Institute News

Inside Witness: "Writing in Exile"

Inside IWitness is an ongoing series that will profile each activity in IWitness, along with a clip featured in the activity and a teacher who uses IWitness in his or her classroom.

In the first-ever teacher-authored IWitness activity, Writing in Exile, students close-read poetry as they learn about one woman’s experience during the Holocaust.

The activity focuses on Lotte Wertheimer Kramer, who escaped Germany on the Kindertransport but lost 12 family members, including her parents. She moved to England and became a poet, publishing several books of poems about the Holocaust and other topics. Before listening to Kramer’s poems, students write about what they think poetry can teach us about the Holocaust and how Kramer’s poetry might have helped her connect to her past.

Students watch Kramer read three of her poems: “Friends,” “The Non-Emigrant,” and “On Shutting the Door.” Each poem deals with different aspects of Kramer’s experiences during the war, including the loyalty and friendship of her Christian friends, her father’s decision not to leave Germany, and her mother leaving their house for the last time.

For each poem, students are asked a variety of questions to get them thinking about Kramer’s intent and what she might be saying about the Holocaust through her poetry. By reading and responding to the poems, students will demonstrate knowledge and application of literary analysis skills, and learn about and reflect on universal themes of choice/dilemma, family, identity, and memory.

They also have the option of collecting more testimony clips that address the themes of Kramer’s poetry and sharing their work with their classmates.