Let’s be clear from the get go.
It happened. We have hundreds of thousands, millions, of primary sources. We have photos. Government documents. Train timetables. Movies. We’ve got oral histories. Diaries. Letters. Court transcripts. There are prison confessions. Newspapers. Lists of stolen property. Sacks of hair. Piles of shoes. Boxes of wedding rings. And many of the actual camps, barbed wire, gas chambers, and crematoria still exist.
So let’s be clear.
The Holocaust happened. Over six million European Jews were murdered between 1933 and 1945. More than six million others deemed undesirable were also murdered by the government and party led by Adolf Hitler.
So, please, do not plan an historical thinking activity that asks your kids: Read more
January 27th marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. In 2005, the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War.
And while you may not be teaching a class that specifically focuses on the events of 1941-1945 and earlier persecution under the Nazi government, it does provide a chance to connect those events to similar genocides both past and present. And to other acts of discrimination and persecution happening around the world and in the United States.
By remembering the Holocaust, we can honor survivors and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.
There are many resources available. You might start with these: Read more
Studying contemporary genocide and the Jewish Holocaust should always be part of our social studies scope and sequence. But with the rise of anti-immigrant and far-right groups around the world, remembering the events and consequences of the 1930s and 1940s is becoming even more important.
And there are some no-brainer places to start as you gather and develop Holocaust teaching tools. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. Facing History and Ourselves.
But be sure to add the Echoes and Reflections site to your go-to list.
Echoes and Reflections is the result of a partnership among three other leaders in Holocaust education who bring specific knowledge, capacity, and practice to help you responsibly and effectively teach the Holocaust.
Echoes and Reflections combines: Read more
“When teacher Mary Beth Donovan prepared her students to read Anne Frank’s diary 10 years ago, she screened a selection of the famous newsreel clips shot during the liberation of Nazi camps in 1945. Astoundingly, after watching the films, some of Donovan’s students began referring to the genocide and Anne Frank as “fake” events that had not occurred.
Noting that most of her class listened to the conversation as ‘silent bystanders,’ Donovan knew she faced a challenge. The eighth grade teacher at the Tenney Grammar School in working class Methuen, north of Boston, recognized that students needed a connection between their own lives and Holocaust victims who appeared remote and irrelevant.”
This is not news to many of us. Mary Beth’s situation is not unique. I think we live in a world where many of our students either are not familiar with the Holocaust or have been exposed to revisionist and inaccurate versions.
That needs to change.
Part of what we can do is participate in the yearly Yom Hashoah observance. This day of remembering the Jewish Holocaust of the 1930s and 40s corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. Days of Remembrance ceremonies are linked to the dates of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The list of resources below can help you plan activities and guide conversations among your students: Read more
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. Read more
I ran across the Jewish Partisans group last fall while browsing through the vendor area at NCSS last November and walked away impressed with their resources and materials. It’s a group I hadn’t heard of but their stuff seemed to fit perfectly into a lesson I’ve been using to focus on historical thinking skills. So I spent some time at their booth and came away impressed. I’m waiting on some of their free goodies and, while I’m not a World War II / Holocaust expert, what I’ve seen so far is pretty impressive.
What is the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation?
Most people have never heard of the 20,000-30,000 Jews who fought back against the Nazis as Jewish partisans. These Jews were responsible for thwarting the Nazi war machine in countless ways. This information has the power to transform people’s perception of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust.
The mission of the JPEF is to develop and distribute effective educational materials about the Jewish partisans and their life lessons, bringing the celebration of heroic resistance against tyranny into educational and cultural organizations.
JPEF’s goal is to engage and educate teens about the Jewish partisans. Recognizing that this learning can take place in a variety of settings, they’ve put together a variety of resources and materials.
I think we fail to tell the entire story if we don’t include these sorts of accounts into our World War II and Holocaust lessons. Many of our students have a perception that all Jews (and other groups persecuted during World War II) passively submitted to German orders. The story of the Partisans can be an eye-opening tale that highlights one of the many ways that Jews resisted the efforts of Germans and their allies.
What are their resources? Read more