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Working with “Inside Hana’s Suitcase” and “Hana’s Suitcase”

“Inside Hana’s Suitcase” and “Hana’s Suitcase” 

update: Today, if you’re in Canada, tune in to CBC at 8:00 P.M.

Toronto filmmaker Larry Weinstein’s deeply affecting 2009 Holocaust documentary Inside Hana’s Suitcase (CBC, 8 p.m.) is meaningful and heartfelt, about one young girl’s experiences of the Holocaust, without stooping to condescension or cheap sentimentality.

To Reach out and Touch the Holocaust

Who's Who, Inside Hana's Suitcase

Back in November 2009, I posted about my brother’s film, Inside Hana’s Suitcase, being screened. Since then, the film has travelled to many festivals, including here in the Jerusalem Film Festival. The book Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, translated into at least 44 languages, has continued to be read and enjoyed.

Now, it’s my turn to do something with this story. I’ve been maniacally working on a series of lessons for Hebrew-speaking English language learners. My goal is to awaken my students’ curiousity in the incredible story of how Fumiko Ishioka, head of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, was able to borrow a suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum and through her desire to teach Japanese children the story of the Holocaust, tracked down the owner of the suitcase and her brother.

This story circled the globe bringing new information to George Brady, alive and well in Toronto, Canada about his sister, Hana. He learned of her days in Terezin via drawings sent to him by Fumiko, and he learned that her suitcase had found its way to Tokyo. He also discovered how children around the world were eager to learn about Hana and his own history.

The story touches all who read it, and the film energizes it anew, in its dramatizations of the Brady family life in Czechoslovakia before WWII and the changes in life that came with the Nazi restrictions and deportations to Terezin.

I’m grappling with the following questions:

  • How can I make this story accessible to non-English speakers?
  • How can I present the story  in a way that arouses curiousity to know more?
  • How can I help non-English speakers understand the film, currently unavailable with sub-titles?

The process is exciting, especially since I am so very impressed with the original book and especially Larry’s film, Inside Hana’s Suitcase. Stay tuned. If anyone reading is interested, drop a comment!

– judih

Hana's drawing from Terezin

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3 responses to “Working with “Inside Hana’s Suitcase” and “Hana’s Suitcase”

  1. talkingnow ⋅

    Are there any other teachers who are using Hana’s Suitcase or who have been able to bring their class to see ‘Inside Hana’s Suitcase’? I’m interested as we are about to engage our students in activities around both.

    – judih

  2. talkingnow ⋅

    Hello dear Fumiko!
    Thanks so much for your comments. Powerpoint subtitles? Do you mean you take specific screen shots, add subtitles and build up a powerpoint? If so, yes, that’s a very cool idea.
    About the interactive website – I’m using the biography pages of you, George and Hana and asking students to fill in a guided chart – first of basic facts and then filling in important events according to the year. I’m also doing some mapping: one for Nove Mesto and the other for the main world locations involved in the story. I’m aiming the activities at strong Jr. High students and High School students.
    For the film, I’ve done something else: pre-teach vocabulary, then transcribe some quotes and ask students to check who says what as they watch clips.

    How is the level of English in Japan? Perhaps you’d like to see what I’ve got so far?
    – judih

  3. Fumiko ⋅

    Hi Judith, it’s a challenge for me too to share Larry’s wonderful film with Japanese audience. I’ve made powerpoint subtitles in Japanese and shown it to a few groups. It works better if I briefly explain the whole story and the structure of the film first so that audience can travel back and forth comfortably with the film. I’m now also struggling to find a way to share the interactive website with Japanese students.

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