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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Suggested Activities

1. Washing Line activities

These practical activities come from an article by Kate Hammond in the journal Teaching History. Hammond, K. (2001) 'From horror to history: teaching pupils to reflect on historical significance', Teaching History 104, Teaching the Holocaust Edition. Teaching History is published by The Historical Association.

Washing line activity, p.1 (courtesy of The Historical Association) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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Washing line activity, p.2 (courtesy of The Historical Association) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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These cards should be made as large as possible, cut up and pegged to a washing line in order to create an image of anti-semitism through the ages.

You can add to the activity by handing out the cards to each member of the class and asking them to consider whether the nature of the persecution is racial or religious. Look at the chronology and see if there is a time dimension, when religious persecution turns to racial.

To introduce higher level thinking, ask the pupils to take the cards off the washing line and peg them back on according to the level of persecution they represent, minor at one end and major at the other. Pupils can discuss their views and question assumptions. They can look at the longer term consequences of the actions - does this have a bearing on the scale of persecution. They can discuss the effects of physical and mental suffering. The activity helps pupils to reflect and to realise that it takes time and mental effort to reach defensible judgements. They may be less inclined to make simplistic, ill-considered judgements or comments about the nature, causes or extent of persecution.

2. Jeanette Kaufmann time line

Use Jeanette Kaufmann's testimony to create a time line of her experience of Nazi anti-semitism. Compare Jeanette's experiences of Nazi teatment with the time line called 'The Main Events of the Holocaust'. Do you think these two time lines are similar? Explain your answer.

Download Jeanette Kaufmann time line

The documents below have been designed to be printed out and are available as Word 2000 and Adobe Acrobat 5.00 pdf files. You can type into the Word version and save your work onto your computer's hard disk. If you need to download software to view these files, please see Microsoft Word Viewer or Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have any problems please contact us.

DateEvent
1924Hitler writes 'Mein Kampf' - meaning 'My Struggle' - a story of his life and ideas. Hitler blames the Jews for Germany's defeat in The Great War and expresses a lot of anti-Jewish opinions.
1933Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. Anti-Jewish actions by the German police and government are tolerated. The public are encouraged to be Anti-Semitic. Many Jews leave Germany.
1935Hitler's government pass the Nuremberg Laws. These make marriage between Jews and German citizens illegal and withdraw citizenship from Jews. All Jews left living in Germany must now carry identity papers marked "Jude" and wear a Star of David. Jews are banned from certain jobs.
1938Germany and Austria unite. The Nuremberg Laws apply to all Austrian Jews.
1939World War II begins. Leaving Germany is now very difficult. A large Jewish community comes under German control following the invasion of Poland.
1940Hitler orders that Jewish populations should be moved into Ghettos in the major cities. Any Jew refusing to go will be killed. Laws are passed limiting what a Jew can own. Valuables are confiscated by the Government.
1941Germany invades the USSR and discovers a huge Jewish population. Work begins on the Final Solution - Work Camps and Death Camps in remote places in Eastern Europe are planned and built.
1943The War in the USSR is going badly for Germany and Russian troops begin to push German troops back.
1944The German Army is pushed out of the USSR. The Jews in eastern Europe are moved west to prevent them being discovered by the advancing Russians. The Death Camps, such as Auschwitz, are encouraged to increase their death rates. Josef Kramer becomes commandant of Belsen; following his arrival Belsen is officially classified as a concentration camp and conditions in the camp get much worse.
1945Germany is losing the war. Senior German officials order all evidence of the treatment of the Jews to be destroyed. Death Camps increase their death rates; Jews are marched or shipped to the Death Camps in increased numbers. Mass graves are dug in remote areas to hide the bodies. Other, less secret, graves are dug up and the bodies burnt. On the 12th April the German Army agrees to hand over Belsen camp to the British Army following an outbreak of typhus. The conditions at Belsen shock the world. 
Germany surrenders on 8th May 1945.

3. 'The Story of Belsen'

Read each section of 'The Story of Belsen' and try to list any details that describe what the camp was like, and any actions that the British soldiers took. A template, with an example, is provided for you.

Download template
The documents below have been designed to be printed out and are available as Word 2000 and Adobe Acrobat 5.00 pdf files. You can type into the Word version and save your work onto your computer's hard disk. If you need to download software to view these files, please see Microsoft Word Viewer or Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have any problems please contact us.

4. Write a newspaper article about the Liberation of Belsen

Use the sources to find the facts and describe the liberation in a journalistic style. A template is provided for you.

Download template
The documents below have been designed to be printed out and are available as Word 2000 and Adobe Acrobat 5.00 pdf files. You can type into the Word version and save your work onto your computer's hard disk. If you need to download software to view these files, please see Microsoft Word Viewer or Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have any problems please contact us.

5. Comparison of Kaufmann source and 'The Story of Belsen'

1. Both extracts describe what happened to survivors of Belsen, but they are very different sources.

 (i)  What is different about these sources?
Think about the sorts of words each source uses.
Think about how emotional each source is. 
 (ii) Why are these sources so different?
Think about who wrote them.
Think about when they were written.
Think about why they were written.

2.  If you were a historian trying to find out about the survivors of Belsen, which source do you think would be most useful to you? Explain your answer.

3. Josef Kramer, the Beast of Belsen, and 10 members of the SS that helped to run the camp were executed for 'Crimes against Humanity' in December 1946. Do you think this punishment was right?

4. Other people were involved in the running of Belsen. Think about who you think should and should not be punished from this list. Try to explain your decisions. 
 (i) The train driver bringing Jews to Belsen. 
 (ii)  The office workers, who drew up the lists of people to be moved to Belsen. 
 (iii) The people who lived near to the camp. 
 (iv) The Companies who built Belsen and provided all of the equipment needed to run the camp.

5. Do you think it is right to still look for and punish war criminals 60 years after their crime?

6.  Do you think it is important to study what happened during the Holocaust? Explain your answer.