My students are just finishing a study of the novel Was God on Vacation? This book is written by Jack van der Geest, a Holocaust survivor. Jack van der Geest’s story is remarkable. He worked in the Dutch Underground, was turned in by Nazi sympathizers, sent to the concentration camp, Buchenwald, he escapes by faking his death, goes on to work in the French Underground helping downed American and British pilots escape France, fights in Indonesia, becomes an Australian citizen, becomes Indonesian citizen and finally becomes an American citizen. His story is very inspiring and my students loved reading about him. Surprisingly it was a teacher who inspired him to share his story. A teacher told him that the Holocaust never happened and Jack van der Geest wrote his story in response to Holocaust Denial. I am grateful he did. His story is truly inspiring and a great educational tool for students to learn about the Holocaust and the sacrifices people made to survive and help fight the Nazis. Even though the story is older, the themes and events are very relatable to today, especially considering the Syrian immigrant crisis.
After finishing any study of the Holocaust, I like to leave students with a positive outlook on things by highlighting the need to remember the horrible events of the Holocaust and also by recognizing the great lengths people went through to help others. Ordinary people rose to become miraculous heros in the face of hardship in efforts to protect goodness. That is what Jack van der Geest did. So after finishing this novel, I plan to introduce The Butterfly Project. The Butterfly Project was originally created in an effort to bring awareness to Holocaust victims. Students across the country created butterflies in remembrance of victims. The butterflies were then shipped to the Holocaust Museum Houston. This museum has already collected over 1.5 million butterflies and no longer needs them for their exhibit. Even though the Holocaust Museum Houston is no longer accepting submissions, I plan to have my own exhibit in my classroom.
Below are some of the resources I utilized for this project. The Butterfly Project is originally inspired by the poem, “The Butterfly”. This poem was written by someone who lived in a concentration camp. A line from that poem inspired the book, … I never saw another butterfly… This book holds a collection of writings and artworks from children of the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fifteen thousand children under the age of fifteen years old were held at this camp. A few teachers at the camp found supplies and taught art “lessons” in hopes of helping children deal with the trauma of living in a concentration camp. Children hid their works amongst the camp and once it was liberated people found remnants of the children’s work. Over 90% of the children who passed through this camp were killed and the children’s work gives us a rare perspective into the lives of the children who endured the Holocaust.
Below you can see the cover of the book and also click on it to go to amazon.com to purchase it.
Here is the link to the assignment I used to introduce the assignment.
Next you can see the original assignment created by the Holocaust Museum Houston at their website. It also has examples of butterflies students have submitted over the years.
Below you can see the Prezi I used to to help students understand the poem “The Butterfly”. I did not create the Prezi but I think it is excellent.
If you would like to extend your study of the poem “The Butterfly” you can have students complete the I Never Saw Another Butterfly Webquest. I did not create this Webquest but I did use the PowerPoint within it in conjunction with the introduction of my assignment.
Below is a Slideshare presentation that includes entries in the book … I never saw another butterfly… I did not show all of the slides but showed my students a few to get an idea of what the book contains. Again, I did not create this Slideshare but I am grateful to have found it on the internet.
Below I have included a clip of the a ballet inspired by the book … I never saw another butterfly… The book has also inspired a musical, a play, and a one act play. Obviously the book has a legacy of its’ own.
I hope you find these resources helpful. I will follow up with a second post that includes images of students’ work and reflections.
Do you plan to do this project with your students? Do you have additional resources that you think are worth sharing? If so let me know in the comments. I would love to hear about it.