Chapter 2:

"Leaving Everything Behind"

When the German’s invaded Simone’s hometown in Belgium on May 10th, 1940, she said:

     "We woke up at 5:00 AM.  I remember the time. Everybody ran out into the streets. We were still in our nightclothes. There were hundreds of planes overhead! What's going on?


     ... And then my father turned around and said get back in the house and start packing.  We’re leaving. Right there and then! My dad said that each of us could only pack one bag per person. That's it? How do I choose what to leave behind?"

~ Simone, 13 years old in 1940

 The Big Picture:

In May 1940, German troops started invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France. Nazi Germany and its allies conquered much of Europe that summer.


German officials confiscated Jewish property, in many places required Jews to wear identifying armbands, and established ghettos and forced-labor camps. France signed an armistice in late June 1940, leaving Great Britain as the only country fighting Nazi Germany. 


Between 1942 and 1944 the Nazi's would deport nearly 25,000 Jews from Belgium to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Discussion Starters:

  • What were some of the forces which led to European Jewish refugees to leave everything behind - taking only what they could carry?​

  • What are the similarities with other groups of refugees having to leave all behind and with the hopes of seeking refuge in another country?​

  • Do you have any family that quickly left their home due to religious or racial persecution?

  • If you could only pack one suitcase, what do you bring? What practical and what sentimental items would you bring?

  • What were the Nazi tactics when they invaded Europe? Were the planes that were dropping the bombs as Simone, Annette and Irving were trekking through war-torn Europe being used to annihilate the townspeople or disseminate them? 

  • In the film, Simone says: "We knew that the Germans were bad, but we didn’t have any idea how bad.” At that point, the film flashes forward to footage taken in 1944 of people in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  What were the conditions for Jews in 1940? How and did things escalate to becoming the concentration camps that were at the end of the war?

  • What is a concentration camp? What’s the definition of an internment camp? A reservation?What are examples of the United States creating concentration camps