Is this going to be on the test?

We are reading All Quiet on the Western Front now.

Yesterday we were talking about poison gas. There is a scene in the book where the main character, Paul, tears off his gas mask gasping for oxygen. We talked about how the filters in the masks were not always adequate, where in some cases, the masks allowed the wearer to just recycle their own air which eventually led to less and less oxygen. By the end of the war, the masks became relatively more sophisticated and there were fewer casualties from the gas, though it remained a powerful psychological weapon.

Early in the war, Kimberly -Clark in Wisconsin marketed Cellu-cotton to both the Allies and the Central powers before the U.S. was involved in the war. It was a cotton substitute, made from wood pulp, used both as a filter for poison gas in gas masks or simply strapped over the nose and mouth earlier in the war (see above). It was also used as a substitute for bandages, which were in short supply, as well. At the end of the war, the company found themselves with a lot of “kleenex” and no more demand. Their clever solution was to market their stockpiles as a make-up and cold creme remover and, well, the rest is history. I told my students I would ask them what was the connection between kleenex and World War I on their WWI test. No student has ever gotten that question wrong.

My grandmother, Fanny, a young girl in Romania (Targu Neamtz) in the early 20th century, had an arranged betrothal with a British officer, Manny Greenberg. Such an arrangement for a poor Romanian girl would have been considered quite lucky. Her real love, however, was for Jacob, with whom she grew up, who mutually was in love with her. However, such arrangements held sway in those days, and so Jacob, heavy in heart, left for America with his family. Manny was gassed early in the war, and he spent 6 weeks in agony, coughing up pieces of his lungs before he passed. He wrote Jacob in the midst of his suffering to tell him that he knew he was going to die and he knew how much Jacob loved Fanny. He asked Jacob to please take care of her.

Jacob sent Fanny a ticket, which took two years to get to her, and she indeed left Romania for the United States where she eventually married him. He served in the U.S. army during WWI.

SL asked me if this was going to be on the test too.

This entry was posted in school, Teaching, World War I and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is this going to be on the test?

  1. What a touching story.

  2. Michael says:

    What a love story! Did you test the students on that part? I’ll be they remembered it, test or no test.

  3. A great ending — you found the perfect note.

  4. Meryl Jaffe says:

    What a great post, you have such a touching story, tie it in so meaningfully to history – a story your students will all relate to and remember and then this wonderfully funny last line (which I realize as a teacher is actually quite sad). I love how you make this so personal and meaningful to your students. And, as a teacher I know there is always that one student who unfortunately is so caught up in ‘competing’ or in the ‘grade’ that he or she unfortunately loses all sight of the gems being given out along the way!

  5. What a great teacher you are! I love how you brought a related family story into your classroom. The home school coop that I teach also read All Quiet. It was the first time I had read it. It leaves quite an impression.

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