Westerbork Section (chapters 17-28)

Some of the questions will be spoilers if you haven’t read the book up to that chapter yet. DO NOT READ THE QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU READ THE CHAPTER unless you don’t care about suspense or surprises.

Enduring Understandings

  • 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.

Essential Questions

  • Why did Heinz buy and sell metal for the Germans?
  • What were the outcomes of the metals operation at Westerbork?

Discussion Questions and Activities

Chapter 17:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?

Chapter 18:

  1. 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?

Chapter 19:

  1. What was Oberländer’s plan? Why did Heinz have reservations about it?

Chapter 20:

  1. 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?

Chapter 21:

  1. 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?
  2. “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.”

Chapter 22:

  1. Why do you think the Germans kept such good records?
  2. Why did the Germans tell the prisoners that Theresienstadt was a vacation spa?
  3. Research the establishment of Therresienstadt. Who initially built it? What was it used for? How many people lived there?

Chapter 23:

  1. Robbie stole bread. What did Margret tell him? What else could she have done? Discuss if it is ever permissible to steal.

Chapter 24:

  1. Why was Heinz sent to Amsterdam?
  2. How did the Germans know he wouldn’t try to escape?
  3. 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.”

Chapter 25:

  1. Why does the clerk have a negative reaction to Heinz’s accent?
  2. 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.
  3. What do you think Heinz did to the doll?

Chapter 26:

Chapter 27:

  1. Why might Gemmeker have gone to the trouble to warn the Lichtensterns about the upcoming changes?

Chapter 28:

  1. What did Tutti Promise?
  2. Why did Heinz put money inside the doll?
  3. What responsibilities do your parents give you?
  4. Do any of your responsibilities ever scare you?
  5. Have you ever had to keep a secret that was this important?