Holocaust Teacher Resource Center

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The Holocaust in Perspective Teacher Manual Forward to the Teachers

Foreword to the Teacher:

In recent years, more and more schools have adopted the study of the Holocaust, because of the many lessons it holds for the present and the future of mankind. The Holocaust however, is unlike any other pedagogical subject. Since its lessons are precepts that challenge our basic human values, we must be especially careful to the way this sensitive history is presented, in order to obtain from our students the maximum desired results of sensitizations, understanding and caring to work for a better world.

It is vital that parallels be drawn between the Nazi genocide of sixty years ago and current events, in order that students understand the implications of hatred and intolerance in their own lives. The Holocaust remains the quintessential event in history to teach students why tolerance is a characteristic that must be developed to ensure a healthy, safe society.

To learn these lessons, our students must learn to question. They must realize that evil, if introduced incrementally, can be accepted and become commonplace and they must learn to be aware and to take a stand before it is too late.

The Holocaust teaches us that higher education alone does not necessarily produce a higher code of conduct, and that technology’s successes can still go hand in hand with moral failures. Therefore me must redefine our very standards of education, and declare the study of the Holocaust not only a commitment to the past but a warning for future generations. In that context, Holocaust education is not just a lesson in history; it is a lesson in life.

The theme of the Holocaust is too complex and too horrific for the very young. Still, some of us may wish to prepare the children for future Holocaust studies in the early grades by introducing the subject through such other related topics as stereotyping, superstition, prejudice and anti-Semitism. “Learning to get along,” or “Learning to care” rather than “Holocaust education” would be a more appropriate title under which some Holocaust information may be introduced at the early level. At the very young age, it is best to help our children appreciate the richness and beauty of diversity (do we want only one type of bird, of pet, etc….) help build respect and appreciation for the human dignity of each individual, and prevent hurtful or harmful bias and discrimination against those that are seen as “different.”

The recommended first venture into the basics of Holocaust education is an introductory or abbreviated course for the Middle school and Junior High student. At this level, we can focus directly on the theme of the Holocaust, but without the confrontational approach. Here we build the framework upon which the later in-depth studies will rest. It is therefore of utmost importance that this phase be made interesting to the student, so as to arouse his/her inquisitiveness and desire to know more. This means a focus on what happened, how it happened and why it was allowed to happen, details to follow, so to speak. In this fashion the student, when offered Holocaust education on the High school level, is not given to feel that “I already know,” or “I already had this course.”

Here too, we must attempt to make the student think for him or herself, and enable him or her to draw the right conclusions. At the High School level, topics covered in this unit will be taken up once more with sufficient time to broaden the study, the foundation having already been established with this crucial introductory unit.

The present text is recommended for this intermediary level. The many pictures included serve as a springboard for discussion topics, since they represent eyewitness accounts of actual events from the Holocaust period. Because this is indeed an introductory step, it is important to make this study interesting, to bring it alive, as it were, and to arouse the students’ sensitivity and curiosity. While the Student Reader includes some exercises and discussion topics, the bulk of these remain in the teacher’s manual to be used at the instructor’s discretion. At this age level it is recommended to encourage discussion and ask questions frequently to insure comprehension. Whenever possible, the teacher may want to draw parallels to present-day situations, or events which happen in the US or abroad, or draw from the students’ own experiences in such matters as peer pressure, elitist cliques, prejudice and scapegoating. As hinted at in the foreword of the student reader, we would like to caution the teacher against too much testing, especially of the geographical variety. It is unimportant whether the student knows the exact location of a camp, or whether a particular camp was a concentration, forced labor or death camp. What is important to convey is that human beings were willing to do such terrible things to other human beings, simply because they were viewed as ‘different,’ and that too many were silent or indifferent for too long to the plight of others.

The text itself is written in simple language and is easy to read. For the teacher’s convenience, we have included a section of do’s and don’ts guidelines developed by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The appendix of the student’s section includes an abridged version of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Educational Resource Kit. The complete Kit may be obtained from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1399 South Roxbury Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90035-4709. It may also be obtained via the internet from the following websites: http://www.Wiesenthal.com, or http://tst.wiesenthal.com. Maps and time lines are for comprehension only. It is recommended they be used to put events into historical perspective, perhaps even to discuss at which point in time the Holocaust may have been prevented.
We suggest that the teacher go over the list of “definition of new terms and unfamiliar words” with the students either at the onset of the chapter, or preferably during the reading itself, whenever they appear in the text. In that manner, comprehension of the word and understanding of the text itself will be greatly enhanced.

We have further included in the Teacher Manual:

  • Suggestions for Discussion Questions for the different chapters.
  • Suggested activities by chapter, by topics, and general awareness questions.
  • A “writing portfolio,” giving ideas on essays, compositions and other writing assignments.
  • Suggestions for exam questions and group assignments.
  • Greater details (or stories) to aid the teacher when questions arise during discussion.
  • Additional pertinent information and/or documentation of value to the teachers.
  • An entire section (5 examples) on using art and poetry to explore the Holocaust