Two New IWitness Activities Examine Racism in the 1936 Olympics and World War II

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 7:45pm

In time for February’s Olympic Games and Black History Month, two new activities have been published to IWitness, each dealing with racism in different contexts.

The Information Quest Fighting in the Face of Racism teaches students in grades 8-12 about two former American soldiers who helped liberate Jews during the Holocaust and who themselves experienced racism/prejudice in the United States before and after World War II.

Leon Bass was a teenager in Philadelphia, Penn., when World War II began. Following high school, Leon joined the United States Army through which he would eventually take part in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. In his testimony, Leon recalls some of the racism and prejudice that he encountered before and after the war.

Katsugo Miho was born in Hawaii in 1922. After growing up in Hawaii, Katsugo joined the United States military where he would serve in World War II. Katsugo would be among the soldiers who liberated the Dachau concentration camp and sub-camps. During his time in the military, Katsugo was a victim to racism and prejudice as well as witnessing racism towards other groups. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Katsugo¹s father, a first generation immigrant, was arrested and put in prison before being
transferred to camps on the mainland United States.

The goals of the activity are for students to develop an understanding of the effects of racism and the nature of testimony and construct a visual representation of their learning by drawing evidence from primary and secondary resources.

In the Video Activity 1936 Olympic Athletes: Competing and Inspiring students will examine the issue of civil rights and the presence of racism in society through the lens of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and construct a video project that illustrates the prominence of racism in both the United States and Europe during this period.

Students will be introduced to the civil rights abuses under Hitler during this period, as well as the personal story of black American Olympian track star Jesse Owens, whose civil rights were also curtailed at this time – in the United States.

The activity includes clips of Agnes Adachi, a Jewish survivor who remembers Jesse Owens and other athletes at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Margaret Lambert, a Jewish survivor, recalls her experience as an athlete in Germany before and during the 1936 Olympics. Margaret is at first allowed to compete in the 1936 Olympics and then later removed from the German team.