Empathising with the past

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Lucy Russell looks at a resource for primary and secondary pupils exploring the lives of Jewish children who survived Nazi oppression

The Last Goodbye - The rescue of children from Nazi Europe The Jewish Museum London pound;7.50 Tel: 020 7284 1997 www.jewishmuseum.org.uk

The Last Goodbye can be used as a resource in its own right or in conjunction with a travelling exhibition run by the Jewish Museum. The worksheets within the resource are photocopiable. Five A4-sized colour impressions of life in Berlin under the Nazis, by Hans Jackson, a German-Jewish refugee, are included and would be useful for display or group work.

The motives of the authors are admirable and the publication has been supported by a number of individuals who were themselves rescued from Nazi Europe on the Kindertransport.

The primary aim is for students from key stage 2 to GCSE to relate personally to those whose lives were saved; as such, suggested tasks rely heavily on empathy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. History is about trying to make sense of the past, and there is always an emotional dimension in history, because it is about humanity.

However, teachers may wish to adapt tasks. One task asks students to role-play the first time a refugee has tea with his new foster parents: "He doesn't speak English and 'English tea-time' is an unusual tradition for him. He may be worried about whether the food is kosher". For this task students would need to be clear about what it means to be Jewish, and what "English tea time" may have been like. This is a tall order for 21st-century students more used to a TV dinner.

This is a good cross-curricular resource with lessons for citizenship and RE, as well as some good history. The text, photographs and personal testimony tell the story well. A timeline shows the gradual legalisation of prejudice from 1933 onwards and there is a very interesting interview with a German woman who had been friends at school with a Jewish girl. This interview reveals some of the effects of the laws against Jews and anti-Jewish propaganda on the German psyche.

Lucy Russell is researching for a PhD in Teaching the Holocaust in History: Policy and Classroom Perspectives at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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