Lesson About Infamous Terezin Ghetto using VHA Testimony Now Available to Czech Teachers

Wed, 08/07/2013 - 11:55am

The Jewish Museum in Prague has teamed with USC Shoah Foundation to provide a new testimony-based lesson plan for teachers in the Czech Republic. The lesson, “International Committee of the Red Cross and Terezín,” is about the Terezín ghetto and its use as a source of Nazi propaganda in a 1944 International Red Cross report.

Methodology and guiding questions for the lesson are available at “Ours or foreign? Jews in the Czech 20th Century,” a project of the Jewish Museum in partnership with the Terezín Initiative Institute, that provides teacher training, seminars, and curriculum about tolerance and the history of Czech Jews in the 20th century.

Using testimony from Holocaust survivors in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA), students will learn about how in 1941 Nazis established a transit Ghetto for Jews from Bohemia, Moravia, Germany, Austria and other occupied countries in the Czech garrison town of Terezín, a baroque fortress some 60 km from Prague.

In 1944, a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including Maurice Rossel, visited Terezín. Before the delegation’s arrival, the Nazis staged a hoax: beautifying the ghetto, intensifying deportations to reduce overcrowding, bringing in food and dressing up prisoners. Rossel proclaimed in his report that Terezín was indeed a normal Jewish town, from which no Jews were deported to death camps, thus perpetuating the Nazi propaganda. In interviews throughout his life, Rossel has stood by his report, insisting that he told the truth.

The lesson encourages students to think about why Rossel’s report was so different from the reality of life in the ghetto, and what opportunities he had, as a member of a neutral humanitarian organization, to resist a totalitarian power.

The VHA is an online portal from USC Shoah Foundation that allows users to search through and view nearly 52,000 audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. These testimonies were conducted in 57 countries and in 33 languages.