Introduction

The Holocaust was the “systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II” (Britannica). It is necessary that the world remembers the Holocaust so that it can never happen again. By observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th each year, we recognize the strength of the Holocaust victims who faced horrific conditions and the evil that can arise in human society when prejudice festers and eventually turns into genocide. Teaching students about the Holocaust will give them the opportunity to better understand the experiences of Jews during this time and the importance of promoting tolerance, human rights, and equality.

Resources

There are an abundance of resources available online for teaching students about the Holocaust. Teaching about the Holocaust is important because it highlights how dangerous discrimination, specifically anti-semitism, and intolerance of other races can be. The resources below will help students learn about the events of the Holocaust and the gravity of genocide.

Lesson Plans

  1. Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior: Facing History and Ourselves has put together over twenty lesson plans and an assessment which will help students to learn about the Holocaust. Students will begin by looking at the relationship between individuals and society before learning about the events of the Holocaust and the various responses from individuals and nations to the persecution and mass murder of Jews. Ultimately, students will be given the opportunity to “draw connections between this history and the present day, weighing questions like how to achieve justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of atrocities, how painful histories should be remembered, and how this history educates us about our responsibilities in the world today.” This resource provides educators with an abundance of lessons on various topics related to the Holocaust, so take a look!
  2. Holocaust Remembrance Day Lesson Plans and Activities: PBS has made a list of valuable Holocaust Remembrance Day lesson plans for educators to utilize in the classroom. Online institutions, a timeline of events, a Holocaust questionnaire, documentaries, and lesson plans accompanied by brief explanations are included on this list. Each resource will give students more insight into various aspects of the Holocaust and anti-semitism. This resource is full of great materials!
  3. 9 Essential Lessons for Teaching the Holocaust: We Are Teachers offers nine essential lessons for teaching students about the Holocaust. This compilation of lesson plans includes a project investigating U.S. press coverage for a number of Holocaust-related events, a pre-World War II European Jewish life photo project, an interactive exhibit which allows students to analyze propaganda and its implications, and more. All of these resources are creative and will encourage students to actively participate in classroom activities on the Holocaust.
  4. The Holocaust – A Collection of Teaching Resources: Scholastic provides a collection of teaching resources on the Holocaust for students in grades 3-12. Resources are split into the following categories: Introducing the Holocaust, Conceptualizing the Tragedy, Anne Frank, True Accounts and Nonfiction Resources, Historical Fiction Resources, and Book Lists. In this collection, there are lessons which come in the form of computer lab activities, blog posts, and booktalks, so students will be able to exercise different skills while learning about the Holocaust, various works of literature, and the life of Anne Frank.

Articles

  1. Teaching the Holocaust: Teaching Tolerance provides educators with an article written from the point of view of an Ohio educator who ran into some opposition after she started teaching a course on the Holocaust. She first describes her journey to putting the course together, contemplates the ignorance and prejudice present in our society, and assesses the profound impact of teaching about the Holocaust. This piece gives educators a few things to think about before they start putting together lessons and activities about the Holocaust for their classrooms!
  2. When Teaching the Holocaust, Heed These Three Recommendations: This article offers educators three different recommendations when teaching the Holocaust. Ultimately, history, pedagogy, and the ability to make informed connections to the present matters. Additionally, at the end of this article there is a useful list of curriculum and classroom resources, materials for professional learning, and engaging stories from Newsela which will prove very useful to educators.
  3. The Holocaust: The National WWII Museum has published a brief article on the Holocaust. By reading this piece, students will learn about anti-semitism, Hitler’s rise to power, the Nuremburg Laws of 1935, Kristallnacht, life in ghettos, “the Final Solution of the Jewish question,” and the Allies’ liberation of concentration and extermination camps. For educators who are looking for their students to have an overview of the events of the Holocaust before jumping into an activity or class discussion, this article will be extremely helpful!

Informational Sites

  1. The Holocaust: History.com offers information on historical anti-semitism and Hitler’s rise to power, the Nazi Revolution in Germany, the beginning of World War II, the “Final Solution,” death camps, the end of Nazi rule, and the aftermath and lasting impact of the Holocaust. At the bottom of this page, there are two different photo galleries on remembering the Holocaust and concentration camps.
  2. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website has an abundance of materials for teaching students about the Holocaust. Specifically, educators can benefit from their Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust, which offers several useful tips for teaching about the Holocaust in the classroom, and their Teach the Holocaust page, as it has links to resources created to assist educators using distance learning platforms, key videos that explore the experience of Holocaust survivors and Holocaust history, poster sets covering topics like propaganda and the roles of individuals during the Holocaust, podcasts/audio, and more.
  3. World War II – The Holocaust: The Atlantic has compiled 45 photos related to the Holocaust. (There is a warning issued because certain images can be a bit graphic, as they are depicting a genocide.) Each image is accompanied by an explanation of what it depicts, and hopefully by taking a look at this photo gallery, students will gain a better understanding of the gruesome reality of Nazi Germany for Jews during the Holocaust.

Conclusion

Teaching students about the Holocaust isn’t an easy task because the issue is a sensitive one, but educators will be doing students a service. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” From learning about the Holocaust, students will understand how dangerous having a prejudice against a particular group of people can be and therefore why we should work together to prevent genocide and combat racism and discrimination across the globe.

Additional Resources

  1. Teaching the Holocaust – Lesson Plans: Education World has compiled a list of ten lesson plans for teaching about the Holocaust and corresponding explanations on the activities each offers. The editor notes that the majority of the lessons were designed for students in grades 5 and above but can be adapted for students in lower grades. In addition, educators should take a look at the resources before showing them to students because they could be graphic, as the Jewish experience during the Holocaust was gruesome.
  2. The Day of Remembrance – Using Film to Learn about the Holocaust: edutopia provides educators with an article on using film to learn about the Holocaust. The author, Eileen Mattingly, recommends the classic film Schindler’s List for older students and Defiant Requiem for younger students. The plot to both films are explained and assignments corresponding with each are suggested. For educators who are considering using film to teach their students about the Holocaust, this piece gives them helpful advice!
  3. The Holocaust: Khan Academy offers a ten-minute video on the Holocaust, which includes an overview of the events that led up to the Holocaust (Nazi Party, Mein Kampf, Nuremberg Laws, etc.). Additionally, the term “genocide” will be discussed.