“YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND”
Students will be able to…
- Explore and identify the reasons that survivors would give testimony
- Collect, analyze and report on data gathered from Holocaust survivor testimonies
REVIEW & CLASSROOM DISCUSSION: BEARING WITNESS
Before viewing the testimonies in this collection, review the concept of testimony as one type of historical source. Testimonies are eyewitness accounts that provide unique perspectives on historical events, including the Holocaust.
With a partner or in a small group, discuss: What might motivate somebody to leave a testimony, or to keep a written account of an event or experience?
Begin by viewing Marion C.’s testimony. As you listen to the testimony, consider the following questions.
- What do you think motivated Marion C. to give testimony about her experiences?
- Why do organizations, like the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, collect testimonies?
- How do you think learning about the Holocaust from an eyewitness is different from learning about it through other visual sources or textbooks?
In pairs, share an important moment or event from your own life with a classmate. Why is this an important memory for you? Is this a memory that you want to share with others?
In a group, discuss the experience of bearing witness:
- Was it challenging for you to convey the significance of an experience, or how it made you feel, with a peer?
- Was it difficult to understand your classmate’s experience and feelings?
- What additional information, if any, did you require to better understand your classmate’s story?
Next, watch the videos in which survivors Tom S. and Celina L. explain their reasons for recording testimonies.
With someone, discuss the different reasons why survivors want to record their stories. What sort of reaction would the survivors have encountered from family/friends/officials/community members?
Using the following questions as a start, discuss historical understanding:
- How can we understand the circumstances of events that we were not part of?
- What role can eyewitness testimonies play in understanding the perspective of historical actors? What are the limitations of using testimony to learn about historical events?
To consolidate your thinking, write a short response, explaining the ways in which it was difficult for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories or to have them told.