Asking Elders. Sharing Internationally.

Teacher Jenn Breisacher at Westampton, NJ’s Burlington County Institute of Technology introduced her students to WWII in a unique way by connecting them with a class of German students. Both the American and German children asked their elders what the family experienced during World War II, and then shared the information with their overseas partners. The American kids describe how the project moved them in the video. The German students said:

“We received letters of American students as an answer for a project about World War II. Our history teacher gave us the task to ask our family members to get a personal history of the war and write a letter, probably with some photos of historical objects or family members. Then we sent them to a school in Westampton, New Jersey in the USA. Two months later, we finally got the letters of the students. They answered our letters and told us that their families did not experienced any fights or attacks, except the Attack of Pearl Harbor caused by Japan in 1941.

One boy named Tone told us about his German great-grandfather who was kept in a concentration camp. This student also said that it was easy to get a job at this time because the military needed a lot of stuff, so almost everyone had a job. The great-grandmother of a girl named Cheré worked in a factory and helped to make bombs for the war. Cheré, who had got my letter, said that she thought “Germany did this, Germany did that“, but when she read my letter, she recognized that the people who lived in Germany were as afraid as people of other countries were.

Even [if] the students told us different stories, they do all have the same opinion about the war. They say that World War II caused a lot of damage, but the U.S. benefited. It became powerful and women were able to do some of the things men did. This time was one of the most awful ones because too many innocent people lost their lives and we need to do everything that it will never happen again. But some students mentioned that World War II caused positive things, like the traffic system, which was big progress.”</blockquote>

For us, the exchange of letters was a big experience. We are really glad we could take part in this special project.”

– Anna-Lena D. &amp; Celine W.

“The perspective of World War II in the U.S. With the letter that was send to us we were able to inform ourselves about World War II in the U.S.A. We were able to extract that there were changes in everyday life there. For instance the 7th December 1941 the bomb which Japan threw on Pearl Habor, a military station on Hawaii, forced the U.S. to take part in World War II. Their response was the bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they wanted Japan to surrender. The US joined the allies and won the war. We were able to learn that a lot of people died during World War II and a lot of them were innocent. Around 60 million people died world-wide and 6 million of those in German detention camps.”

– Oliver F.

“Today, we got the answers to our letters from the American students. They tried to get some information about their families’ experiences of World War II. Unfortunately most of their grandparents or great-grandparents are dead or were not involved in the war. Some students mentioned that their grandfathers served in uniform during the war. All in all, I think the German’s experience of the war is “deeper”, because the war took place in our country. Some of the American students didn’t really seem to be interested in this part of the world’s history. For example, my correspondent didn’t say anything about the experiences of my grandparents I told him. To sum up, I’m a little bit disappointed because I hoped to get more information about that time given by American teenagers.”

– Michael S.

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