Since I was in fifth grade, I have been interested in the Holocaust. I would read books about it all the time, but since starting high school, I haven't had time to do that. So for my first project, I wanted to explore the Holocaust. Instead of focusing on the Jews who were being persecuted, or even the Nazis or Hitler who was making all the madness happen, I looked at what it was like for the neighbors who couldn't or didn't do anything to help the Jews. For my project, I wrote a historical fiction diary of a sixteen year old girl from Germany, who really doesn't understand what is going on in the world around her. I named this project The Holocaust: Through Rose-Colored Glasses because many people who were not directly affected by the Holocaust saw what was happening through skewed lenses. Some believed the Jews had this coming for "crimes" their people had committed; others knew it was wrong but didn't believe it was as bad as they heard. But until it was over, no one knew the magnitude of the Holocaust.
For the English portion of this project, I wrote a historical fiction diary. I did research and watched interview in order to gain information about what it was like during the Holocaust. I focused on what survivors said their neighbors did, whether it be helpful or hurtful, so I could better understand what it was like for the neighbors. This was difficult because there was not much research I could find that was just about the neighbors, so I had to sift through a lot of information to find what I was looking for, as well as make inferences about what I learned. I used some of the stories I heard in the interviews as a basis for some of the stories I wrote about in my diary. I made a story up about a 16 year old German girl who has a jewish boyfriend, as well as many jewish friends. . I chose this story because I wanted to be able to have the girl, Adelaide, see what was going on, but much like the girl in my art piece, she doesn't really understand, and she is more interested in her relationship. To the right is a synopsis I wrote about my historical fiction diary.
For my art portion of this project, I created a mixed media piece in order to convey my main idea for my project. On the right side of the canvas, you see a drawing of a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl. I chose this because these were the most loved traits of the "Aryan Race," or non-Jews during the Holocaust. This girl has one eye that is covered by flowers, and she has a bit of a smile. This is to signify how those bystanders during the Holocaust had a skewed vision of what was going on. Although they can see some of what is going on, there is something hindering their vision, making it impossible to see the tragedies going on. Sometimes it was lies that said this was actually a good thing because the Jews deserved it, or simply it was ignorance and not being aware that the rumors they heard could be true. The rest of the canvas is covered with images from the Holocaust and concentration camps, as well as letters from Jews. This is to show what the girl cannot see because of the flowers.
This is the diary of Adelaide Schmidt, German, 16 year old girl who is growing up during the holocaust. She has a jewish boyfriend, through whom the reader can see the changes that occurred in the cities during the holocaust, but before all the jews were deported. Although you can see these things, the main story is that of love between a boy and a girl, as though someone is trying to keep you from focusing on the things that are happening to the jews. It is as though the reader has rose colored glasses they are watching the story through, so they cannot see the ugliness.
For the History portion of my project, I gathered information from different avenues, including timelines, online articles, and interviews in the form of movies (Pictured to the left). In my historical fiction diary, I used Chicago Style footnotes as well, in order to explain why I chose to write what I did. As it is a historical fiction writing, I based my writing on actual events. I made sure to follow the actually timeline of events in my writing, making an entry for roughly every month for four years, and having a historical event in almost every month. Although I created Adelaide (the narrator in the diary) and her friends, I used stories I had heard from survivors in the interview I watched. I also used some of my own thoughts and feelings in my writing, as someone who is on the opposite side of the Holocaust and looking at it from history books.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about my first project in Apollo this year! This was definitely an interesting project for me, because it rekindled an old interest in the Holocaust, while also helping me to learn a new aspect about it. Before I started this project, I would feel angry at those neighbors who didn't do anything. However, after doing my research, as well as just taking the time to really imagine what it would be like to live through the Holocaust, I am able to at least understand how someone could stand by without helping. There were two things I realized. The first is that the horrors that we know about today, like all of the death camps and concentration camps, were hidden from people. The locations were such that unless you worked there, you would have no reason to travel near them. Even most of the Nazis who were in the towns and ghettos did not always know about places like Auschwitz-Birkenau. The second thing I learned is that it was not just the jews who were persecuted. If you were caught helping a jew, you could be beaten or even killed. And if you were caught hiding jews in your house, you could be killed on the spot or even taken to the concentration camp yourself. It was a very brave and noble thing, to help a jew. You had to be very smart about it, and very strong willed. Realizing these things helped me to understand that, although I think I still would have helped because of my beliefs, I understand that if you were really in that position, it is understandable that you wouldn't.