Cover Page
Table of Contents
Film in DVD or VHS
Reader's Guide

TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST with Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot or Visages de la Shoah : Marcel Jabelot by Barbara P. Barnett

      With the text Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot or its original French version, and the accompanying film (available in DVD or VHS), students encounter the moving, first-person testimony of a French Holocaust survivor who spent eighteen months in Auschwitz-Birkenau and courageously created a life for himself after the War. His spoken French is beautiful and easily understood by intermediate and/or advanced students. With the English subtitles, students who do not study French can easily understand the film. The reader is encouraged to think about moral and philosophical questions, the struggle between “good” and “evil”, and how to prevent future genocides.

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      Quoted from the book Teaching What Matters Most: Stands and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement by Richard W. Strong, Harvey F. Silver and Matthew J. Perini, p. 1. At Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, teacher Barbara Barnett shows her French students a videotaped interview she conducted with Marcel Jabelot. In the interview, conducted entirely in French, the 70-year-old Jabelot discusses his experiences in the Holocaust and his lifelong quest to find meaning in his suffering and the suffering of others. The students lean forward, their eyes focused and intent. They often stop the video to take notes, look up terms, and discuss what Jabelot is trying to tell them. As they study the video, the students’ own vocabularies begin to shift. They no longer sound like the textbook. As Barnett tells it, “Their voices are full of Jabelot.”

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      How I teach with Faces of the Holocaust : Marcel Jabelot (DVD/Video and book) by the author and executive producer, Barbara P. Barnett.

1.  Establish the historical context.
      In the “Reader’s Guide” section of the book, begin with the chronology. Go over the important dates and events before and during the German Occupation in France. If time permits, show the students The Last Métro (Le Dernier Métro), a film by François Truffaut that clearly portrays collaboration and Resistance in Vichy France and serves as an excellent introduction to the period.

2.  Give students a glimpse of Marcel Jabelot.
     Show a short clip of the beginning of the DVD, so that they can visualize the man. Go over “Key Events in the Life of Marcel Jabelot” in the “Reader’s Guide” of the book. Explain the two-part structure of the testimony. The first interview, about Marcel Jabelot’s family-life before the war and at Auschwitz-Birkenau-was conducted in a Paris apartment. The second interview, about life after 1945 and how he courageously rebuilt his own life, was conducted a year later in the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris. (See photo on front cover of book.)

3.  Have students read the testimony and answer study questions.
     Depending upon the level of the students and their reading comprehension, they can comfortably read eight to ten pages a night. In class, it is important to go over the content of the reading as well as the specialized vocabulary. The comprehension questions at the end of the book provide an excellent resource for discussion. In class, discuss with the students the many photographs in the book and their significance.

4.  Show the sixty-minute video/DVD.
     There are two ways to organize the showing of the film:
      a)  Have the students first complete the reading of Jabelot’s testimony and then watch the DVD/video.
      b)  Let students view the part of the testimony they read the night before; I have found the latter to be more effective. By watching the film in shorter segments, students become more engaged, get to know Marcel Jabelot better and become eager to read the next assignment. Teachers may show the DVD with or without English subtitles.

5.  Assessment.
     The following forms of assessment work effectively with students:
      a)  Written - Ask students specific questions about Jabelot’s life before, during or after the War, emphasizing the historical context of his experiences.
      b)  Oral interview - Meet individually with students and give them the opportunity to discuss with you one or more of the following topics: Marcel Jabelot’s family, life in the Drancy internment camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Death March, the heroic Polish woman that saved his life, his return to France, his subsequent marriage, business endeavors, studies at the Sorbonne, views about man and life, advice to young people and desire to “bear witness.”

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      The following comments and methods are enthusiastically shared by GARY MENCIN, TEACHER OF FRENCH WESTTOWN FRIENDS SCHOOL, WESTTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

      “Visages de la Shoah was again a great success in my French 4 class this year!! The new edition of the text, with the new DVD format, were great improvements. Especially helpful in the new edition were the supplemental introductory text portions-’Avant-propos,’ ‘Prologue’ and ‘Introduction’-as well as the concluding ‘Discours et Lettres,’ the ‘Chronologies,’ ‘Questions à discuter’ and ‘Idées à Discuter.’ The numerous pictures in the book were also very helpful in concentrating the students’ attention on the text both before and after the video. [. . .]

      The teaching process that I used was the following:

(1) First, I had my students read the introductory texts, followed by the chronologies. I used these texts to familiarize them with the ‘big picture’ into which Jabelot’s testimonies fit. All of this, of course, in French. [Of course, could be done in English.]

(2) Then, each day, I would have individual students take turns reading the testimonies aloud. I would correct their pronunciation and explain any more challenging vocabulary or references. Their homework was to study the questions on each section and to prepare the answers for them. The next day, I would begin class by showing the DVD of the parts that the students had read on the previous day, and then I would ask them the questions on each part. Then again I would have them go on and read the next sections. I followed this pattern until the end of the testimonies and then had them prepare answers to the ‘Idées à discuter.’ Then I had students read excerpts from Jabelot’s ‘discours.’ The final test was answering in writing 15 of my own questions based on all of this material, as well as translating into English selected vocabulary from the texts.”

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Additional Suggestions for creating a unit on France and the Holocaust from author and filmmaker Barbara P. Barnett

1.  Use the Reference section of Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot (or the French version) for additional documentaries and/or full-length feature films dealing with the period.
2.  Present the various responses to the German Occupation: Resistance, collaboration, Christian rescue (both Catholic and Protestant), indifference.
3.  Combine, whenever possible, film and literature.
4.  Form student groups to discuss the illustrations in the book Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot (or the French version).
5.  Visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum or your local Holocaust Resource Center, asking students to focus on the French experience.
6.  Present songs of the 1940’s: (Selections from the second and third are heard in the DVD and VHS formats of Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot.)
“Maréchal, nous voilà,” “Le Chant des Partisans,” “Le Chant des Marais.”
7.  Research French war memorials that honor members of the Resistance and commemorate victims.
8.  Use authentic documents and speeches: anti-Jewish laws, apologies by the French government and the Catholic Church.
9.  Encourage students to respond creatively with poetry, drawings, collages and/or journal writing.
10.  Follow current events that deal with the topic, such as the commemoration in Poland of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

April 6, 2005