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February 01, 2009

Working Through Bernard Offen's 1st Documentary _The Work_

Image Source: http://www.bernardoffen.org/files/images/tour.jpg

The Work. Dir. Bernard Offen. Perf. Bernard Offen. DVD. www.Bernardoffen.org, 1983. 37 minutes.

ENG 340 Students,

In our last meeting, we, unfortunately, did not get to discuss the screening in much detail since it completed just as the class meeting did. Because of the levity of the film's subject, I realize that some of you probably needed to "process" a little. Please remember that you can always stay after class to discuss if you would like or come by during my office hours to do so as well. I read in some of your comments that you were getting nightmares and, although I do want you to absorb this material, I don't want it to have an adverse affect on your health.

As an optional assignment, please consider discussing this short documentary of Bernard Offen that we screened in a previous class meeting (cited below) in this entry's comment box.

I would also . . .

. . . love to hear your comments about the Kieslowski film as well (see the entries).

The entry on the second part of Bernard's story (Film 2), can be accessed by clicking HERE.

If you are still interested in learning more about Bernard, you might also like to see this clip of him speaking at the Birkenau camp here:

See you in our next meeting,

Dr. Hobbs


To see other English-Blog entries on the subject of Holocaust Studies, please click HERE

To read additional English-Blog entries on the subject of Film, please click HERE.

Posted by lhobbs at February 1, 2009 12:34 PM

Readers' Comments:


During class today, I got the impression from a few people that they thought the deadline for formal reading response #2 (sign-up sheet passed around in class today) would be this Wednesday. Folks, it isn't. Please look at the itinerary: The FINAL draft of reading response #2 is due the class meeting before spring break begins, March 9th. The FIRST draft (for your chance to peer-review) will be due the class meeting before that: March 7th.

Again students, please read the stuff you have from me to save yourselves a lot of grief. Please mark deadlines on your calendars to save yourselves from a lot of confusion. The deadlines for each and every first and final draft of the 4 formal response papers are listed on the class itinerary. If you've lost your itinerary, there is a copy of it on the P:drive. Print it and keep it in your course folder with your syllabus if you have to.

And, yes, we DO have homework assignments in most every class meeting for this course that are being scored in your participation tally on turnitin.com. The 4 formal reading responses for this course are calculated differently (please see the syllabus addendum I told you about earlier on the p:drive if you still don't get it).

I decided to give you an *early start* this time around by letting you sign the sheet in class today. I hadn't scheduled to give you the sign up sheet until Mach 2nd (see itinerary). So, now you have even longer to ponder your topic and begin composing your early drafts.

For anyone absent today, please be sure that you register for a Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak topic for reading response #2 on the sign-up sheet by next class. There are only a few choices left.

For anyone who was absent Monday and still wants to do the this homework assignment due Wed., they can still catch the film shown in class at the library reserve desk. The film is on reserve and can be screened in the library (it's about 30 minutes long).

For those of you who did one or all of the three extra credit options, thanks for e-mailing me ahead of time and bringing me your programs as vouchers. I will start registering your participation with the extra credit offer by adjusting your turnitin.com scores. IF you receive an email from me that has ONLY a date on it, this means you formerly had a "0" for that assignment (fail) and it was changed to a "1" (pass). Some students will get more than one email or an email with more than one date listed.


Define and identify the type of structure used in Bernard Offen's film/documentary *The Work* from 1983 (37 minutes) shown in class today. How is the structure different from the plot? Write a few paragraphs explaining your answer on the English-blog comment box below.

Remember, in addition to the Coursepack, you also have the Roberts textbook readings on plot and structure to consult for this exercise if you need more advice (pages 93-108). By the way, you'll want to familiarize yourself with some of the terminology used in the part of the chapter about "structure" since we will be using those terms in future class meetings.

Shayne and Donnetta, as today's SAs, you are excused from this assignment.

For more information about Bernard's work, please visit the following links:

Wall, Alexandra J. "Survivor Dedicated to Educating Poles about Camps." The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. Friday, 19 April 2002. 1 March 2006. http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/18086/edition_id/361/format/html/displaystory.html.

Offen, Bernard. "Surviving the Holocaust." Online recorded interview. 3 May 2005. 1 March 2006 http://www.radio4all.net/pub/archive/09.01.05/curious@pacific.net/1197-1-20050429-OFFEN_BERNARD_3-30-05.mp3.

To learn more about Bernard's story and trilogy of films about his experiences, please feel free to visit his own website at: http://www.bernardoffen.org

See you in class,

Dr. Hobbs


Professor Hobbs,

In Bernard Offen's film/documentary The Work, I was able to identify the structure and how it differed from the plot. In the course packed it states that structure is the order of events that are presented in a text. It also states that “the plot of a dramatic or narrative work is the chronological order of its actions--the verbal or physical actions as performed by a particular character or set.” From watching the film I believe the formal and actual structure of foreshadowing represents the film.

Flashback is explained in a literary work of past events. It reflects the authors attitude toward the meaning of a literary text. In the film The Work, the author Bernard explains his feelings and emotions when he was a younger child. For example he shows a building, but then he has a flashback about how that building had such an impact on his life. The building symbolized all the long hours of hard work of repairing shoes. In return he barely made enough money to eat and survive. At this point in the story he mentioned a moment in time where he had a flashback of all the horrible things he went though. It states in the Robert Text, that the flashback may lead a person into a moment of climax but then go from there to develop the details that are more properly part of the exposition. From the example of the building it resembled one of the small details that led to the end of the film.

From this structure the action begins and remains in the present, which is stated in Roberts Text. For example in the film the author beings talking about his childhood all the way up to adulthood. Then he begins talking about the memories of his childhood and in this part of the film is when “important parts of the past flood the authors memory in flashback, however not in the order in which they happened(Roberts Text).” After he mentions his childhood he begins talking about how he and his family were treated. Then he would mention an incident that was important to him and then he would go back and talk about his family again. Bernard would go back and forth because everything he went through his family went through as well and they all related to one another. So as an author it was easy for him to talk about one event then have a flashback in greater detail.

The plot and structure differ through the film. From the film Bernard used foreshadowing as a mean of structure. He discussed reoccurring themes and confessions that he went through with general ideas to come up with his film. However, Bernard set up his plot with conflicts that he experienced as a child. Overall, the plot and structure differed throughout the film.

April H.

Posted by: April H. at February 26, 2007 10:10 PM

Lyndsay Krall
English Humanities121
Instructor Lee Hobbs

The plot of a dramatic narraritive work is the chronological order of its actions. The structure of a work on the other hand, is the order of events as presented in the text. The type of structure used in Bernard Offen’s film/documentary The Work was mainly him speaking of childhood memories and occasional flashbacks of certain points in his life that stood out in his mind. Offen started off by speaking of all the different places that he had lived in the past and then showed pictures of himself in all these different places. He then describes the memory of having to search through trash cans and garbage just to find scraps of food so that he could eat. He also talks about how he was made to wear the yellow Star of David on his clothing, in which he said that he was consistently tortured not only physically, but emotionally and could not understand why. He then goes into detail of how family members were split up from one another and how the Jews would be deported to what every one knew them as “death camps”. He then tells that he was split up from his mother and sister, in which you later find out that they were both murdered. He talked of all the horrific memories that he could remember, like when people would be shot by guards if they were caught trying to escape. He then says that he could hear the guards laughing afterwards, as if they were hunting animals. It is also stated that sometimes he couldn’t figure out if people were truly trying to escape, or just purposely committing suicide. Offen flashbacks to a time when he was 12 years old, and it was something that he seemed to distinctly remember. He said that he was standing on a hill in which he could see thousands of dead bodies piled with wood so that they could be burned. He said that after he saw this, he just wanted to be alone. Towards the end of the film, Offen has another flashback and talks of the memory he had when he was split from his father. He claims that they were at opposite ends from one another, and they just looked into each other’s eyes the entire time they were being pulled in opposite directions because they both knew that this would probably be the last time that they would ever see one another.

Posted by: Lyndsay Krall at February 27, 2007 02:08 PM

Lauren Wozniak
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121
February 28, 2007

Plot and Structure

Structure defines the layouts of works, and is about matters such as placement, balance, themes, and conversations. Unlike plot, which is concerned mostly with conflict or conflicts, structure defines the way a story, play, or poem is shaped.
The structure in Bernard Offen's film/documentary is more like a chronological timeline. He begins the story when he was a young boy and continues telling the story as he becomes older. Bernard also introduces himself and his family members at the beginning of his film to the viewer. This is exposition, which is the laying out of story materials. An example of exposition would be introducing the main characters, their backgrounds, and characteristics. Bernard made this apparent as soon as the film began. Bernard also used his senses as a way to remember past events. He would remember how something smelled or felt and by doing so, it brought back the memories of how he felt at that exact moment when he was placed in the ghetto.

Posted by: Lauren Wozniak at February 27, 2007 03:08 PM

Structure versus Plot in Bernard Offen’s, The Work

Structure is the way the writer arranges the information in concurrence with the general ideas and the purpose of their story. Structure defines the layers of the work, spanning things out like Bernard did with his life on film. Plot has a lot to deal with conflict, and although in Bernard’s movie there was conflict, structure defines the ways on his story and puts it in a perspective were you can understand and in a story or play shape. His movie has a formal type of structure where his story is told from beginning to end. Bernard tells us about his life from when he was eight years old and World War II just started. He talks a lot about how he moved several times and how hard it was being so young with not much guidance. He had witnessed many deaths camps and deaths, for him and one other brother were the only two that survived the Holocaust out of his whole extended family. He was drafted at a young age and served in Korea. Eventually he got married and had kids of his own but; memories of the Holocaust never left him. He said in the film that there was this church in the center of everything and it was a symbol of fear to him. Still now, when he was older and doing his tours it still made him uneasy looking at it, because when he was young every time a Jew walked past the church, slurs were aimed toward them, sometimes even objects thrown at them. It was a horrible thing for Bernard to experience such bad things at such a young age. All of these things he told us about his life make the structure of the film. He arranges what he wants us to know about himself in a formal way.

Lorin Gdula

Posted by: Lorin Gdula at February 27, 2007 04:22 PM

Dr. Lee Hobbs

Structure vs. Plot Bernard Offen’s The Work

In class on Monday we watched a short film on Bernard Offen. We were asked to look at the structure and plot of the short film. First I am going to state what structure and plot are. Structure is basically the order of events as they are presented in the actual text, and plot is the chronological order of its actions, and or the verbal or physical actions performed by a particular character (Course Pack pg 69). The plot is basically trying to figure out what’s going on. You can ask yourself questions like who are the main characters and how do they relate to the conflict, and questions in that matter, whereas structure is the order, or how the information is laid out and published (Roberts pg 95-99).

In this short film the structure was laid out great, it was very organized and the information was presented in an orderly fashion. The events or facts were stated from the first event until the last in the order that they occurred. As for the plot, the plot is what goes on in the story or film, the conflict. The conflict in this film is the Holocaust and what happen to the JEWS. Bernard is the main character in the film and the minor characters are the other JEWS and the invaders. The plot is mainly the effects and hardships that the JEWS had to face during the Holocaust. The main difference between plot and structure is, plot being the conflict and the events in the story or film, and the structure being how the events are presented in actual text or film.

Works Cited

Roberts V. Edgar. Writing about Literature Brief 11th edition. 2006. Saddle River, New Jersey.
Hobbs. Lee, Ed. English 121.003 Humanities Literature. Indiana University of Pennsylvania Spring 2007. Course Pack.

Until next class
B. Decker

Posted by: Brooke Decker at February 27, 2007 04:48 PM

In Bernards "The Work" the structure was somewhat chronological. He starts the story off by talking about growing up, when he was born, and his parents. He also goes to show some of the different looks that he had during different phases in his life. He goes on to talk about how things use to be in his neighborhood, like sleding, cutting school, going to the grocery store as well as going to church. Life as it was before the Nazi's took over. Next, Bernard begins to discuss how the neighborhood was fenced, and became a strict ghetto run by Nazi's. He discusses the hunger issues, the nnew developing diseases, and how he and others had to wear yellow stars that represented that they were Jews. He also mentions how people "were being shot like animals". Then, Bernard rewinds a little, and talks about how he feels when he visits that particular area where people were burned. Lastly, Bernard talks about departing to Aushwitz, and how his father was murders, and many others by gas chambers that could hold about 300 people.

Posted by: Tatiana S. Mack at February 27, 2007 05:57 PM

The structure used in Bernard Offen's movie is fairly simple. He first talks about his youth and where he grew up, then he talks about where he lived in the ghetto, and about his life there.
The plot on the other hand is excellent, well I thought so, in Bernard Offen's "The Work" because it doesn't just have him standing there like a statue talking about his experiences. He takes you to different places of the ghetto where he spent time like the shoe factory. These stories, plus the hundreds of photographs taken during the Holocaust of Bernard's ghetto and of other concentration camps, really makes the plot what it is. This is what keeps your attention.
Steve Petrone

Posted by: Steve Petrone at February 27, 2007 06:30 PM

In Bernard's section of the film entitled "The Work", the structure is presented much differently from the plot.

He begins by talking about how old he was when WWII began. He spoke breifly about his life during the Holocaust and how he moved to the US and joined the army. He went on to say that he got married and had kids but he just couldn't forget about his life during the Holocaust.
He then goes back to relive his experiences.

He goes to a church in his hometown and talks about how he was ashamed to lift his head because people would yell things at him and chase him. Some even threw things at him.

When he goes back to his old apartment complex the structure changes again. He talks about the games they played there when he was a child. He tells how they played hide and seek and then jumps forward by reminding us how that game became a part of survival years down the road.

He goes on to tell many of the horrifying stories that he remembers from this time. He then jumps back to current times, 40 years later, when he walks past some cable cars and wonders if they were the same one that carried away his mom and sister.

Bernard gives many more good examples of the differences between plot and structure in his film.

Posted by: Erin Rock at February 27, 2007 08:03 PM

Jenny Troutman
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature

Dear Professor Hobbs,

In class on Monday, we watched a documentary of Benard Offen who was a Holocaust survivor and currently still alive today. The plot of the story goes on as Benard states he was 8 years old when the Holocaust began. His two brothers were also survivors. After the Holocaust, Benard spend 1 year in Italy, 4 1/2 years in England and then finally came to the United States where he was enlisted in the Army and served in the Korean. When came home, he got married and he has two sons. Then in the year of 1981, Benard met many other Holocaust survivors and they just chatted of where they came from and what happened with their lives.

The structure of the video is where Benard goes through his childhood life and how the Holocaust began. Benard continues as he went to work on shoes with his father, his brothers were sent to force camps, and his mother and sister disappeared. At the age of 12, Benard and his father continued working in a shoe factory. Benard goes on and on about his life and how it was awful and the memories are miserable. He heard gun shots, seen death, seen bodies being burnt, and seeing people in gas chambers when people thought they were taking a "shower." Then as his life goes on, he finally sees his father die. It was heartfelt and it killed him inside.

As Bernard lives on, his memory goes on and he shares his story to people of what his generation goes through. We made not see a Holocaust this generation or century but the people will never forget of what they went through.

Posted by: Jenny Troutman at February 27, 2007 09:16 PM

27 February 2007
Professor Hobbs-

Bernard Offen’s documentary “The Work” was told in a first person point of view. As a grown adult he reminisced back on his experiences during the Holocaust as a young child. The structure of his film was set up as a set of flashbacks or selective recollection. This type of structure can be described as one which present circumstances are explained by the selective introduction of past events. Bernard’s story follows this structure as he explains the grief and pain he feels now from the observations and terrors he went through as a child. Each section of his journey through the war is explained in sequential order as they happened many years ago. This structure gives a chronological order to the listener as they follow Bernard’s descriptions. This flashback structure is different from the plot of Bernard’s story.
The structure just tells what happens, but the plot tells the cause and effect of each event that occurred to Bernard. In his case, he had a conflict of external forces as well as internal. It is clear from his explanation of emotion that arose that each part of his story contributed to what he had to tell next. For example, he explains the fear and struggles his family goes through as a result of the harshness of the German soldiers. He also explains later on that he fled from one camp to another to escape dangers. The faith he kept in God and his determination to survive and taking the actions to do so were a result of his fear from seeing people killed. All of the events that occur in the structure of Bernard’s story set up for the plot that goes along with it.

Bettina Herold
ENGL121.003 Hum Lit. MWF 1145-1245

Posted by: Bettina Herold at February 27, 2007 09:56 PM

Professor Hobbs,
“The Work” falls into the category of structure known as the complication. Because the holocaust was such a huge problem, most of the video was spent describing the development of the holocaust and its effects on the ghetto. There were definitely protagonists, the Jewish people, and antagonists, the German soldiers, in the video.
Structure is very different from plot, because structure refers to the way the author organizes the story. The author has the option to structure the story however he or she wants to. The structure of “The Work” would be more centered on the holocaust. Because Bernard’s main point to telling his story was to educate people on the holocaust, he built the structure around that important event.
Plot on the other hand is what tells the meaning of the story. Plot is responsible for conveying the underlying meaning of the entire work in chronological order. For instance, in “The Work” the plot would be described as Bernard’s life. He showed everything that happened in his life leading up to the holocaust and where he is currently. The underlying meaning of the storyline focused on Bernard’s life alone.
Thank you,
Jaime Hersh

Posted by: Jaime Hersh at February 27, 2007 10:14 PM

Professor Hobbs,

In Bernard Offen's film/documentary “The Work” there was a certain type of structure used throughout the film. I believe that Bernard uses the flashback or selective recollection structure in which present circumstances are explained by selective introduction of past events (101).
Throughout the documentary he flashed back to the times he spent in Krakow during the war, which leads us into a moment of climax. The details of his life in Poland as a young boy during the war makes our blood boil and our bones get chills. “It then goes from there to develop details that are more properly part of the exposition (100).
“The exposition provides the materials necessary to put the plot into motion” (99).
He gives us the main characters, himself and his family, the background of where he lived and how he grew up, and how he survived. The plot is how all this information is organized. Plot and structure work together to make films and documentaries possible.

Tina W

Posted by: Tina W at February 27, 2007 11:14 PM

Structure vs. Plot in Bernard Offen’s Film “The Work”

In his film “The Work” by Bernard Offen he uses structure to display his life in the Jewish ghettoes. He begins with the use of an exposition, where he quickly briefs us on his life from beginning to end. He tells us of his family, birthplace, and so on until the present. Then, he goes into telling the audience about his life in the Jewish ghettoes, right before the Nazis invaded. Here he meets a complication in his structure, which is where he meets the conflict of Jewish discrimination within the ghetto where he lives.
This conflict continues until the crisis of the structure hits and he is separated from his parents. He continues to live in the Jewish ghettoes and camps without his parents or anyone that he really knows. We didn’t get to see enough if the film in class to see the climax of the structure where the conflict is at its highest point. The resolution of the structure to Offen’s film is almost obvious to me, as the point where he is liberated from the ghetto and reunited with his remaining family members. His structure is very well put together and resembles the informal flashback type. It is informal in the fact that it doesn’t follow the ideal pattern of beginning to end. It is a flashback type because he is flashing back into his childhood to tell us this story of his life.
The plot of the film lies within the structure of the film, where the complication begins. That is where the conflict begins and ends within the structure of the film. This is apparent because most of the time plot occurs in chronological order and in structure this occurs from the complication to the resolution.

Katie Kovac
English 121.003

Posted by: Katie Kovac at February 27, 2007 11:20 PM

Dear Lee Hobbs,

There is a difference between plot and structure. The filling of a story’s ideals is the plot, which includes the central conflicts that arise. However the structure is considered the framework, which includes how the story is told. In Bernard Offen’s film/documentary “The Work” is told from a first person’s point of view. This enables the story’s structure and meaning to appear stronger.
In the film, Bernard starts at the end of his life and flashes back to the beginning. This is his style or structure for telling his experience in the holocaust. He exploits old photographs to emphasize how things have changed since he was a little boy. He correlates from past to present a lot in his documentary. For example, he recalls the place where he witnessed a lot of Jews being killed with all the dead bodies laying their in front of his eyes. When he returned to this particular site when he was older; he stated that he needed to be alone, because he was recalling all the old memories.
The structure of the story is told from the end of the authors experience back to the beginning. This is noticeable because we can draw evidence. For example, information received at the beginning of the story informed us he was eight years old and survived the world war two. As the story goes on, his life now, he informs us that he returns to a reunion in Poland of all the survivors.

Posted by: Sheryll Daugherty at February 28, 2007 12:19 AM

Rebecca Shenkle
Structure v.s. Plot
The structure used in Bernard Offen’s film is the way he presents the events that occurred in his life during the Holocaust. The plot of the film is the chronological events that happened in his life. The structure is different from the plot of the film because he starts off by talking a little bit about his present life and how it was hard for him to think back and remember what he had been through. Once he is finished talking about his present life, and starts talking about his experiences during the Holocaust, the plot of the story comes through.
I think it is important that Bernard distinguished a difference between the plot of his story and the structure. It is important for us to know a little about his present life and that it was not easy for him to talk about his past. If he had not done this, it would have left us wondering how his life has changed since the Holocaust.

Posted by: Rebecca Shenkle at February 28, 2007 08:25 AM

Dr. Hobbs,

Here is my analysis of plot and structure in Offen’s The Work.

In order to make his documentary more potent, Bernard Offen uses actual structure to make his point. Actual structure, unlike formal structure, allows the creator the liberty of putting events into the chronological (or not so chronological) order of their choice. The principle of actual structure allows events to be out of order (aka, flashbacks) while formal structure calls for events to be placed in chronological order for the viewer or reader. Offen takes full advantage of this concept. He utilitizes actual structure to perform flashbacks to his past youth though he tells it from the perspective of his older self. Because he is telling the listener of events from his past, one cannot be exactly sure if he is telling them in chronological order. Thus, the principle of actual structure comes in handy again. He is not limited to put things in their ‘correct’ order.
The plot, unlike the structure, is what builds the documentary. Plot is based around conflict. Though structure might help organize a work, it is the plot that forms the basis of the work. If looked at from the view of a sandwich, the structure is the bun that holds the meat (the plot) together. Plot, as stated before, revolves around conflicts and cause and effect. Using Offen’s work as an example, if Offen said “there was a cart” this reveals no plot. However, when furthered the statement can become “there was a cart that took unsuspecting victims out into the fields”. Now a plot begins to form, the cause is set and an effect is waiting to occur. In this instance, the cause: people being taken out to the field, causes the effect: those people don’t come back again. Structure may help give guidelines for how a story should be formed, but plot gives the story substance.

Erin Knisley
Dr. Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 MWF

Posted by: Erin K. at February 28, 2007 08:48 AM

Professor Hobbs,

I found more than one type of structure in THE WORKS, I feel that maybe it touched upon Exposition, complication, and crisis. I feel that it represented exposition because the story kept giving us more details to explain the severity and the possible next moves. THE WORKS touched upon complication because there definitely is evidence of good and evil, freedom and oppression. I also feel that most stories told from the Holocaust are from a crisis structure. This particular story reminds me of the crisis structure because he and his family are constantly dodging death which also puts as near the climax structure.

thanks, Nicole

Posted by: Nicole Novak at February 28, 2007 09:03 AM

Professor Hobbs,

In the documentary/film, “The Work”, author and narrator Bernard Offen describes his life while living in the ghetto and how he was affected by the holocaust for the rest of his life. The structure of this documentary does not occur in a timeline of events. Bernard Offen starts out by describing his life after the holocaust, what he had accomplished and briefly how he lived his life as if his past was merely a nightmare. He often questioned himself on whether it really even happened, leading into why he decided to take a trip back to his hometown in Poland, the “killing grounds”. Offen then jumps back in time, as if to relive a memory, and describes his life before the holocaust.
During this time Offen introduces foreshadowing when he explains how his old game of hide and seek around the house ended up coming in handy for him and his friends during the war. He next describes his family’s whereabouts as the war continued on. Throughout the rest of the video, from what we saw, Offen develops the complications that he deals with while trying to survive through the holocaust. This and many other instances that Offen had come across throughout his life in the ghetto are described and shown to be individual crises that he had to go through.
The plot of the story talks about the conflicts that Bernard Offen and his family had to face throughout the holocaust. For example, Offen describes how his brothers were sent to work camps and his mother and sister were arrested and sent to death camps while he lived with his father in the ghetto. A rather terrifying part of the plot is revealed when Offen was just a little boy, a little over 10 years. During his working hours he would always see a truck full of Jews ride over a hill where they can’t be seen. Young Bernard was curious as to where they were going, so he followed them only to find that the German troops would shoot them all, fire after fire. This is merely one conflict of events that had occurred throughout Offen’s documentary.

Stephanie Vrabel

Posted by: Stephanie Vrabel at February 28, 2007 09:05 AM

Professor Hobbs,

Bernard Offen’s “The Work” is a documentary about Bernard’s experience in the Holocaust. During the film, the audience sees pictures of the ghetto in which Bernard was placed in and other events that occurred in this time period. Bernard does not simply discuss his experience in the Holocaust from beginning to end, however. I think the most interesting aspect of his documentary, is that he discusses how he feels today about his time spent in the Krakow ghetto. He discusses how he went back to visit and the different emotions he felt from the past and present. Bernard tells the audience in the beginning of his documentary, that this story begins in the United States, not in Poland. Bernard has examples of exposition in his story when he explains seeing his hometown years later and remembered playing with his friends and the apartments they lived in. This gave the audience a little background about Bernard. An example of complication in the story, the onset of the major conflict, is when he states that he remembers the day that Krakow became a ghetto and foreshadows about his experiences to come.

The structure in this documentary is different from the plot. A plot deals with conflict that the characters in a story are trying to overcome. The plot begins in Poland, where Bernard experienced the Holocaust. The plot in this documentary is the different events Bernard went through when he was living in the ghetto. The different jobs he had to do, smuggling food in order not to starve, and hiding from the Germans in order to save his life are all circumstances that Bernard overcame and lived through. Out of the 50 people in his immediate family, only Bernard and his two brothers survived the Holocaust.

Jen N.
English 101.003 MWF 11:45-12:45

Posted by: Jen Naugle at February 28, 2007 09:08 AM

Professor Hobbs,
Here is how I blieve that the elemenst of structure and plot are presented in the film we watched in class.

The way that the element of structure is presented in Bernard Offen’s film “Work”, is in the style of flashback and selective recollection. He is presenting his story of how he survived the horrible times of the Holocaust through his flashbacks. Structure is the order of events that he endured during that time; and the way that a author or film make in this case presents their general ideas and purpose of their work. He presents to the viewer the actual historical timeline of events through out his story. This is allowing the viewer to see his structure.
The way that he presents plot is presented by his actions. He goes on a tour back to the places that he had to fight for his life during the Holocaust. The way that his documentary shows pictures of the times allows him to tell his story. Plot is the chronological order of actions of a story told by the actions and words of a particular character. The way this strong man talks about his hard times and struggles show the plot through out his story. Plot is more the actions and words that a character has.
The way that he talks about the gas chambers in his film is showing the element of structure. But the way that he talks about being separated from his father at this point in a concentration camp shows the element of plot. He is still discussing the order of events but it is the manner in which he presents them to the viewer. The photographs allow the viewer to discover the element of structure through out his film. He presents plot with the same photographs by relating himself to the photographs.
Carlos Gonzalez
ENGL: 121.003

Posted by: carlos gonzalez at February 28, 2007 09:28 AM

Professor Hobbs,

The plot of Bernard’s documentary starts out with Bernard being the major character and he was the main character because he lived threw the Holocaust to tell about it. The Holocaust was when over 60,000 Jews were killed because of their beliefs. This was a major conflict that happened in the world. Hitler though that all of the Jews should either be killed, or just not live where everyone else lives, so this is when concentration camps and ghettos started. In this documentary and also Dawid’s book, they deal with starvation and trying not to get killed as major issues in their life. Bernard is able to overcome this while Dawid is not.

Structure on the other hand is defined as, ways in which writers arrange materials in accord with the general ideas and purposes of their works (Roberts, 98). I feel that this documentary starts with the resolution because we know Bernard is still alive, and then is goes back to the complication of the story by telling us about the Holocaust and everything that was happening with it.

Thank you,
Amber Dunmire

Posted by: Amber Dunmire at February 28, 2007 09:31 AM

English 121
Professor Hobbs,

The structure of this film is set up to show you how the holocaust had affected him and how he viewed it as an older man. Then it goes back to show us how he got this way and everything that built up to that point, it’s very similar to Saving Private Ryan. The structure is different from the plot because it’s basically the plot flipped around. The plot is about his life during the holocaust and how it affected his life afterwards, while the structure has it showing the after affects followed by his life during it.

Jeff Hoover

Posted by: Jeff Hoover at February 28, 2007 09:32 AM

Professor Hobbs,

In Bernard Offen’s film “The Work”, he gives an account of his birth and upbringing in Krakow, the events leading up to and through the Nazi occupation and Holocaust, where he lived after the war, and the fact that he served in what looked to be the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He then goes back to detail his life during 1939: playing as a child with neighborhood friends and the persecution he faced as a Jew in Poland. In 1939 Nazi Germany attacked and occupied Polish territory interning the Jews, including Bernard, in concentration/work camps and then the death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Bernard then describes the travel and research he has done since the war in order to excise his own demons and memories as well as educate young Poles so that the oral history doesn’t die.

The structure seems to be chronologically disjointed: it begins with Bernard relating his birth until 1953 when he lived in America and served in the Korean War and then continues up until the 1980s showing his family and activism. It then jumps back to 1939 when he travels to Poland and gives a tour of his neighborhood and what it was like growing up prior to and during the Nazi invasion. After the events of 1939-1945 it moves to the 1980s again where Bernard is researching the events, his family members’ fates, and trying to put to rest his memories.

Bernard creates a framework for the structure by laying out the basic plot, and then uses “flashbacks” in the form of stories told during a walking tour to elaborate on the events. In the opening of the film, the brief history Bernard gives would be the exposition; he displays the basic parts of the story: his role as the main character and his background. (Roberts 99) The Nazi invasion might be considered the complication, because it’s the point at which the major conflicts, World War II and the events leading up to the Holocaust, begin. (Roberts 99) When Bernard and his Father are taken to the work camp and later to Auschwitz and Dachau this might be considered the crisis, or the moment or moments when the major conflict becomes as intense and extreme as it will get: Bernard and his father being forced into separate lines, the last time he sees his father. As for climax, the best option I could find was the fact that Bernard returned to the scene of the crime to research, relive, and hopefully excise his bad memories, which might be described by the Roberts text as an “… illumination or a realization.” (Roberts 99)

Roberts, Edgar V. Writing About Literature. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. Pages: 93-108

The Work. Dir. Bernard Offen. Perf. Bernard Offen. DVD. www.Bernardoffen.org, 1983. 37 minutes.

Best Regards,

Justin Bleggi

Posted by: Justin Bleggi at February 28, 2007 09:32 AM

Gillenberger 1

Erika L.Gillenberger
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 101.025 College Writing
28 Feb 2007
Plot and Structure
When it comes to Bernard Offen's film/documentary called, “The Work” from 1983 shown in class. You have both a plot and a structure in this film/documentary. The plot consists of the whole story being told. He tells about the ghetto camps in the chronological order that he actually remembers things happening to him.

When it comes to the structure in this story it is a little different. The structure is pretty much the whole story he is telling about the ghetto. This is because he is talking to use now, but referring to the past. He is recalling or flashing back to his past to tell use what happened in the time he spent in the ghetto.
Works Cited
Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature: Brief Eleventh Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006.

Posted by: Erika G. at February 28, 2007 09:44 AM

Erika L. Knox
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 101.003 Humanities Literature
28 February 2007
Plot Vs. Structure

Dear Professor Hobbs,

There are many aspects that go into the creation of a story. Two of the most important features are plot and structure. The plot of a story tells what happens; it outlines the events of the story. The structure of a story is the way that the story is revealed; structure includes the style and chronological order among other things.

Bernard Offen’s documentary “The Work” tells his story in slightly non-chronological order. He begins with himself at present day (present day 1983), and then he goes back to his childhood, and begins to tell the story of his life in the holocaust. His story is mainly structured in short sentences with correlating pictures. The plot is his story of hardships and loss.

--Erika Knox

Posted by: Erika Knox at February 28, 2007 09:54 AM

The structure used in Bernard's "The Work" is an oratory one. He is the narrator and the action. He's recalling an event that happened and taking the viewer back to those places through photographs in a chronological order it seemed.

Structure is different from plot because it's how something is written. The plot is what happens and why. Structure can make the plot obvious or it can make it very difficult. What I mean by this is a story written in a simple structure (chronological order, no backstories or confusing substories) makes its plot obvious. However, sometimes the writer uses a craft and brings in backstories and substories and might even change the passage of time in the middle of the story.

Posted by: Kendra Sledzinski at February 28, 2007 10:13 AM

The structure of this video is somewhat like the example you gave us in class. The nararater, Mr. Offen, goes back and forth from present to past. Just like in say Saving Private Ryan. This differs from the plot because the plot would tell you his story in a chronological order, not the way Bernard tells it with side stories that help to inform the reader of what was happening at that time and place.
Bernard uses this style of structure very efficiently. The structure of the plot could be defined as an exposition. this is true because bernard is laying out the framework, and information necessary to put into operation his plot. This is evident because his main concern with the work he has done was to show people not to be afraid.

Posted by: thomas nolf at February 28, 2007 10:42 AM

Andy Hood
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
26 February 2007
Structure vs. Plot
The structure of Bernard Offen’s Film/Documentary was created in order to help the reader or listener out. I see it as being a formal structure. Placement of things was intended to serve a purpose. It is very similar to the book we are reading right now, The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak.
First, you are introduced to the narrator. You are given a semi-historical background in order to familiarize yourself with the one who is telling the story. A reader kind of does the same thing when reading a simple story or novel. First, you should read a little bit about the author so you can understand why certain things “are the way they are” in the story. After the background information, the story is told from the first person point of view. Bernard Offen seems to tell the story as he recalls it himself. It is hard for him to recall specific things because he suppressed these memories for so long, but now, Offen feels the need to recall these memories in order for him and the reader/listener to grow up emotionally. The core of the documentary is Offen going back to Europe to re-visit his painful memories. He uses the places he goes as props in order to recall stories or information of the past.
The plot of this documentary is the content. What is the narrator talking about? This was pretty easy to pick out the plot because it was a documentary. It is obvious what Offen is trying to convey to the listener. He is talking about the hard times he experienced at the concentration camp as a boy. You can also see how he has grown as a man because of some of the tough experiences he had in his lifetime.
The plot is part of the structure. The structure is there to make the plot easier to understand. Often times these two can be confused, but in fact, they cannot be the same thing.

Posted by: Andy Hood at February 28, 2007 10:56 AM

Colin Hough

Instructor Lee Hobbs

ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature

28 February 2007

Plot and Structure in The Work

As proclaimed by the course packet, the plot is defined, as “the chronological order of actions within a dramatic or narrative work,” while on the contrary the structure of a work is “the order of the events as presented in the text.” In other words, the plot of a narrative or dramatic piece of literature, in relation to the human body, is the skeleton, while the structure is what makes up the rest of the body. An example distinguishing the differences between the two is the motion picture, Big Fish. When the movie commences, the characters are older and having problems with their relationships. The movie then jumps back in time, explaining the incredible journeys experienced by the originally old man in his childhood.
In Bernard Offen’s documentary, The Work, he uses the variant of structure called the flashback, also known as selective recollection. This technique is basically the using of selective information from past experiences to set the tone and prepare the reader, or in this case the audience, for the main events and outcome of the story. Offen begins his documentary by explaining what happens to his friends and family during the holocaust, along with various other facts about the after affects of his incredible journey. Once these facts are established, and the dark, depressing mood is set, Offen proceeds from the beginning of the horrible oppression and mass death his people face during the holocaust.

Posted by: Colin Hough at February 28, 2007 11:09 AM

Dear Professor Hobbs,
The plot of " The Work was Bernard explaining his life during the take over of the Nazi. The plot and structure are different because the plot is the purpose of the story and telling events that took place.The structure is the way the story is laid out for readers.In Benard's case his structure was very unique because he first did a quick overview of his life then he went back and explained the events he mentioned in great details.
Melisa Parsons

Posted by: Melisa Parsons at February 28, 2007 11:17 AM

Greg Crossland
Eng 121
Lee Hobbs


Bernard Offen’s documentary, The Work, is based on his experiences that he had as a young child growing up in the Krakow Ghetto in Poland. The structure of the documentary is based on a flashback. This type of structure “presents circumstances, which are explained by the selective introduction of past events” as defined by Edgar V. Roberts in Writing About Literature (101). The structure differs from the plot because it changes pace from the beginning to the end. This type of structure does not follow a chronological plot, but lays out certain facts and then describes what happens in the past.

Posted by: Greg Crossland at February 28, 2007 11:40 AM


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Posted by: Lee Hobbs at February 28, 2007 07:13 PM

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