Part 1: Rywka’s Diary

  • Discuss with students: “What does ‘home’ mean to you?” (10-15 minutes)
    • Responses can be displayed on whiteboard: Safety/comfort; Family; Language and Culture; Self
    • Ask what ‘home’ means for those who have lived in multiple places
    • Explain: historically, the “home” was associated with gendered roles. In the European Jewish context, the woman was often tasked with supporting the family economically as well as with the burden of ensuring Jewish continuity
  • Explain: The first step in the Holocaust, as in other genocides, was the removal of Jews from their homes, a process sometimes called “ethnic cleansing.” We will take a close look today at how one young woman coped with the process of losing her former home.
  • Students read Document Study (background material and Rywka diary excerpts), followed by discussion (35 minutes or more)
    • Rywka diary excerpts most effective when read aloud, either in groups or as a whole class
    • Discuss questions included on handout. Ask students to point to passages in the text to support their responses.
      • Explain: ‘Resistance’ does not always involve taking up arms. Resistance can be “spiritual” in nature: asserting dignity of spirit and self in the face of dehumanization.
    • Discuss: Are there people in the world today who do not have a home? What does it mean to be a “refugee”?
    • Personal Reflection: Have you ever felt as if you did not have a home? (Either in the physical sense or in the larger emotional sense)
    • Discuss: What can we do to make others feel “at home”?
  • Assignment Option 1 (if not continuing to Lessons part II and III): Write a letter to Rywka, responding to her diary entries. Introduce yourself. Tell her what your own idea of “home” is. You may portray this artistically, if you wish. Tell Rywka how her diary entries made you feel. Tell her what you are taking away with you, after reading her diary.
  • Assignment Option 2 (continue on to Lessons part II and III): Arrange to meet with a Holocaust survivor in your community.
    • Holocaust survivor: Someone targeted by the Nazis for persecution who was able to escape by any means
    • Any meetings with Holocaust survivors should be scheduled for a date after the next class meeting, to allow for an introduction to interviewing
  • Assignment Option 3 (continue on to Personal Project and Lesson Part III): Watch an oral history online given by a Holocaust survivor.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Part 1: Rywka’s Diary." (Viewed on July 8, 2020) <>.


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