Woman in Gold equals average movie, powerful story (and other Holocaust resources)
You know what I’m talking about. It’s one or the other. You go to the theater expecting a great movie with a great story and you get the Phantom Menace. You love the special effects, visuals, and pacing but the story is . . . meh.
Or you get the opposite experience. An incredibly powerful story but the actual movie? So so.
Woman in Gold is like that. The movie itself? Not so much. But the story it highlights is powerful, interesting, and one that seems like a great fit for starting an exploration of the 1933-1945 Jewish Holocaust.
Quick synopsis – Young Austrian woman named Maria Altman grows up in art loving family during the 1920s and 30s. Marries in 1937. Forced to flee the country after the 1938 German Anschluss because she and family are Jewish. Property and valuable artwork stolen by Nazis and Austrian government. She makes her way to California.
Though I’m sure you’ve already figured out how this all ends . . . spoiler alert.
Fifty years later woman asks the Austrian government to return the artwork. Austrian government refuses. Woman sues Austrian government. After a decade, woman wins arbitration and gets artwork back. Artwork now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Good triumphs over evil.
The movie is a bit clunky but it does a great job – through flashbacks – of creating a compelling sense of emotion, period, and place. And for many of you teaching the Holocaust, this sort of story is a relatively painless entry point into a very painful period.
Woman in Gold has all the elements needed to hook kids into the narrative. Add in the primary sources, historical thinking, and connections to contemporary events for the full meal deal. To help you integrate the story into your instruction, check out the following resources:
Woman in Gold links
- Remarkable true story behind Helen Mirren’s new film The Woman in Gold
- Republic of Austria v. Altman court case
- Maria Altman / Short interview on USC Shoah Foundation
- Maria Altman / Full interview
- Facing History / Facing Ourselves
- Director Simon Curtis talks Woman in Gold‘s Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, and Tatiana Maslany
- The Recovery of Nazi-Looted Art: The Bloch-Bauer Klimt Paintings from Austria / Presentation by Maria’s lawyer
- Neue Galerie / Woman in Gold exhibtion
Stolen Nazi Art / General Holocaust
- The Art of the Heist / The Woman in Gold story on YouTube
- The Rape of Europa tells the story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction, and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and the Second World War, including interviews with Maria Altmann. (Based on The Monuments Men book.)
- Monuments Men resources, teaching ideas, lesson plans
- Multimedia tour of Anne Frank house and in-depth account of someone who did not escape
- Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation
- Midwest Center for Holocaust Education
- Coming of Age in the Holocaust / Coming of Age Now
- iWitness and Shoah Foundation
- Holocaust and Resistance
Unit designed for high school students by EDSITEment
- Educator Tools for Teaching the Holocaust
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust
Florida Center for Instructional Technology