„We Were Still Human Then…” – bout Feelings Hidden in Poetry

Aneta Święs

Script for POLISH LITERATURE lesson
(for grades 7th/8th of elementary school)

Class duration: ~90 minutes (two class periods)

The objectives of the lesson:
– improving the ability to analyze and interpret witness accounts as a form of documenting events;
– expansion of vocabulary related to the Holocaust;
– learning new words to characterize attitudes;
– improving the ability to draw conclusions and generalize;
– training the ability to read metaphorical and symbolic meanings;
– improving the group work skills;
– forming the competence in searching and selecting information in various book and electronic sources,
– review and systematization of knowledge of literary terms;
– exercising the ability to create and use poetic devices;
– forming the competence to express feelings;
– exercising the competence of creating coherent written texts, correct in terms of language and style.

Methods and forms of work:
– practical exercises method;
– elements of heuristics;
– demonstrating.

Resources and teaching materials:
– photographs;
– fragments of witness accounts;
– definitions of stylistic devices and literary terms;
– sheets of kraft paper;
– note cards with names and definitions of poetic devices and literary terms;
– dictionaries or other sources of information, e.g. “Dictionary of Foreign Terms”, “Universal Encyclopedia”, or the Wikipedia.

1. Introduction: The teacher shows the film “History of the Jewish population in Nowy Sącz district from the German incursion to the liquidation of the ghetto” (excerpts from Samuel Kaufer’s testimony) to the students.

– students work in four-person groups and explain the terms written on the board (notes on kraft paper). They can use dictionaries or other sources of information.





JUDENRAT– administering Jewish councils, which were appointed duringWorld War II by theNazi German authorities for the purpose of implementing directives and orders.
JEWISH ARMBANDS – Jewish people over 12 years of age were forced to wear a white band with a blue star of David on the right shoulder.
LABOR CAMPS – a place of detention where the prisoners are forced to perform work.
DISPLACEMENT – forcing someone to leave their place of residence.
FOOD RATIONING IN THE GHETTO – hunger was the biggest enemy of the people living in the ghetto. The Germans would gradually reduce the amount of food delivered, and steadily increase its prices.
JEWISH SELF-HELP – organization of voluntary social care over the Jewish population in the General Government. Its tasks included serving food in open kitchens and other establishments, distributing dry food, clothing, medicine and financial aid; it organized and maintained closed care institutions; it also helped those seeking employment, searched for missing persons, and took special care of children.
GHETTO – an isolated part ofthe city, intended as a place of residence of a national, ethnic, cultural or religious minority, which was forbidden to live in other parts of the city.
PROPAGANDA POSTERS – posters and announcements in occupied Poland.
ANTI-SEMITISM – an attitudeof aversion, hostility toward Jews and people of Jewish descent resulting from various kinds ofprejudice; persecution and discrimination of Jewish people as a religious, ethnic or racial group and views justifying such actions.
DEATH/EXTERMINATION CAMPS – camps created by Nazi Germany during the II World War, as part of the “final solution of the Jewish question”. They were places of mass genocide by immediate murder of people brought in.
SEGREGATION – actual or legal separation of groups of people for ethnic, racial or religious reasons within a single state.
WORK MAKES ONE FREE – the inscription “Arbeit macht frei” is one of the most important symbols of the mass extermination system created by the Germans, whose victims were mostly Jews. Today it is still located above the gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
GHETTO A – for those working.
GHETTO B – for the “non-productive”.
BLUE POLICE – police force financed by Polish local authorities, subordinate to local commandants of the German order police,

– students present the effects of their work, pinning up the conclusions written on paper.

2. Analysis and interpretation of the documentary text:
– the teacher shows the film again
– students work in the same groups and write down keywords (names of items, terms, significants) that they remember from the testimony they have listened to, for example
• tears,
• poor wretch,
• chain,
• first,
• armband,
• telegram,
• poster,
• labor,
• dignity,
• hunger,
• contraband,
• infected,
• sowers,
• surprise,
• separation,
• hair,
• mirror,
• sentence,
• news,
– the teacher writes the words on the board, eliminating repetitions,
– students work in groups and write associations of the selected terms, e.g.:
tears – crying, despair, lament, pain, suffering.

3. Review tasks
– students receive definitions of poetic devices written on note cards:

ANAPHORA – repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of subsequent segments of the text.
ANIMISATION – giving inanimate objects, natural phenomena or abstract concepts the attributes of living beings.
ANTITHESIS – contrast of two segments of text (most often sentences) with opposite meanings.
ALLEGORY – a type of unambiguous personification; general truths and human relations are disguised as animals, plants, objects.
APOSTROPHE – direct address to a person, a deity or a personalized object.
EPIPHORA – repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of the subsequent segments of the text.
EPITHET – a word (adjective, participle, noun) defining a noun, emphasizing the characteristic features of people or objects.
HIPERBOLE – a metaphor containing elements of intentional exaggeration.
METAPHOR – an expression within which the meaning of words that make it up is intentionally changed.
NEOLOGISM – a new-coined word, created in accordance with the word-forming norms.
OXYMORON – a set phrase comprising two words which semantically exclude each other.
ONOMATOPOEIA – imitation of various non-linguistic acoustic phenomena by speech elements.
PERSONIFICATION – depiction of inanimate objects, natural and cosmic phenomena, animals or plants as acting or speaking human characters.
CIRCUMLOCUTION – replacing the name of a phenomenon by a more complex description of it.
SIMILE – direct comparison of two objects or phenomena due to some common characteristic which is the basis for the comparison.
HOMERIC SIMILE – a very complex comparison, one element of which is a detailed image, it usually refers to human deeds compared with animal behavior or natural phenomena.
REPETITION – multiplication of the same language element within a specific section of the text.
RHETORICAL QUESTION – a sentence in the form of a question which is not expected to be answered.
SYMBOL – an ambiguous motif or a set of motifs appearing in a literary work, which signifies content not directly disclosed, but is intended to indicate their existence.
ECPHONESIS – a short exclamatory sentence interjected in the course of speech.
ENUMERATION– consists in consecutive listing and sometimes also describing of all of the components of a certain set, indicated in the text.
DIMINUTIVE – a word created with a proper affix to indicate an object smaller than the original. The name of the original object becomes the word stem of the newly created word.
AUGMENTATIVE – a word formation (noun, adjective, adverb), which usually refers to an object larger than the one signified by the word which is its base. May have a negative undertone.

4. Creative tasks:
– students choose any definitions and by themselves create stylistic devices connected to any of the keywords, e.g.:
tears – painful, penetrating, burning, sea of tears, ocean of suffering, dry tears, marching like sentenced to death, irritating smiling faces.

5. Homework:
Students use the effects of their work to create their own poetic works.

Based on the fragments of the heard testimony, express your feelings using any type of poem. Use the stylistic devices learned during the lesson.

– students review the terms:
LYRICAL SUBJECT – the person speaking in the poem.
BLANK VERSE – poem without rhymes at the end of lines.
SYLLABIC VERSE – poem with the same number of syllables in each line, with constant accent on the penultimate syllable of each. If the line is longer than eight syllables, then there is a caesura in it. It is usually written with 13 syllables or 11 syllables per line.
SYLLABOTONIC VERSE – a poem with the same number of syllables in each line, as in the case of a syllabic verse. It is more rhythmical – this is due to the evenly distributed accentuation (in subsequent lines the same syllables are stressed).
FREE VERSE – without the same number of syllables or accents in the line. The lines can vary in length, verses are often enjambed, rhymes are created by repeating lines.
TONAL VERSE – a type of poem in which the number of syllables in the line does not have to be the same, but there must be the same number of accents. Their distribution is not constant.
STROPHIC VERSE – every poem with a division into strophes/stanzas. This means that the lines are connected in equal fragments of a closed structure.
NON-STROPHIC VERSE – every poem built from verses, but without division into strophes.
Perfect – identical sound of the stressed vowels.
Imperfect – similar but not identical sound of the words.
Grammatical – rhyming words of the same part of speech.
Feminine – rhyming words with more than one syllable; 1.5-syllable rhyme.
Masculine – rhyming single syllable words.
PAIRED (neighboring): aabb,
INTERWEAVED (crossed): abab,
RHYTHMICAL POEM STRUCTURE – a fixed number of syllables in verses (in the syllabic verse), a fixed number of syllables with the same order of accents (in the syllabotonic verse), a fixed number of accents(in the tonal verse), regularly occurring caesura and rhymes.