The Garden by Franta Bass

Franta_large.jpg (262×381)
Franta Bass

Franta Bass was a Jewish boy born in Czechoslovakia in 1930. When he was 11 years old, his family was deported by the Nazis to Terezin Ghetto/Camp, just north of Prague (also known as Theresienstadt). He stayed there, living under terrible conditions, for three years. On October 28th, 1944, he was murdered in Auschwitz, a Nazi-controlled concentration camp in Poland. He was 14 years old.

Of the vast majority of Czech Jews who were taken to Terezin (or Theresienstadt), 97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children. Only 132 of those children were known to have survived. (Source: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

This is a poem written by Franta, The Garden:

The Garden

A little garden,
Fragrant and full of roses,
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.

A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more. 

 

Possible activities using The Garden:

Give children the first four lines of the poem, but with no background about the poet or the context. Just tell them it is written by a child, about their age.

A little garden,
Fragrant and full of roses,
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.

Who might the poet be? Where is he? How is he feeling about his surroundings? Why is the path described as ‘narrow’? Is the boy in the garden now – or is he remembering a time when he was in the garden?

Then move on to the second verse:

A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more. 

How has the mood of the poem changed? Why is he compared with blossom? Why will the little boy “be no more”?

Then introduce the children to Franta Bass and tell them about when and where he lived. Talk about his death at the age of 14. Lead the children to a discussion of memory – why are we talking about this poem now? Why is it important to remember the Holocaust? Are the children today who are facing terror and hardship?

Useful resources

Butterfly-cover-large.jpg (216×333)This book features children’s drawings and poems from the Terezin Ghetto/Camp.

Read about the background of the Terezin Ghetto/ Concentration Camp.

Various photographs taken at the Terezin Camp today (suitable for young audience, discretion advised)

Here is another poem written by Franta Bass:

I am a Jew

I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever. 
Even if I should die from hunger, 
never will I submit.
I will always fight for my people, 
on my honor. 
I will never be ashamed of them, 
I give my word.
I am proud of my people, 
how dignified they are. 
Even though I am suppressed, 
I will always come back to life. 

 

 

 

 

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The British by Benjamin Zephaniah

Are children prejudiced? Do they carry around racial hatred with them? Well, in my experience, the answer is almost always ‘no’. Children do not see the colour of others, they just see them as other children – friends or otherwise. However, it is really important to reinforce tolerance and understanding at a young age. Never has this poem been more relevant than now. It would be all too easy for children to grow up reflecting the prejudices of their parents.

So this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah is excellent for classroom use, probably in Year 5 or 6. It looks at the British people as a recipe and goes back over our history to look at all the different influences which have gone into the mix we have today. Here is how the poem begins. (Silures by the way were a warlike tribe in Ancient Britain):

Take some Picts, Celts and Silures
And let them settle,
Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.

Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years
Add lots of Norman French to some
Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.

The full text of the poem can be found here. There is an excellent YouTube video of this poem which features young people sitting round a table, sharing a meal, and reciting this poem. Even Benjamin Zephaniah himself appears at the end!

Possible activities

Reflect on the make-up of your own class. How many children in the class have come from different countries? What can they tell us about these countries? Why is it important that we live together in “justice and equality”?

What does the poet mean by “justice”? Where might there not be justice in our society?
Why has the poet gone with a cooking theme? Why is it important to get all of the ingredients correct?

Look at all the detail in this poem. Write out all the different races mentioned and the dates when they came to this country. (You have about 2,000 years of history to research here!) This could lead to artwork or classroom posters or a timeline. The different ingredients could be handed out to pairs of children to research. This is what you have in the poem (you might wish to discuss if anyone is missing!):

Picts
Celts
Silures
Romans
Normans
Angles
Saxons
Jutes
Vikings
Chileans
Jamaicans
Dominicans
Trinidadians
Bajans
Ethiopians
Chinese
Vietnamese
Sudanese
Somalians
Sri Lankans
Nigerians
Pakistanis
Guyanese
Indians
Malaysians
Bosnians
Iraqis
Bangladeshis
Afghans
Spanish
Turkish
Kurdish
Japanese
Palestinians

Further reading

More mature children, possibly Key Stage Three, might like to reflect on What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us, also by Benjamin Zephaniah which argues that this dream of justice and equality in Britain is still some way off being realised.