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Teacher Finds Way to Explain Holocaust to Young Children

February 17, 1977
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Irving Frank, a junior high school social studies teacher in the Flushing section of Queens, has found it difficult to teach children about the Holocaust. He said the 13-year-olds he teaches are upset when they are shown the actual photographs of the Nazi atrocities, leave the room if they can or even laugh at the pictures. Frank, 38, said he himself finds it difficult to view actual presentations on the Holocaust, such as the recent film, “The 81st Blow.”

But now Frank feels he has found a way–through the presentation of art depicting the events of the Holocaust and in particular the work of an Israeli artist, Shimon Balitski. Frank has prepared a 20-minute filmstrip and cassette narration called “The Holocaust and the Resistance” using Balitski’s work to describe the Holocaust.

The idea came when Frank, his wife Rachel and their three sons spent a sabbatical year in Israel last year. Frank said he was taken to Balitski’s studio by a mutual friend and was moved by the pictures painted by Balitski, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, He said he immediately saw the possibility of using Balitski’s work to describe the Holocaust.

The film is based on Balitski’s narration translated by Frank. It begins with Balitski speaking in Yiddish and then switches to the translation spoken by Irving Kaplan, of Israel Educational Television.

Balitski’s works are moving and haunting scenes of Nazi atrocities and Jewish courage, Frank said the emphasis is on resistance, not just physical, but also spiritual. Frank said the children who have seen the film have responded especially to the pictures of children being executed. He said they noted that in the painting showing children about to be machine-gunned the gun looked like a camera and were told the SS did this so that the children would think that they were about to be photographed rather than executed.

Frank said that schools and Jewish organizations have expressed interest in his film. He said it should be shown not only in Jewish schools but also in public schools. He said it would be particularly appropriate to show the film on Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance for the Holocaust. He is renting the film through Shimbal Studies in Flushing.

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