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Year 8 English Novel Study - Once  

Last Updated: Jul 27, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Story of a Hero - Janusz Korczak

Watch the video and then use the websites in the box below to answer the questions you will find there.


Janusz Korczak

Find out about the man behind the story.


1. What was  Janus Korczak's real name?

2. When and where was he born?

3. What was the name of the Jewish oprhanage that he founded and when did it open?

4. Why did the orphanage move locations?

5. Why did Korczak refuse all offers to be smuggled out of the ghetto?

6. What connections can you see between Korczak's true story and the events in Once?


In Morris Gleitzman's own words

"The story of Once came from my imagination.

From 1939 until 1945 the world was at war, and the leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler, tried to destroy the Jewish people in Europe. His followers, the Nazis, and those who supported them, murdered six million Jews including one and a half million children. They also killed a lot of other people, many of whom offered shelter to the Jews. We call this time of killing the Holocaust.

My grandfather was a Jew from Krakow in Poland. He left there long before that time, but his extended family didn’t and most of them perished.

Ten years ago I read a book about Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jewish doctor and children’s author who devoted his life to caring for young people. Over many years he helped run an orphanage for two hundred Jewish children. In 1942, when the Nazis murdered these orphans, Janusz Korczak was offered his freedom but chose to die with the children rather than abandon them.

Janusz Korczak became my hero. His story sowed a seed in my imagination.

On the way to writing Once I read many real life stories – diaries, letters, notes and memories of people who were young at the time of the Holocaust. Most of these young people died, but their stories survived.."

As we read and think about the question, 'Can fiction reveal truths?', have a look at these online resources to help us gather some background material on these issues . Has Morris Gleitzman been accurate in his depiction of this period?



Morris Gleitzman dedicates the book in this way:

"For all the children whose stories have never been told."

1. Write a short response: what do you think this dedication means?


Research the historical period


Search the middle school level of Britannica Online for 'Literature of the Holocaust'.

Name 3 people who wrote about their experiences during the Holocaust.


Children of the Holocaust

Eplore this web site and its various links.

Do you think that Morris Gleitzman's Once accurately captures the true events of this period?


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