Resource Guidance and Suggested Activities
Paul’s Journey is a resource designed in accordance with international educational principles and as such is suitable for use with students in Year 6 and above when teaching about the Holocaust. The book lends itself to class reading, and you will find at the end of these notes a suggested mini Scheme of Work with sample lesson plans. You may wish to contact the Holocaust Educational Trust to arrange for a Holocaust survivor to come into your school.
Paul’s Journey touches on a number of issues that are relevant to students of all ages, and teachers should consider addressing these when using the resource. These include the following:
Although Paul is the focal point of the book, his is very much a story about the experiences of a family – from grandparents, through parents, to children and siblings. This is clear to see not only in the story itself but also in the various family photographs that accompany it, and the theme of family is something which can be used to make Paul’s testimony relevant to all students. One activity the teacher may wish students to do is to construct a family tree, which can record information like dates and places of birth and death, and also be used to explore matters of chronology and continuity through time.
Geographical Scale and Scope:
Paul’s journey traverses a number of different countries at different times during the period of the Third Reich, and in so doing highlights the scale and scope of the Holocaust. While some students may already be familiar with some of the places referred to in the story, a possible activity would involve students marking onto a map of Europe all the towns and cities mentioned by Paul. These markers might also have a box of information about each particular place, including what happened to Paul and his family there. The journeys of various family members could also be shown on the map by way of coloured wool and directional arrows. This activity could be extended further by students additionally plotting the journey of Paul’s contemporary Anne Frank. In turn, students might consider the following:
- How is Paul’s journey different to Anne Frank’s?
- How is it similar?
- Which parts of Paul’s journey helped him to survive?
Paul’s family committed no crime and yet they were discriminated against on account of their religious background. The issue of persecution runs throughout the story, and makes itself apparent at various different junctures. On each of these occasions the teacher can use events described by Paul to open discussions in the class, depending on the age, ability and maturity of the students.
One such instance is on page 5. Here Paul talks about the behaviour of some of his classmates. For this example students may be asked:
- Why did Paul’s classmates behave in this way?
- Who could Paul complain to?
- How can we make sure we accept people who are different to us?
- What can we do in school to make new people feel welcome?
Another example is provided by Paul on pages 8-9 where he describes some of the laws that were passed – including one forbidding Jews from swimming, as shown in the photograph. Here, students could discuss:
- What is stopping the boys from going swimming?
- Why were Jews not allowed to do such activities?
- What could the Jews do about these laws?
- What can you do if you disagree with something?
The most extreme example of persecution experienced by Paul is his deportation to Bergen-Belsen. At the camp his life is turned up-side down, but links between his experiences and the students can be made. The following could be discussed:
- Why were the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen not given more food to eat?
- What effect do you think the diet had on the prisoners?
- How might Eve have coped with the loss of her mum?
- How did Paul manage to stay alive when the rest of his family died?
A final event that could be discussed is Paul’s liberation. Paul begins by saying how the Russian soldiers didn’t speak any Dutch, creating confusion as to what was going on. Students could begin by considering:
- How might Paul and Rudi have felt on discovering they were free?
- Paul says he felt ‘completely numb’ as he and Rudi began their journey home. Why did he feel this way?
- On being reunited with Eve, Paul says ‘even then I couldn’t cry’. What impact had his experiences had on him?
- Paul, Rudi and Eve start their final journey to England. What hopes and fears might they have had?
In addition to the above themes and issues raised by the book, Paul’s Journey also provides students with key pieces of historical knowledge, such as significant dates, events, and developments. Important concepts and initiatives are also referred to, with Paul mentioning things like deportation, concentration camps, and the exchange of certain prisoners. It is crucial that the teacher’s understanding of these terms is secure, and the following glossary may be useful in this regard.