Lesson video

In progress...


Hello and welcome to history at the Oak National Academy.

My name is Mr. Arscott.

Now today, we're going to start our first of two lessons looking at inquiry question, what was the Holocaust? Now, personally, I find this quite a difficult topic to teach because the period that we're studying is one in which millions of people experienced unimaginable suffering.

Nevertheless, it's really important we do learn about it because of this tragedy.

So if you think you might get particularly emotional watching these lessons, then I'd advise you to get a parent or guardian that can sit with you whilst you're carrying them out.

Now we're going to be looking at things that happened under the Nazi regime in Germany, and also during the Second World War.

So if you haven't learned about those things in school already, then I recommended you do some of the Oak Inquiries on those before you start this lesson.

Right, for today you're going to need a piece of paper and a pen, and I'm going to ask you to start by writing down today's title which you'll see when I get my head out of the way.

So today's title is "No True Witnesses".

I'd like to write that down.

If you haven't written it down yet, pause the video whilst you do that and then un-pause it when you're done.

So today's lesson is based on two principle sources of information.

Firstly, a history book by Ian Kershaw called "To Hell and Back", which describes this period in history.

And then secondly, the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education's resources about how to teach the Holocaust.

Now that means we've got some really good research behind us to give us some really good information so we can hopefully understand the Holocaust really well.

I want to thank them at this point for allowing us to use their resources.

Now today's lesson is going to revolve around the story of this historical artefact.

What is it? Well, it's a shoe.

And what we're going to do today is we're going to ask a few questions of this object.

Questions like who owned this shoe? How old is this shoe? And why is this shoe now a historical artefact? And by historical artefact, we just mean an object from the past, not a written object, but an object, like a shoe that we have to ask questions of to find out about the past.

Now you might already have some answer to this question.

I'm going to talk through the video and try to come up with some of the answers to show how we can think about it.

So firstly, who owned this shoe? Well, we don't know exactly who owned this shoe, but from this photo here, we can see that the shoe is very small.

This is definitely a child shoe, probably someone who's about three years old, based on how small it is.

Now, if we look at the underside of the shoe, we can also get a bit of an idea about how old it is.

You might've noticed already from the earlier photos that the shoe's a bit crumpled, it's a bit creased and the colour has faded slightly, which suggests it's quite old.

And from the underside of the shoe, we can also get some more evidence there.

Here we can see some of the nails or studs that have been used to hold the sole of the shoe onto the rest of it.

And we can see that they're rusted.

So from this, we can get an inference, we can guess, that the shoe is a very old, perhaps several decades old.

Now there's another clue about the shoe if we look at the next photo.

Now this photo shows the back of the shoe and we can see that it's been repaired.

Now because it's in different colour thread and because the repair's so visible, it suggests it's been repaired at home.

Now, if we think a bit about this, that tells us, given that this is a child's shoe, this has probably been worn by more than one child.

So this might be a shoe that belongs to quite a poor family that allowed the shoe to go from one child to the next child to the next.

And therefore, because it's been worn so many times that it used to have some repairs and we can imagine the mother or the father of this child lovingly sewing this shoe back together, so that their child can keep wearing it, and having good shoes to wear.

So, what can we learn from the shoe? You might want to pause the video now, just jot down a few things that we can learn from the shoe so far then unpause when you're done.

Welcome back.

So maybe you have written down something like this.

We can learn that the shoe was owned by a young child.

We can learn that the shoe is several decades old and we can also learn that the shoe is well-worn as it needed to be repaired.

Maybe you've written down some other things too.

Now, one of the questions that we don't know just by looking at the shoe is where the shoe was found, but historians do know where it was found, and that helps us answer lots of these other questions.

So the shoe was found here where the red dot is on this map in modern day Poland.

Now the red dot showed Auschwitz-Birkenau which was a Nazi-run extermination or death camp that they used during the Second World War to murder millions of people.

Now the child who owned this shoe would have arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau by train.

And they could have come from almost anywhere in Nazi-occupied Europe.

So they could have come from France.

They could've come from Poland.

They could have come from Hungary or Romania, depending on how far away they came from, they could've been the same train for days, and it wouldn't have been a comfortable train ride.

They wouldn't have had seats.

Instead, these people would have been forced into cattle carts, far too many of them to be able to sit comfortably and they would have been in very uncomfortable, cramped conditions for days.

Once they arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau, they'd have been forced out of these carriages, and then they'd have been told to stand in certain lines.

Now this child may have been with their mother or father at that point.

However, they would've quickly been separated.

The guards who would be on duty, they would've forced them stand in certain lines and then march towards a Nazi-paid doctor.

And that doctor would be making instantaneous decisions about whether the person approaching them looked healthy and fit enough to be used for hard physical labour.

So normally young men and older boys would have been told to join another line and go do hard physical labour.

And they would've marched in one direction.

The vast majority of people that would've got off the train would've been directed in another direction.

This larger group of people would then have had to walk about another kilometre to another building.

And at that building the women, the children, and the elderly and the unfit who were there would have been asked to prepare for a shower.

They would've been told to take off their clothes and to take off their shoes.

It's very likely that they are told to tie the shoelaces of their two separate shoes together so it'd be either for them to find them afterwards and not get them mixed up with other people's shoes.

They'd then be taken to another room.

This other room would look a bit like a showering room.

The people would be forced into there.

They'd be standing there, naked, and then the doors would be locked, but rather than showers turning on, instead a poisonous gas would be allowed into the room.

Very shortly afterwards, everyone inside would have been murdered.

After about 20 minutes, the room would have been ventilated to let the poisonous gases out.

And then the dead bodies of the murdered people would be taken out.

And taken nearby to a crematorium where the bodies would be burnt So the only artefact we have of the victims of the brutal murder are objects like their shoes and at Auschwitz-Birkenau now there's a museum where you can see the hundreds of thousands of shoes that were collected.

Now, these murders at Auschwitz-Birkenau were part of the Nazi genocides.

During the Second World War, the Nazi government controlled huge amounts of Europe.

On the map, you can see on the right, every area that is in grey or dark grey was controlled in some way by the Nazis.

And in these areas, the Nazis carried out murderous campaigns against groups living there.

They were trying to wipe out some of these groups.

Now trying to wipe out another group of people is known as a genocide and the Nazis tried to carry out genocides against Sinti and Roma travellers that they called gipsies.

Against Ukrainians, against Polish people, known as Poles, and against Orthodox Christians, but far and beyond the biggest group that was targeted by the Nazis were Jewish people.

6 million Jewish people died during the Second World War at the hands of the Nazi government.

It was not only the large number of people that died, but the Nazis specifically targeted Jewish people more than any other group.

And it's that group that we are focusing on.

So I just want you to now look at these two keywords, which might be familiar with before, or you might not.

So genocide, these are actions which aim to destroy an ethnic, religious, or national group.

So during the Second World War, Jewish people experienced a genocide at the hands of the Nazis.

And the name of that particular genocide is the Holocaust.

The Nazi genocide carried out against Jewish people during the Second World War.

Not I'd like you to pause the video at this point and copy on these two definitions because it's important that we have precise definitions for these words.

Un-pause the video when you're done.

Now, at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest number of group that were killed with Jewish people.

And this is part of the Holocaust, this genocide against Jewish people, but there were also other groups that were killed there.

And as we can see on the left, there's statistics showing numbers of some other groups that were also killed there.

Now our focus is the Holocaust.

This intentional genocide carried out against Jewish people.

And during the Second World War, 6 million Jewish people were killed.

And the reason this happened was because the Nazi government was trying to make Europe Jew-free.

They wanted to remove every single Jewish person that lived in Europe at the time.

And the final stage of this was something called the Final Solution.

Now this was not some kind of accidental set of killings that happened.

The Final Solution was planned.

Leading members of Nazi government got together and they agreed they had to try to make Europe Jew free.

And so they decided to put resources, they organised train systems, they built death camps in order to try to kill every single Jewish person that lived in Europe.

Those who weren't killed straight away, like the owner of this shoe, this young child.

They went through a process of being de-humanized first, where they were stripped of their identities and forced to work as enslaved people in these camps.

Right, why I want you to now have a go at doing is trying to answer comprehension questions.

So what was the name of the death camp where 1 million Jewish people were murdered? When did the Holocaust take place and why were not all Jewish people treated the same way when they arrived at death camps? So we're going to ask you to pause the video now, want you to answer these questions, and then come back when you're done.

Now, it's always a good idea to try to write in full, meaningful sentences so you've got some really clear notes that explain exactly what happened.

So please pause the video now then unpause it and we'll go through the answers afterwards.

Welcome back.

Let's go through your answers.

So one, what was the name of the death camp where 1 million Jewish people were murdered? An acceptable answer would be Auschwitz or Auschwitz- Birkenau Answer in a full sentence is 1 million Jewish people were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which is in modern day Poland.

Question two, when did the Holocaust take place? An acceptable answer would be World War Two.

A full answer which puts a bit more detail in it.

The Holocaust took place during the Second World War.

The decision to organise the murder of all Jewish people in Europe, known as the Final Solution, was carried out between 1942 and 1945.

Question three, why were not all Jewish people treated the same when they arrived at death camps? The acceptable answer is depends on age or depending on gender.

A full answer which explains that.

When Jewish people arrived at death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, they were often separated into groups.

Healthy men were sent to work as slaves in the work camps whereas women and children were often sent to be murdered immediately.

Now, I want you to have a read of this quote here by someone who managed to survive the death camps.

He's an Italian called Primo Levi.

"We who survived the camps are not true witnesses.

"This is an uncomfortable notion, "which I have gradually come to accept "by reading what other survivors have written, "including myself.

"When I reread my writings after a lapse of years, "we, the survivors, are not only a tiny, "but also an anomalous minority." I just want you to take a pause now and think about what that might mean.

So if you want to pause the video, have a think about that, you can.

What's Primo Levi trying to say? One of the things he's trying to say is that the true witnesses of what happened at death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau are those who died, those who survived are a tiny minority.

And although they can tell us what they experienced in the camps, no one can tell us what was experienced in the facilities that were used to murder millions of people.

Those fake shower rooms, where millions of Jewish people were gassed to death.

Now, obviously learning about this and finding out this information is very, very difficult to absorb.

And one of the key things that's important to do is for us to remember the humans that were involved in it, each of these people had loved ones, had feelings.

It's also important for us to have a genuine reaction to this.

And one of the things that I do when I'm teaching this is I ask my pupils to write down a list of questions.

What questions do they have about what they've heard about, what questions do they have about this shoe? So I'm going to ask you to pause the video now and write down some questions that you might have.

Unpause the video when you're done.

Welcome back.

So, here's some questions that pupils that I've taught in the past have come up with after hearing about these horrifying events.

What can we do to stop this happening again? Why did the Holocaust take place? Did the child know what was happening? How are humans capable of being so cruel to other humans? What might this child have achieved as an adult? How do people rebel or resist against the Nazis? Why do the Nazis keep the shoe, but kill the child? Now, these are all really good questions and I'm sure you come up with some good questions too, trying to understand this thing which is almost unimaginable and almost beyond our understanding.

Now when looking at these questions, it's worth pointing out that some of them are historical questions and some of them are non-historical questions.

So of them are more moral questions, so questions about what's good and bad, or what's right and wrong.

Now it makes complete sense to want to ask moral or non-historical questions when learning about the Holocaust, because it's such a tragic event.

However, within the history classroom, it's important we do focus on the historical questions and I've highlighted in blue two important historical questions you might want to explore further.

Now in the next lesson, I'm going to explore this second question.

Why did the Holocaust take place? And below we got another question.

How did people rebel/resist against the Nazis and my colleague, Mr. Mastin, he's going to do a four lesson inquiry looking at that question, which will be really good idea that you look at that after you've looked at my second lesson if you want to learn more about the Holocaust.

Now in order to help me answer my question, why did the Holocaust take place? I'm going to turn to two historians next week, Ian Kershaw and Hanna Arendt and in our second lesson, we'll look at what their views are on why did the Holocaust take place? So I want to end the lesson by saying well done and thank you for working so hard.

I appreciate how difficult it is to work hard when you're looking at such an emotive subject matter.

There's one final thing I'd like you to do before we finish the lesson and that's for you to have a go at the end of lesson quiz.

Once you've done that, you're ready for your next lesson.