Educator's Guide for A Match Made in Hell
Thematic discussion questions:
1. The author describes the relationship between Goldner and Kopec as “symbiotic.” What does he mean by this? What personality traits were passed on from one to the other?
A: By “symbiotic” (a term used in botany), the author means each mutually benefited from the other. Some Goldner traits: caring, sheltered, law-abiding, gentle, understanding. Some Kopec traits: rough, daring, violent ,fearless, crafty, criminal orientation, out for himself.
2. What do you think Kopec’s motives were in saving Goldner? Do you think Kopec’s feelings changed toward the boy during their 18 months together?
A: Motives unknown, all answers acceptable. Kopec clearly warmed up to Goldner as time went on, began to care for him beyond just how useful the boy proved to be. There are many examples of this in the book, including: Kopec calling him Moniek, finally, instead of just “kid;” Kopec’s statement “Our time together has made you tough as nails and me, I must be getting soft;” Moniek’s belief that, when he returned from his mission under the train, “Something deeper in [Kopec] stirred…something human and caring.”
3. When Kopec first trained Goldner to help him rob houses, he gave the boy his machine gun and told him, “If they (the family) move, kill them.” Do you think Goldner would have done that?
A: All answers acceptable, but in all likelihood, Goldner would not have shot an innocent family. He was ill at ease even participating in the home invasion. (Prior to meeting Kopec, young Goldner only stole from farmers’ fields and from K’s general store).
4. Goldner’s first mission involved blowing up a transport to get the Germans’ weapons. From that moment on, he had many other opportunities to commit acts of sabotage. Was killing justified in these cases? Do you think there were times he had to kill the enemy that were not justified?
A: This can lead to a good discussion of when killing is justified, such as in wartime, perhaps, when the rule is often “kill or be killed.” The one time when the killing was questionable, even to young Goldner, was when he had to kill the Russian guard in his escape to Berlin’s American Zone (see question 8 below)..
5. After Goldner comes upon a group of prisoners in the forest who are about to be massacred by two German soldiers, he insists on killing the two soldiers. But he questions his actions after he realizes that the Germans will kill hundreds of innocent Poles in retribution for the two dead men. Do you think he did the right thing?
A: All answers are acceptable. The moral quandary is discussed in the book on page 143.
6. When it finally dawns on Goldner that Kopec is a mercenary, making money by sending him on dangerous missions, it doesn’t bother Goldner at all. Why is that?
A: Because Goldner can’t spend the money anyway, and more importantly, he is using Kopec in return. Kopec has hide-outs and other means to evade the Nazis, having evaded the authorities all his life. Goldner, in other words, is gaining a measure of protection by being under Kopec’s wing.
7. When Goldner hides under the train going to Auschwitz, and when he gets on board another train with explosives in his shoeshine kit, and when he is sent to destroy the bridges, he maintains he is not afraid. Do you think that is possible, and why?
A: Because Goldner is convinced he will die anyway, and figures he would rather die by doing something against the enemy rather than by doing nothing. Also, he seeks revenge for the deaths of his family.
8. Goldner says he feels fear for the first time when he is trying to get past the Russian guard and escape into Berlin’s American Zone, right after the war. Why is he suddenly afraid?
A: Because the war is over, and against all odds, he has survived. Now he has the opportunity to live, to keep the memory of his family alive in himself, so for the first time in years, he fears death.
9. Working in Chicago, Goldner encounters the anti-Semite Jimmy and tells his boss, “If I had my gun, I would have killed him.” Do you think he would have? What do you think you would have done in the same situation?
A: All answers are acceptable.
10. One of the clear themes is the issue of guilt, and in this regard, Goldner is not unlike other Holocaust survivors. What are the things that make Goldner feel guilty? Do you think this guilt is justified?
A: He feels guilty that he has survived while the rest of his family did not. He feels guilty over killing the young Russian guard, because the Russian was not his enemy and the war was over. He even feels guilty, in later life, that he cannot accept God as he once did before the Nazis came. Of course, he has no reason to feel guilty for the fact that he survived, but he is human after all.
11. Goldner never depicts himself as courageous, or brave. He says, simply, that he was “lucky” and that he “did what he had to do to stay alive.” Do you think he was courageous? Do you think anything he did, or anything in his character, was partially responsible for his survival?
A: All answers are acceptable.
12. Goldner was silent about his experiences for 50 years. Why do you think he refused to talk about them for so long? What do you think made him finally open up and tell his story to the world?
A: Like many survivors, he did not think anyone would believe him. Only when the movie “Shindler’s List” became so popular did he feel “safe” to discuss his experiences. Also, for a long time he worked hard to forget his nightmares. But as he grew into old age, he realized how important it is to let the world know what happened. There are undoubtedly many other reasons for his long silence, and for his ultimate decision to tell the world.
Literary/Language Arts discussion questions:
1. In his early drafts, the author wrote this story in the third person. The book you read is written in first person. Why do you think the author changed this point of view? What advantage does first person offer this story?
Third person made the narrative feel distant, while first person makes it more personal, gives it more impact and emotion. By changing the point of view, the narrator becomes the person who lived the story, not some objective outsider.
2. The story begins when Kopec finds Goldner at the train station. But incidents in Goldner’s childhood and background are revealed in flashback scenes as the story progresses. Why do you suppose some of these childhood incidents are included? What function do they serve?
They serve to “flesh out” the protagonist’s character. We need to know the background he comes from, the quiet and sheltered family life he experienced before the war, to better understand the transformation that takes place during his time with Kopec. Also, the non-linear format (interrupting the forward story with flashbacks) makes the book more interesting to read and more compelling from the very first page. .
3. Although the incidents in this story all come from Mr. Goldner’s own recollections, the author wrote it in a style called “narrative non-fiction,” which tells a true story using the devices of a novel. What are some of these devises? Do they make the story more. or less. believable? More, or less, interesting? What are some other examples of narrative non-fiction?
Devices include: telling the story using a scene structure; adding sensory and historical details; liberally using dialogue; relying on a non-linear format that starts in the “middle” and reveals backstory through flashback scenes. The author believes they make the story far more absorbing and interesting to read, without destroying any believability. This style first came on the scene with Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” Recent best-sellers using this style include “The Perfect Storm” and “The Devil in the White City.”
4. The author rewrote and revised the manuscript dozens of times. What sorts of things do you think might have changed and improved as a result of these rewrites?
Changed point-of-view from third to first person; added more background incidents from Goldner’s childhood; changed the opening to start with the scene where Kopec rescues Goldner; re-worked Kopec’s dialog to make him sound less educated; added historical references; eliminated redundancies and overly preachy passages; replaced tired or obvious phrasing with more interesting choices; added similes and metaphors, where appropriate; looked for ways to propel the reader more smoothly through the story. These changes all helped to make the book more memorable and interesting.
5. Where does the title come from? Do you think it is a good title?
A twist on the expression “a match made in heaven,” the word “match” refers, of course, to the pairing of Goldner and Kopec, while “hell” becomes an appropriate euphemism for war-torn Poland under the Nazis.
6. The story begins with the sentence, “I can remember crawling out from beneath my father’s lifeless body.” Do you think it is a good first sentence? Why is the first sentence the most important sentence in a book or story?
It is a sentence designed to grab, perhaps even shock, the reader and make him/her want to keep reading. These days, many people decide whether or not to buy a book by picking it up at a bookstore and reading the first few sentences. An author has to hook the reader right up front to ensure maximum book sales and readership.
7. The author has written a screenplay of this book. What makes you think it might or might not make a good movie?
The book is written with cinematic pacing and visualization, so it lends itself well to a screen treatment. “Match” has two important elements that will be important if it is to succeed on the screen: dramatic action, and interesting protagonists (Goldner and Kopec) who come off as unique characters the viewer will care about.
8. What purposes do the Introduction and Epilogue serve in this book?
Because this is narrative non-fiction, the Introduction is important to ensure believability and set the ground rules the author followed in setting down another man’s story. In similar fashion, the Epilogue allows the author to explain the things he learned in his research that tie up some of Goldner’s testimony. Unlike the body of the book, which is written from Goldner’s point-of-view, the Introduction and Epilogue are written from the point-of-view of the author. .
1. Suppose you were captured by invaders—from another country, even Martians or Klingons, say—and you were able to escape and hide from them for many months. What might you do to survive on your own? Write an essay telling about it.
2. Write a letter to Morris (Moniek) Goldner telling him how you felt reading his story. Try to be as expressive as you can in describing your feelings.
3. While Mr. Goldner did not want to come to America at first (he wanted to go to Palestine, which is now Israel), he is glad he did. He often says he “could kiss the ground he walks on” because in America “everyone is free to make something of himself/herself.” Write a paragraph about what living in America means to you.
4. Find a simile to finish the sentence, “Living under enemy occupation, in a place torn by war, must be like ________.” When you complete the sentence, follow it with a paragraph that explains what you mean.
5. It was not only Jews who were persecuted during the Holocaust. List other groups of people who were also targeted.