This website is made possible by generous donations from users just like you. $18 helps keep JWA online for one day.  Please consider making a gift to JWA today!
Close [x]

 

You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Rachael Cerrotti, 2018 Twersky Award Finalist

Rachael Cerrotti is a documentary photographer, writer and educator. Her storytelling focuses on narratives of resilience with a unique interest in family history. For nearly a decade, Rachael has been pursuing her long-term project, Follow My Footprints, retracing her grandmother's route of displacement during and in the wake of World War II. She is now writing a book about this journey and regularly speaks in communities and classrooms across the country and abroad. Her work has been published by Public Radio International, NPR, The Boston Globe, and Images & Voices of Hope, amongst others and she has held solo exhibitions in Boston and Prague.

Follow My Footprints: The Story of Hana Dubova

By engaging with the story of a relatively unknown Jewish woman, through materials written and compiled by her own granddaughter as well as primary sources, students will learn the importance of family history, make connections between past and present, and see the value in working to preserve their own families’ histories.

Overview

Enduring Understandings

  • Building bridges between the past and our present
  • Building connections between neighboring countries during wartime
  • The importance of unsung heroes
  • Honoring the narrative of the stranger

Essential Questions

  • How does our family history impact our identity?
  • What is the past’s effect on the present?
  • What is the relationship between the refugee and the unsung hero?

Materials Required

  • Student Journals
  • Large piece of paper to create a timeline that can live in the classroom
  • Markers

Notes to Teacher

This lesson tells the story of Hana, a young refugee from Prague who became the only Holocaust survivor in her family. The lesson follows the trajectory of her life — her childhood in Czechoslovakia, her rescue in both Denmark and Sweden and her immigration into the United States after the war. By following Hana’s personal narrative, students should be able to build bridges between the past and present and begin to understand how the historical narratives of different countries and peoples are interwoven. Additionally, they should learn that stories of survivors continue even after wars end; this should provide them with a deeper understanding of the plight of today’s refugees.

The first half of this lesson is intended to focus solely on the history of World War II and to expose students to the tragedy of the Holocaust. In the second half of the lesson, teachers are encouraged to bring in current events. There are suggested readings and resources provided to address what is happening in the world today, but teachers are encouraged to also use articles and ideas that come up in the news as they teach the lesson. But, if choosing your own materials for current events, please note that while it is okay to draw parallels when it comes to themes and keywords, it is discouraged to suggest that something happening today is exactly as it was then.

Introductory Essay(s)

The Story of Hana Dubova

by Rachael Cerrotti

In 1938, Hana was a 13-year old girl living in Prague. She had a cozy childhood with her younger brother and her parents. Her father owned a children’s clothing store right on the Main Square and both sets of her grandparents lived in Kolín, a small town just an hour train ride away. During the days she went to school and by the time she was a teenager, she was fluent in French, German and her native Czech. She loved to read and spend time with her friends. When she wasn’t in school or with her family, she was dedicated to her Zionist Youth Group; the friends involved referred to themselves as the chaverim (which means friends in Hebrew). They would attend summer camp together and learn how to be pioneers, practicing stuffing mattresses and pillows with straw and using just one pot for all of their cooking and cleaning. They daydreamed of one day traveling to Palestine and helping create kibbutzim.

But in 1939, the world was becoming an increasingly scary place, especially for the Jewish people. Hitler, who was elected six years before in neighboring Germany was changing everything for the people of Europe. He was occupying land and dissolving governments and anti-semitism was growing, dramatically shifting from prejudice to discrimination to persecution. For a long time, the people of Czechoslovakia believed that it would never happen there. They believed that because their government was a democracy and because they valued arts and education and were a fairly secular society, that they would be protected. But, as history has shown, that was not true. In March of 1939, Hitler and his army marched into Czechoslovakia and Hana’s happy life disappeared; the war hadn’t even begun. Her school was shut down and stores began putting up signs saying that Jews were not allowed. Ration cards were given and groceries which were once so normal to buy, became impossible to find. Jewish families were moved into ghettos and forced to live in small quarters with one another. No one at that time could imagine what would come next.

But, Hana was one of the lucky ones. In 1939, when she was 14, she received permission to leave Czechoslovakia; it was like winning the lottery. Her and many of the chaverim would be sent to Denmark, a country that was not yet occupied. The Danish government agreed to take in the teens so they could continue learning their pioneering skills which they were so dedicated to practicing. In October of 1939, she stood on the platform of Prague’s Main Train Station and kissed her parents and younger brother goodbye. She did not know it then, but she would never see them again.

Hana and her fellow chaverim were placed on foster farms. Some lived close together and some lived far apart. While Hana was lonely in her life, adjusting from being part of a warm household to being a servant to a family with whom she shared no language, she understood how lucky she was.

In April of 1940, Denmark too was occupied, but unlike when the Nazis overtook Czechoslovakia, not much changed in Denmark. Parlty because of the Danes Aryan looks and the importance of their food production for the Nazi army, they were spared the fate of so many other European countries. In addition, King Christian X of Denmark declared that all people in his country would be treated the same, regardless of their identity. The ethics of their society prevailed even under occupation.

For three years, Hana moved from foster farm to foster farm. Her dream of sailing to Palestine soon vanished and reality set in; borders everywhere were closing and rumors of concentration camps were coming to the surface. In 1942, Hana decided she must have more of an education, so she began writing to schools asking if in exchange for work, she could attend classes. One school in Sorø, Denmark agreed. It was a finishing school which meant that it was intended for girls from rich families who wanted to learn how to keep a proper household. Every morning, Hana would wake up at 5 A.M. to clean and by 8 A.M. was sitting in the classroom.

After she graduated, a teacher set her up to work as a servant with a bankers family. It was now 1943. World War II was raging and the letters from back home stopped coming. Millions of people were being killed, including Hana’s parents and brother.

By the fall of 1943, Hitler decided that it was time to deport Denmark’s Jews, who up until this time felt little fear of persecution in comparison to Jews from other European countries. But, that plan was leaked to the resistance movement and in a spontaneous act of human decency, the Danes worked together, with cooperation from Sweden (who claimed neutrality throughout the war) to save 95% of the Jewish population. In the matter of a couple weeks in early October, over 7,000 Jews and members of the Danish resistance escaped across the Baltic Sea to Sweden.

Hana was on one of the last boats that left and shared this part of her survival story with the acting chief rabbi of Denmark, Marcus Melchior, who was escaping with his wife and children. The boat became lost at sea as it was navigated by a fisherman who had never sailed far from the coast before. For 19 hours, the refugees hid underneath herring with a paralyzing fear that would either drown or be caught and killed. It was by sheer luck that they found themselves on the safe shores of Sweden.

Once in Sweden, Hana found herself again in a new country, with no knowledge of the language, no money and no contacts. So, as she had done in Denmark, she wrote to schools asking if in exchange for cleaning, could she attain an education. A nursing school in the north of Sweden agreed. She remained in Sweden, creating a new life for herself, until the end of the war in 1945.

Once the war ended, Hana found herself as a displaced person and a stateless person. She went back to Denmark in hopes of receiving Danish citizenship, but when that was not possible, she decided to return to Czechoslovakia to see who of her family survived. She found a few aunts and cousins alive, but learned that her parents and brother were murdered in the Final Solution, the Nazis efforts to eradicate the Jewish people. The horrors of the Holocaust were just being uncovered and Hana had to accept that she was the only one who survived. She learned that her family was first deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp outside of Prague and then to Sobibór, an extermination camp in occupied-Poland. She would never know if they were killed in a gas chamber or shot upon arrival, but hoped that they died along the way so they didn’t have to face repeated horrors.

Hana stayed in Prague for nearly seven months and studied Scandinavian languages and culture at Charles University before returning to Denmark and then moving back north to Sweden. She knew Czechoslovakia would never again be her home.

Back in 1939, Hana’s father, like many Jews, sought a way out of Europe for his family. Perhaps they would go to Uganda, he and his wife thought, as it was being considered as a Zionist state, or they would go to to America. He had written to a very distant relative, a step-sister of a grandmother, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio in hopes of receiving an affidavit so his family could immigrate. But, at that time America, like so many other countries, closed its borders to those seeking refuge. It wasn’t until the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 was passed that Hana received permission to go to America. She was accepted under a quota for Czech exiles living in Sweden.

Prior to leaving for America, she lived in Stockholm and made a nice life for herself. She was now an adult and had the freedom to enjoy arts and culture, to make friends and begin dating. She worked at a company known as the AGA which was started by Herr Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and the man whom the prestigious Nobel Prize is named after. She worked as an assistant for the engineers and was in charge of running a mimeo machine. While there, she befriended a man named Mosley who was an exchange student from Frankfort, Kentucky. He was the first black man she ever met. She helped teach him Swedish and knowing she would go to America soon, he helped teach her English. She left for America in 1950 and promised to bring gifts for his family as she would live in Cincinnati which is where some of his family resided.

In November of 1950, Hana, along with many other emigrants, boarded a boat in England and left for America, leaving behind the all that she knew and all that she lost. She arrived to the United States just around the Thanksgiving holiday. Her knowledge of the English language was limited and she was blind to the type of prejudices and culture that existed in America. The idea of racism was foreign to her. So, when she told her very distant relatives that she would bring gifts to a black family, she couldn’t understand why they were so against the idea. Hana persisted when they told her not to meet them and eventually they agreed to send their son, Joe, with her as a chaperone.

She met Mosley’s relative in Cincinnati’s main square where she was greeted with warmth. When he asked if she would like to come to dinner at his family’s house as a thank you, she was excited to accept the offer. But, Joe exploded on her and told her she wasn’t allowed to go to a home in the black neighborhood. She said that she would go and that he could not tell her what she could and could not do. Then, right there on the city square, Joe slapped her. It was the first time in her life that someone inflicted physical pain upon her. Even during all of her years running from war and escaping deportation, she never was physically hurt by anyone. Hana, standing her ground, still accepted the offer to go to dinner and left Joe to go be with Mosley’s family.

At the end of the night, when she arrived back at the home of her distant relatives, she found all of her belongings packed outside with a letter that read “We do not harbor N***** lovers.” She wished that she could sail back to Sweden.

That night she slept on a park bench and the next day she found a bed in a group home which she shared with another young woman for $5 a night. As she had done in Denmark and in Sweden, she made a life for herself. Over time her English improved and she saved enough money to take the train to San Francisco, a place she had learned about as a child and always wanted to visit.

A year later she married a man by the name of Ralph who was a German Jewish immigrant and was married in a rabbi’s study in New York City. Four years after that, in 1956, she received American citizenship and for the first time in 17 years was a citizen of a country.

Hana had three children with Ralph. They first lived in Flushing, Queens in New York City. Then they moved to Baltimore for a short period of time before settling in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. Ralph and Hana divorced in the 1970s and she remarried in the late 1980s to a man she met in Denmark after the war. His named was Bernd and he moved to be with her in America. Together they were the grandparents for seven grandchildren.

Hana passed away in 2010 at the age of 85.

Lesson Plan

Introduction

  • Provide a brief introduction of Hana using material from the Introductory Essay.
  • Explain to students that they will learning about Hana’s life through biographical information and primary source documents written by Hana and compiled by her granddaughter, Rachael.

Document Studies

  • There are three document studies, each of which covers a portion of Hana’s life.
  • Each document study contains introductory text, links to primary sources for students to engage with, and instructions for activities and discussions having to do with the primary source material.

Document Studies

Czechoslovakia & Hana’s Childhood (1925-1939)

Czechoslovakia & Hana’s Childhood (1925-1939)

Identity, Prejudices & The Fragility of Democracy

In 1938, Hana was a 13-year old girl living in Prague. She had a cozy childhood with her younger brother and her parents. Her father owned a children’s clothing store right on the Main Square and both sets of her grandparents lived in Kolín, a small town just an hour train ride away. During the days she went to school and by the time she was a teenager, she was fluent in French, German and her native Czech. She loved to read and spend time with her friends. When she wasn’t in school or with her family, she was dedicated to her Zionist Youth Group; the friends involved referred to themselves as the chaverim (which means friends in Hebrew). They would attend summer camp together and learn how to be pioneers, practicing stuffing mattresses and pillows with straw and using just one pot for all of their cooking and cleaning. They daydreamed of one day traveling to Palestine and helping create kibbutzim.

But in 1939, the world was becoming an increasingly scary place, especially for the Jewish people. Hitler, who was elected six years before in neighboring Germany was changing everything for the people of Europe. He was occupying land and dissolving governments and anti-semitism was growing, dramatically shifting from prejudice to discrimination and persecution. For a long time, the people of Czechoslovakia believed that it would never happen there. They believed that because their government was a democracy and because they valued arts and education and were a fairly secular society, that they would be protected. But, as history has shown, that was not true. In March of 1939, Hitler and his army marched into Czechoslovakia and Hana’s happy life disappeared; the war hadn’t even begun. Her school was shut down and stores began putting up signs saying that Jews were not allowed. Ration cards were given and groceries which were once so normal to buy, became impossible to find. Jewish families were moved into ghettos and forced to live in small quarters with one another. No one at that time could imagine what would come next.

But, Hana was one of the lucky ones. In 1939, when she was 14, she received permission to leave Czechoslovakia; it was like winning the lottery. Her and many of the chaverim would be sent to Denmark, a country that was not yet occupied. The Danish government agreed to take in the teens so they could continue learning their pioneering skills which they were so dedicated to practicing. In October of 1939, she stood on the platform of Prague’s Main Train Station and kissed her parents and younger brother goodbye. She did not know it then, but she would never see them again.

Reading #1

Family

By : Hana Dubova, written 2004

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-family

Activity #1 : Identity Charts & Family Trees

In 1939, Hana’s identity chart would include the following :

Daughter, Sister, Cousin, Granddaughter, Great Granddaughter, Student, Friend, Zionist, Jewish, Child, Multilingual, Camper, Czech, European, Teenager (and more)

Instructions : What is your identity? Create your own identity chart describing who you are. When you finish, begin working on a family tree.

Materials Needed : Construction Paper, Markers, Picture of student to put in center of chart if available

Debrief Questions : Is your identity fixed? Will it always stay the same? How would it feel if someone decided that the only identity that mattered was “Jewish.” This is what happened to Hana and so many others throughout Europe.

Notes for Teacher : Let the students get creative with this. For family trees, they can cut out leaves for the trees and branches from construction paper or they can keep it more in the traditional format. Allow them to present their identity charts to the class and encourage them to share a family story (should draw inspiration from Hana’s essay, Family). 

Reading #2

The Beginning of the End

By : Hana Dubova, written 2004

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-theend

Activity #2 : Agree / Disagree

Notes for Teacher : Before beginning the Agree/Disagree activity, define the word prejudice and explain its relevance in Hana’s story. Also, break the down how prejudice can lead to discrimination and persecution. For the agree/disagree activity, have the students get into the middle of the room and explain that you will say a statement and if they agree, they should go to one side and if they disagree, they should go to the other side of the room. If they feel neutral, they can stay in the middle. For those who stay neutral, they must explain why they chose that option. Start with simple statements about identity (draw inspiration from their identity charts). Then move into harder statements about prejudice (the older the group, the more challenging and controversial the statements can be). After each round of statements, allow for discussion amongst students.

Examples of Statements :

  1. I have faced prejudice before.
  2. I have been prejudice towards someone else.
  3. Prejudices are always negative stereotypes.
  4. The world as we know it did not just happen, but rather it is the result of choices made by individuals and groups through history.
  5. The smallest of decision have enormous consequences for both good & evil.
  6. It is hard to break away from stereotypes.
  7. Who we are by definition (race, economic status, religion) has nothing to do with who we are as a person.

Materials Needed : N/A

Debrief Questions : What is the risk of prejudice? How does it lead to discrimination and persecution? Where do you see prejudices in your own lives today?

Reading #3

Stepping Stones In My Life

By : Hana Dubova, written 2004

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-steppingstones

Activity #3 : Hana’s Timeline

Instructions : Begin a timeline of Hana’s story. Mark both her travel route as well as political changes happening during her journey as a displaced person.

Materials Needed : Large paper, good for a timeline that can live in the classroom, markers, art supplies of the teacher’s choosing, pictures of the countries (can be supplied by myself upon request).

Notes for Teacher : This is an ongoing activity. Please continue it as you see fit throughout the lesson. It is an important way for students to keep track of Hana’s journey, the ongoings of the war, and the political changes and cultural differences that she had experienced.

Denmark & The Early Years of the War (1939-1945)

Denmark & The Early Years of the War (1939-1945)

The Rescue of the Danish Jews & Swedish Neutrality

Hana and her fellow chaverim were placed on foster farms. Some lived close together and some lived far apart. While Hana was lonely in her life, adjusting from being part of a warm household to being a servant to a family with whom she shared no language, she understood how lucky she was.

In April of 1940, Denmark too was occupied, but unlike when the Nazis overtook Czechoslovakia, not much changed in Denmark. Because of the Danes Aryan looks and the importance of their food production for the Nazi army, they were spared the fate of so many other European countries. In addition, Kind Christian X of Denmark declared that all people in his country would be treated the same, regardless of their identity.

For three years, Hana moved from foster farm to foster farm. Her dream of sailing to Palestine soon vanished and reality set in; borders everywhere were closing and rumors of concentration camps were coming to the surface. In 1942, Hana decided she must have more of an education, so she began writing to schools asking if in exchange for work, she could attend classes. One school in Sorø, Denmark agreed. It was a finishing school which meant that it was intended for girls from rich families who wanted to learn how to keep a proper household. Every morning, Hana would wake up at 5 A.M. to clean and by 8 A.M. was sitting in the classroom.

After she graduated, a teacher set her up to work as a servant with a bankers family. It was now 1943. World War II was raging and the letters from back home stopped coming. Millions of people were being killed, including Hana’s parents and brother.

By the fall of 1943, Hitler decided that it was time to deport Denmark’s Jews, who up until this time felt little fear of persecution in comparison to Jews from other European counties. But, that plan was leaked to the resistance movement and in a spontaneous act of human decency, the Danes worked together, with cooperation from Sweden (who claimed neutrality throughout the war) to save 95% of the Jewish population. In the matter of a couple weeks in early October, over 7,000 Jews and members of the Danish resistance escaped across the Baltic Sea to Sweden.

Hana was on one of the last boats that left and shared this part of her survival story with the acting chief rabbi of Denmark, Marcus Melchior, who was escaping with his wife and children. The boat became lost at sea as it was navigated by a fisherman who had never sailed far from the coast before. For 19 hours, the refugees hid underneath herring with a paralyzing fear that would either drown or be caught and killed. It was by sheer luck that they found themselves on the safe shores of Sweden.

Once in Sweden, Hana found herself again in a new country, with no knowledge of the language, no money and no contacts. So, as she had done in Denmark, she wrote to schools asking if in exchange for cleaning, could she attain an education. A nursing school in the north of Sweden agreed. She remained there, creating a new life for herself, until the end of the war in 1945.

Reading #4

‘My World’

An Excerpt from Hana Dubova’s Diary, November 19, 1940

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-myworld

Activity #4 : ‘My World’

Instructions : Inspired by Hana’s diary entry, have students write their own version of ‘My World.’

Materials Needed : Student’s Journal.

Listening Activity # 1

‘Refuge’

WBUR’s Kind World Podcast (episode #49)

http://www.wbur.org/kindworld/2017/12/05/49-refuge

Notes to Teacher : This podcast is part of an award-winning 3-part series produced by WBUR, Boston’s local NPR station. It tells my story as I followed in Hana’s footprints. This specific episode will give the students an overview of Hana’s life throughout the wartime years and provide a concise and engaging way to learn a lot of history in a short period. It will also offer them a lens into how Hana’s journey has influenced my identity as the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor.

Materials Needed : Any device that can play a podcast or open a webpage (phone, ipad, computer).

Debrief Questions : What questions arise about Hana’s story? What pieces of history seem confusing or need clarifying? What questions does this bring up for the students about their own family history.

Reading #5

The Mass Escape of Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark

Source : BBC, October 8, 2013

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24427637

Debrief : Remind students that Hana Dubova was on the same boat as Bent Melchior and his family. If it is possible for students to pull out their phones and check Instagram, they can visit the Follow My Footprints Project Instagram (@followmyfootprintsproject) and see me talking with Bent as we travel to Sweden together. https://www.instagram.com/p/BXfRhQNgBWG/?taken-by=followmyfootprintsproject

Activity #5 : What Would You Bring?

Instructions for Teacher : Do not explain to the students the purpose of the activity. After the lesson about the rescue of the Danish Jews, give them a piece of paper and pen and tell them they have 10 minutes to list everything they would bring with them if they were told they were going to flee their home and never knew when they would be back. Inevitably, they will have a lot of questions. Do your best as the facilitator of this activity to keep everything vague. Just as refugees often don’t know where they are going or for how long, the students should be in the dark about where their hypothetical journey will take them. After the initial 10 minutes is up, tell them they have 5 minutes to break the list in half. Then give them 2 minutes to cut it down to only 10 items. Then they have another 2 minutes to cut it down to 5 items. Then they have only 1 minute to cut it down to 3 items. After the activity is over, everyone should share what are their final 3 items. Challenge their choices as they read (ex: if they say money, ask if they mean cash or credit card and why).

After this activity, hand out an article listing what Syrian refugees (or another group of displaced people) brought with them when they fled home.

Here are some options :

https://www.mercycorps.org/photoessays/jordan-syria/we-asked-refugees-what-did-you-bring-you

https://medium.com/uprooted/what-s-in-my-bag-758d435f6e62

https://www.unrefugees.org/news/the-most-important-thing-syrian-refugees/

Debrief Questions :

  1. How does it make the students feel that there are more displaced people today than after World War II (this is the first time in recorded history that this is true). Remind them that displacement is not always caused by war, but can also be caused my environmental disasters and other types of persecution.
  2. One of the reasons that Sweden was able to help save Denmark’s Jewish population is because they claimed neutrality. Have a discussion about what it means to be neutral and whether it is a good or bad stance to take during sides of injustice (remember that there is no right or wrong answer to this question). You may want to start with this famous quote which is currently seen on a lot of protest posters : “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” - Desmund Tutu, South African Activist.
  3. Why is studying history important to understanding current events? How do you think that learning Hana’s story can help us understand the stories of refugees today?

Stateless After The War (1945-1956)

Stateless After The War (1945-1956)

Uncovering the Holocaust, Racial Prejudice in America & The Immigrant Experience

Once the war ended, Hana found herself as a displaced person and a stateless person. She went back to Denmark in hopes of receiving Danish citizenship, but when that was not possible, she decided to return to Czechoslovakia to see who of her family survived. She found a few aunts and cousins alive, but learned that her parents and brother were murdered in the Final Solution, the Nazis efforts to eradicate the Jewish people. The horrors of the Holocaust were just being uncovered and Hana had to accept that she was the only one who survived. She learned that her family was first deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp outside of Prague and then to Sobibór, an extermination camp in occupied-Poland. She would never know if they were killed in a gas chamber or shot upon arrival, but hoped that they died along the way so they didn’t have to face repeated horrors.

Hana stayed in Prague for nearly seven months and studied Scandinavian languages and culture at Charles University before returning to Denmark and then moving back north to Sweden. She knew Czechoslovakia would never again be her home.

Back in 1939, Hana’s father, like many Jews, sought a way out of Europe for his family. Perhaps they would go to Uganda, he and his wife thought, as it was being considered as a Zionist state, or they would go to to America. He had written to a very distant relative, a step-sister of a grandmother, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio in hopes of receiving an affidavit so his family could immigrate. But, at that time America, like so many other countries, closed its borders to those seeking refuge. It wasn’t until the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 was passed that Hana received permission to go to America. She was accepted under a quota for Czech exiles living in Sweden.

Prior to leaving for America, she lived in Stockholm and made a nice life for herself. She was now an adult and had the freedom to enjoy arts and culture, to make friends and begin dating. She worked at a company known as the AGA which was started by Herr Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and the man whom the prestigious Nobel Prize is named after. She worked as an assistant for the engineers and was in charge of running a mimeo machine. While there, she befriended a man named Mosley who was an exchange student from Frankfort, Kentucky. He was the first black man she ever met. She helped teach him Swedish and knowing she would go to America soon, he helped teach her English. She left for America in 1950 and promised to bring gifts for his family as she would live in Cincinnati which is where some of his family resided.

In November of 1950, Hana, along with many other emigrants, boarded a boat in England and left for America, leaving behind the all that she knew and all that she lost. She arrived to the United States just around the Thanksgiving holiday. Her knowledge of the English language was limited and she was blind to the type of prejudices and culture that existed in America. The idea of racism was foreign to her. So, when she told her very distant relatives that she would bring gifts to a black family, she couldn’t understand why they were so against the idea. Hana persisted when they told her not to meet them and eventually they agreed to send their son, Joe, with her as a chaperone.

She met Mosley’s relative in Cincinnati’s main square where she was greeted with warmth. When he asked if she would like to come to dinner at his family’s house as a thank you, she was excited to accept the offer. But, Joe exploded on her and told her she wasn’t allowed to go to a home in the black neighborhood. She said that she would go and that he could not tell what she could and could not do. Then, right there on the city square, Joe slapped her. It was the first time in her life that someone inflicted physical pain upon her. Even during all of her years running from war and escaping deportation, she never was physically hurt by anyone. Hana, standing her ground, still accepted the offer to go to dinner and left Joe to be with Mosley’s family.

At the end of the night, when she arrived back at the home of her distant relatives, she found all of her belongings packed outside with a letter that read “We do not harbor N***** lovers.” She wished that she could sail back to Sweden.

That night she slept on a park bench and the next day she found a bed in a group home which she shared with another young woman for $5 a night. As she had done in Denmark and in Sweden, she made a life for herself. Over time her English improved and she saved enough money to take the train to San Francisco, a place she had learned about as a child and always wanted to visit.

A year later she married a man by the name of Ralph who was a German Jewish immigrant and was married in a rabbi’s study in New York City. Four years after that, in 1956, she received American citizenship and for the first time in 17 years was a citizen of a country.

Hana had three children with Ralph. They first lived in Flushing, Queens in New York City. Then they moved to Baltimore for a short period of time before settling in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. Ralph and Hana divorced in the 1970s and she remarried in the late 1980s to a man she met in Denmark after the war. His named was Bernd and he moved to be with her in America. Together they were the grandparents for seven grandchildren.

Hana passed away in 2010 at the age of 85.

Reading #6

My First American Encounter With Racial Prejudice

Written By Hana Dubova, 2005

**only suitable for high school students. For younger students, please summarize**

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-racialprejudice

Debrief : Is this a story that you would associate with a Holocaust survivor? What does it mean to be a survivor? What are the unexpected and expected challenges of being an immigrant, especially one who was once a refugee? Give time for this debrief as the story can be an entrance point to a conversation about race relationships in the United States and what it means to stand your ground when you see in justice and prejudice.

Activity #6 : Vocabulary Review

Instructions for Teacher : Depending on the students learning style, teachers should pull together a vocabulary review that makes sense for their classroom. For example, if they are students who like working alone, give them a word match where they can match definitions to key words used throughout the lesson. If the students like working in teams, you can create a trivia round for them that has them defining concepts and ideas together.

Vocabulary Words : Identity, Ethnicity, Refugee, Victim, Emigrant, Immigrant, Migrant, Assimilation, Displacement, Stateless, Internally Displaced, Asylum Seeker, Deportation, Democracy, Bystander, Upstander, Resistance, Collective Courage, Resilience, Zionism, Propaganda, Neutral, Prejudice, Xenophobia, Discrimination, Persecution, Concentration Camp, Extermination Camp, Genocide, Survivor’s Guilt, Unsung Hero, Righteous Among the Nation

**Feel free to add or subtract words based off of what you covered with your students**

Activity #7 : Agree / Disagree

Instructions for Teacher : Return to the Agree/Disagree activity and encourage a healthy discussion that looks back on everything learned so far. The discussion and activity questions should now focus on themes like heroism, resilience and survival. Ask challenging questions that encourages the students to think about what they would do if they were faced with any of the realities they have learned about thus far.

Examples of statements :

  1. “Heroes evolve; they aren’t born.” - Ervin Staub
  2. “Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.” - President Richard Von Weizsacker of West Germany
  3. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” - Desmund Tutu, South African Activist
  4. The last battles found in every war are over memory — over the way in which the war will be remembered.
  5. The truth is less important in understanding the past than what people think is true.

Reading #7

Dear Lili

A Letter Written By Hana Dubova to a friend, Lili in Cincinnati, 1951

http://www.followmyfootprints.co/primary-source-dearlili

0 Comments
Rachael Cerrotti
Full image
Rachael Cerrotti, 2017 Twersky Award finalist

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachael Cerrotti, 2018 Twersky Award Finalist." (Viewed on December 14, 2018) <https://jwa.org/twersky/cerrotti-rachael>.

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

listen now

Sign Up for JWA eNews

 

Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs