Thursday, December 24, 2009

Exodus Captain Dies

Can one man make a difference?

Captain Yitzhak (Ike) Ahronovitch died yesterday (12/23/2009). That is a name not recognized by many of us today – but was known world-wide 62 years ago.

Ahronovitch was the captain of the Exodus 1947, a cargo ship that took Jewish holocaust survivors and displaced persons from Europe and attempted to land them in what was then British controlled Palestine – today’s Israel.

The story was epic. A German/Polish-born Jewish captain; a cargo ship that had been sold for scrap to a paramilitary political group called the Haganah; a stand-off at sea – followed by a boarding and firefight in which three passengers were killed. A hunger strike by the passengers after they were taken to their point of disembarkation in France; re-interment of the passengers in camps in the British-controlled portion of Germany; a world firestorm of protest; and finally the gathering of the passengers by the British for transportation to and interment in Crete – then moved to Israel when Israel came into existence in 1948.

The British – responsible for maintaining order in Palestine – tried to block illegal immigration to that territory. A new policy created in 1947 was to send the immigrants back to the nation they had come from. The first ship to fall under this policy was the Exodus.

The Exodus was the former President Warfield, built in 1928. The 320 x 56 foot ship was given to the British under the World War II Lend Lease program, and had served as a troop carrier – housing 400 troops – during the Normandy invasion of 1944. It was sold for scrap in 1946 to a company that was controlled by the Haganah, refitted, and set sail for France to pick up Holocaust survivors for relocation to Palestine.

The Exodus left the port of Sete, France, on July 11, 1947 with more than 4500 passengers – most of them men, women, and 655 children who had survived the Holocaust. A week later, as the ship neared the coast of Palestine, it was ordered to stop by three British destroyers.

Ahronovitch attempted to run the blockade, but was stopped when rammed by two of the destroyers. The Jewish passengers fought the British, throwing smoke bombs, life rafts, and other items that came to hand on the British as they tried to board the Exodus. The British retaliated by opening fire, during which two passengers and one crewman were killed, with many more injured.

The passengers were placed on more seaworthy transports to be returned to France – where they were refused entry. The British then decided the only place large enough to house the emigrants was in their portion of Germany. The scene became violent after the ship docked in Hamburg, and had to be forcibly removed by British soldiers. They were placed in camps near the site of a former concentration camp at Lubeck.

The world outcry was tremendous, and they were relocated to camps in Crete until Israeli statehood in 1948.

The story was so compelling that it was later turned into a book (Exodus by Leon Uris, 1958) and a movie of the same title starring Paul Neuman (1960)

Captain Ahronovitch was born in Danzig, Poland in 1923, and moved to Palestine in 1932 when his family relocated there. Danzig was under quasi-Polish control as a result of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), and its population was 98% German. As a young man, he joined the Palmach, which was the para-military arm of the Haganah. During World War II he learned his sea craft trade by sailing on British and Norwegian merchant vessels. Ahronovitch was only 23 when he took the helm of the Exodus in 1947. On July 11, 1947, he picked up the holocaust refugees at the port of Sete and would sail into history.

Ahronovitch would avoid the limelight after the incident, ultimately studying and receivingn a master’s degree in business administration at Columbia University. He leaves behind two daughters, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren – and a nation that came into being partially because of the attention given to the story of the Exodus.

A tribute to Ahronovitch came from Israeli President Shimon Peres, who stated: "Exodus was also his creation, he was not only its captain but a leader that gave the voyage character and determination." Peres also described Ahronovitch as “one of a kind ... a combination of pioneering, courage and love of his people."

What happened to the Exodus? The Exodus lay as a derelict, moored off of the port of Haifa. It burned to the waterline in 1952, and was sold for scrap in 1963.


Jewish Virtual Library


Captain Ahronovitch, New York Times
Exodus 1947, Wikipedia
Refugees on board the Exodus, Jewish Virtual Museum
British escort wounded off of the Exodus at Haifa, Jewish Virtual Museum

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Fun Fact for Each State

Providing interesting tidbits of information is one way of engaging and challenging students. What better way than to look at our the states of the United States (and Washington, D.C.). By the way.... how many states can you accurately located on a blank map of the United States???
A Fun Fact for Each State

ALABAMA ... Was the first place to have 9-1-1; it started in 1968.

ALASKA ... One out of every 64 people has a pilot's license.

ARIZONA ... Is the only entire state in the continental U.S. that doesn't follow Daylight Savings Time.

ARKANSAS ... Has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.

CALIFORNIA ... Its economy is so large that if it were a country, it would rank seventh in the entire world.

COLORADO ... It became the only state to turn down the Olympics (In 1976).

CONNECTICUT ... The Frisbee was invented here at Yale University.

DELAWARE ... Has more scientists and engineers than any other state.

FLORIDA ... At 759 square miles, Jacksonville is the U.S.'s largest city.

GEORGIA ... It was here, in 1886, that pharmacist John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca-Cola.

HAWAII .. Hawaiians live, on average, five years longer than residents in any other state.

IDAHO ... TV was invented in Rigby, Idaho, in 1922.

ILLINOIS ... The Chicago River is dyed green every St.Patrick's Day

INDIANA .... Home to Santa Claus, Indiana, which get a half million letters to Santa every year.

IOWA ... "Winnebago" vehicles get their name from Winnebago County. Also, it is the only state that begins with two vowels.

KANSAS ... Liberal, Kansas, has an exact replica of the house in The Wizard of Oz.

KENTUCKY ... Has more than $6 billion in gold underneath Fort Knox.

LOUISIANA ... Has parishes instead of counties, because they were originally Spanish church units.

MAINE ... It's so big, it covers as many square miles as the other five New England states combined.

MARYLAND ... The Ouija board was created in Baltimore in 1892.

MASSACHUSETTS ... The Fig Newton is named after Newton, Massachusetts.

MICHIGAN ... Fremont, home to Gerber, is the baby food capital of the world.

MINNESOTA ... Bloomington's Mall of America is so big, if you spent 10 minutes in each store, you'd be there nearly four days.

MISSISSIPPI ... President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here ... that's how the teddy bear got its name.

MISSOURI ... Is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.

MONTANA ... A sapphire from Montana is in the Crown Jewels of England.

NEBRASKA ... More triplets are born here than in any other state.

NEW HAMPSHIRE ... Birthplace of Tupperware, invented in 1938 by Earl Tupper.

NEW JERSEY ... Has the most shopping malls in one area in the world.

NEW MEXICO ... Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950 forest fire here.

NEW YORK ... Is home to the nation's oldest cattle ranch, started in 1747 in Montauk.

NORTH CAROLINA ..... Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.

NORTH DAKOTA ... Rigby, North Dakota, is the exact geographic center of North America..

OHIO ... The hot dog was invented here in 1900.

OKLAHOMA ... The grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.

OREGON ..... Has the most ghost towns in the country.

PENNSYLVANIA ... The smiley :) was first used in 1980 by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

RHODE ISLAND ... The nation's oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern, opened here in 1673

SOUTH CAROLINA ... Sumter County is home to the world's largest gingko farm.

SOUTH DAKOTA ... Is the only state that's never had an earthquake.

TENNESSEE ... Nashville's Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world.

TEXAS ... Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco back in 1885.

UTAH ... The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.

VERMONT ... Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's.

VIRGINIA ... Home of the world's largest office building ... the Pentagon.

WASHINGTON ... Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.

WASHINGTON D.C. .... Was the first planned capital in the world.

WEST VIRGINIA ... Had the world's first brick-paved street, Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.

WISCONSIN ... The ice cream sundae was invented here in Two Rivers in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting plain ice cream from being sold on Sundays. (However Ithaca, NY, also claims to be the birthplace of the sundae.)

WYOMING ... Was the first state to allow women to vote--in 1869!
USA Map, Alabama Maps

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy 96th Birthday to the Crossword Puzzle

It was on this date (12/21) in 1913 that the first crossword puzzle was published - an 'invention' of fifty-one year old Arthur Wynne, and appearing in the New York World newspaper in a Sunday edition.

Wynne was an Englishman who had emigrated to the United States, and was employed by the World. His creation was the result of his editor asking for something new to add to the Fun section of the Sunday edition. Wynne modified a game he had played as a child called Magic Squares and created the crossword puzzle.

What we today call a crossword puzzle was originally called a word-cross, then cross-word, and finally crossword. It would become a fad in America during the "Roaring Twenties", and is still a popular newspaper feature throughout the world today. Simon and Schuster would publish the first crossword puzzle book in 1924.

The first crossword puzzle was diamond shaped, with none of today's blacked-out spaces. It was created entirely by hand - compared to the computer generated puzzles that dominate the market today. A fun exercise is to have students try to find the answers to the original crossword puzzle. While their great grandparents would have had to use their heads, or perhaps a dictionary, they can search the Internet to find the answers.

It's not as easy to solve as one might think - a great challenge for the kids.

Wynne eventually retired, and passed away in Clearwater, FL, in 1945.

For those of you NOT able to solve the puzzle above on your own, the answer is here.


Arthur Wynne, Findtarget
Crossword puzzle, A Brief History of Crossword Puzzles
Wynne obituary, Findtarget

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Thanks for the Memories' - Bob Hope

One of my sources mentioned that today (December 20) in 1920 Leslie Townes Hope received American citizenship. Hope was born in 1903 in England. His father moved the family to America in 1907 - though Hope often quipped that:

"I left England at the age of four when I found out I couldn't be king."
The family settled in Ohio, and Leslie became a naturalized citizen at the age of seventeen.
He was better known to Americans as Bob Hope. As I began to think about him - especially his efforts to entertain American troops during World War II (an on through Desert Storm) - I searched and found some resources that might be of use to our teachers in the classroom.

Army-Navy Screen Magazine presents a line up of stars from the Armed Forces Radio Service program "Command Performance" to entertain the troops. Filmed at Camp Roberts, California, this episode featured Hope as the host, along with a galaxy of stars who donated their time and efforts. Remember as you watch this that this was a show taped for radio broadcast - though with a live audience.

Bob Hope on Command Performance, WW II Part 1 and Part 2.

Discussion on the steak and the concept of meat rationing could be especially instructive, as well as the concept of humor to relieve crisis and stress.

A short (6 minute) but interesting compilation of Hope's USO career from World War II to Desert Storm is found here.

Finally, the Library of Congress provides information and resources on Hope's USO tours through their On the Road LOC exhibit site.

Photo Resources:

Bob Hope, Wikipedia
Bob Hope during a 1943 radio broadcast, Library of Congress

Friday, December 18, 2009

American Treasures Exhibit

Wow - the 100th blog entry! What better topic than one concerning our nation's history and heritage.

I was privileged to attend the Teaching American History Project Directors conference in Washington DC last week. The conference was enlightening, as was the opportunity (evenings and an afternoon) to visit various spots in our nation’s capital on our own.

Knowing the emphasis our teachers are placing on the use of primary resources, I visited the Library of Congress, Jefferson Building – which is the oldest of the three LOC sites in the capital. It was an absolutely splendid experience – one even more impressive as I realized that the LOC was working on digitizing many of its items for display on its internet website.

It was fascinating to see a selection of Jefferson’s books, which helped restart the Library after its destruction when the British burned many of the official buildings in Washington during the War of 1812 – and to be told that he actually collected (but had not read) many of those books.

I also was able to spend an inordinate amount of my time at the American Treasures exhibit titled “Creating the United States” - which chronicled the steps to American Independence and the writing of the Constitution over a decade later. The exhibit housed maps, letters, and documents – all primary resources that could be used to teach this concept in the classroom without resorting to the textbook. It would be an engaging and innovative method of instruction with our young people, showing them the very documents and thinking that led to the foundation of our nation. The Creating the United States link. That link also has a tab that leads to interactive activities for the students.

Many of the items in the exhibit are available online at the Library of Congress. A link from the aforementioned site takes you to the Top Treasures Gallery where digitized primary resources on the Declaration of Independence, Mason’s Declaration of Rights, Washington’s Commission as Commander-in-Chief, the Constitution, and more are available.

Of course, the first item I saw was a huge map of colonial America that would look really nice hanging in my office…..

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Most Corrupt/Incorrupt Countries List

Matt Rosenberg over at the Geography blog posted a site that annually rates political corruption in the countries of the world.

The host site is Transparency International, which is a global coalition reporting on corruption world-wide.

180 countries are rated through a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that is based on 13 independent surveys.

The least corrupt (ranked from #5 to the most least corrupt #1) nations:
5 - Switzerland
4 - Sweden
3 - Singapore
2 - Denmark
1 - New Zealand (least corrupt)

The MOST corrupt (ranked from 5th most down to the most) nations:

5 - Iraq
4 - Sudan
3 - Myanmar
2 - Afghanistan
1 - Somalia (most corrupt)

Where does the United States rank in all of this???? We are ranked 19th least corrupt - right between the United Kingdom and Barbados.

The site also contains the CPI from 2001 - 2008 which can be used for comparison purposes.

This resource could be useful for engaging students in conversations and analysis as to reason for corruption (or lack of it) as well as examples of corruption at home and abroad.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Identifying a Pearl Harbor Picture and Using a Wordle

December 7th - Pearl Harbor day. I have a photo that I got from the Internet of Pearl Harbor that gives a view from (I think) a Japanese plane on that fateful day.
Unfortunately, I was not then yet marking my photos with added information - such as where I got them and what the title was.

Your help is appreciated: Can any of the readers of this blog help to identify the time, the ships, and the (Internet) source of the picture? I think I see an aircraft flying by one of the ships.
Remember: Pictures like this are primary resources too, and can help to enhance student understanding of an event, as well as to develop critical analysis skills.

On a second note - the last blog entry was on Wordles - so I became curious on the emphasis of words used in President Franklin Roosevelt's famous "Day of Infamy" speech. The wordle is below.

There are some pretty potent key words in this speech by Roosevelt, and this type of an approach could be an excellent starter for classroom discussion on the topic of American involvement in World War II.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Using Wordles for Analysis in Social Studies

I like to read other blogs - for information, ideas, and/or pure enjoyment - and the Speaking of History blog had an entry recently that started some ideas in my mind. Eric Landhorst's blog article was titled Wordle of Obama's Speech on Afghanistan. Eric uses quite a bit of technology in his middle school classroom, and its having an impact of the education of his students.

I ran across the concept of wordle's last year, thought they were nice, but put no real thought to applying them in Social Studies. What is a wordle??? From the Wordle website:

"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."
We talk about the Gettysburg Address, and in days past (and perhaps today in some areas) had the kids memorize either all or portions of that momenteous speech. But while we read what Lincoln was saying, what was he saying? What were points of emphasis that he continually brought to bear? How can you visualize what is being said? What are the major ideas expressed in the words from the Gettysburg Address (picture to the right). A wordle can help with that. It's a great tool for analysis and could encourage a conversation.

How difficult is it to create a wordle? Humm. With the examples above, I searched (for instance) for Gettysburg Address Text, copied the first one that came up, and dropped it into the box on Wordle. Then I decided how I wanted it to look (there are choices after you have the wordle that can be found under the Layout button). Also - do I want this for my own purposes, or to share on the Wordle site? All told - from search to final product - about one minute, two at the tops
Other ideas? What about a comparison of presidential inaugural addresses in similiar times, such as FDR in 1941 (Wordle on the left) and President Obama in 2009 (Wordle on the right)? Are there similiarities? Differences? How does their perspective tie into the reality of the times, or was the speech simply rhetoric designed to placate the audience and the nation? What was the emphasis of these men in their speech? Words just leap out that can be used in a class discussion, Venn diagram, or in a comparison of one historical era to another. Wordles can help.... and it's a free, easy to use program.

By the way - what were the major word points made in Washington's Farewell Address?