In this challenging time, many parents and guardians are looking online for meaningful activities for their children that don’t require too much prep or too many materials. Throughout this time, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will post learning activities geared to a range of ages that guide children how to explore heritage, history, and learning through artifacts.

Note to parents/guardians: This activity refers to the Holocaust but does not go into detail about it. Please use your judgment to decide if this activity is right for your student.

This activity builds on the skills of making observations and using the observations to draw inferences. Our educational approach is grounded in the idea that every object tells a story, and we encourage students to observe and infer to try to determine what story each object is telling.

Skis Used by Helene Ehrlich
Gift of Robert, Kornelia, Thomas and Kate Ehrlich

Above is today’s learning activity artifact. (Click to open the artifact image in a separate tab.)

Have your student first list objective observations (what they can see, without making any guesses or inferences). Encourage them to deepen their observations and include things they may not have noticed upon first viewing the artifact.

Next, ask students to make inferences: what do you think these are? Who might they have belonged to? What story are they telling?

During WWII Helene Ehrlich (b. 1899) used these skis to escape from Norway to Sweden in the winter of 1941.

Helene Ehrlich fled Germany with her children in 1933 to return to her birthplace of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Shortly before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1938, she sent her 15-year-old twins, Robert and Liese, to the United States. She escaped to Norway in January 1939. After it was invaded by the Nazis in 1940, Helene began working with the Norwegian resistance. She gained information for the resistance while working as a cleaning woman in a building housing German military personnel, who didn’t know that she understood German.

In 1941, Helene learned that her underground work had been discovered. With the aid of the Norwegian resistance, she escaped to neutral Sweden using these skis to cross the German-patrolled border. She and two others pretended they were on a ski vacation. She was caught and arrested crossing the border in Sweden but was rescued by the jail warden and his wife. Helene remained in Sweden until the end of the war.

In March 1946, eight years after Helene last saw her children, she was reunited with them in the United States. She brought the skis that had carried her to freedom with her.

Ask your student to write answers to one or more of these questions and then discuss their answers together:

  • If you were going to give these skis a title, like the title of a book or of a movie, what title would you give them? Explain why you chose that title.
  • Helene’s children were teenagers when they were separated from their mother. What were some things you imagine they had to get used to in the new country they went to?
  • Why do you think it was important for Helene to bring the skis with her to the United States? Explain your answer.

We encourage you to share a photo of your student’s work with us! Please email so that we may feature it on our Museum blog.