These are a few notes that I’ve compiled after the game, for anyone that would be interested in running it. This document concerns the first version of the game, which was originally created for 16 students.
The game was created as a narrativist approach to issues regarding World War II, especially memory duty, the creation of History, and surviving the war. I wanted to focus on survivors’ tales and the civilian population’s experience of the war (which we usually address less frequently in general classes).
The character design was a duplicate of the template that was created by the Danish organization rollespilsfabrikken, with courteous authorization on their part. It is a very practical format that enables to give all the necessary information in a succinct way, while enabling the players to get into character and make them their own.
These are the sequences I used for running the game. It should be noted that I didn’t start with the game, I did it with second-year students, who were trained in roleplaying exercises before, so were already familiar with the process when I introduced the game. Starting with shorter roleplaying exercises is, to me, very useful.
The teacher is present as Mr/Ms Green, the handler of the group. He interviews the students so that they will each have an occasion to talk and express themselves, even the more discreet ones. We can also intervene to make sure all students remain in characters (there can be the occasional slip or contemporary reference appearing, but it is best in my opinion to put the student back on track in a discreet way). If English is not the students first language, making sure they don’t revert to their mother tongue is also part of the teacher’s work.
The following document was originally written in French and used to present the project to the parents. They were at the end asked to sign their authorization for their children to be part of the project. On the first run of the project, they all did. Instructions for costumes, which I include there, were given to the students at the same time on a separate paper.
Mme ALGAYRES, Professor « agrégé », History-Geography, teacher « DNL », History Geography in English (note : these are French titles. It means that I have a double qualification, both for teaching History, with the highest rank for secondary school teachers, and for the English practice optional course)
« Graveyard of the sacrifice » is an educational Larp for the 11th^ grade. It was originally written for 16 students. It is an educational project about memory duty, the construction of History, and survivors’ guilt.
Edu-Larp is an abbreviation for educational live action role playing game, used to describe all pratice using roleplaying as a performing art for educational purpose.
This practice can be defined as a collective act of learning, through the creation of a common narrative that develops students’ participation, attention, and social skills.
This activity can be defined as a form of improvisation theatre, with the absence of any audience. The activity is based on freestyle interaction between students, through their characters, that they all build together.
This game is created in the European section, it will be written and played entirely in English.
Many researchers, Dr Sarah Lynne Bowman at the forefront, have shown the interest of using improvisation and roleplaying as educational tools. This practice enables developing many skills simultaneously and to learn contents more easily.
In the European section, the Edu-Larp approach has an additional advantage where language practice is concerned. For more timid or self-conscious students, the character’s alibi represents a protection against fear of failure. For students more comfortable with oral practice, it is a way to learn more vocabulary, strenghten their self-confidence and boost creativity.
Therefore, Edu-Larp can be considered as an innovative form of pedagogy, which will enable us to explore content and work a thematic approach in a deeper way (the duty of remembrance in this instance). It should be noted that, if that practice is rare in France (and this experimentation could be a first of its kind), it is more frequent in Nordic countries, especially Denmark where it is regularly used in the primary circle.
This project will be built around the visit that has been organised around the visit of a memorial site at Mont-Valerien (note: a site near Paris where about a thousand Resistants and hostages were executed during the German occupation of France). The visit will be used as a background for the project.
The students will be asked to work on characters close to their own age, students aged 16 to 18 in 1951. These characters will have lived through the war years as children. The students will then have to transcribe the visit using their character’s point of view, and present it has historical fiction.
They will have to adopt both the inner and outer point of view, working both on fiction and documentary research, to learn about the historical fact, but also reflect on the population’s life experience. The purpose of the exercise is to consider History and memory duty in a vivid manner, analytically and empathically.
Authorizations, planning and costume were then addressed in the original document. Parents were asked to give permission for the game (as there was a visit outside the school, it is mandatory to have an authorization) and for me to use pictures that would be taken for the communication around the game.
Some costumes could be provided if needed. In the end, most students brought their own clothing, only 5 students were provided a full costume.
Male costume: retro appearance, basic shirt and vest, standard pants (no jeans), leather shoes
Female costume: dress or shirt and skirt, leather shoes.
“Graveyard of the sacrifice” is an Edu-Larp about the duty of remembrance, the teaching of History and survivor’s guilt after WWII. It is created for 16 players as a template for reflecting about WWII and English practice.
Edularp stands for educational Live action Role playing. Larp is an activity where all participants create a common fictional situation through the interpretation of characters. It as bit like an improvisational theatre, only with no audience except the participants themselves.
For this exercise, it is useful to get us to discuss more easily in English, and work about topics regarding the war trying to adopt a different point of view.
The year is 1951. The war has been over for 6 years, and European rebuilding is under way. On the 9th May 1950, the Schuman declaration proposes the establishment of a supranational community in Europe. It is followed by the treaty of Paris on the 18th^ of April 1951 that founds the European Coal and Steel Community.
Your characters are high school students aged 16 to 18 at most. They only have childhood memories of the war, but though they were too young to be involved in the military or actual fighting, they have actual memories of the war, the Nuremberg trials, and the harsh years following the war. They have known deprivation and food shortages, having to clean up the street, and walk to school among the rumble.
Though their scolarity has been disturbed by the war, they have caught up with their studies, and are now considered to be all good, or even exceptional students. They have been selected for a European writing competition financed by the council of Europe. Coming from the founding countries of the united Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands), they must visit a war memorial together (in our example, at Suresnes) and then write about their experience. The best writings are to be selected and published in an upcoming memoir of war stories recollections, which could be a great opportunity for most. Aspiring writers, journalists or politicians among the students are aware of the remembrance duty at that time, but also of the good opportunities that might arise for them, should their own text be published.
The students have arrived in groups of 4 from each country the day before (the Benelux group starting as a single group from Brussels). Some have undergone the selection process together, but most don’t know each other yet.
The students will get a week and two hours preparation time in class to learn about their character and define them. Specific workshops will be used to help them flesh out their character’s story and get into characters. You will get a specific document regarding costuming. Some clothing will be provided by the organization, if needed.
The visit will be done out of character, but you will afterwards imagine it as your character might have experienced it.
Language will be English and English only. Even students playing French-speaking characters should refrain from speaking French, if only for politeness reasons.
After the game, there will be a proper debriefing time. Then students will be required to write a paper on the visit from their character’s point of view (as if it was to be submitted for the context, as stated by the setting description). These papers will be graded for the year’s final term.
Over the course of the game, pictures might be taken to document the game process. They will be used only for private use and academic documentation, and only with the families’ authorization
You have registered for the Council of Europe writing contest of 1951 about war memorials and the duty of remembrance. You will have to submit, by the end of the month, a 500–1000 words summary of your visit and experience. You might add testimonies that you have gathered along the way. Keep your descriptions as personal as possible. Try to answer the following questions in your opinion:
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: fragile, shocked, antimilitarist, angry
You were born to a very ancient Dutch family, your family is descended from a long line of international traders. But war divided your parents. When Germany invaded, your father was close to the government that wanted to collaborate with Germany. He was among the few that believed that the Netherlands would be considered as an Aryan nation too. Your father was very arrogant on that subject, and quite racist, he believed that he, along with a minority of the Dutch population, had their place as a “superior race”. He worked a lot with Germany, trading goods, and made a lot of money.
However, most of the population didn’t believe that, because the Netherlands were created as a humanist and free country when Europe was mostly absolute monarchies. Your mother especially wanted to oppose the hold of Germany on the country. They had a lot of fights together. They were hard years for you, always hearing your father yelling at each other, and suffering from hunger in the final years of the war.
And then your mother was caught actively resisting the German occupation and executed among other people considered as traitors. You were horribly shocked at this. You fought with your father, blaming him for your mother’s death. You were so furious when you heard the news that you left home, going in the streets past curfew time. Of course, you were arrested by a police patrol and got a severe beating. Fortunately, the police knew that your father was working with the government and let him take you back home. You realize that you were lucky, that you could have died. The idea is enough to make you tremble.
After that incident, you were mostly locked at home until the end of the war. Your father wouldn’t let you out. You’re barely talking to him anymore, the situation has been very tense since your mother’s death. After the war you resumed your studies, but you are not very interested. You have difficulties finding hope and a reason to live. The only solace you’ve found is being part of an artist group that defends pacifism and antimilitarism. You were even part of an international meeting of young artists in Switzerland last year. In that aspect, the project of European construction is particularly interesting to you.
From your artist group you heard about the writing contest, and decided to join, if only to escape your home and the heavy silence that exists between you and your father, which is almost unbearable these days. You want to write to talk about your mother, and losing loved ones to the war, finding a way to live after all that.
Light Side: you are generally positive and try to see the good in everyone. In your opinion, everyone can make mistakes and be vulnerable someday, and deserves a second chance. You can be a positive influence on others
Dark Side: you are still shocked after being arrested and beaten by the police, and can suffer from episodes of depression. You are still angry over your mother’s death, you hold your father responsible, haven’t forgiven him for that. Because of that, collaborators with Germany are particularly hateful to you, even worse than the German themselves
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: cynical, detached, unsympathetic, survivor
You were born to a wealthy family that own one of the great banks in Luxembourg. Your father as well as your brother work in finance. When Luxembourg was invaded by the German and a military government was established, business didn’t change much. The Bank, as you well know, doesn’t care about affiliation or ideologies. Luxembourg was such a small country, it had to carefully maintain a semblance of neutrality. So your family worked both with the Allies and the Germans, usually through assets in Switzerland, a country that generally remained neutral.
Life in Luxembourg was usually not that hard. Everything that was of Franch origin, names, places, had to be removed to please the German invaders. Since your family is of Flemish origin, your name was pleasing to them, and you were generally well-treated. You suffered from shortages of food and the occasional roughness of the soldiers, but you know you had it better than most people. Like the rest of your family, you learned a lot about politeness and hypocrisy. People needed the Banks working, so as long as your family was making money, you were generally left in peace.
You knew about persecution and deportation, of course. The Jewish population of Luxembourg wasn’t spared. Some people pretend they couldn’t possibly know about it, you find that they were either naïve or stupid, how is it possible, not to have seen it? You knew, but you didn’t care, it was none of your concern, you were glad that your family was generally spared.
You are quite ambitious and are not sure you want to make all your career in the bank. So the writing contest was an opportunity to you to show your writing skills, it might be useful if you decide to try your hand at journalism or politics. Again, you’re not sure about what you want to do with your life, but you’re sure you’ll succeed if you want to.
Light Side: you are ambitious, self-confident and determined. You are not afraid to express your opinion, even if they might shock or hurt people a bit. You like to think unconventionally and question people’s beliefs, even if you might have to play the Devil’s advocate for that
Dark Side: you can be cynical and unsympathetic. To you, people who dwell on their past suffering miss on the opportunity to build their future. You can therefore be quite harsh while dealing with other people. Perhaps you just have never confronted these issues directly.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: survivor, smart, brave, modest, altruistic
You and your twin sibling T. (you’re false twins) were born to a single mother. You never knew who your father was, they had an affair but he left her upon discovering she was pregnant. It was quite common before the war. Your mother worked hard to make sure you and your twin wouldn’t lack anything, but it was hard, and it became harder after the war.
When the war started, Belgium was occupied by the German military. The whole country was exploited. Your mother worked in a weapons factory, it was hard to make ends meet. Both your twin and you started roaming the street to find menial jobs in exchange for food.
You started working with people on the black market. You would be a lookout for German patrols, carry messages or crates, all sorts of things. After a while people starting noticing you, and asked if you would carry messages for the Resistance. It was dangerous, but working the Black Market could also get you arrested, and the compensations given by the Resistance were good. You didn’t feel that strongly towards them, you just wanted to eat, but after a while it felt good to resist the German invasion.
So you started carrying messages around and spying the German troops. As a kid, you could go where adults would be shot on sight. You started to feel proud about what you were doing, even though you try not to brag about it. Thanks to your contacts with the Resistance, you managed to warn a few families in your neighborhood about German patrols, probably saved a few families too. They were small actions, but it was better than staying passive and doing nothing.
After the war your name was quoted among the youngest resistants ever. You might get a citation for that. You also was offered an opportunity to be part of the writing contest, because they think your experience would be valuable. You feel thay might exaggerate a bit, but you’re still glad to be part of the project. Your twin decided to register with you. You’re also glad you’re in this together, you grew apart a bit during the war, it is time you got close again.
Light Side: you are more experienced and mature than most people your own age, but you don’t brag about it. You always try to do what feels right to you, you are very moral in most instances. You also try to help others if you find an opportunity to do so
Dark Side: you are very discreet and exceedingly modest, to the point of not admitting to your own accomplishment. You feel that you should not be afraid to express more pride in your abilities, but you are always afraid of other people’s opinion, that they might find you arrogant. You need to find a better balance in your life.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: survivor, energetic, determined, selfish
You and your twin sibling F. (you’re false twins) were born to a single mother. You never knew who your father was, they had an affair but he left her upon discovering she was pregnant. It was quite common before the war. Your mother worked hard to make sure you and your twin wouldn’t lack anything, but it was hard, and it became harder after the war.
When the war started, Belgium was occupied by the German military. The whole country was exploited. Your mother worked in a weapons factory, it was hard to make ends meet. Both your twin and you started roaming the street to find menial jobs in exchange for food.
You did what seemed quite logical at the time: you went to the authorities to see what job opportunities they could offer. The German occupation was bad, but they needed support with the population. You found some sympathetic people among the military government. You accepted to carry messages around in exchange for food, and to help find information. The Germans wanted to know where Jewish families and Resistant could be hiding, and you got a few families to talk and provide valuable information that were very well paid.
Of course, you sometimes felt guilty over collaborating this way, but it was the only way to get food without running the risk of being arrested. You were sometimes scared for your twin, you knew they’d go to the Black Market, which was a dangerous place. You were both busy trying to survive and did not talk much about what you went through during the war, even though it must have been hard on the both of you.
Now the war has ended and it is difficult to resume life as it was before. F. seems to adjust better than you. It is through F. that you heard about the writing contest, and you decided to go along with them, maybe it is a chance for the both of you to get close again.
Light Side: you are determined and strong-willed, when you really want something you will do everything in your power to get it. You can put up with critics or mean people and ignore them, what is important to you is your own opinion and will to survive
Dark Side: you are quite selfish and worry first about yourself. You only appreciate the company of people who think like you and appreciate you. You tend to dismiss critics because you would feel hurt by accepting them. This can lead you to be harsh and aggressive towards other people
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: strong will, unsympathetic, arrogant, ambitious
You were born to a wealthy and influential family. Most men in your family are involved in politics, on the conservative right. Your mother died of illness before the war, when you were very young, you don’t remember much of her. Your father was always busy with work, so you were left mostly alone with a governess. It was really lonely. You wish you had siblings, but you are an only child.
When France was invaded by the Germans and the country collapsed, you moved to the city of Vichy with your father, because he was part of the new government. You lost contact with all your friends, except your cousin, M. (Gillet), who still lived in Paris, and wrote to you about how hard life was up there. In Vichy, life was pretty quiet up until the final invasion by Germany in 1943. From here the last two years were hard, but you were protected by your father’s high ranking position.
Your father trained you in politics from an early age, and you have always well understood why France had been undergoing a crisis and lost in the summer of 1940. Low demographics, lazy behavior in your countrymen had led to defeat. The country had been driven to ruins by communists, anarchists, the Jews and the Freemasons. It was obvious that France needed a strong government to get out of the crisis, and could have found it by collaborating with the Germans.
When Germany lost the war and the new government was established, your father quickly found a new place in the new administration. You went back to live in Paris and now stay at your aunt’s place, your father’s sister, who is now a widow, and your cousin M. A lot of former people from the Vichy regime became part of the government of the new Republic, their skills are too precious to go to waste. Life is hard, however, there is still a lack of food and a lot of deprivation. Although you have resumed your studies, you and your cousin spend a lot of time out looking for food, using food stamps provided by the administration. You are also fed up with people who are ranting against Vichy and cooperation. Don’t they realize people were just trying to get France out of the crisis? The socialist government brought them the defeat, it wasn’t great either. You’ve also witnessed violence from the population and from the invading soldiers, the Allies were hardly better than some of the German troops in that regard. History is just the way people see it, in your opinion.
You heard about the writing contest and decided to join. You thought that maybe you could shed some light from what happened on the Vichy side of thing, how collaboration was at the time a necessary evil, and at least make people understand how the situation was more complicated than they could envision it. Your father encouraged you to join, he thinks your being part of it could be great as a starting point to your eventual future political career. You convinced your cousin to join too, M. was a bit reluctant at first, but finally joined too, it’s nice for you to have them along.
Light Side: you are well-educated, polite, self-confident, and really ambitious. You can easily imagine having a political career ahead of you. You are patient, and with your good communication skills, you can take the time necessary to get people on your side, they’ll eventually get swayed by your persuasion.
Dark Side: you are so confident that you are easily convinced that you are always right, and can be dismissive of other people’s opinions. You are proud of your good upbringing, and a bit arrogant. You can easily lack empathy to other people’s sufferings.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: passionate, Resistant, tough, unforgiving
You are probably one of the few among your age group that has seen actual fighting. Well, you weren’t directly fighting, but were very near the combat zones.
Your family are hardcore communists, and so are you. You believe in equality for the masses and the power of revolution. You admire what the USSR tries to build and how brave the Russian people were in the face of invasion. People in France praise mostly the American, but you feel it unfair that people should forget that Russia actually suffered the most casualties in the war.
You are the youngest of three. Your elder brother fought in Spain, went to London in June 1940 to join the General de Gaulle (which made your parents furious because they didn’t find him fit to lead the Resistance). This enabled him to join the Allied troops, which liberated Paris in August 1944, and he even was part of the troops that entered Germany, going as far as Berlin. He’s still stationed there. He’s a true hero of the Resistance, you admire him immensely.
Your parents and middle brother joined the Resistance very early on. You lived the war years in hiding. Your family took part in sabotage missions, then in actual fighting during the liberation. You and the younger kids were kept behind the lines, of course, but you helped, carrying messages, tending to the wounded, bringing food and water to the soldiers. You saw a lot of people die. It was hard at first, and you still have occasional nightmares over it. At the same time, you wish you’d been old enough to join the fight.
In the end of the war, when the fighting got really ugly, some of the Resistant fighters were captured and executed as hostages, your father among them. You were very much broken over it, you loved your father very much. Even though peace has been signed, you still hate the Germans for it. You know the horrible war crimes they committed. Likewise, you have the French collaborators, the French “Milice” killed a lot of family friends in the Resistance. Your family was ever brave with strong convictions, and they fought and paid the price for it. People who lack that courage, in your opinion, are just weak-minded cowards.
Life in France is still hard after the war. Food is scarce. There is still the occasional violence in the streets. However, most of the people who worked with the Vichy regime are now working for the new Republic. It is as if people were trying to forget about collaboration, no one really talks about it.
So when you heard about the writing contest, you decided to join. You want to denounce the collaboration in France and the war crimes, so that they should not be forgotten.
Light Side: you are energetic, passionate, and eager to express your opinion. You sincerely defend the idea of equality between people, men and women, different classes. You are against racism, which is still rare for your time, and against colonization. You have a lot of energy and can be convincing while talking to people.
Dark Side: you were involved with the Resistance, so you are very hard against people who didn’t take a clear position during the war. Passive collaborators, supporters of fascism, they are all the same to you: cowards who did nothing while people like your father got killed to defend their beliefs and freedom. You can be aggressive on these issues.
Age: Young (18 yrs)
Keywords: Resistant, brave, selfless, energetic
Resisting the German occupation was hard, but you found a way to do it. Few children were involved with the Resistance, but you were one of the few.
You were born to a Jewish family in the South of France. So you were part of the free zone, but your heard tales of deportation and it was scary. Your family was not very religious, but you knew you could get arrested at any time. You suffered from lack of food and having to hide for fear of being arrested. You had very difficult childhood years. Since you had to hide a lot, you couldn’t make many friends.
It was a bit better when your cousin G. (Ferro) and his father came to live with you. They had escaped fascism in Italy (G.’s mother was Italian, she died in Italy), to settle in France. G. also has a sister who stayed in Italy, to fight with the rebels. However, after the final invasion of the free zone by Germany, your father and uncle were both arrested and deported. They never came back, probably died along the way. Now there is only you, your mother and your cousin alive.
You mother started being even more overprotective with you, on top of your being and only child. But after losing your father you wanted to do something useful. You managed to find, thanks to your family housekeeper, people involved with the Resistance. You offered to help. You were used to pass messages, hidden in your bike, or to go near German troops to spy on their equipment. As a kid, you could go unsuspected where adults would have been shot on sight. You were only 12 at that time, you knew that you were a little reckless, but each time you thought of your father and it got you going.
Being near the Resistance got you more and more interested in communism, a lot of the freedom fighters were communists who opposed the racist fascist ideology, but you don’t know if you would like to get into politics just yet.
Now the war has ended. Life is still hard, you spend a lot of time with your cousin hunting for food. You have seen a lot of violence during the liberation of the country, especially women with their head being shorn off, it shocked your cousin a lot. You are more indifferent. Risking your life gave you a different perspective. Actually, you find life a bit boring now. When you were a Resistant, each day was thrilling. Now it’s just classes every day and having to help rebuilding the country.
When your cousin heard about the writing contest and wanted to join, you decided to do the same. You haven’t told anyone about being a child resistant. You kept it a secret, but now you want to tell about your experience, maybe relive a little of it in writing.
Light Side: you are very mature for your age, having developed survival skills at an early age. You are attentive, quick-thinking, determined. You can find words to help, advice and comfort people quite easily, you also are a good listener
Dark Side: since the end of the war, you find yourself bored. If you don’t find something to do, you get restless and irritated. You find people of your own age a bit childish, and would easily brag about your daring actions helping the Resistance
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: shy, fragile, shocked, feeling guilty
You were born and lived in Paris your entire life, so you saw a lot of the German invasion and occupation. Your family was generally safe: you were not Jewish, and on your mother’s side, you have a few important politicians that were huge with the government of Vichy. So generally speaking, you suffered less from food shortages and deprivation. Life went on. Of course, you saw people being arrested, but that was part of the war and the occupation.
Your mother and father believed that the German occupation was a lesser evil, if not for the Vichy government, you would have the communists taking over, and that would be the ruin of the country. So you had to learn to put up with the occupation, and it could have been worse.
When Paris was besieged, your father was drafted with a lot of the able bodied men to fight in the defense of the city. He got killed there, probably by a stray bullet. He didn’t even want to fight, he was probably at the wrong place at the wrong time. This is true for most people during the war. Your brother was sent in Germany for mandatory work (the STO), he was lucky to be host with a decent family. He just came back, and it is hard for him, people who were in Germany are usually despised by the rest of the population. He works now with a bank based in Luxemburg.
After the war your uncle, your mother’s brother, and your cousin O. (Georges) came to live with you in Paris. Your uncle had been an important man in the Vichy government and was employed by the new Republic, skills like his are too important to go to waste. In spite of the fact that your family have money and connections, times are hard, and you and your cousin have to spend quite some time searching for food.
You have read a lot about the war since it ended. Only then have you learned about war crimes, the collaboration, deportation of Jewish people. You were very shocked by what you heard, the vision of the German death camps. You never knew. You guess most of the population never knew. You feel guilty that you, like most people, didn’t even think about it. And yet you saw people being arrested every day, you should have known.
You feel uneasy about the fact that, in France, no one seems to talk about collaboration and the problems that the country had. Of course, life must go on and we must rebuild the country, but you feel like the duty of memory is unfulfilled somehow. Your cousin feels quite differently of course, claiming that collaboration was inevitable, a necessary evil to save the country at the time.
Then your cousin decided to join the writing contest, and enticed you to do the same. You were reluctant at first but finally gave in. Perhaps, if you get to write, you can put some words on the guilty feeling that you have and that you still can quite explain.
Light Side: you are serious, hard-working, organized. You are helpful whenever you can be, quite altruistic, attentive to the others. Although you have been really depressed since the end of the war, you are usually positive, trying to see the best in everything and the good in people. You want to hope in the future
Dark Side: you don’t have a lot of confidence in yourself. You tend to hide behind others if you can, and can miss on opportunities because of that. Since the end of the war you have been depressed and gloomy, to you the war is proof of how fallible human beings are
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: hot-tempered, tough as nails, radical, determined
Your parents were determined marxists and so are you. As such, your life has been all but easy. When you were a child, your parents told you how they tried to fight against the rise of the Nazis, up until the burning of the Reichstag. Then they were arrested, did some time in jail. They got married anyway, but once the Nazis were in charge they had to endure one vexation after the other. They decided not to leave Germany, to keep fighting no matter what. They were arrested and deported again, and you were left in the care of your grandparents, who did not approve of your parents radical opinions and reckless behavior. All things considered, you admired them, but felt that you could never live up to such determination and accomplishment. And sometimes you felt that your parents were not always there for you, and resented them for that.
You had an unconventional childhood, for example, you never really went to school and were homeschooled because your parents didn’t want you to hear the Nazi propaganda. You spent some time in the Hitlerjugend because it was mandatory, but you felt the people here were really stupid and believed a lot of bullshit propaganda. You are quite proud to have always been smarter than the rest of the population.
When the war ended, you fell on some really hard times. You had to suffer ceaseless bombings and the invasion by the Allied soldiers. Then there were the soldiers’ violence and denazification. Although your family, as resistants, were amongst the one who rejoiced of the end of nazism, all the population was treated the same, and there was no difference between you and the former Nazis. I felt really unfair at times.
When you learnt about the writing contest, you were one of the first to apply. You felt like you really had a story to tell, you wanted to tell the world that not all Germans were Nazis, and celebrate your parents’ legacy. You don’t care much for the rest of the German contestants, they are very much what the rest of the population was at the time of the war: ignorant, frightened, and following the regime like a bunch of sheep. However, you are determined to win.
Light Side: you are determined, energetic, self-confident, and striving to succeed. You are very efficient and, when set to a task, you do all in your power to do it well. You have few friends outside of your communist comrades, but for those, you are a very loyal and supportive companion.
Dark Side: you have strong ideas and convictions, which makes you judgmental to other people who do not share your beliefs. You divide the world between the resistant and the others, and can be very mean towards people you judge as cowards. If so, you can become very spiteful and arrogant.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: self-conscious, guilty, hopeful
Your history is that of many people over Germany. Your parents were simple people, they owned a grocery store in a small town by the Rhine River. You weren’t particularly racist or Jew-haters, your parents supported the Christian democrats. But when the Nazis came into power you had to follow the new rules like anyone else. As a very small German middle-class family, you were left generally in peace by the new regime, as long as you followed the rules. So as a kid you were part of the Hitlerjugend and learnt the propaganda of the regime at school. It is true that the closing of all the Jewish shops, for a while, brought your parents a new flux of customers, and your father was almost saying that maybe the Führer had it right and knew what was best for Germany. You weren’t so sure yourself. You had school friends who were persecuted or had to leave. It seemed quite unfair to you, but you didn’t know what to say about it.
Then the war came and it was dark times. Your older siblings were conscripted to the army and to support the war effort, but fortunately not your parents, who were already too old for that. The official news on the radio claimed that everything was going well, but people believed it less and less. There were shortages of food. Fortunately, your hometown was too small to be of much interest to the armies, so you suffered little from bombings.
The fall of the regime came as a shock. You didn’t know that things had been so bad. You discovered the German defeats long after the war. You were drafted with your parents to clear the rubble and clear the road. Only then did you see a dead body for the first time. It was shocking, but it still felt unreal.
Your town was relatively spared a lot of soldier violence, again, you were fortunate to be out of the main roads. Then there was denazification and the reveal of the extermination camps and mass murder and Jews and others. To your family it came as a shock. You never knew, of course you never knew. Or did you? Of course, in hindsight, there were arrests, people disappearing, and rumors. They had started with the handicapped, then taken the rest. People knew there were camps, but extermination to that extent, no, no one could have guessed. But you were of the people who had done nothing. You felt a dreadful guilt. So have your parents. Your father had turned to alcoholism to cope, and your mother barely speaks these days.
So when you heard about the memorial visit and the writing contest, you applied at once. Anything to get out of the gloomy atmosphere of your house. You were glad to be selected.
Light Side: in spite of your guilt and the horrors of the war, you are still light-hearted and hopeful and want to believe in a better future. You are generally pleasing around people even if you are not very confident about yourself, you don’t have many difficulties to connect with people
Dark Side: you are still very guilty, like most of the German people. How could you fail to realize how bad the Nazi ideology was? You feel like a coward, and this takes you to long periods of depression and melancholy
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: guilty, traumatized, strong-willed, determined
You really had it bad during the war although you don’t like to talk much about it. Somehow you feel like you deserve it. Your family were really strong supporters of the Nazi regime. It seemed legitimate at the time. They believed that Germany needed a strong power to get out of the crisis. They didn’t care much for the Jews, the communists and other parasites. And in a way, you felt that they were right. You were part of the Hitlerjugend and felt good there, you had friends and something to believe in. Of course, all your siblings and family members old enough to fight were taken in with the army. You even had a cousin in the SS, the pride of the family.
Then Germany started to lose the war, even though the news on the radio didn’t admit to it. In February 1945, as you still wanted to believe the war could be won, your home city of Dresden was bombed. Your father was killed, along with more than 20 000 people. While your mother was busy grieving, you left your home and went to your aunt in Berlin. You wanted to be part of the defense of the city. It was there you met with P. (Ebert), a Nazi extremist. You weren’t very friendly, but you got close as only comrade-in-arms can be. You were there until the end, until the fall of the regime.
When the city was occupied, it became really horrible. There was violence and chaos everywhere. You were taken in by a group of soldiers once, and badly beaten, just for sports, before a French soldier rescued you. Fortunately you were too young to be taken as a war prisoner, it was just a bad case of bullying but it was still bad. And everyone knew about soldiers stealing and pillaging and raping. The Russians were the worst, the damn communists.
When the Berlin blocade started you were sent to live with another relative in another city in West-Germany, for your safety. Life is better now and more quiet, and you started to heal, but you have difficulties remembering the hard times of the war. And there is denazification and the discovery of the camps, too. You didn’t know, most of the population couldn’t have known. You feel quite guilty about it, but then, you have seen the violence of the Allied soldiers in Berlin. Not one side of the war really feels better than the others these days.
However, you’re determined to survive and make something of yourself. So when the writing contest came in, you decided pretty quickly to register, in the hope that it will be an opportunity for you to undertake better studies and then have a better job. You’re even considering leaving West Germany, trying to put the past behind you.
Light Side: you are strong-willed, energetic, and ambitious. In spite of the hardship that you’ve had to endure, you can be a lot of fun to hand around with. You like to crack jokes, and usually make friends quite easily
Dark Side: you are really shocked and traumatized by your experience of the war, but hide it under a cheerful and determined façade. However, when alone, you suffer long bouts of depression and feel like nobody really understands you
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: self-confident, bitter, resentful, stubborn
You come from a family that was composed of early supporters of the Nazi party. Your father had lost all of his brothers in the Great War, and was very bitter over the defeat of Germany. He registered very early with the Nazi party, and was determined to make Germany great again. Your father rose in the ranks of the Party and even got an assignment in Berlin.
Therefore you were drafted, with all your brothers and sisters, in the ideology too. You were part of the Hitlerjugend and you loved it there. You were also part of very extreme groups, which liked to chase communists and Jews in the city to beat them up. The first time you had to beat someone up and draw blood, you got a bit squeamish, but it soon came to pass.
When the war started you were convinced that Germany would win the war, that it would be revenge for the defeat in World War One, that Germany deserved to rule the world. Then the situation became worse and worse, and you realized that it was hard on your parents. Some of your siblings died during the war. Your father looked more and more ill, but kept his problems to himself, said that he couldn’t talk, his work was top secret.
When Germany was invaded and Berlin besieged, you joined as a volunteer to be part of the defense of the City. You wanted to be part of the defense of the city. It was there you met with D. (Waechter). You weren’t very friendly, but you got close as only comrade-in-arms can be. You were there until the end, until the fall of the regime.
When the city was occupied, it became really horrible. There was violence and chaos everywhere. And everyone knew about soldiers stealing and pillaging and raping. You had to work to clear the rubble and the dead bodies of people killed in the bombings. You know you were lucky not to be assaulted by the occupying soldiers, that’s because you were smart, you knew the routes to avoid the patrols.
You didn’t question your beliefs at all, in spite of the defeat of Nazism. You’re still convinced you were right. But a couple of months after the end of the war, just as the Nuremberg trials were beginning, you entered the bathroom and found your father hanged to the ceiling. He didn’t leave a suicide note. Just “I’m sorry”.
It was a shock for the rest of your family. Your mother drowned her sorrow in alcohol, and now your last surviving older sister is taking care of the both of you. Life is still hard and depressing. You suffered food shortages, especially through the Berlin blockade.
When you heard about the writing contest, you applied because you couldn’t put up with the gloomy atmosphere at home anymore. It was not difficult to get your application through, you really are that good a student. You want to be able to tell people the truth about what life was really like in Germany. But what was it actually? You’re not quite sure anymore
Light Side: you are smart, energetic, a good student. You’ve always be ambitious and always had good grades. You tend to work hard and succeed in what you do. You are self-confident and usually have no difficulty convincing people that you’re right
Dark Side: you haven’t given up the extremist ideas you grew up with. You’re bitter and resentful over the defeat. The creation of the European community feels absurd to you. You hide these ideas, but deep down, you’re a very angry person. You feel like people are giving up too easily, just like your father did.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: free spirit, artist, kind hearted, vulnerable
You come from a very traditionalist catholic Italian family. Some ancestors on your mothers’ side of the family were actually aristocrats, though the family has fallen on hard times ever since. Your father owned a building company and was moderately successful in business. You were the youngest of your siblings. You were the rebel of the family. You didn’t want to study or make a proper marriage. You wanted to have it your own way, become an artist and live free.
Unfortunately, these ideals of artistic accomplishment and liberty made your parents very angry, and were forbidden under the strict fascist rule. Your fathers’ company prospered under fascism, since he got a lot of new contracts during the great works programs decided by the new regime.
Your parents tried to force you to follow the fascist rule. Sometimes you tried to pretend you agreed with them, other times you refused to follow the orders, and got severe beatings for that.
You considered joining the antifascisti resistance, you even prepared a bag in the hope of fleeing from home to live in the mountain, but you were really too young and got scared on the way, fortunately you came back before your absence was noticed. In the end you just had to put up with your parents’ abuse day in and day out.
Your real act of rebellion came when you discovered a Jewish family in hiding, the family Ferro. You lead them to a nearby barn to hide and brought them food. It was a little act of resistance in the face of fascism, and you regret there was nothing more you could have done.
When the Allied soldiers came, there were bombings and chaos everywhere. Your father died in the fights, trying to defend the fascist regime. You didn’t know what to feel about it. You should have been sad, but you felt relieved. You haven’t discussed it with your mother. You are not very proud that your father was fighting for the fascists. You’d rather forget all about it.
During the occupation, American soldiers settled in your home, and you got bullied for days on end before they finally left. Again, you wished you could have fought them but chose to shut up like a coward.
You’re now fed up and you want to leave your family home to go study in the big city, but your mother wouldn’t let you leave, not unless you could take care of yourself. The writing contest therefore is a huge opportunity for you: if you manage to publish an article, your mother will be forced to take you seriously and let you leave.
Light Side: you’re a positive kind of person and always try to see the good in others. You’re generally helpful and understanding. You understand people’s flaws and try not to judge them for it. You also are a good listener, people tend to like to confide in you. You’re also very creative and always motivated by your work
Dark Side: you suffered a lot of violence in your life, from your fathers and the foreign soldiers, which has left you very fragile and vulnerable. You are therefore unwilling to take risks. You couldn’t pass on the opportunity of the writing contest, but being so far from home makes you very nervous
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: reckless, energetic, passionate, provocative, ambitious
You come from a popular background, most of the men in your family were peasants, then factory workers, and most women worked as servants or at home. But they were generally good, hard-working people. It was not a surprise, therefore, that they were all fervent socialists, and most of them defended the Marxist ideal of the revolution.
When the fascists rose to power your family was of the resisting type. They got into fights with the fascisti, even the women, and never gave up. Your first memories as a kid were when you were standing guard to watch out for the patrolmen when your parents were vandalizing the fascists’ offices. It was fun back then, but now you realize that it put you in a lot of danger, too young. It had left you with a reckless character and a knack for provocation.
When your war a kid the civil war in Spain started and your father decided to join the communist volunteers to supports the freedom fighters against the dictatorship of Franco. He died there. Your family was left heartbroken, and miserable. You fell on some very hard times, sometimes you lacked food, and it became even worse after the war started.
Your elder brother joined the Italian rebels, so there was only you and your mother at home for a while. You wished you had been able to join the fight, but you were too young to do so. And since you were the last one home, your mother started being very over protective with you, it was so annoying! Your brother came home a hero, and you feel like you won’t get an opportunity to prove yourself. You are really tired of life in the country
Finally you didn’t see much of the war, because your village was quite isolated. With some other kids, you escaped the village to salute and shout out after the American soldiers on the road, but that was about it. After the war, relationships with your mother became more and more tense. You joined the young communists and managed to leave last summer to attend a communist meeting in Switzerland. Your mother was furious, and locked you up even more. Now you’re threatening to immigrate to America.
So when the writing contest came up, you immediately registered after yet another fight with your mother. You’re sorry that things fell apart like this. But if you get published, it is your ticket to a brilliant career, you can’t miss on this opportunity.
Light Side: you are energetic and daring, you want to accomplish things in life and take risks. You’re also confident enough to get other people to follow your example by sheer force of persuasion. You always want to show people how they can do best.
Dark Side: your taste for challenge can lead to take inconsiderate risks and to be needlessly provocative in order to get a reaction or emotional response from people. Therefore, you can be seen as quite annoying.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: survivor, bitter, strong-willed, cynical
You had it rough and lost most of your family during the war. Sometimes you wonder if you still have reasons to live.
Your mother was Italian but your father was French. You lived mostly in Italy even though fascist made it difficult, although your family was not very religious, you suffered from persecutions, even worse than the communists. Your parents had a small grocery shop but started losing clients because of fascist propaganda, and you fell on real hard times. There were often food privations, and you grew up weaker than the other kids, which was really frustrating.
You soon learnt that you had nothing to expect from life, that there was no hoping in the future. Life under fascism was a series of endless vexation, deprivation and suffering. You felt like you lived in a prison. Your elder sister however was a rebellious spirit, she was soon fed up with it all, and left to join the partisans, who fought against fascism in the mountains. You learnt that she entered the battalion of a guy named Forti, before getting no more news at all.
When your home area was invaded following the American landing in 1943, you had to flee and hide. You were helped by the child of a neighboring family, V. (Mozzato) who let you hide in the barn. Then you managed to get to the border, but you crossed a fascist patrol and your mother was shot. You managed to get at your aunt’s family, who was married to a Frenchman, Mr Morin. You there met your cousin S. for the first time, and you got along pretty quickly. But misfortunes kept happening in your family. Your father and uncle were both arrested and deported, and were never heard from again. So now all people remaining from your family are you, your cousin and aunt. After the war you got a letter from your sister, she was alive, but settled in Italy and wasn’t planning on coming back anytime soon.
Life in liberated France was still very hard, you could get very little food through food stamps, there were tensions and violence following the liberation. You saw women being brutalized on the streets for collaborating with the enemy, their hair shorn, in a rare display of violence. All the while, high-ranking officials were protected and were not prosecuted. It became clear to you that the persecuted people would never get justice, in spite of the Nuremberg trials.
When you heard about the writing contest, you got interested. You thought you could write about what it felt to be just shaken by the war, having to live on the road and in poverty and fear of persecution. Your cousin decided to register with you. You don’t believe that you have much hope for a future, but you certainly have a story to tell.
Light Side: after travelling under duress and surviving hardship, privation and loss, you have become a very resilient person. You don’t usually get emotional, and not a lot of thing can unsettle you. This strength of character can be very inspirational to others, when people feel down-hearted you usually show them how a lot of people have had it worse than themselves. It’s a pretty harsh way of doing things, but it’s quite effective
Dark Side: you are bitter with life, still mourning your parents and the childhood you never really had. You don’t really believe in better prospects for a better future. To you, the war is the symbol of the failure of humanity in general. To sum it up, you can be really depressing when you get into your dark thoughts.
Age: Young (16–18 yrs)
Keywords: feeling guilty, confused, uncertain, in search for hope
You are the youngest of three siblings born to a wealthy aristocratic family of Rome. Your parents were early supporters of Mussolini, when the fascists started to get huge support from the conservative families and the Roman Catholic Church. You therefore had a very comfortable early childhood before Italy started losing the war. You saw very little of it, really, unless the last two years of the war. Your father and two brothers went to fight, you were too young so you had to stay with your mother. When the American invaded you both left for the family estate in the countryside, so you saw very little fighting and violence. You know you’ve been fortunate that way, and often feel guilty that you were so protected by your family when so many had to suffer and die.
It doesn’t mean that the aftermath of the fighting hasn’t been hard on you. One of your brothers died. The other came back, but he has steadily refused to talk about the war, and is drinking a lot to put up with the pain. Your father was arrested and put on trial for war crimes. He was condemned, among others things, for shooting another Italian that wanted to entice rebellion amongst the troops, a corporal Mozzato. Now he’s doing time in prison, which is really shameful and hard to admit.
After the war, the Republic was established. Your family has lost all of its power and influence. You’ve caught up with your studies but you really have no idea what you’re going to do with your life. You’ve never had a lot of ambitions. You feel really useless, without any real purpose in life.
Then you thought about the man your father had killed and wondered if you could help his family. With the help of a family friend you were able to track them down and meet them at church. He had a child about your age. You managed to meet on the porch, and got friendly. They told you about the writing contest, and that V. (Mozzato) wanted to enter. You wouldn’t have thought about joining originally. After a while, though, the idea took on. You still hadn’t found the strength to tell V. about the truth about his father’s death. They should have learnt about it from the trial, why haven’t they?
So you haven’t told anyone, and decided to join the contest too. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a vocation or an idea about what to do with your life. Your situation is really becoming critical and your family is expecting you to make a career choice, the sooner the better.
Light Side: you are very understanding of other people’s flaws and indecisions, since the mirror so many of your own. You are patient, a good listener to other people’s problems. You are good at giving sound advice, even if you never figured out anything for yourself.
Dark Side: you are really indecisive, because of how much you never managed to figure out what to do with your life. You often hesitate, always try to second-guess yourself. You really need a friend to help you make the right decisions.