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EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

The Source


 Source Home  l   Introduction   l   Connecting to Illinois   l   Places to Go Primary Sources to See

TPS EIU Staff Pick   l  Primary Sources in the Classroom   l   l   PDF with Images

This publication is created to be a source of information and inspiration for teachers as they incorporate Library of Congress digitized primary sources and resources into instruction by Teaching with Primary Sources at Eastern Illinois University.

The Holocaust

Children during the Holocaust Introduction

Children are extremely vulnerable during times of war. During the holocaust, Nazis considered Jewish youth useless because young children were unable to perform hard labor. The exact number murdered by the Nazis is unknown but it is estimated that 1.5 million Jewish children were killed, victims of genocide.1

As Jewish families were sent to Nazi concentration camps, the survival of small children was nearly non-existent. Most were sent straight to gas chambers or shot in front of ditches dug for mass graves. Older children survived by being forced into hard labor, and babies born in camps were killed immediately. Some children were selected for medical experiments, especially twins. When Auschwitz was liberated in 1945, only 451 children were found among the 9,000 survivors.2

There were different ways that Jewish children were able to survive the Holocaust. Many went into hiding,Newsletter which meant having to disappear living in difficult conditions. Staying quiet and not moving for hours at a time was difficult for small children. Under floor boards, in sewers and up in haylofts were a few of the places chosen to hide Jewish children. Many of these children didn't play outside or even see sunshine for years. The efforts of Kindertransport brought Jewish children from Nazi occupied countries to England, but children had to separate from their parents and live with a host family with different traditions and customs. Jewish children with "Aryan" features were able to hide in plain sight. Bearing counterfeit documents, these children were often able to travel outside or even attend school while still in hiding. They had to immerse themselves in a new life that came with a new religion, name and history to learn. This was easier for young children but older children had to forget their religious customs, name and Jewish family. They had to hide their Jewish heritage from classmates and friends, because even a suggestion that they were Jewish could put them and their host families in danger. Afraid of becoming comfortable and losing a connection to their past, many of these children became isolated. Finding Christian families to take a Jewish child was difficult and families took responsibility for these children not knowing if their parents would survive to reclaim them.

The end of the war was only a continuance of the suffering for Jewish children and their families. Parents could search for years trying to locate their children. If the children were found it wasn't always a happy experience, as children sent into hiding very young often didn't remember their parents. The people they grew up with were family to them. Some rescuers became attached and did not want to return the children to their Jewish parents but most often, parents never reunited with their children. Death in concentration camps claimed the lives of many Jewish parents.

Connecting to Illinois

newsletterClaiming the right of free speech, members of the National Socialist Party of America planned to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1977. Claiming the right to not live in fear, the Jewish citizens of Skokie planned to stop them. Skokie is a northern suburb of Chicago and after World War II many Jewish families settled there. They came for the freedom to never be persecuted again and brought with them horrific memories of the Holocaust. It had been 32 years since the end of World War II and while not forgetting, many Jews had moved on and felt safe in the United States. Skokie's population in the 1970s was about 70,000 and of these citizens about 40,000 were Jewish and 5,000 were Holocaust survivors.3

Skokie gained national attention when Frank Collin, a Nazi, and members of the National Socialist Party of America began terrorizing the village. Skokie was not the Nazi's first venue of choice. Collin and his Nazinewsletter sympathizers wanted to rally at Chicago's Marquette Park but the Chicago Park District denied his request. Collin knew fighting this decision could take years so he began looking at areas outside of Chicago. Skokie seemed logical because of the large Jewish population, the group the Nazi's despised. The media would cover every aspect of the fight to march and any press was good press for the Nazis. Additionally, fighting a village for the right to march would be easier than fighting the city of Chicago. Holocaust survivors shared few details and rarely spoke of the torture endured at the hands of the Nazis, but if they were going to fight Frank Collin and his group they would need to break their silence and tell the world their story.

The battle began in court. The lower courts in Illinois upheld Skokie's right to not allow the march in their village. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented the neo-Nazis from the state courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The ACLU did not represent the Nazi's message, but their right to present that message. If someone did not want to hear or see the Nazi marches, they had the right to not attend. Because of their representation of the group, the ACLU lost thousands of members. Lawyers for Skokie also warned of uncontrollable violence if the march was allowed to take place.

After a year long battle, the decision was based on the United States Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that the village of Skokie deprived Frank Colin and the National Socialist Party of America's First Amendment right by not allowing them to march. The Nazi's right to rally was upheld and they had the right to state their beliefs no matter how reprehensive. Just as the group won their case to march in Skokie, they declined. They pursued Marquette Park and were able to rally there, behind a grove of trees where it was hard to be seen or heard.4

Places to Go & Primary Sources to See

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center 

newsletterWhen neo-Nazis threatened to march in Skokie in the late 1970s, Holocaust survivors around the world were shocked. They realized that despite their desire to leave the past behind, they could no longer remain silent. In the wake of these attempted marches, Chicago-area survivors joined together to form the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois. The group focused on combating hate with education.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference. The museum fulfills its mission through the exhibition, preservation and interpretation of its collections and through education programs and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide. Since 1981, the organization has educated school and community groups through its speakers' bureau and existing museum. About 30,000 students visited the original site in Skokie in 2005. The new facility located just west of the Edens Expressway, will serve more than 250,000 annual visitors, reading a significant portion of the nearly 2.5 million Illinois school children. 

TPS EIU Staff Pick

Before 1944 there was no single word to describe the inhumane treatment the Nazis inflicted on Jews. Seeking to describe these acts, Raphael Lamkin, a Jewish lawyer who escaped Nazi Poland formed the word genocide. Geno is the Greek word for race or tribe and cide is the Latin word for killing.7 Genocide is defined at as the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group. In 1945, the International Military Tribunal, held in Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with "crimes against humanity." The word genocide was used as a descriptive but not legal term.5 After the Holocaust, many governments declared that never again would another genocide occur, yet today genocide continues to take place all over the world.

newsletterOn December 9, 1948, the United Nations approved the convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide.5 This convention established "genocide" as: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy; in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious groups as such; (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group condition of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.5

The law was in place, but the first conviction of genocide did not occur until September 2, 1998.6 Jean-Paunewsletterl Akayesu, the mayor of Taba, participated and encouraged the mass killing of the Tutsi population during the Rwandan genocide. Like the Nazis in Germany blamed Jews, the Hutu people blamed Rwanda's growing social and economic problems on the minority Tutsi people. The use of propaganda against the Tutsi people began and violence escalated when the plane of President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down on April 6, 1994.Anyone suspected of being Tutsi was killed, entire families were murdered and women were brutally raped. It is estimated that 200,000 people participated in the genocide and 800,000 men, women and children were killed.7 Foreign nations refused to acknowledge the genocide. Eventually, Jean-Paul Akayesu was captured and put on trial in 1997 and found guilty, he is serving a life sentence for his participation in the genocide against the Tutsi people.

A region the size of France, Darfur is home to about six million people from nearly 100 tribes.8 The people are mostly African farmers or Arab nomads. A coup in 1989, by General Omar Bashir, a supporter of the Arab nomads brought the National Islamic Front to power and made him president of Sudan. Tension rose between the nomads and farmers concerning land rights. In 2003, rebels pressed the issue of the shrinking area for farms and the failure of the Sudan government to protect farmers. The government's answer was to release Arab militia known as Janjaweed who destroyed over 400 villages forcing millions of African farmers to flee their homes.8 

The Sudanese government refuses to stop the activities of the Janjaweed. They are allowed to murder, rapenewsletter and pillage the African farmers. This ongoing genocide has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people.8 It is estimated that more than 100 people die each day and 5000 die each month.

In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began an investigation into human rights violations in Darfur. The Sudan government refused to cooperate with the investigation. On March 4, 2009, President Omar al Bashir became the first sitting president indicted by the ICC for directing a campaign of mass killings, rape and pillage against Darfur citizens.8 Despite an arrest warrant, Bashir was re-elected as president in April 2010.10 

Genocide often goes unrecognized until the death roll rises. Gregory Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch, says that genocide follows eight different steps; classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial.9 Station goes on to state, "In the past century alone, there have been 55 genocides, leaving 70 million people dead."9 The world must learn to recognized these steps before the hatred takes even one life. The act of genocide leaves families torn, children orphaned and devastation beyond repair.

Primary Sources in the Classroom

newsletterThe Teacher's Page The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collection sin their teaching. 

Presentations and Activities

Immigration. Observe the building of the nation. How have immigrants shaped this land? The table for Polish/Russian immigrants has a subtitle Decades of Disaster describing the struggles of Jews during the rise of the Nazi party and how Jewish Americans tried to help.

newsletterAmerican Memory American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

newsletterThe Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress. The papers of the author, educator, and political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) are one of the principle sources for the study of modern intellectual life. The Adolf Eichmann file deals with what was perhaps Arendt's best-known and most controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt's conclusions about the nature and character of totalarian rule in Nazi Germany, and her interpretation of the Jewish response to the Holocaust, prompted strenuous and often emotional debates.

newsletterAmerican Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. This collection contains 2900 biographical interviews obtained during the Depression years of 1936-1940. Writers contributed to this project through an employment program of the Works Progress Administration. The writers chronicled interviews with Americans asked to recall significant events in their lives. The Holocaust is not mentioned specifically but there are many oral histories about Jewish life and opinions on Germany and Adolf Hitler.

newsletterAmerica from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945. The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration Office of War Information collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The images show Americans at home, at work, and at lay, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression. Images pertaining to the war effort and defeating Nazi Germany and images from the Nazi saboteur trial are found in this collection.

newsletterPrints and Photographs. The collection of the Prints and Photographs Division include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, architectural and engineering drawings.


newsletterPosters: Artist Posters. The online Artist Posters consists of a small but growing proportion of the more than 85,000 posters in the Artist Poster filing series. This series highlights the work of poster artist, both identified and anonymous. It includes posters from the nineteenth century to the present day, from the United States and other countries. German propaganda posters with Hitler slogans for his presidential run and the dangers of the Jews to the Aryan nation are found in this collection.

newsletterMiscellaneous Items in High Demand. The "Miscellaneous Items" category consist of more than 80,000 descriptions of individual images from a variety of the Prints & Photographs Division's photographic, print, drawing, and architectural holdings. Photographs dealing with concentration camps show the disturbing reality of the life in these camps and could be too graphic for some students.

newsletterWebcasts. Streaming video presentations on all sorts of subjects form book talks by authors, scientific breakthroughs in preservation, and historical footage from the dawn of film.

Holocaust Cantata. The Master Choral of Washington, in partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, presented the "Holocaust Cantata: Songs from the Camps", a work based on the songs and letters written by Nazi concentration camp prisoners. The cantata, composed and conducted by Donald McCullough, stands as a tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Breaking the Holocaust Silence: A Hidden Hasidic Text of 1947. Gerson Greenberg delivered the 10th Annual Myron M. Weistein Memorial Lecture on the Hebraic Book.

Women Against Tyranny: Poems of the Resistance During the Holocaust. Davi Walders speaks about her book "Women Against Tyranny: Poems of the Resistance During the Holocaust.

Emissary of the Doomed. The little-known story of one man's attempt to save the Jews of Hungary.

Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist and the Plot for the Third Reich. In "Ibsen and Hitler", Steven Sage discusses three Ibsen plays, "An Enemy of the People", "The Master Builder", and "Emperor and Galilean", which may have inspired Hitler's writings, speeches and thinking, and quite possibly some of his actions. When Hitler read Ibsen in 1908, he was swayed by a German literary cult then current, which held certain Ibsen dramas to be "prophecy". Through the years, Sage argues, Hitler paraphrased lines from the plays "and restaged highlights of their plots while assigning himself the starring role in this grand drama."

newsletterExhibitions. Discover exhibitions that bring the world's largest collection of knowledge, culture and creativity to life through dynamic displays of artifacts enhanced by interactivity.

newsletterHerblock!: Psychopathic Ward. Herb Block attacked the isolationist policy of the United States government long before Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, because he understood that the fascists in Europe were an international issue. Block's cartoons attacking Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany demonstrated his matured style, with his deliberate and assured use of ink brush and pencil. The Depression and the war in Europe politicized Block, and he developed opinions that, at times, were at odds with those of his publishers.

newsletterHerblock's History: Political Cartoons from the Crash to the Millennium. Through his cartoons, Block warns of the danger represented by fascist political gains in Europe and Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany at the head of the Nazi party. During the 1930s and 1940s, Herb Block was an early supporter of aid to England and to European allies faced with Nazi aggression. He cited Nazi outrages, giving them graphic form and visual power. He drew metaphors for the resilience of the human spirit, the inhumanity of war, and the duplicity of dictators.


1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Children During the Holocaust, Accessed 9.13.12

2. Jewish Virtual Library, Hidden Children and the Holocaust, Accessed 9.13.12

3. The Huffington Post, Remembering the Nazis in Skokie, by Geoffrey R. Stone, April 19, 2009, Accessed

4. Illinois Periodicals Online, Nazi march, What's it all about?, by Ed McManus, November 1978, Issue 13,
   Accessed 9.17.12

5. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, What is Genocide?, Accessed 9.18.12

6. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rwanda: The First Conviction for Genocide, Accessed 9.18.12

7. United Human Rights Council, Genocide in Rwanda, Accessed 9.18.12

8. United Human Rights Council, Genocide in Darfur, Accessed 9.20.12

9. Genocide Watch, Genocide, unlike hurricanes, are predictable, says world expert, and Iran is following the
, by MItch Ginsburg, The Times of Israel, September 18, 2012

10. British Broadcasting System, Profile: Sudan's Omar al BashirDecember 5, 2011, Accessed 9.21.12




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