Music plays an important role in Holocaust commemoration. In the late 1940s a lively, diverse musical life was established in Displaced Persons camps. Many songs recounted horrors of the war years, chronicled mourning and loss, and lamented the challenges of displacement. Music has continued to form an integral part in commemoration.

In this section, we consider different aspects of memory and memorial.

 

Lesson 1 - Music as Memorial

Lesson 1 - Music as memorial – what makes a successful memorial?

Aims:

  • Consider and broaden understanding of what constitutes a memorial 
  • Consider and critique music as a form of memorial 
  • Introduce ‘Criteria of Significance’ lists and use them to assess how effective a memorial might be 

Resources:


ACTIVITY 1 - Discussion:  What is a memorial?

Consider the difference between a monument and a memorial.

Why do people create memorials?

You may want to introduce the words 'remembrance', 'commemoration' and 'memory' into the discussion.

Try to come up with a class definition (refer to glossary) and display this definition.


ACTIVITY 2 -Listening to music

Divide class into three groups, assign each group one of the pieces of music below.

Each group should listen to their piece and read about it and its composer.

  • Shostakovich's Babi Yar relates to a specific site and event.
  • Arnold Schoenberg's 'A Survivor from Warsaw' (1947) should not be understood as a historical account of the Warsaw ghetto since it contains inaccurate information.
  • Composer Steve Reich was not in Europe during war

Questions for listening exercise:

  • What is the name of your piece?
  • What does the music ‘describe’ (an event, experience or place)?
  • Who composed the piece?
  • When was it composed?
  • Was the composer present at the event, experience or place described in the piece?

Describe the music using the music glossary to help you.

  • Did you enjoy this piece of music?  Why or why not?
  • How did the music make you feel?

Students should first consider their own response to the piece – describe it (refer to music glossary), then reflect, report opinions and feelings to rest of class.


ACTIVITY 3 - Evaluating significance

This activity will challenge higher ability students. You may feel it is appropriate to skip this activity, and move to Activity 4 – Concluding Discussion.

Present each group with the three sets of criteria of significance (see PDF).

Ask the groups to evaluate their piece against each of the three sets of criteria of significance.

NB The criteria were designed to evaluate events/people – you may want to discuss first whether/how these are useful for discussing music/memorials.

Do the different models generate different results/ answers for the same piece?
Consider whether the answers would have been different in the immediate post-war period from the answers we may have when the music is performed or heard today.
Share findings and reflections with the rest of the class.

Does this exercise highlight any flaws in the sets of criteria – any factors you consider missing? Unnecessary? Misleading?
Develop your own set of criteria.


ACTIVITY 4 - Concluding Discussion

Does music make a successful memorial?  Why or why not?
Responses might include:
Yes – emotive, moving, doesn’t rely on language - anyone can understand and feel something, evocative, everyone can interpret their own way – relate to it personally somehow, lasts across generations, yes if intention or dedication to particular person or event
Perhaps not – can’t tell us specific historical facts, too open to interpretation, style of music might go out of fashion and it won’t get played, not everyone is moved by the same thing

Develop your own memorial (see lesson 2) and analyse your own memorial against the criteria

Lesson 2 - Memory

Lesson 2 - Purpose of Memorials

Aims:

  • Continuation from Lesson 1 or stand-alone
  • Consider the purpose of memorials
  • Closely examine Holocaust memorials
  • Create a memorial in response to a piece of music

Resources:

  • Links to pieces of music


ACTIVITY 1 - Discussion:  What is a memorial?

Research different memorials, compare and contrast them.

Divide class into groups, give each group a picture/name of a different Holocaust memorial to look at/research.

In small groups , ask students to answer the following questions:

  • Describe what it looks like, what it is, what it represents, what it is made of, how big it is.
  • Where is it situated?
  • Specifically what does it commemorate?
  • Consider audience – who will see it?
  • Why was it placed where it is?
  • What reaction do you think the artist was intending to provoke?

Whole class:

  • Briefly feed back from each group.
  • What do all the memorials have in common?
  • What makes each one unique?


ACTIVITY 2 - Creating a memorial

Students will be guided to create their own memorials in response to a piece of music – can be individual, pairs or even small-group work.

Choose a piece of music from the Memory section of the website.

Listen to the music a few times.  As you listen, consider the following:

  • How does this music make you feel? (e.g. sad, hopeful, lonely, homesick, uplifted)
  • What colours come to your mind? (in relation to the sound of the music, e.g. without colour, black and white, pale, bold, bright, translucent, weak, strong - think about how colours are traditionally associated with feelings, e.g. red might suggest anger or danger)
  • What shapes does it suggest to you? (e.g. edges, hard lines, soft curves)
  • What materials does it suggest to you? (e.g. soft or hard, man-made or natural, rigid or flexible)
  • What images does it bring to mind for you? (e.g. figures of people, abstract, lone person, crowd, situation, location, landscape, architecture, empty space, busy space)

Perhaps a story starts to come to mind … tie in with research/prior knowledge of Holocaust events.

You may be able to sketch an idea for a memorial, you may be able to create a model or sculpture

Consider your audience.

  • Think about where this memorial would be situated, who would see it
  • What do you want them to feel/understand?

Models could be displayed in the classroom or around school.

The class might work together to create a large memorial or installation for the school grounds or local area (perhaps commemorating a specific local event).

Students could write or speak about the inspiration and thought process for developing their memorial.

OR…

Students could collect/assemble objects inspired by the music – going through the same process as above – feelings, shapes, colours, materials, etc.

The collection could become an installation, an exhibition, contents of a memory box, etc. 

Students could research individual stories and dedicate their memory box to someone who perished in the Holocaust…


ACTIVITY 3 - Concluding Discussion

Drawing on students' opinions and interpretations of memorials they have looked at, and the process they went through to create their own memorials, consider the following:

What are memorials for?
You may want to link the perceived need to construct memorials to the declining number of Holocaust survivors as time goes by…

Who should decide what is commemorated and how?
Consider that in remembering the past, certain stories and heroes have been selected as part of the larger historical narrative while others have been overlooked. Consider the problems and complexities of memorialisation in its traditional, 'stone' form? And in other forms?

 

Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links


Lesson 1

Subject Key concepts Key process
Historycause and consequence, interpretation

historical enquiry, communicating about the past

Citizenship

democracy and justice

critical thinking and enquiry

Music

cultural understanding, critical understanding, communication

listening, reviewing and evaluating

 

Lesson 2

SubjectKey concepts Key process
Historysignificance

historical enquiry

Citizenship

identities and diversity (communities, interconnectedness)

advocacy and enquiry; taking informed and responsible action

Music

cultural understanding, global dimension, music from different times and cultures, consideration of contextual influences, role of music and musicians in society

reviewing and evaluating; creativity; communication