The Mitzvah Project: Study Guide
The Mitzvah Project is a Holocaust-themed presentation created by Roger Grunwald. Roger, pictured right, is a playwright, actor and the son of a Holocaust survivor.
As you scroll through this guide, you will be introduced to a number of concepts and topics explored in the presentation by Roger and the program's Teaching Artists. Bolded words can be found in a glossary at the end.
What is the Holocaust?
Between 1933 and 1945, across Nazi-occupied Europe, the Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the German regime, its allies and collaborators. By the end of World War II, about two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population had been killed.
Who were the Nazis?
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party, took control of Germany from 1934 to 1945 under Adolf Hitler. Hitler and the Nazis’ wanted to annihilate all European Jews. After Germany’s defeat in World War II (1939-45), the Nazi Party was outlawed, and its leaders convicted of war crimes.
What was Auschwitz-Birkenau?
Train tracks leading to the entrance of
How did the Nazis conduct mass killings?
In the early years of the war the Nazis conducted mass shootings. In the nine months following June 1941 the Einsatzgruppen – mobile Nazi killing squads – killed at least 1.5 million men, women and children — the vast majority Jews — in mass shootings in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The squads recruited local “volunteers” to help carry out the mass murder.
Why did many German Jews marry non-Jews and/or convert to Christianity?
Roger’s mom, Lotte, was one of over half a million Jews living in Germany before Adolph Hitler, “Der Führer,” came to power. For hundreds of years, German Jews were not allowed to become citizens or to vote. Germany was a majority Christian country and Jews were a tiny minority.
By the start of World War II (September 1939) tens of thousands of young German men who had one or two Jewish grandparents were serving in the Wehrmacht
(the German armed forces). The Nazis called these partial
Jews “Mischlinge.” It was a derogatory term meaning “mongrel” or “half breed.” The Nazis created racial groups and sub-groups to categorize who was and wasn’t either a “pure” German or a Jew.
In classical Greek drama, The Chorus was one or more actors who described and commented upon the action of a play.