Rabbi Julius Voos arrived in Münster in January 1939 with his wife Stephanie. The couple soon became friends with the Gumprichs, another Jewish family living in Münster: Siegfried, his wife Louise and their children Walter and Brigitte. By the time the Voos couple arrived in Münster, German Jews had been living under Nazi dictatorship for six years already.
The Jewish community in Münster was almost completely isolated from the rest of the city and life was difficult for both families: Jewish businesses were closed, many professions were no longer accessible to them and their financial means were plundered by the regime. By 1939, the Gumprich family was left without an income.
Both families tried to emigrate from Nazi Germany. The Voos couple failed. They were deported to Auschwitz in March 1943 with their two year old son Danny, where they were murdered.
The Gumprich family succeeded to flee to The Netherlands in August 1939 – a few days before the outbreak of WWII – from where they emigrated to the UK. They had officially applied for emigration before, but were rejected every time.
The sample lesson “German Jews and the Holocaust” by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education tells the story of two Jewish families through pictures and home movies made by Siegfried Gumprich himself from 1937 to 1939. The sample lesson includes a lesson plan, a PowerPoint and a movie.
“When you really understand when and under what circumstances these pictures were taken, they are clearly quite extraordinary, in fact disturbing, documents. They show that the Gumprich family, like many Jewish-German families, had deep roots in their homeland and were trying to preserve their already rapidly disappearing heritage with these pictures. Up to the very last moment, they still hoped for an improvement in their situation whilst at the same time considering emigration as a last resort.” – from the sample lesson “German Jews and the Holocaust”
This approach – using the story of two families – brings the history of the Holocaust to a personal level. The story shows how Jewish families tried to escape the persecution they faced in their home country and the obstacles they had to overcome.
Thinking back to the online module about the Evian Conference that we presented in a previous post, the obstacles these Jewish families faced were the exact topic of the Evian conference. While in the resource on the Evian conference, refugees are mainly talked about in numbers, this resource humanises those numbers. In that way, “German Jews and the Holocaust” can complement and act as a case study for more general stories about the refugee situation in the 1930s.
As stated by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, this lesson:
- Reflects on middle-class Jewish life in Germany prior to the war
- Recognises and explores the different experiences of two families
- Encourages thinking about the international situation regarding Jewish refugees in the late 1930s
- Explore ways in which the Holocaust is remembered
What do you think about this case study? How would you use it with students? We would love to hear your feedback!