Book as a Whole
Discussion questions and activities are loosely based on the Understanding by Design Framework of Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins. As evidence that it really is a small world, when I was in high school I took a class taught by Grant Wiggins.
- Prejudice interferes with the ability of people to get along with each other and can be used as a means to cause great evil.
- While it may be risky to help others, the effects of doing so can be life-saving. Some people are willing to help no matter what the risk. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.
- War has a significant impact on the civilian population.
- It is imperative that we accept all people – no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation, where they were born, how much money they have, or their physical or mental abilities.
- What happened to Jewish families during WWII?
- Who took chances to help the Lichtensterns and other Jewish families?
- Could this type of situation happen again? How could it be prevented?
Amsterdam Section (chapters 1-16)
- The Germans used gradually tightening restrictions on Jews as a means to efficiently eliminate them from the Netherlands.
- Even Jews who could see what was happening had very limited options for escape.
- How was life in the Netherlands affected by World War II?
- Why did the Germans move so slowly to remove the Jews from the Netherlands?
- Why did the Lichtensterns need to keep moving to different apartments?
Discussion Questions and Activities
- What were the main sources of news in 1940? What are the main sources of news that we use today?
- You can read Queen Wilhelmina’s May 10 1940 proclamation here in its entirety.
- You can listen to the radio broadcast in Dutch here . (you need to scroll down to number 39 1940-05-10)
- Why did she say the attack was a violation of international law and decency?
Queen Wilhelmina’s Proclamation/speech of May 10 Harrisburg Telegraph 10 May 1940Copyright © 2016 Newspapers.com. All Rights Reserved.
- Look at a map of Europe from 1940. Find The Netherlands. If you were trying to escape after the invasion, where would you go? What problems might you find there?
- Why would the Nazis insist on businesses identifying that the owners were Jewish?
- What did Uncle Bobby mean when he said, “If this war goes on, there won’t be so many nice things to eat”?
- Tutti asks Uncle Bobby why everyone moved to England. Can you explain why?
- Egbert says: “I thought it over long and hard, and I have accepted the job… it’s not because I want to help the Germans, but I felt I had no choice. And I think—I hope—that I might someday be able to do something to stymie them.” What do you think he meant by this?
- Egbert tells Heinz about a plan of forced deportations, ghettos and work camps. What do each of these situations mean? What other places in the world or times in history have these concepts have been threatened or used against groups of people?
- Explain this sentence. “… as he waited, he felt the Nazis tightening their noose around his neck.”
- When Jews left Germany as refugees in the early 1930’s the Germans taxed them for emigrating and took most of their property and valuables. This left most refugees extremely poor. What would a refugee need when they come to a new country and don’t have much money?
- Why does Heinz want a South American passport?
- A new German rule says non-Jews can’t work for Jews. Why would the Germans make a rule like that?
- Why were Jewish children sent to a Jewish school? Are there other places and times in history that you can think of where governments separated people because of race or religion?
- Look at the picture of Tutti’s 1st grade class. What do you notice about it? How does it compare to a class photo you might see today? What are the similarities and differences to your own class photos?
- Why did the Germans force the Jews to wear the yellow stars?
- What would it feel like to wear something that identifies you as having less rights than the general population?
- Look at Margret’s identification card. What would it be like today if people’s IDs highlighted their religion or race?
- Why is Heinz so desperate that he would consider taking his own life and that of his family?
- When you get upset, who do you turn to for help?
- Suicide is a very serious issue. Many people in the world have suicidal thoughts. Heinz was lucky to have someone like Margret help him through this. There are always resources – family, teachers, clergy, counselors, doctors, and hotlines.
In the USA there is a national suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Why did the family move to a smaller apartment?
- Why did Uncle Bobby pay to be smuggled?
- Have you heard of other times or places where people pay smugglers to take them out of or into a particular country? When? Where?
- Why were letters censored?
- Look closely at Heinz’s Jewish Council registration card. The last line translates as follows: Number of Jewish grandparents according to Article 2 of the Regulations: four. Why do you think the authorities were concerned with the number of Jewish grandparents each person had?
- What was the role of the Jewish Council?
- Why did the Jews report when the Germans told them too?
- One policeman says, “I have my orders.” What do you think of this explanation for helping with the raid?
- Look at the picture of Jenny, Flo and Okkie at the cafe in 1933. What do you notice about the setting? The other people?
- Was Friedrich von Oppenheim a man of good morals? If so, why? If not, why not? After discussing look at : Friedrich von Oppenheim. Does this change your answers to the questions above?
- Class activity – Find an inspiring story of a person who was declared Righteous Among the Nations. Share with the class and share why this person is inspiring to you.
- If you had to leave your home in a hurry and could only bring what fits in a backpack, what would you bring? Why?
- Why do you think the Nazis made the Jews move into particular neighborhoods?
- Why were old people, women, and children the first to be sent away?
- If you had to live indoors and couldn’t leave for any reason, what would you miss?
- If you were living in somebody’s attic, what would you need them to do for you? What parts of your life would be dependent on them?
- What would happen if the family was found hiding in the attic? Discuss stories of other Jews hiding in attics in Amsterdam during the Holocaust.
- Heinz and Margret faced a difficult decision: stay in hiding or turn themselves in. List the pros and cons of each option. Would you have made the same decision they did?
- The clerk at the emigration office says: “… I don’t care about passports. I have my orders. You are on the list of people who are supposed to report… All I care about is that the people here in my register are checked off as having been accounted for. Do you understand?” Why do you think he was so focused on his list?
- Activity: Enlarge this map of Amsterdam from 1940. Can you find all the places Tutti and her family lived? Can you find the route they walked to the Schouwburg? It might be easier to look at Google maps and plug in addresses from the text.
- Why was Margret telling the children about the tulips and the birds?
- Why did the Nazis use a theater as a deportation center?
Westerbork Section (chapters 17-28)
- People put in terrible situations still try to improve their lot.
- Compromise is often necessary to pursue a desired outcome.
- Working with others in a cooperative way can be more effective than just looking out for yourself.
- Why did Heinz buy and sell metal for the Germans?
- What were the outcomes of the metals operation at Westerbork?
Discussion Questions and Activities
- Tutti notices that the people at the registration tables all “wore yellow stars, just like hers.” Does it surprise you that the Jews were the administrators at the camp? How do you think this situation might have come to be?
- Activity: Research the establishment of Westerbork. Who initially built the camp? For what purpose? Over the time Westerbork was a camp how many different groups were imprisoned there? Who were they?
- Heinz tells Margret that he found out “every Monday, they issue the list of people who will be sent East.” What does this mean? What is meant by “East” in this situation?
- What was Oberländer’s plan? Why did Heinz have reservations about it?
- Discuss Egbert de Jong’s plan. In what ways does it benefit the Jews? In what ways does it benefit the Nazis? Was this a form of resistance?
- When Oberländer suggests going into hiding Heinz says “No. My parents and Margret’s parents are at Westerbork. If I don’t report—” He doesn’t finish his sentence. What do you think he was concerned about?
- “Oberländer turned back and shrugged his shoulders without saying a word. Then he shuffled on toward his apartment to talk with his wife about the impossible choice they had to make.” Explain why this is an “impossible choice.”
- Why do you think the Germans kept such good records?
- Why did the Germans tell the prisoners that Theresienstadt was a vacation spa?
- Research the establishment of Therresienstadt. Who initially built it? What was it used for? How many people lived there?
- Robbie stole bread. What did Margret tell him? What else could she have done? Discuss if it is ever permissible to steal.
- Why was Heinz sent to Amsterdam?
- How did the Germans know he wouldn’t try to escape?
- Explain what Margret meant when she said, “Pappi helps the Germas a little so he can help us — all of us at this camp — a lot.”
- Why does the clerk have a negative reaction to Heinz’s accent?
- Heinz thinks of himself as “a starless, stateless Jew with a German accent carrying a Paraguayan passport on a work pass from a concentration camp.” Explain each of these descriptors and how they are an unusual combination.
- What do you think Heinz did to the doll?
- Why might Gemmeker have gone to the trouble to warn the Lichtensterns about the upcoming changes?
- What did Tutti Promise?
- Why did Heinz put money inside the doll?
- What responsibilities do your parents give you?
- Do any of your responsibilities ever scare you?
- Have you ever had to keep a secret that was this important?
Theresienstadt Section (chapters 29-39)
- People strive to maintain their humanity even when their basic human needs are not being met.
- What did the family do to maintain their dignity and self-respect?
- How did the Lichtensterns try to protect their children?
Discussion Questions and Activities
- Look back at the picture of the Boulevard of Miseries on page 82. Now that you know more about Westerbork discuss what you see in the picture.
- Max Ehrlich told jokes on the train. This can be described as “gallows humor.” Discuss the emotions behind such humor and why you think people do this.
- Tutti was embarrassed about using the barrel on the train. This was just one way the Nazis dehumanized the Jews. What other forms of dehumanization have we seen in the book so far? Why did the Nazis do this to the Jews?
- Heinz asks Tutti to do something very important and dangerous. Why? Discuss the danger and why he would do this.
- Describe the ways that the conditions at Theresienstadt were worse than Westerbork.
- Why were the elderly given less food?
- Why was Tutti unsure if Gaby would understand her?
- What was Tutti’s job?
- Heinz suspected that the work camp was really a death camp. What evidence did he have?
- Research how many transports were sent from Theresienstadt to ‘the East.’ How many people was this? How many perished?
- The slip of paper that Heinz was given said: Ausgeschieden 3911 412-XXIV/7 Lichtenstern 1907-14-4 (part has been torn off). What do all the numbers mean? Explain.
- Why did Margret insist that the children wash in the middle of the night?
- What did Margret and Heinz want to tell the children?
- Why did they decide not too?
- What would you want to be told?
- Why did the Germans give the prisoners so little food?
- In this chapter we meet three different Nazi soldiers. They treat Heinz very differently. Discuss their motivations.
- Was Schmidt a good person? Why or why not?
- Margret is torn between her desire to feed her family and teach her children right from wrong. Discuss these two competing objectives.
- Why did Margret throw bread in the train? Was it a good choice? Why or why not?
Liberation/Repatriation Section (chapters 40-49)
- Once the fighting stops and a war is over, civilian life does not return to normal for a long time. Even then, people’s lives will never be the same.
- What were some ways that people helped the Lichtensterns after the war ended? What people or situations made it more difficult for them?
- What were the barriers to the Lichtenstern family resuming their life in Amsterdam after the war?
Discussion Questions and Activities
- Why did the family hide during the liberation of the camp?
- Why were they afraid of the Russians?
- Why did the family have to stay at Theresienstadt after liberation?
- What is a refugee? What other times in history have there been many refugees? Where were they from and where were they going? Why?
- Some people and countries welcome refugees and others fear them. Explain.
- The days spent with Lloyd Miller and Stanley Greenberg are a very strong memory for Tutti. Why?
Note: Lloyd Miller was this soldier’s real name. It is absolutely true that the Lichtensterns and Sergeant Lloyd Miller took pictures while in Pilsen at the airbase. I have been looking for the family of Lloyd Miller since I started writing “Tutti’s Promise,” hoping that they may still have the pictures of the Lichtensterns. If anyone reading this ever finds the real Lloyd Miller’s family, please contact me. There is a contact form elsewhere on this website.
- The conditions in Maastricht were truly wretched — filth, inedible food, long lines. Why?
- What would the people caring for the refugees need to provide for them? Discuss how hard would this be at the end of the war after The Netherlands had been invaded, occupied, bombed, and ravaged.
- What does it mean to be a “displaced person?”
- After WWII there were hundreds of thousands of surviving Jews. Many did not want to go back to their home countries. Why?
- Research where the displaced persons finally settled and what difficulties they faced in the process.
- During the war years families were split up. After the war people were trying to find each other, but didn’t know where to look. What would have been the main sources of information at the time?
- Mrs. Muller’s husband died of pneumonia during the winter of 1944. Research the “hunger winter.”
- Adriaan Vos was in the NSB and stole the belongings that Heinz had left with him for safekeeping. Research the NSB and how they collaborated with the Nazis.
- Why wouldn’t Margret let Tutti keep the gift from Mrs. Muller?
- What did Heinz imply when he said Popje was a “real lifesaver”? What do you think he used the money for?
- Why did Egbert insist on showing Heinz a full accounting of how he used the money?
- What did Egbert mean by the statement, “Steady employment is better than a handful of guilders?”
- Why was metal in high demand after the war?
- What lesson did Margret impart to her children at the end of the book?
- Why is it important?
- What was Tutti’s Promise?
- Activity: Have the class discuss ways they can make the world a better place either individually or as a group.