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LESSONS FOR PRESENT, LESSONS FOR FUTURE

Resistance

Introduction

“Someone should do it, a question mark. Someone should react, a question mark. Someone should oppose, a question mark. Someone should protest, a question mark? I have been asking myself the same questions. This is the answer I have found – if someone, why not me?”1

The main aims of the lesson plans presented in this section are to acquaint students with the concept of resistance and allow them to gain a fuller, and through concentrating on local events, also a more focused knowledge of the history of the period in question. The idea was to make history less factual and more human, hence the decision to use the real people’s stories, who actually lived in the places we are from. In this unit the lesson plans are based on a biography of a person or people, who resisted during World War II. Since Spain and Finland did not participate in World War II, their lesson plans present respectively, a biography of a person who resisted during Spanish Civil War, and the biography of a person who resisted and sacrificed his life in order to protect democracy.

When discussing the concept of resistance, we would like students to ponder upon such questions as: What made ordinary people resist the oppression? Where did they get the courage to risk their own lives and the lives of their close ones in an uneven fight against the regimes? What values did they stand up for, although the odds were always against them? What was the psychological background behind their decision to resist?

Focusing on witnesses’ or Survivors’ testimonies outside of a broader historical context poses a threat that students will not be able to understand processes which led to the occurrence of certain historical events. As a consequence an important objective of teaching about the Holocaust and totalitarianism will not be achieved, namely students will not learn to recognize the patterns and, as a result, also the dangerous signals in the present. Therefore, all lesson plans provide a thorough historical background related to the given area and adjusted to students’ age.

Since these are supposed to be “Lessons for present, lessons for future”, we hope students will be able to use the historical knowledge to understand and assess the contemporary problems and recognize the importance of moral principles and human rights not only in the past, but also in their everyday lives. We would like young people to realize that the totalitarianisms developed in the 20th century with the World War II, the Holocaust, the Franco regime in Spain as their consequence, apart from being a part of a collective historical memory of particular nations, which we represent, constitute also an important part of our common European collective memory. Similarly to the function of memory of individuals, “Collective memories foster and define group identities, telling a group of people where they come from, who they are and how they should act in the present and future.”2 This being the case, remembering those who resisted seems particularly important, as their stories provide the best example for young people. They show that human dignity, human rights, justice, freedom are values, which are always worth standing up for. Hopefully, the thorough knowledge of the period of history we focus on will help students appreciate these values more, but also make them realize, especially at the time when nationalistic slogans are more and more often heard around the whole Europe, the importance of belonging to European community, whose integration started as a direct consequence of World War II and as an antidote to extreme nationalism.

Even though all the lesson plans deal with the same subject and have similar main objectives, each of them achieves them in its own way, offering different approaches and methods.

“Resistance. Christians and Jews hand in hand against the Occupiers”, prepared by Greek teacher, Mrs Theodora Glaraki, is foreseen as 13 teaching hours lesson plan for students at the ages between 15 and 18 years old and uses activities, which allow for an active participation of students’ throughout the whole lesson procedure, beginning with presentation of historical background, through drama-in-education techniques, such as role playing, conscience alley and still images, which by activating students’ emotions, allow for a deeper understanding of past events. The activities make use of source materials and documents, such as voices of resistance, which are testimonies of the protagonists themselves or their direct descendants or clippings of contemporary press, which help to examine the role of propaganda and importance of fighting against it. Students get also acquainted with the Declaration of Human Rights and discuss the ways in which human rights were violated during World War II. The techniques and procedures are thoroughly explained and can be easily adapted and applied in many contexts.

Italian “Resistance and “resistances” in the area of Monferrato: An example: “La Banda Tom” (a group of Partisans led by Tom).” is prepared for students at the ages between 16 and 18 years old and provides a detailed description of resistance groups and their activities in the area of Monferrato, so it focuses on collective resistance. Since it makes use of the biography of a boy who was 17 years old, it brings the story and history closer to students who, being of a similar age, can identify with the protagonist who sacrificed his life, and encourages students to consider the individual responsibilities when facing difficult choices in the past and nowadays as well as reasons for teenagers to resist. The materials for the lesson include Power Point presentations and a video of an interview made by students with the Victim’s sister. The whole lesson procedure takes 120 minutes.

Finnish “Onni Happonen – a man to die for democracy” by Mrs Silja Kärjä and Mr Petri Hokkanen is suitable for students at the ages between 13 and 18 years old and planned as 3 sessions of 45 minutes. The lesson plan is fairly universal in terms of students’ age, but also the type of the lesson where it can be applied, since, when discussing the concept of resistance, it concentrates on human rights. It uses the biography (a PowerPoint presentation) of a man who in 1930s did not surrender to the right wing protest movement and refused to suspend the majority of legally elected representatives of the Municipal Board, who were Social Democrats and in this way tried to protect democratic values, but it also encourages students to find contemporary examples of resistance. It engages students in discussion about the importance of human rights and the activities allow for high degree of students participation.

Slovakian “Resistance – Peter Pavol Gojdič” by Mrs Štefánia Nádaská and Mrs Sabína Blažová, is a lesson plan for students at the ages between 15 to 17 and the procedure takes 90 minutes to complete. It is based on the biography of a Greek Catholic priest, who actively opposed Nazi ideology and saved Jews, but also resisted the communist regime, when Slovakia became a part of the Soviet bloc. The choice of the biography makes a lesson plan unique in the sense that it allows for comparison of two totalitarian regimes, and as a consequence allows for a better understanding of roots and the ways in which all totalitarian regimes operate. The lesson plan includes three presentations: Slovakia and the Holocaust, Slovakia and the Resistance, Slovakia after 1945 and the activities are based on source documents and testimonies for students to work with.

The youngsters get the opportunity to discuss and understand parallels between the past and the present, as well as recognize the importance of moral principles and take a moral stance on current issues.

Polish “Resistance during World War II and today” by Mrs Anna Badek, Mrs Anna Walas and Mrs Joanna Janas-Sajdak is a lesson plan conceived as 4 to 5 teaching units for students between 14 and 16 years old. The historical background is prepared as a bilingual English and Polish Power Point presentation, which helps students examine the methods of repression and different ways the people at that time resisted, such as the underground press, secret teaching, sabotage, diversion and the underground organizations. The first part of the lesson plan is based on two biographies of people from the local community, both of which show the methods used by the oppressors to punish those who resisted and, therefore, help students realize the moral dilemmas related to the decision to oppose. Throughout the course of the lesson students learn that World War II and the Holocaust were exceptional tragedies in the human history as they brought about the deterioration of humanity that had never before occurred on a similar scale. The second part of the lesson offers a literary approach to discussion of human rights as a remedy. Students learn the articles of the Declaration of Human Rights through the analysis of poetry by such poets as Joseph Brodsky, Wisława Szymborska, Tadeusz Różewicz, Julian Tuwim and Czesław Miłosz, which enable students to consider not only the past, but also contemporary issues.

As mentioned before, the Spanish lesson plan “Julio María López Orozco: A Life of Resistance”, drawn up by Ms María Belén Delgado Chaparro, Mrs Carmen García Alarcón, Mr José Francisco Fernández García, Mrs María Salud García Zamora, Mrs Ana María Ibáñez Lopera, Mr Darío Martínez Montesinos and Mrs Sofía Rojo Arias, deals with the resistance against repressions which were common during the Spanish Civil War and during Franco’s regime which followed. It consists of ten 50 – minutes sessions and can be used with students at the age of 15 and 16 and aims to make the Spanish Civil War public, as it is still a difficult and avoided issue in Spain, as well as raise awareness of its consequences. It includes two presentations: a Prezi presentation with a summary of the historical background for the teacher’s explanations and a PowerPoint presentation with the biography of Julio María López Orozco as teaching materials. A comprehensive historical background is provided which explains the international, European and the national context for the Spanish Civil War, as well as the development and functioning of the dictatorship regime of General Franco up to 1978. The lesson procedures give students the opportunity to reflect on moral categories of the hero, the indifferent, the villain and the victim through an analysis of the video of a contemporary event and a short philosophical text by Jean Paul Sartre, however the greatest emphasis is put on the critical analysis of legal documents as arbitrary mechanism, which modify the historical reality and most activities engage students in such analysis and discussion of documents related to the case of Mr Orozco and legislation on Historical Memory in Spain, which is passed, but still not enforced. The lesson plan enables students to understand that these chapters in Spanish history cannot be treated as finished and the situation needs to be faced as a current event nowadays.

All the lesson plans are conceived as self-contained units and can be used as such, as they include all the necessary materials and information related to the implementation in the classroom. Nevertheless, we believe they will also serve as a source of inspiration for all those teachers who feel the need to discuss these difficult, but significant issues with their students.

Joanna Janas-Sajdak

1 Bartoszewski, W. in „Bartoszewski”. Directed by Ridan, J., Kowynia, J. Polish Television, 1998. Translation: Joanna Janas-Sajdak

2 Professor Romano, “Commemorating the Past: An Introduction to the Study of Historical Memory”. www.greensborotrc.org/intro.doc. Retrieved 04.01.2017

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