Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust

by Hudson Talbott

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Forging Freedom Penguin Group

The following discussion questions were provided by the author, Hudson Talbott.

What We Can Learn from the Holocaust?

By using a true adventure story such as Forging Freedom, students are given a solid introduction to the times in which the Holocaust took place, while following the daring course of action taken by a true-life hero. Jaap Penraat's story stands as a candle in the darkness, and the moral reasons for his actions are self-evident, but the more practical reason of "the golden rule" gives a stronger, easier-to-understand argument for shifting from the role of "bystander" to "doer." The goal would be to lead students to the understanding that by helping to make the world safer for others, we are making it safer for ourselves, as well.


Language Arts

Forging Freedom contains four classic character archetypes of both literature and history: hero, bully, victim, and bystander. After writing the four words on the blackboard, the teacher could talk with the students about them and then list the characteristics of each type underneath the appropriate word.

  1. Students can create a day in the life of each of the types, using at least three of the characteristics listed for that type.
  2. Have students write about their own experiences (real or imagined) of being each archetype. What caused them to be that type? How did it feel?
  3. Going from "bystander" to "hero"—How? Why? Character development is essential in writing both fiction and nonfiction. In life, we may want to do the right thing, but are afraid of being hurt ourselves. The urge to be true to one's principles has to be weighed against the risks involved. Jaap Penraat was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. Have students talk about what might have taken place in Jaap's mind before he decided to take action.
  4. Writing assignment: You are Jaap's younger brother or sister. You are coming home from school when you see the Nazis taking away your neighbors—except for Solomon, the boy your age, who has run out the back door and is desperately trying to hide. Neither he nor the Nazis have seen you, so you are free to go into your house and pretend you've seen nothing. Describe what you do next, why, and how you feel doing it.



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