Eleventh Grade Language Arts Unit
Grade Level: Eleventh Grade
Sunshine State Standards:
View all Sunshine State Standards
- Grades 9-12
- LA.A.1.4.4, 2.4.4, 2.4.6, 2.4.8
- LA.B.1.4.1, 1.4.2, 1.4.3
- LA.E.1.4.1, 2.4.1
- to differentiate between a biography and an autobiography
- to place the story of Varian Fry in its historic context
- to introduce the usage of the journal
- to discuss how the Holocaust unfolded in France
Fry, Varian. Assignment: Rescue. New York: Four Winds Press, 1968.
- The teacher will place the word BIOGRAPHY and AUTOBIOGRAPHY on the chalkboard and elicit their differences. Students will be asked to classify The Diary of Anne Frank and Night as to whether they are biographies or autobiographies and to name other biographies and autobiographies they have read or with which they are familiar. The teacher may wish to differentiate between a memoir and an autobiography.
- The teacher will show the map of Europe and point out the extent of territory controlled by the Nazis during their domination of Europe. Students will be asked to share some of the problems encountered by the native populations under the control of the Nazis. Students should be guided to include the loss of political rights, restrictions such as not being able to listen to certain radio stations, the lack of control over what was taught in schools, requirements such as identity papers or food rationing, loss of national treasures taken to Germany, industry dedicated to serving the Nazi war machine, workers taken for forced labor, propaganda, censorship, persecution of certain groups previously left relatively undisturbed, and changes in the values considered important to the society. The teacher should advise that there were other options . . . activities of the helpers (Righteous Gentiles).
- Students will be asked how they might react were this to happen to them. How might they respond if they were a visitor or a non-native resident of a country in which this treatment was happening? Explain the autobiography they will be reading is the story of one man living in Nazi dominated France, who built a network to help rescue imperiled world renowned politicians, artists, writers, scientists, and musicians.
- Explain the process to be used for student journals. Students will be expected to reflect on class discussions, readings, reactions to materials in addition to assigned journal topics. The teacher might prefer to have students write in their journals for the last five minutes of each class. Students should be instructed to date each entry and to date each page. The entry may be a visual or written document; a student may respond to the day's lesson, may relate a personal experience, may include poetry and prose, and/or any other pertinent material. Journals should be collected at regular intervals, and the teacher should respond in writing to the entries and questions which have been raised.
- The class will read aloud and discuss the Introduction by Dr. Albert O. Hirschman. The teacher should be prepared to discuss the relationship between France and Germany and the Petain government and the Nazis. France and Germany had a long tradition of enmity. This relationship was fueled by: (1) the Franco-Prussian War in which Prussia (Germany) defeated the French, (2) the French demand for reparations and German territory as part of the Versailles treaty which ended World War I, and (3) the decisive and rapid German defeat of France in 1940 resulting in the surrender of France of the railroad car which Germany surrendered in 1918. France was divided into two areas: the north controlled directly by the German military, the south by Marshal Petain, a former French military hero. The latter was known as Vichy France since its headquarters was at Vichy. The Vichy government adopted racist laws reflecting the strength of antisemitism in France and cooperated with the Nazis in their deportation of Jews. It is important to note that the gendarmes were rounding up Jews, albeit non-French Jews, before the Nazis arrived.
- Students should note that the autobiography deals with a limited time in Fry's life, August 1940 until August 1941. Ask a student to review for the class what he/she has previously learned about the Nazi racial policy and the manner in which Jews were treated. Why is Article 19 significant for those who have been marginalized by the Nazis? (It required the French government to hand over to the Nazis any non-French citizen living on French soil.) What is its implication for fleeing non-French political leaders? Jews? Opponents of the Nazi regime?
Homework: Fry, p. 1-33
- to understand Fry's motivation for undertaking his assignment
- Video, Charlie Chaplin's The Dictator
- Video, Casablanca
- Map of Nazi controlled Europe
- The teacher might show an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin's The Dictator, a film that can be used to point out some of the common misconceptions contemporaries may have held about Hitler. This film also provides a vehicle for discussion of satire as a manner of commentary. Fry points out that many people "wanted to think of Hitler as the little man with the funny mustache." (p.1.) Ask students to differentiate between how Hitler appeared and the climate he created.
- Discuss the actions that Fry had experienced that helped to create what he called an "air of hatred and oppression."
- The great pogrom against the Jews
- Encouraging emigration whether to Palestine or Madagascar
- Mention of possible extermination of Jews
- Puppet Vichy government which handed "enemies" over to the Gestapo
- How did Fry react to those facing the Nazi onslaught?
- What was the purpose and significance of the Emergency Rescue Committee? (Get noted artists, writers, musicians, scientists, intellectuals, and political figures out of France before they were seized by the Third Reich.) If time permits, the teacher might want to show an excerpt from the film Casablanca. Consider the propaganda value of the movie at the time it was released as well as its theme, rescue of a political figure from the Nazis. Later, the teacher may want to contrast the romantic Hollywood concept with the reality of Fry's experience.
- Why was Fry chosen and why did he accept the assignment? What made him an unlikely choice for this assignment? (He had the time, a letter from the Y.M.C.A. endorsing his work with refugees, he could get a visa, poor French language skills, no experience as an underground or secret agent.) He accepted because he felt it was his duty since so many of these people had given him pleasure. He learns that people without papers will be arrested and realizes they ultimately will end up in the concentration camps or dead. Look at his picture found in the center of the book; compare him with Humphrey Bogart. Does he fit the image one has of a secret agent? A hero? What can be learned from this?
- Using the map, have students articulate the advantages/disadvantages Marseilles provides in helping refugees to escape. Discuss the method(s) to be used for escape. In what way was Bohn's helpful? How successful were Fry's early attempts at helping refugees? How and why did Fry react the way he did when the police came to see him? What would have happened to an undercover agent? What were conditions like in a concentration camp? How is this different from a death camp?
- Divide the class into small groups; students will discuss and develop categories useful in evaluating behavior. They will categorize the behavior of those people they encounter in the story. The teacher might guide them to classify in terms of perpetrator, bystander, rescuer, and/or other categories they may generate. Have them assess the behavior/manner of the police inspector; what evidence is there of his sentiments? Is it unusual for a person to feel one way yet know that they will soon have to act in another? What examples can they provide from life experiences or literature they have read?
- Discuss the American Relief Center and its role in helping Fry achieve his mission. (It served as a cover for his illicit mission and provided him with leads to locate the people on his list.)
- What methods did Fry and his staff employ to guard refugees against liability? (They never listed their address, spoke of certain subjects only in the bathroom with the water running, enclosed messages within toothpaste tubes, moved their offices so they won't be close to the Gestapo.)
- Ask students about their interest level in Fry's story. They should be made aware that although Fry may have had some harrowing experiences, much of his job was hard work and routine. The teacher should use this as an opportunity to discuss the issue of values and skills. This might be used as an opportunity for a teacher to discuss some of the characteristics needed for pursuit of careers.
Homework: Fry, p.34-63
- to understand how necessity made Fry adapt to his mission
- Discuss the ways Fry dealt with the limited time he had to accomplish his mission. (He decided to take bigger risks.) Ask the students what other suggestions they would have made to help him accomplish his task. How did the committee accomplish the three tasks they had to solve?
- They obtained Polish & Lithuanian passports and Chinese Visas.
- They found an artist to create identity cards.
- They obtained money unknown to the police.
- Discuss the ways "everyday" people help cooperate with and protect the refugees. Ask students to provide some examples such as the Chief of the Bureau of Foreign Residents who tells him about a doctor who will state that someone had been too ill to apply for his certificate and showed a list of three men who needed to be warned that the Gestapo wanted them to be arrested. What is at stake for these French citizens? The teacher should make students aware of the penalties imposed by the Nazis on civilian populations for helping Jews and others classified as enemies of the state.
- How and why does Fry begin to take greater risks? (He sends groups to the frontier accompanied by an experienced underground worker; had they been caught, Fry could no longer claim that he had nothing to do with helping refugees get out of France, and when Bohn's plan of sending those who will be recognized in Spain to Gibraltar by ship is thwarted, Fry makes his own plan.)
- The teacher might assign a student to find out who Franz Werfel and Thomas Mann were and why Hitler would want to have them arrested. What is the incentive behind Fry deciding to lead a trip out of France himself? (Werfel and Mann were too recognizable to get an exit visa so he decides to take them over the Pyrenees Mts. by foot. This would give him the opportunity to send a truthful report to New York, find out what happened to the refugees who had been arrested, and speak to the British about getting a boat.)
Homework: Fry, p. 64-92
- to understand the plight of those fleeing Hitler
- Map of Europe showing the location of the Pyrenees Mts.
- Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust
- Videos: Raoul Wallenberg: Between the Lines, The Courage to Care, The Other Side of Faith, They Risked Their Lives, and Weapons of the Spirit.
- Students should give brief reports on the careers of Franz Werfel and Thomas Mann. The class should discuss why the Nazis desired to restrict the movements of these men. Why do totalitarian governments try to stifle ideas not sympathetic to their own? Ask students to give examples of other writers whose works have been gagged. Was the government successful in keeping out ideas? Several examples might include Voltaire, Upton Sinclair, Socrates.
- Discuss how "righteous" Frenchmen aid Fry's efforts. He is helped once again by a French official who advises him to "go over the hill" with the refugees while he still can and shows Fry the best route. Other French border guards help them find the best way to avoid the border check points. These are other examples of an individual subverting the official collaborative policy of the Vichy government. Discuss whether these men are patriotic. Ask students to define and discuss patriotism. Can you be patriotic while taking a position contrary to that of your government? Is a soldier who refuses to carry out what he believes is an immoral order patriotic? Is the young man who morally opposes a conflict and refuses to serve his country a patriot?
- Students should be given the book Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust to read, and be told that at the completion of this unit they will be asked to write a paper reacting to the quote from the last speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. found on the page opposite page 1 of Rescue. They should plan on referring to examples of how Gentiles helped Jews and the application of the mode of behavior to their own lives. Why did some people react with humanity and others turned their backs on Jews and other refugees? Has their definition of being a hero changed? Ask students to explain the concept of brotherhood and steps needed to be taken to develop this concept in a people. The teacher should also consider showing one or parts of several videos dealing with rescue: these might include Raoul Wallenberg: Between the Lines, The Courage to Care, The Other Side of Faith, They Risked Their Lives, and Weapons of the Spirit. Teacher guides are available with many of these videos.
- Discuss those who Fry helps. Who are they? (They are prominent people, some writers, politicians, some Jews.) Ask students about the plight of the ordinary Jew; were rescue efforts being undertaken in their behalf? Why not? The teacher should remind the students that the national policy of most nations was to avoid giving emigration slots to Jews; conferences held at Evian and Bermuda resulted in nations refusing to take in Jewish refugees. America and Britain closed down access. America even refused to admit Jewish children. There were few nations that openly granted Jews visas.
- How and why does Fry's behavior seem more like that of a foreign agent? What were the consequences of being caught for those he was helping, his assistants, himself? What advice did Fry receive from the American Consul? How did he respond? What might explain the behavior of the U.S. government with regard to Fry's activities? What might explain the behavior of the U.S. government with regard to helping refugees in general? To helping Jews? The teacher should explain that at this time the United States was a neutral power and would not risk its neutrality by aiding enemies of any other nation. Additionally, U.S. emigration policy sought to exclude Jews. Students should be referred to David Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews.
- Have small groups generate examples of how Fry can be described as a creative thinker who "thinks on his feet." For example, when Spain closes its entire frontier and documents required for entry by Spain and Portugal are changing on a daily basis, Fry makes accommodations. He helps to obtain freedom for the friends of the German underground leader who were held at Vernet Concentration Camp. Yet why does he fail to gain freedom for many?
Homework: Fry, p. 93-120
- to appreciate the dedication of those determined to help escapees from Nazi Europe
- Discuss the new regulations that were imposed on the French, and their impact on Fry's work? (The names of all visa applicants must be sent to Madrid, French police were given the right to intern persons "dangerous to Public safety" without trial, foreigners between 18-55 could be used for labor gangs, anti-Jewish laws were adopted, all foreign Jews could be placed in concentration camps, people were forbidden to listen to English radio broadcasts, and the Kundt Commission was empowered to look at internees for those who should be sent to Germany.)
- In what manner did he respond to these changes? (He realized that he had to reorganize his work. He would have to support many of the refugees and keep them out of jails and/or concentration camps.)
- Discuss how Fry helped to get British skilled pilots and soldiers out of France. Why does the sea become the only avenue of escape for these men? Why does sea rescue seem doomed to failure?
- What was the "F" Route, and how had conditions changed along it? How do Fry and his helpers manage to operate their network in the open?
- Discuss the "gusty" way in which Fry dealt with Vichy regarding refugees interned in French concentration camps. Why wasn't this enough?
Homework: Fry. P. 121-154
- to appreciate the commitment to help individuals fleeing for their lives
- What were some of the techniques that Fry and his friends used to rid themselves of incriminating evidence? Why, under what authority, and how were Fry and his helpers arrested? What would be different if that arrest were to occur in the United States today? What protection did being an American afford Fry? What guarantees under our Constitution were the prisoners on the S.S. Sinaia denied? (The premises were searched without a proper search warrant; they were not read their rights prior to their arrest; they were not allowed a phone call; they did not know the charges against them; they were held on ship, not a "habitable" place; they were fed substandard food; they were held longer than 48 hours without knowing the charges against them.) The teacher should tell students to bring their U.S. history book to class so that students may refer to the Constitution usually included at the end of the textbook.
- Discuss the reasons Fry believes that things will be getting worse for those remaining in France? (Vichy collaborates in arresting people the Nazis demand; the arrests took place without warning. Also rumors fly that Vichy France will soon be occupied by the Germans.) How realistic is his assessment? Ask students to discuss his overall ability to assess the situations in which he finds himself. Has he been a Pollyanna?
- How effective is the method used for getting British soldiers and refugees out of France with the death net of Nazism closing in on those trying to get out? (They are placed on ships bound for French ports such as Beirut, Algiers, or Casablanca.) What difficulties do the escapees encounter? (They are arrested on the other end since there is no network in place to help them in the port of destination.)
- Ask students to characterize Fry's reaction to the fate of the Breitscheid's, Hilferding, and Baby? Is it ironic? Guilty? Sarcastic? Sympathetic? Explain your answer.
- Assign students to present oral reports on Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, and Max Ernst, who are among those Fry saves.
Homework: p. 155-183
- to understand how Fry's mission comes to an end
- Have small groups assess the effect of the excerpt from Mrs. Breitscheid's memoir. How does Fry feel at the time? How does he feel upon learning the ultimate fate of each man? How might you have felt in these circumstances? What, if anything, could he have done to help them?
- Have the class define and discuss resistance and the forms it might take. How did the French express their opposition to the occupation? (Writing VH and calling the Germans the "potato bugs".) What else might they have done? What were the risks for the civilian population? Is this a "black" or "white" situation? The teacher may want to provide students with a moral dilemma involving choiceless choices. Students should realize that risk-free is not the definition of being human.
- Have a student present an oral report. How does Fry succeed in having Chagall released when other Jews were taken away, sent to concentration camps, or placed in forced labor? Why would the French bend? (Tells the officials that the arrest of one of the world's greatest artists would be embarrassing to the Vichy government.) Have the student giving the oral report show examples of the art created by Chagall after his escape from Vichy France. The teacher should remind the students that many other artists were not as lucky as Chagall. The teacher may want to show the class some of the art done in the concentration camps by known and unknown artists and discuss the great loss suffered by the world in aesthetic terms, not to mention the murder of human beings.
- Contrast the views of justice of Captain de Rodellec du Porzic to those held by Fry. Ask students to discuss the morality of the Captain's beliefs. Can someone's beliefs be moral even if they are abhorrent to another? Ask for students to brainstorm some examples of this.
- Describe the circumstances and manner in which Fry finally leaves France. What role did the American Embassy play in his expulsion? What might it have done? To the end, there were some French who behaved as "their brother's keepers", ask students to recall some of these people and what they did that reinforces one's faith in humanity. Students should be asked to put themselves in Fry's place and assess the feelings that were going through his mind as he was leaving France. He admits to feeling sad, but sad doesn't describe all the emotions he must have been feeling.
- What happened to refugees of Jewish ancestry shortly after Fry's departure? In what ways does Fry continue to help others after his return to the United States? How does the reality of Fry's experience compare to that depicted in the movie Casablanca?
- Assign students to small groups and ask them to consider the following: In light of the fate of most of those he wasn't able to help escape and those he was able to help, assess Fry's mission. Was it a success or failure? On what basis? Refer to the Introduction, do you agree or disagree with "Beamish's" assessment, ". . . he is now honored for what he was, 'a hero for our time.'" How should we define heroism? Is the sports figure a hero in the same sense as Fry? What are the qualities heroes should engender? Who are modern heroes? How do they compare with heroes in time of war? Does war create situations in which heroism can flourish or can heroism exist in the every day world? Can altruism be learned? Taught? How?
- Students should be reminded that they have a reaction paper due on the book Rescue.
Dr. Ellen Heckler, Director, Holocaust Outreach Center, Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
Editor: Alan L. Berger, Raddock Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust and Judaic Studies, (FAU)
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.