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Connecting Anne Frank to Today’s World

written by: Peter Boysen•edited by: Trent Lorcher•updated: 11/14/2012

In many school systems, the study of the Holocaust during World War II takes place during middle school, and many curricula include "The Diary of Anne Frank" in those units. This article will help students grasp the nature of the Holocaust through a modern geopolitical catastrophe.

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    The Situation in Darfur and North Korea

    Darfur is a region is western Sudan, Africa. Since 2003, Sudanese government soldiers fought rebel troops in this area. However, the government’s assaults have been on civilians of the same ethnic groups as the rebels. These racially and ethnically based attacks drove more than 2.5 million civilians from their homes. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum declared a genocide emergency in Darfur in 2004.

    North Korea remains a mysterious and oppressive state under the rule of Kim Jong-il. North Koreans lack the basic necessities for survival such as a healthy diet or even enough food. Just a decade ago, North Korea suffered from a famine killing at least 500,000, citizens. Concentration camps exist in North Korea for people and families speaking out against the government or Kim Jong-il. Camp 22 is the largest known concentration camp in North Korea, spotted by satellite images. Prisoners are subjected to the gas chamber, hangings and torture.

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    Connect the Past with the Present

    Connect the story of Anne Frank with the modern world through the situations in Darfur and North Korea. Middle schoolers don’t realize these crimes exist in our world today. I taught eighth grade English for three years, and this is always one of most impactful lessons of the year.

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    Classroom Activities

    • Watch Undercover in North Korea by National Geographic: Several years ago Lisa Ling went undercover in North Korea with an eye doctor. She taped never before seen footage of life in North Korea. The video can be purchased from National Geographic or view the video here.
    • Read about life in concentration camps and discuss similarities and differences: Several North Koreans have escaped from concentration camps. Read some of their accounts of life in the camps. Here are a few suggestions:
    • Watch the news and read newspapers.
    • Challenge your students to watch the nightly news for a week and read the newspaper. Write down the stories they see on Darfur. This is always a shocker for students.
      • Compare the genocide in Darfur with the victims of the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides excellent photos.