Raising Pupils' Awareness of the Needs of Refugees in Baden-Württemberg Today

Master's Thesis, 2013

79 Pages


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations



I Content Analysis: Historical and Theoretical Foundations
1 Working with Biographical Literature in the Bilingual History Classroom
1.1 Defining the Term ´Autobiography´
1.2 A Summary of Goldstein’s Autobiography
1.3 Criteria for the Use of Autobiographies in the Bilingual History Classroom
1.3.1 First Criterion: Promote Critical Historical Awareness
1.3.2 Second Criterion: Stimulate Curiosity and Motivation
1.3.3 Goldstein’s Autobiography and the Significance of Detail
2 Didactical Analysis
2.1 The Need for Didactical Reduction
2.2 Reasons for Leaving – Four Major Refugee Waves
2.2.1 Hitler’s Rise to Power, 1933: The First Refugee Wave from Nazi Germany
2.2.2 Systematic Marginalisation and Exclusion from Society, 1934-1935: The Second and Third Refugee Waves from Nazi Germany
2.2.3 The Night of Broken Glass, November 1938: The Fourth Refugee Wave from Germany
2.3 The Allies’ Response to German Jewish Refugees with Focus on the USA
2.4 Civil Disobedience: The Rosenstraße Protest
2.5 Refugees in Germany Today
2.5.1 Four Prejudices against Refugees
2.5.2 Aid Organisations in Freiburg in Breisgau

II A Bilingual History Project on Alice (Dreifuß) Goldstein’s Autobiography >Ordinary People, Turbulent Times<
1 Preparations and Initial Situation
2 Eight Characteristics of Project Work and Their Practical Application
3 Lesson Descriptions and Reflections
3.1 Day 1 (Monday)
3.1.1 Lesson 1 (Introduction to the Setting)
3.1.2 Lessons 2- 3 (Introduction to the Characters)
3.1.3 Lesson 4 (History as Storytelling)
3.2 Day 2 (Tuesday)
3.2.1 Lesson 5 (Nora Waln’s Account)
3.2.2 Lesson 6 (Introduction to the Allies)
3.3 Day 3 (Thursday)
3.3.1 Lesson 7 (WebQuest-based Group Work, Part 1)
3.4 Day 4 (Friday)
3.4.1 Lessons 8-10 (WebQuest-based Group Work, Part 2, and Presentations)
3.5 Day 5 (Monday)
3.5.1 Lesson 11 (Link to Refugees Today)
3.5.2 Lessons 12-13 (Meeting the Expert)
3.5.3 Lesson 14 (Project Evaluation and Personal Feedback)



1 Monographs

2 Journals and Magazine Articles

3 Collected Editions

4 Monographs with Editor

5 Articles from Collected Editions

6 Written Online Sources

7 Audio-Visual Sources

8 Online Databases

Verbindliche Versicherung


List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Vor unseren Türen steht nicht der Asylant,

sondern Menschen mit einem individuellen Gesicht

und mit einer unverwechselbaren Geschichte.

(Krockauer 1990: 52-53)

(On our doorstep there is not the asylum seeker

but rather people with individual faces and unique stories.)


According to the UNHCR, there are currently an estimated 42 Mio refugees worldwide. These include those persons who are currently internally displaced, those who have crossed a border and applied for asylum, and those who have been granted refugee status. In 1951, the Geneva Convention defined refugees as persons who, due to violence, persecution, or war, are forced to leave their home (cf. Angenendt 1999: 19). Refugees are no new phenomena; they have existed for thousands of years. To this day, refugee situations are born out of conflict and disaster, and though societies change in structure and convictions, the `refugee question` remains. This thesis shall explore the ways in which the autobiography of Alice Dreifuß Goldstein, a German Jewish refugee from Kenzingen who immigrated to the USA in 1939, can raise pupils` awareness of the needs of refugees in Freiburg in Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, today.



In May 2008, there were serious xenophobic attacks all over South Africa. Starting in Johannesburg’s township of Alexandra, the violence spread rapidly to other parts of the country. By the end of the month, thousands had lost their homes and businesses through arson and theft. Many of them had become victims of heavy beatings, rape, or murder. The Central Methodist Church, situated in downtown Johannesburg, was overcrowded with people. It gave shelter to over 2000 refugees, mostly Zimbabweans. To this day (more than five years later), many of them still live there. They sleep on the stairs and benches of the church building. In response, the government organised buses that would transport thousands of immigrants back to their countries of origin; countries they had fled mostly due to civil war or tyrannical governments. Of course, these shippings were said to be, first and foremost, for the people’s protection. The attackers, however, must have seen these deportations as a great success. Only a few days earlier, warning signs had been put up all over the city that urged foreigners to leave the country by Friday, 23 May 2008, or else they would all be killed. Among the countries listed were Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and even China. The accusations brought against them were that they were taking away jobs, housing, and even women, from South Africans and, thus, were the reason for their misery and poverty.

I did not go to school that day fearing I could get caught up in the middle of an attack. All that was happening seemed so familiar. It reminded me of Nazi Germany, especially of the Night of Broken Glass and the Nazis` argument that the Jews were the cause of Germany’s misfortune. Thus, I made the connection between German Jewish refugees and modern refugees that day. I realized, how quickly life could be turned up-side down; how disaster can fall on any person, regardless their education, their economic stability, or their status; how a democratic state is not made by its name, but by its actions; and that every person’s action in it counts.

While I hid away, following up on current events via the news, yet too concerned with my own well-being to do anything about them, my host mother went out to see where she could help. She brought home strangers in need, sheltering them from the violence and the hate speech that awaited them on the streets. Soon, the house was filled with people who had become refugees over-night. Conversations with them led to more knowledge about, and better understanding of, the situation in town. They helped me understand their needs and their fears, and they disproved all of the hateful accusations that were brought against them (cf. I, 2.5).

When moving to Weingarten earlier this year (2013), I began looking for a community service initiative to get involved in. It was not long until I found out about Freiburg´s refugee homes. An article in the Badische Zeitung informed me of “Anwohnerproteste” (residents protests, Lutz 2012) in December 2012, concerning the building of a fourth refugee home in Freiburg. Regional and national protests on the part of those who have been granted refugee status in Germany and those who are still waiting on asylum were also to be found all over recent news reports (e.g. cf. Rbb 2013). Furthermore, several deportations (mostly of Romanians) via Baden Airpark over the last three to four months, and the NSU trial, beginning in May 2013, all fortified my conviction that this must be taught in schools (cf. II, 1).


Humankind is not merely subject to circumstances, but also shapes and affects circumstances through actions and reactions to them – for example, through activism or passivity. Therefore, I believe that the most important part of teaching History is helping young people develop humanitarian convictions. One way to achieve this is by letting them draw conclusions from past events and apply them to present situations. By planning a school project on the basis of an autobiography by a local author, I tried to make historical events more accessible and relevant to pupils.

The following eight objectives were informed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s reasons for Holocaust Education (cf. USHMM n.d., f):

a) By learning about the attitudes of the Nazis towards Jews, pupils recognize their own prejudices against foreigners (in general) and refugees (in particular), and are shocked at the actions that can arise from/follow such attitudes.
b) They realize that the implementation of discriminatory laws and practices, culminating in the Holocaust, were only possible because of peoples´ prejudice, indifference, and/or passivity.
c) Pupils realize that deportations of refugees from their area(s) today are still possible for the same reasons: people’s prejudices and/or indifference.
d) Pupils understand that activism is an effective force.
e) They realize that wars and genocides still happen or could happen today, even in their areas.
f) They realize that refugees are ordinary people just like them, and that they, too, could become refugees if circumstances turned against them.
g) Pupils are encouraged to consider situations from the point of view of the evicted, oppressed, marginalised, and persecuted: what their needs, wants, hopes, and fears are.
h) Pupils consider the effects of their actions on these situations, and what they may do to increase the positivity of their impact.

While the entire project aimed at promoting the pupils` understanding of otherness, i.e. sensitise them for other people’s perspectives, experiences, and needs, it was also to offer pupils civic education – in other words, preparing them for life in society, both at national and international levels. Realizing that nearly the entire class wished they could receive history classes in German, I had also made it a goal to motivate the learners for bilingual classes through visually attractive and authentic material (cf. Appendix Part II, 3).

Concise Project Outline

As Wolfgang Hallet wrote in his article > Ein didaktisches Modell für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht: The bilingual triangle<, bilingual classes are first of all “Fachunterricht […] in einer fremden Sprache” (subject teaching in a foreign language, Hallet 1999: 23). Therefore, like the project, this essay will mainly deal with historical contents and teaching methods. Because language is such an essential focus of bilingual classes, however, I have also taken language learning strategies and principles from the English foreign language classroom into consideration when planning my project.

The project was structured as follows:

In a first step, pupils learnt historical facts about Germany in the years between 1933 and 1939. These included political events, the passing of discriminatory laws, as well as facts about the reaction of the German population towards the rapidly-increasing, government-backed discrimination against Jews. In a second step, pupils were introduced to the characters of Alice Dreifuß and her family who lived in Kenzingen and surroundings. In small groups, the pupils found out how life changed for Alice and her family, and what motivated some of them to emigrate. In a third step, pupils engaged in a WebQuest[1] on the reaction of the Allies towards German Jewish refugees with a focus on the United States of America. The purpose of this internet search was for pupils to realize some of the difficulties involved both in emigration and in immigration. In the days that followed, the pupils ‘accompanied’ specific members of Alice’s family through the process of emigration, in order to find out whether they were successful in their efforts or not, and to what extent the USA was co-responsible for the fate of the Jewish people. In a final step, pupils were confronted with current local affairs through a conversation with a staff member of the refugee aid organisation Projektverbund Bleiberecht Freiburg. This was to help pupils realize their own prejudices against foreigners in general, and refugees in particular. Ideally, they were to critically reflect on their attitudes and change or fortify them if necessary. In order to find out whether this goal was achieved, the pupils completed a questionnaire, in which they also had a chance to give general feedback on the project.

All of the above activities were done in English, though handouts were provided with language support (as recommended by Eike Thürmann, cf. 2000: 97), and pupils were given the freedom to ask questions or reply to the teacher in German.

Definitions and Jargon

In this essay, I will make a clear distinction between Mrs Goldstein as the author of a book, and Alice Dreifuß as the main character of this book. Furthermore, I will make use of Nazi jargon with regards to the distinction between, or classification of Germans as, ‘Aryans’ and ‘Jews’. Having listened to and read numerous Holocaust accounts, I noticed this recurring use of jargon among Holocaust survivors. This was also the case in Goldstein´s autobiography. I believe there to be at least four reasons for this. These reasons are outlined as follows:

Firstly, defining ‘Aryans’ as ‘Germans’ would imply that German-Jews were not Germans. From what I have read and heard from Holocaust survivors, being disentitled to their German nationality was one of their most painful experiences in early Nazi Germany (e.g. cf. Large 2004: 73-76). Inge Auerbacher, for example, has given two presentations at the Pädagogische Hochschule (PH) in Freiburg thus far, and each time her appeal to this generation was that it would see that they, the Jews, were Germans (also cf. Goldstein 2008: 15). Her family had lived in Germany for over two hundred years (cf. Auerbacher 1993: 3), as had Goldstein´s family (cf. Goldstein 2008: 5).

Secondly, the Nazi regime’s classification of a ‘Jew’ was, in many cases, quite vague and arbitrary. The ideology declared Jews to be a separate ‘race’. Still, they needed some kind of reference point as to who counted as a Jew; so they searched the lists of the Jewish communities. Anyone who had at least three Jewish grandparents, appearing in such a list, counted as ‘Volljude’; anyone with only one or two Jewish grandparents counted as ‘Halbjude’ (half-Jew or first-degree mixed-blood) or ‘Mischling zweiten Grades’ (second-degree mixed-blood). Whether the grandchild practiced the Jewish faith was irrelevant or of partial or secondary concern. (cf. Stoltzfus 2003: 108) In this way, many people who were baptized into the Christian faith also fell under the definition of a ‘Jew’ and became victims of the Nazi regime (cf. ibid. 109). Thus, the only possible way to group all of the people affected by Hitler’s politics is by defining them as he did.

Thirdly, using the generalization of ‘die Deutschen’ (the Germans) is colouring everyone with the same brush, when reality is much more complex and diverse. There were those Germans who actively participated in ridding Germany of those people defined as Jews by their regime (perpetrators). There were those who were or were not members of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), and, though never actually raising a hand against someone themselves, stood by and watched others do it for them (bystanders). Then there were those Germans who helped or rescued members of the persecuted groups – for the Jews were not the only victims (helpers and rescuers). Lastly, there were those Germans who themselves fell into the category of ‘politically persecuted’ (victims).

Finally, Germans today should not be made to feel guilty for being German, for the evil is not in German genes, neither in German culture nor in German values. Within every human being, however, there is the potential for evil, and if left unchecked (particularly in terms of education), such tragedies as the Holocaust and world wars could, quite conceivably, be repeated. As Theodor Adorno put it in his famous radio report ‘Education after Auschwitz’ of 1966:

If coldness were not a fundamental trait of anthropology, that is, the constitution of people as they in fact exist in society, if people were not profoundly indifferent toward whatever happens to everyone else except for a few to whom they are closely bound and, if possible, by tangible interests, then Auschwitz would not have been possible, people would not have accepted it. (Adorno 1966: 8)

As already mentioned and defined in the abstract, the term ‘refugees’, when used in this essay, refers to all people who are forced to leave their home due to violence, war, or persecution, regardless of whether they have crossed a border or have been granted refugee status (cf. Angenendt 1999: 19). Only in chapter 2.5 of part I, the term ‘refugee’ will be split into the following current legal terms: ‘internally displaced persons’ (people displaced within the borders of their own country), ‘illegal refugees’ (people who have crossed the border to another country illegally and have not yet applied for asylum), ‘asylum seekers’ (people who have applied for asylum in a safe country), ‘people entitled to (political) asylum’ (persons who have received refugee status), and ‘de-facto refugees’ (persons whose asylum bid was rejected and who are thus obliged to leave the country; however, due to humanitarian or judicial reasons, they are, until further notice, exempted from deportation).

Used Literature

As can be seen from my bibliography, I have read both broadly and in depth, covering the following areas and contents: the Jewish persecution before and during World War II, the Allies’ responses to the Jewish refugee crisis and the Holocaust (with a focus on the USA), civil courage and disobedience, refugees in Germany over the last two and a half decades (with a focus on Freiburg in Breisgau), writing and teaching autobiographies, teaching methods and techniques for the history classroom (such as learning through oral history), teaching approaches for the English foreign language classroom, and concepts and recommendations for bilingual teaching and learning. I realized that a lot of literature was available on historical events and debates, with the exception of the Rosenstraße protest, which is entirely based on Nathan Stoltzfus´ research; however, hardly any recent literature was available on the situation of refugees in Baden-Württemberg. Most literature I found on refugees who have come to Germany for safety was either from the 1990s or looking at the refugee situation as a European, rather than a national, affair. Finally, those authors who do have a more local or regional focus are mainly published online (e.g. recent newspaper articles). Literature or teaching material specifically on Goldstein’s life story >Ordinary People, Turbulent Times< is not yet available, which was one of my main reasons for choosing this work.

I Content Analysis: Historical and Theoretical Foundations

1 Working with Biographical Literature in the Bilingual History Classroom

1.1 Defining the Term ´Autobiography´

Taking its name from the Greek words ‘αὐτός’ (autos - self), ‘βίος’ (bios - life), and ‘γράφειν’ (graphein - to write), an autobiography is a written account of one’s own life experiences. In this way, it is by force the most subjective form of historiography, and thus located between historical narrative and belle lettres (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 14). While there are other forms of biographical literature such as memoires, autobiographical novels, autobiographical poetry and verse, and diary entries (cf. Wagner-Egelhaaf 2005: 6) – only to mention a few – this paper will specifically focus on autobiographies as retrospective prosaic narrations (cf. ibid. 5).

1.2 A Summary of Goldstein’s Autobiography

Alice (Dreifuß) Goldstein´s autobiography >Ordinary People, Turbulent Times< focuses mainly on the different turns her life and the lives of her family members take as a result of Hitler´s anti-Semitic politics.

On 25 September 1931, Alice is born in Kenzingen as the daughter of Siegfried and Grete (née Valfer) Dreifuß (cf. Goldstein 2008: 28). Although Alice’s ancestors have resided in Southwest Germany for over two hundred years (cf. ibid. 8), and her father’s courage and loyalty, in war, were recognised with the Iron Cross (cf. ibid. 15), her family is not spared from increasing marginalization and public humiliation by their German fellow citizens (cf. ibid. 35-36 + 39). At the end of 1937, after a prolonged period of hesitation, Alice’s parents decide to emigrate to the United States of America. Despite having to wait more than a year for the application to be processed and accepted, the family of three eventually manages to escape the Nazi regime, by ship, in August 1939 (cf. ibid. 58).

While Alice’s parents try to start a new life in America, the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe deprives both her maternal and paternal grandparents of any chance of getting a visa. In January 1940, Siegfried´s mother, Karolina Dreifuß, dies of a heart attack (cf. ibid. 67-68). Nine months later, in the course of the Wagner-Bürckel-Aktion, both of Alice’s maternal grandparents and her paternal grandfather are deported to the internment camp Gurs, in Southern France, where they all remain for just over a year (cf. ibid. 77+83). At the end of 1941, various deportations to several other labour and concentration camps begin (cf. ibid.). Being uprooted three times in the course of one year is clearly too much for Siegfried´s father, Ludwig. He dies on December 19, 1941, in the internment camp Récébébou, France (cf. ibid. 84). Knowing this, Siegfried and Grete Dreifuß determine to do whatever it takes to obtain a visa for Sigmund and Anna Valfer. However, the increasingly strict and ever-changing immigration policies of the United States lead to a lengthy and expensive process (cf. ibid. 86). When the confirmation of their approval by the State Department finally arrives in fall 1942, it is already too late (cf. ibid.). As a result of the direct conflict of Allied troops with Hitler´s army in North Africa on November 7, 1942, all borders controlled by the Nazis are closed to the outside world. This makes it impossible for Alice’s grandparents to leave France. (cf. Goldstein 2008: 87) A few more transfers to various camps follow in 1942 and 1943, until April 7, 1944, when they start on their final journey to Auschwitz-Birkenau (cf. ibid. 88). Of course, Alice and her parents are not told of this until after the war (cf. ibid. 98).

In the meantime, the three of them move from Washington Heights to Bennington, where Siegfried begins to work as a butler and Grete as a maid (cf. ibid. 63-65). Alice continues her schooling which she had started at the Jewish school in Freiburg in spring of 1938 (cf. ibid. 40+65). In the following two years, Alice and her parents move another three times (cf. ibid. 90). They finally settle in New London, CT, where Grete opens a small catering business and a confectionary (cf. ibid. 97). Once the war is over, they try to locate Grete’s parents and Siegfried’s three brothers with whom they had lost contact a while back (cf. ibid. 98). By 1946, they are certain that most of their immediate family has survived. They are ready for a new life in the USA and apply for US citizenship (cf. ibid. 103).

1.3 Criteria for the Use of Autobiographies in the Bilingual History Classroom

To begin with, I would like to consider some possible criteria for identifying appropriate characteristics of autobiographies, which could then be used to decide on a suitable text for the class in question. Every literary form has benefits and disadvantages, and this is equally the case with the genre of biographical literature. Therefore, pros and cons of a specific work need to be balanced against the background of academically accepted criteria, before using it in a school context. According to historiographer Hans-Jürgen Pandel (cf. 1987: 132), the main objective of history classes lies in the formation of a critical historical awareness among pupils. Consequently, this will be the first criterion for choosing a literary work for the bilingual history classroom. A second criterion is the ability to stimulate pupils´ curiosity and motivation. In this section, these criteria will be elaborated on in separate sub-sections. In a third section, Goldstein’s autobiography will be examined against the background of these criteria.

1.3.1 First Criterion: Promote Critical Historical Awareness

Next to the knowledge of historical events, historical awareness also contains the imagination and interpretation of these, as well as the resulting attitudes thereof (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 28). Subdividing this term into seven theoretical dimensions was Pandel’s attempt to make it more precise and tangible. Pandel’s subdivisions were: awareness of time, awareness of reality, awareness of historicity, awareness of identity, political awareness, economic awareness, and moral awareness (cf. Pandel 1987: 132). These seven subdivisions can be explained as follows:

1. Developing pupils´ awareness of time means developing their ability to differentiate between past, present, and future events (cf. ibid. 132). Any form of encounter with historical topics has the potential to nurture this ability, so also the engagement with autobiographies (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 30). Further, it means the ability to link these three dimensions of time, understanding that current situations are the result of decisions made in the past, and that any action taken by the pupils will have an impact on the future (cf. Sauer 2001: 15).

2. The awareness of reality (cf. Pandel 1987: 132) means the ability to differentiate between “res factae” (fact) and “res fictae” (fiction) (Rox-Helmer 2006: 30). When dealing with non-fiction, it is crucial to subject the literary work and its author to critical scrutiny before presenting it to the class (cf. ibid. 14), as it is not uncommon for an author to claim to tell `the true story`, in spite of factual anomalies or errors. Herman Rosenblat´s >Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived< (2009) is one example of such a fraud within the genre of biographical Holocaust literature. Though Rosenblat as a young boy was an actual prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp, he chose to make up an extraordinary love story, so his book would stand out from the masses of Holocaust literature and bring him financial success (cf. Siemaszko 2009). How much teachers involve their pupils in the critical examination of a work is up to them. The necessity of research, however, should at least be addressed.

Going a step further, it is also of great importance that pupils be made aware of the difference between “Vergangenheit” (the past) and “Geschichte” (history retold) (Schreiber 2006: 7). For, “Vergangenheit” (res gestae) (Goertz 2009: 700) is forever gone and can never be reconstructed in all its complexity and authenticity, while “Geschichte” (historia rerum gestarum) (ibid.) is what man makes of “res gestae” in retrospect (cf. Waldmann 2000: 33). Due to subjectivity, perspectivity, and selective and fallible memory (cf. ibid. 30), “historia rerum gestarum” is only a compilation of remembered fractions of “res gestae” (cf. ibid: 33). Thus, every attempt to reconstruct “res gestae” by force results in “historia rerum gestarum”, a construct (cf. Goertz 2009: 697); as is the case with autobiographies (cf. Waldmann 2000: 33).

As long as authors strictly write down what they themselves know for sure to have taken place, the distinction between “res gestae” (Goertz 2009: 700) and “historia rerum gestarum” (ibid.) is applicable. The minute they intend to paint ´the full picture´, however, – even if their motives are altruistic and genuine (cf. Wagner-Egelhaaf 2005: 2) – they are invariably going to reach a point where they cannot continue writing due to lack of concrete information (cf. Barrington 2004: 9). This lack could (a) always have been there (cf. Falkson 2007: 139), (b) be the result of human forgetfulness (cf. Baacke/ Schulze 1993: 161), or (c) have been caused by the input of contradicting information, resulting in self-doubt and uncertainty (cf. Barrington 2004: 59). Barrington speaks, in this regard, of a conflict between factual and emotional truth (cf. Barrington 2004: 42).

The key to textual authenticity and accuracy lies not always in the choice of skipping knowledge gaps, though sometimes it may be safest to admit to the reader a lack of information or a case of unclear memory (e.g. cf. Goldstein 2008: 42). Often, it is of great importance that gaps be closed; whether for the continuation of the story or the reader’s better understanding of it. Authors are then confronted with the choice of whether to research their subject of interest (e.g. look for original documents, conduct interviews, investigate on-site, etc.) or to use their imagination (cf. Wagner-Egelhaaf 2005: 47). What authors choose is up to them; however, it needs to suit their subgenre (cf. Barrington 2004: 23). The one writing an autobiography does not have as much freedom in using his or her imagination as does the one writing a memoir or an autobiographical novel. Wagner-Egelhaaf describes this difficulty well when she writes: „ Die Lückenhaftigkeit des menschlichen Gedächtnisses [...] gilt [...] als Einfallstor der Imagination und damit als Begründung für den autobiographischen Kunstcharakter.” (The fallibility of the human mind is like an open gate for the imagination; this is the foundation of the artistic character of autobiography, Wagner-Egelhaaf 2005: 47) So, while the author of an autobiography is restricted artistically, this same restriction benefits the historian. Historians, then, must, in almost all cases, favour the chronologist and the researcher over the novelist and the artist.

Another thing that can help historians to filter out truthful content is the comparison between autobiographical accounts, whether they be in written or oral form. For this reason, I read several biographical and autobiographical works (e.g. the accounts of Inge Auerbacher (1993/ ‘95), Edith Hahn Beer (2003), David Large (2004) about Max Schohl, and Hetty E. Verolme (2000), to mention a few), before deciding on Goldstein’s autobiography.

3. The dimension of awareness of historicity means the realization that things in life are either constant or changeable (cf. Pandel 1987: 132). In order to participate responsibly in society, pupils need to understand that society, also, is a construct. It is influenced and shaped by the actions of its partakers (cf. Goldstein 2008: xii). Political parties, societal beliefs and convictions, societal likes and dislikes in regards to fashion, music, or architectural styles, are only a few examples of changeable things. The realization that, for example, injustice does not simply have to be put up with, but can be opposed and changed, is a crucial part of critical historical awareness (cf. ibid.).

On the other hand, the dimension of awareness of historicity enables pupils to understand that there are basic needs, desires, and developments that are obviously constant throughout history, despite social change (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 35); and that these things also exist beyond geographic or ethnic borders. Examples of such constants may be the need for food, shelter, and social contact, the enjoyment of sports or music, the existence of interpersonal disagreements, or the challenges of adolescence. Realizing that past generations have encountered similar struggles as they themselves may increase pupils´ willingness to find out how others dealt with these (cf. ibid. 39-40). This is where working with biographies may speak into the lives of youngsters more directly than any other form of literature, because the outcome is ´real´. Either something worked or it didn´t work; and if it didn´t, readers can observe this and choose to act differently. In the same way, pupils can learn from past successes, build on past achievements, and add to past discoveries (cf. ibid. 40).

4. The dimension of awareness of identity deals with feelings of familiarity and unfamiliarity with respect to group affiliation. First and foremost, this dimension will be promoted when pupils are encouraged to research their familial or cultural heritage. Such a research project can be triggered or instructed by material of autobiographical value and can evoke varying emotional responses from the pupils. Often, such emotions can help motivate pupils for further historical learning.

Forcibly, pupils will also, during such a project, realize similarities and differences between themselves and people from the past (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 39), or people from other cultural or ethnic backgrounds (which again is directly connected to the previous dimension, awareness of historicity). Depending on the focus of a lesson (i.e. the kind of autobiography, a teacher chooses), pupils may increase their sense of national identity or develop a new sense of unity which transcends geographical and ethnic borders (cf. Sauer 2001: 16). By following the journeys of literary characters, pupils may more easily develop relevant emotional responses towards the characters and their situations (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 34). Research has shown that identification with literary characters intensifies with the proximity of their ages to the ages of the readers (cf. Rox-Helmer56).

5. Falkson notes that the everyday history of ordinary people has finally found entrance into the German school curriculum (cf. Falkson 2007: 136), so as to foster pupil’s political awareness. It seems that historiography is no longer interested exclusively in the lives of the gentry, but has, over the last thirty-five years, turned a significant amount of its attention to ‘history from the bottom’ (cf. Baacke/ Schulze 1993: 49). A still fairly new part of historiography, which concerns itself with the systematic interviewing of contemporary witnesses and the evaluation of these interviews (cf. Falkson 2007: 136), is the research approach of ‘oral history’ (cf. ibid.). According to Falkson, this method has found great popularity among pupils but is still practiced far too seldom by teachers in the classroom (cf. ibid.).

Albeit lacking face-to-face interpersonal communication, autobiographies have great potential to promote pupils´ political awareness, due to their very detailed personal storyline. Given that every story is set in a wider societal or political context (cf. Sauer 2001: 16), they, too, tell ‘history from the bottom’ (cf. Baacke/ Schulze 1993: 49). In this way, pupils are offered insight into varying political systems and directed towards a critical analysis of political decisions made in past times (cf. Sauer 2001: 16). They do not only learn about politicians, but also about the way political decisions have influenced the life of common people in past times (cf. Sauer 2001: 16), and about how the affected (whether a group or an individual) have reacted to these challenges and changes (cf. Falkson 2007: 138; cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 32).

6. While the previous dimension dealt with power relations within society, the dimension of economic awareness deals with the stratification of society in terms of financial wealth or the lack thereof; in other words, the realization of socio-economic inequalities and the existence or absence of social mobility within past and present social systems. In contrast to memoires, autobiographies generally deal with the whole life of a person up to the time of writing. This allows for analysis of change in economic status over the course of one persons’ life, including the society or societies in which this person has lived over the years. The possibility of losing social and economic status over night (and regaining it through hard work in another society years later) is one of Goldstein’s focus areas, which makes her work even more suitable for teaching.

7. Lastly, the dimension of moral awareness means the ability to make relevant judgements of historical actions and events. The word ´relevant´ is stressed; for, as Pandel points out, one cannot simply impose modern standards on historical situations (cf. Pandel, in: Sauer 2001: 16). Only the engagement with historical norms and values can lead to partial understanding and, thus, a more relevant judgement of an historical situation (cf. ibid.). In addition to learning about the impact which different social groups had on each other during a certain period in time, biographies have the unique potential to provide insightful information concerning peoples´ motives which led to certain actions (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 31). The realization that decisions made by individuals were often complex matters that depended on several factors or, in contrast, that were motivated by socially acceptable convictions, can prevent pupils from making rash value judgements and sweeping generalisations (cf. ibid. 32). For example, knowing that Hitler’s politics were not only threatening to non-Aryans, but to anyone in doubt of his absolute authority and legitimacy can help pupils understand why so many Aryans chose to look the other way. Meaning, this realization can bring better understanding of the historical situation; however, it can never justify people’s passivity, indifference, and complicity.

1.3.2 Second Criterion: Stimulate Curiosity and Motivation

Next to promoting pupils´ historical awareness, an autobiography used in the classroom also needs to create an enjoyable reading experience for the pupils (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 56). This is especially important, because pupils´ motivation is directly connected to their learning experience (cf. Gerhard 2009: 102-105). The more motivated they are, the more they will take home from a lesson.

A pre-existing interest in the topic of the reading project can, of course, be helpful (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 39), but it is not imperative. If other criteria are met, interest can easily be awakened during the course of a teaching unit. What must, however, be taken into consideration, is the literary quality (cf. ibid. 49-50) and quantity of the work (cf. ibid. 58) intended for teaching use; including the level of language proficiency it demands (cf. ibid.). Unlike the foreign language classroom, which is primarily concerned with promoting pupils´ feeling for language as a part of intercultural communicative competence, the bilingual history classroom focuses on conveying content (cf. Otten/ Wildhage 2007: 19). The worst-case scenario, in this context, is that a reading project fails due to its language demands or its overwhelming volume. Some pupils may look up unfamiliar words as they set out on the reading journey, but the majority will soon lay the book aside due to demotivation. For this reason, learner appropriate language input and language support offered by the teacher is of utmost importance in the bilingual classroom.

Another very helpful criterion is that the autobiography, which is intended for teaching use, features similarities to pupils´ recreational readings (cf. Rox-Helmer 2006: 50); for example, to crime stories or adventure books (cf. ibid. 39). The story needs to have a captivating storyline, of which twists and turns are essential elements (cf. ibid. 56).

Lastly, a local geographical reference can be a great help in increasing opportunity for identification (cf. ibid. 39). Depending on the topic, this reference can evoke emotional responses such as pride, excitement, surprise, shame, or shock; and engaging with history on an emotional level has been proven to greatly increase pupils’ learning (cf. Domagk/ Niegemann 2009: 41-42).

1.3.3 Goldstein’s Autobiography and the Significance of Detail

After giving some thought to the making of biographical literature and to the criteria elaborated on in the previous two subchapters, I reread the autobiography of Alice (Dreifuß) Goldstein. Already the preface seemed to confirm my choice of literature. Its focus on creating a link between the past and the present is clearly visible from the outset (cf. awareness of time). Goldstein writes:

Especially, I tried to place my family’s experiences within the larger scope of world history in order to show its relevance to problems at the beginning of the 21st century. My purpose is to raise young people’s awareness of human rights and civil liberties, and the need to be vigilant in their defence. (Goldstein 2008: xii)

By saying this, the author clearly lays open her agenda to the reader. Furthermore, she does not remain silent on the matter of how she is attempting to achieve this objective (cf. awareness of reality). She explains:

I have drawn on many sources. Foremost in my own memory, both the stories I heard from my parents as a child and of my own experiences growing up in Kenzingen, Germany. […] In 2001, […] I returned to Kenzingen for the first time since 1939, to meet with residents who knew my family and who could add to my memories of those early years. […] Fortunately, I also have many documents that my father retained. These primary sources were invaluable in filling out the details of my family’s history. […] In correspondence to my talks in schools, I have also read broadly to be able to provide general historical context against which my story played out. (Goldstein 2008: xi-xii)


[1] Described and explained in chapter 3.3.1 of part II.

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Raising Pupils' Awareness of the Needs of Refugees in Baden-Württemberg Today
University of Education Freiburg im Breisgau
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raising, pupils, awareness, needs, refugees, baden-württemberg, today, Thema Flüchtlinge
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Susanna Harper (Author), 2013, Raising Pupils' Awareness of the Needs of Refugees in Baden-Württemberg Today, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/264556


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