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KHC Exhibition: The Jacket from Dachau: Research and Writing Questions

Questions Related to Themes of Justice

  1. Why do you think it is important (or not important) to preserve evidence/artifacts of torment for future generations, such as Ben’s jacket?
  2. How does preserving and presenting the artifacts of an individual who was harmed help to serve society?
  3. What role do reparations play in a country’s taking responsibility for harms to its own people and other’s? Write a persuasive essay supporting your argument.
  4. Why would Germany (or any government) want to pay reparations? Research and explain the reparations histories for damages to Japanese-Americans during World War II, as well as those for Native Americans. Do you feel the United States should pay reparations to descendants of American slaves?
  5. Ben and his lawyer, Dr. Levenson, fought their reparations case for decades. Research and explain the legal and political reasons for this. Why is it important to fight for justice?
  6. Why do you think Dr. Levenson charged so little to handle this reparations case? Research the compensation other reparations attorneys have received historically. Would you have done the same?
  7. Do you feel there was justice in the fact that Ben made a down-payment for the home using German reparations payments?
  8. What role does language play in Ben's search for justice?
  9. Commandant Eichelsdorfer, the Nazi commander at Kaufering, was executed one year after Kaufering was liberated by U.S. forces. Do you believe justice was served?

Questions Related to Themes of Identity

  1. What object do you own that best describes or identifies you? Describe in detail why/how.
  2. How do historical injustices define our lives today?
  3. How does trauma affect a person’s identity? A) at the time? B) later in life?
  4. After being forcibly removed from their family and home, how is one's sense of identity altered?
  5. How does the loss of one's home or identity as a child affect a person later in life?
  6. Has pain or trauma in your life ever altered your sense of identity? Describe how.
  7. What role does language play in Ben's search for identity?

Questions Related to Themes of Home

  1. Has pain or trauma in your life ever altered your sense of home? Describe how.
  2. How is your conception of home challenged by Ben’s story and legacy?
  3. Do you think a person defines their home, or are they defined by it? Apply your definition to Ben's case.
  4. After being forcibly removed from their family and home, how is one's sense of home altered?
  5. What role does language play in Ben's search for home?

Questions Related to Themes of Perseverance

  1. Why do you think Ben kept his jacket for 30 years after being liberated from Dachau?
  2. Would you have tried to keep/have you kept an artifact from a horrible time in your life the way Ben did?
  3. According to his doctor’s affidavit and his own personal statement submitted during the reparations process, Ben showed many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.). Research and explain the prevalence and symptoms of P.T.S.D. for survivors of genocide.

Supplementary Questions

  1. According to the infographic near the large map in the exhibit, Jews living in Germany died at a significantly lower percentage relative to other countries. Research and explain the reasons for this.
  2. According to the same infographic, almost no Jews were killed in Finland, Denmark, and Bulgaria during the Holocaust. Research and Explain why this is.
  3. Jill Eisman, the woman who found and donated the jacket mentioned in her interview that she didn’t want the jacket to be bought or traded by Nazi collectors. What are Neo-Nazis and why do you think they would want to own this jacket?

Personal Observation Questions

  1. What role does language play in Ben's search for justice, identity, or home?
  2. Describe how seeing Ben’s jacket made you feel when you first saw it. How did this feeling compare to other historical artifacts you have seen?
  3. If you met Ben what would you ask? What would you say?
  4. Does Ben remind you of a character from a beloved book or story? Describe how.