Institute News

Inside IWitness: “Information Quest: Kurt Messerschmidt”

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.

Kurt Messerschmidt is one of the most recognizable faces on IWitness, and his Information Quest allows students to learn more about his life and how he survived the Holocaust.

Kurt grew up in Germany and excelled as a linguistics scholar, gymnast and musician. He was well-respected and a leader among his classmates and teachers, but could not go to college because of restrictions against Jews. He worked for a furniture-mover who protected Jews by employing them so they could avoid deportation, but in 1943 he and his fiancé, Sonja, were deported to Theresienstadt. They were married there but separated when Kurt and his brother were sent to a series of concentration camps including Golleschau and Flossenburg. After liberation, Kurt and Sonja reunited and eventually settled in Brooklyn, where Kurt became a teacher and musician.

Students choose from seven clips about different aspects of Kurt’s life and create a word cloud about their chosen clip. The word cloud is made up of words students feel represent the topics and themes in the clip they have chosen, such as emotions, people, places, and events. The size, color and placement of each word should convey a relationship among the words. To end the activity, students write briefly about how they chose their words and constructed their word cloud.