - in 2011 and 2012. Jaclyn shares insights about teaching the Holocaust through the Jewish partisans and Jewish resistance.

“Close your eyes, everyone. I want you to close your eyes and focus on the darkness. Drop away all your thoughts and focus on the quiet in the room and the blankness in front of your closed eyes. I am going to say some words and I want you to remember what you see when you hear these words. Again, I am going to repeat some words and you need to take a mental picture of the visual that pops up into your head.” The students are silent and from the low yet warm tone in my voice they know that this is a serious exercise and they do not try to deviate from the task.

I start the words. “Holocaust (pause), Holocaust (pause), Shoah (pause), 6 million (pause), Holocaust.” Even with an extended pause at the end of the words the students do not open their eyes yet. “I want you to open your eyes. On your worksheets you have a space to write a description of what you saw or to draw a picture. Feel free to take advantage of either medium and show me what you saw.” The students maintain their silence as they diligently get to work. There are no side conversations, no giggles, and no telepathic stares across the room to friends. After a few minutes some are eager to discuss, others sit back and prepare to listen instead. For some students, this topic is extremely delicate. I teach in a Jewish high school and this is not an unfamiliar story for many students: it is the history of their family.

“Alright, let’s see what you saw," I start, “but first, let’s see how similar the image may have been. Raise your hand if what you saw was in black and white or grayish in color.” Almost all hands went up. “And how many of you saw children in your mind?” Again, a large showing of hands from the students. “And lastly, raise your hand if in your mental picture the people you saw were wearing striped clothing with a yellow star?” Every single hand went up. At this point students were able to individually share what they saw in their mind. There were similarities in several aspects and differences throughout. But one similarity rang loud and clear: it was a concentration camp story. We discussed where they had previously learned about the Holocaust: museums, classes, parents, movies, and they agreed that they mostly/only knew the perspective from the camps and ghettos.

In my senior year of college, I took a course on resistance in the Holocaust. This was a graduate level course and I was only able to get in due to low enrollment from graduate students, and by arguing my way in with the professor. It was a difficult class and it inspired in me a personal passion for learning about the resistance movement during the war. How could I not know about this? I was a Jewish Studies minor and I only discovered this history in my senior year?! I knew I was going to be a teacher and it was very important to me to integrate this important movement into any Holocaust unit in the future. The partisan story felt overlooked for a history so intense with emotion, especially for the teenage mind.

After the mental picture exercise I give a full introduction into the partisan movement. As a Jewish school, the students are most definitely aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. Many of them have visited the US Holocaust Museum in DC and even Yad Vashem in Israel. They have gone to Jewish day schools that had specific units for the Holocaust. Teaching a partisan unit is not teaching an “instead of” history of the Holocaust, I tell them, it is learning about a parallel story. An incredible story of strength, courage, and - above all - humanity. At this point, the students are rapt with attention. They themselves did not know that there was something they actually didn’t know about the Holocaust. They are curious. As a history teacher it is important to seize the moments when your students are curious, because that’s when there is serious potential for self-directed learning.

I schedule this unit to coincide with Yom HaShoah and the end of the JPEF Writing Contest (the essay is my assessment for the unit), which is generally toward the tail end of the year. By this time in our writing curriculum they have advanced in their persuasive writing and it is time to introduce formalized research writing. Fully seizing the opportunity of their curiosity, the students are required to ask questions about the partisans and research the answers. To help fuel these questions, we start out with some basics on the partisans. It is at this point that JPEF’s website is invaluable. We start with the Introduction to the Partisans film. While the students watch the film they record various questions they have and lines that stick out to them. Their homework is to answer their questions using the JPEF website, as well as several other websites including www.yadvashem.org, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org, and www.ushmm.org.

While the students research the facts and figures outside the classroom, my unit lessons involve something much deeper: emotion. Teens can be desensitized to the level of violence, pain, and sorrow that was felt during this time period. They can find it difficult to empathize with the stories that they read on the website. It can feel so far removed. To try to bridge this gap, we look at what it means to be dehumanized. How the scars of tragedy and war are not only physical, but also emotional. And we look at how, in the darkest of times, people can band together in unity and maintain hope. In order to explore these highly emotional topics I utilize a safe simulation of emotional scarring, song analysis of partisan lyrics and music, and of course, the movie Defiance. The students take all of the informal and formal education regarding the experience of the partisans and all of it evolves to a personal essay reflecting on what they learned.

Each year I use the JPEF writing contest to dictate the focus of this unit. I was so pleased this year that the focus was on women. It brought out a whole new set of challenges in the story and the girls in my classes were particularly interested in the new role models they had in front of them. Then, one of the largest surprises this year happened as I was walking down the hall. One of our Hebrew teachers, Mrs. Raz, noticed the JPEF shirt I was wearing on the day I started my unit. She commented that she liked the shirt and I told her about the unit I was beginning in my class. She smiled and said “It is very good that you are teaching them about the partisans. My mother was a partisan.” I was shocked! I have known her for 5 years and she never told me this! So I asked Mrs. Raz to come to class and tell us about her mother’s experience. Mrs. Raz shared the story that she pieced together from memories of her mother’s tales and a book that her eldest brother wrote about his experiences in the partisans when he was 5 years old. The students were enthralled with her story as the history they were learning was so deeply connected to one of their favorite teachers.

I do not see this same level of interest in students during the French Revolution unit, the Renaissance, or the Asian Empires. This unit is special. This contest is special. And they know it is special. I can see it in their eyes when I say one particular sentence when explaining them the rules of the writing contest: “Your essay will be reviewed by a panel that includes partisans.” There it is. The connection that they crave in learning. The students understand that they are the last generation to interact with and hear stories from individuals who experienced the war, who felt the emotions, who, as survivors, are the ultimate revenge. This unit is successful because the students feel it. They don’t just memorize it for a test and forget about it next week. When they close their eyes they can see the history through the eyes and heart of another. That’s what it takes to have history mean something. History is not meant to be a timeline; an endless list of names, dates, and events. History has to have a soul.


Jaclyn Guzman Zarrella has been an instructor at Kehillah Jewish High School since 2008 where she integrates Jewish history and values into her history classes. She was pivotal in the creation of Kehillah’s History of Zionism and Israel class. Jaclyn holds a BA in American History with a minor in Jewish Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also holds a Master of Arts in Education with single-subject credentials in Social Studies and English, also obtained at UC Santa Cruz. Jaclyn credits her amazing professors, especially Bruce Thompson, with fostering her interest in Jewish History. Mrs. Zarrella was the 2012 recipient of the Helen Diller Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in the Day School category. Jaclyn currently lives in Fremont, CA with her husband and adorable cat.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Resource Suggestions for 2012 Days of Remembrance

The theme for this year’s International Holocaust Days of Remembrance (April 15-22) is “Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue”. The Jewish resistance movement is rife with stories of partisans liberating fellow Jews from work camps and smuggling them out of ghettos. The Jewish partisans fought not only for survival and vengeance, but also to rescue Jews and other victims of Nazi oppression from the horrors of the Holocaust. JPEF offers a variety of resources and study guides that are ideally suited for exploring this theme with your students.

JPEF Resource Directory on Jews Rescuing Jews

Online Courses – jewishpartisans.org/elearning
Note: for classroom use, we recommend selecting chapters ahead of time and skipping “How to Use This in the Classroom”.

  • Antisemitism in the Partisans: Survival strategies and interviews with Jewish rescuers
  • Teaching with Defiance (includes Educator’s Guide): 1,200 Jews were rescued by the Bielski partisans – includes testimonial from the last surviving Bielski brother

Lessons and Activities – www.jewishpartisans.org/resist

  • Jewish Partisans Rescuing Jews: Highly recommended resource on Jewish resistance fighters who save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust
  • Putting the Gevurah (Heroism) Back Yom HaShoah: Remembrance and liturgy on Jewish resistance for Holocaust Memorial Day (April 19, 2012).
  • Eight Degees of Gevurah: Partisan rescuers and tzedakah as acts of justice through Maimonides’ ladder
  • Antisemitism in the Partisans and Tuvia Bielski Study Guide: Stories of successful Jewish rescuers plus historical background

Partisan Webcast: April 17, 2012, 10am PST – www.jewishpartisans.org/webcast

  • At the age of 18, Sonia Orbuch joined the fight to bring an end to the Holocaust. Bring her inspiring stories to your students by live videocast and Q&A. Save your spot here!

Additional Resources

Monday, May 2, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance Day – Alameda County

Yom HaShoah v'HaGevurah - The Day of the Holocaust and Resistance

Community-Wide Observance

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

7:45 PM


Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street, Oakland

During World War II, between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews escaped the ghettos and camps to create or join resistance groups. Our speakers this evening will be Murray Gordon and Henry Ramek, two survivors who were part of the resistance during the Holocaust. Their voices will remind us never to forget.

To learn more about Murray Gordon and other Jewish partisans, read the article titled “Hidden heroes Filmmaker puts spotlight on Jewish partisans who fought Nazis

Co-sponsors: Bay Area Midrasha, Beth Jacob Congregation, B'nai B'rith Lodge 252, CJLL, Israel Center, JCC of the East Bay, JCRC of the East Bay, Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay, Jewish Family & Children's Services of the East Bay, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish Partisan Education Foundation, Oakland Hebrew Day School, Tehiyah Day School, Temple Beth Abraham, Temple Beth Sholom, and Temple Sinai.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Teacher Tips for Remembering the Jewish Partisans on Yom HaShoah

Remembering the 20-30,000 Jews who fought back against the Germans as partisans is a profoundly meaningful way to pay tribute to the 6 million Jews who ultimately perished in the Holocaust. To this end, JPEF provides a double-sided supplement for remembering resistance on Yom HaShoah called “Putting the Gevurah Back into Yom HaShoah.” (www.jewishpartisans.org/resist)


Ilona Shechter, a teacher at Gideon Hausner Day School in Palo Alto and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Mandel Fellow, has organized many memorials during her career. She shared with JPEF staff the following tips for Jewish partisans-centered activities:


Show the JPEF Short Film Introduction to the Partisans

“If you only do one thing,” states Shechter, “show this film (available free at JPEF’s website at (www.jewishpartisans.org/films.) I have shown the film to (as young as) 5th grade and they loved it. For them, Holocaust meant death and dying and destruction. Watching Jews blowing up trains; this was the absolute best. The kids have responded very well to it. They asked very intelligent questions: Where did the Jewish partisans get all their supplies from? Who helped them and who didn’t?”


Teach new partisan material incrementally

Shechter continued, noting that incrementally adding new partisan material each year makes for highly effective lessons. She stated, “When the students get into 8th grade, I show them all the rest of the films. Today I showed them [JPEF’s] ‘Women in the Partisans.’ You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. It’s an excellent teaching tool.” Ilona also recommends using the accompanying study guide when showing the film.


Hold candle lighting ceremonies in the classroom

“A simple, effective observance is to light 6 or 12 candles for the 6 million Jews (and the 6 million others considered “undesirable” by the Germans) who perished. Students take turns lighting candles, each remembering a different group: ‘This is a candle we light for the Jews who died in the death camps of Poland…This is a candle we light for the Jewish partisans who fought in the forests of Europe,’ etc.”


Talk with your students

A little information can stimulate a class-worth of conversation. Shechter shared, “A young teacher in Montana showed JPEF film clips to his class the first year he did it (taught about the partisans.) There was this stunned silence in the classroom. He said ‘What’s the matter?’ The class answered, ‘I bet there were more like that, but most didn’t get the opportunities, or realized that they were all going to be killed.’ That was a profound thing for kids to say. To realize that most Jews were starving and deprived and would have fought back if they could.”


Post pictures

“There’s nothing like having pictures of 12 and 14 year old partisans up in school, showing what young people can do…that age really was not material,” states Shechter. For printable photos, go to the homepage of JPEF’s website and click on image galleries under the Explore tab. You can also click the Image tab on any partisan profile.


Use Poetry, Music, and Memoirs

“A lot of poetry- poetry written by partisans- and memoirs, songs, and music…There’s a whole CD on partisan songs-playing music while partisan poetry is read…..You could do an entire Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah entirely on partisans. It could be very effective.” Begin your search for this material by Googling “Jewish partisans song poetry memoir.”

Also, review a short poem about a Jewish women partisan on the last page of the Women in the Partisans study guide on the JPEF website, www.jewishpartisans.org/women


Final Thoughts

Ilona Shechter articulated why she feels it is important to teach about the partisans and other resistance by concluding, “On Yom HaShoah, most people forget about the Gevurah (strength or heroism.) Everyone talks about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But there was more. It blows people away when they see that.”