Teaching the Holocaust and Genocide

26 04 2011


Genocide is a hard topic to talk about. It requires teachers to fully devote themselves to create an atmosphere that impacts their students not only academically, but also emotionally to genocide. The Genocide Convention in 1948 first defines the term as act ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (Article II). The convention came about as a result of the cleansing of Europe of ‘undesirables’, most prominently those of Judaism, by the Nazi Party during World War II, known as the Holocaust. But, even before and after the convention, many genocides are left in the corner in the classroom. The much-debated Armenian genocide is an example, as is the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan.

So, this is a call for blogs and other resources devoted to the teaching of genocide in a secondary classroom, not only in a factual way, but in a deep, relevant, emotional way that will last. As with the Genocide Convention, my hope would be that education of genocide would ensure that such an atrocious act would be eradicated from the earth in the future, with reverence to those lost in the past.

The Blogs and Resources:

The Holocaust

This first set of blogs/resource sites is devoted to my original idea for my call: Teaching the Holocaust. What you will find in these blogs/resources is that a good majority of them come from a jewish influence or a governmental influence. Most state standards (Virginia, as an example (WHII.12b)) require the teaching of the Holocaust, and as such, it is the most widely found genocide on the internet.

Teaching Holocaust lessons to YouTube Generation:


This is a newsarticle/blog entry dealing with the use of Visual Media (i.e. YouTube and Graphic Novels) in teaching today’s students about the Holocaust. One site that is mentioned is www.theyspokeout.com, a site devoted to survivor stories of the Holocaust in a new form (comics) by Disney and ABC News.

Teaching about the Holocaust – Using Comics:


Similar to the last blog, this deals with the numerous graphic novels and comics devoted to the Holocaust that exist, such as Maus, Impact, and Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp. A nice idea of how the Holocaust affected culture.

Making Holocaust Studies Relevant:


From a Jewish blog of a teacher in London, a teacher explains how a recent seminar has helped her understand how to make the Holocaust relevant in an age appropriate manner. She mentions Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Rememberance Authority (http://www.yadvashem.org/), a group who has many lesson plans and suggestions for teaching the Holocaust.

Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center Blog:


This blog is doing what I am doing here on my blog. Any person within the Washington State education system can submit something to be posted on the blog, dealing with the Holocaust or Genocide in General. A great site that I have added to my RSS feed to keep up with. Lots of different materials, from videos to lesson plans.

Children of the Holocaust:


A blog/unit plan from a teach about how to teach the Holocaust over multiple disciplines, specifically over Language Arts and History classes. Numerous resources can be found in it, from interactive sites to videos and lesson plans. I find this to be very attractive for teaching in a middle school setting, though I could see it working at a high school setting as well, though it seems a little ‘childish’ for high school. Key idea: Do not romanticize the Holocaust. Agreed.

Teaching the Holocaust Through Family History


Aimed, as many you have seen, towards a Jewish populations, tracking the Holocaust in a very personal way by researching personal family history related to it. A great hook to draw students in to conversation and learning. I, though, worry that it could be too much for a middle schooler, though at the high school level it could work very well.

Teaching the Holocaust using 21st century skills:


A teacher of 16 years has blogged about how she teaches using web 2.0 among other technologies to teach the Holocaust. Includes a link to her great Diigo list of resources. A great place to start for ideas that have been proven to work.

Other resources that I found about the Holocaust:

Coming of Age Now:


A site that allows students (individually or as a class) to track the lives of survivors of the Holocaust during those years. The site is very teacher friendly, and has many resources.

Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust:


This site contains the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust. Not only are the guidelines great, but the site also includes many other resources that can be used and adjusted for your own classrooms.

Teaching Genocide in general, as well as other genocides:

 The following blogs/resource sites all deal with the overall concept of genocide, and how to teach it as a concept, as well as its prevention. It also includes blogs/resources dealing with the recognized genocides around the world (Cambodian, Armenian(?), Bosnian, Rwandan)

Genocide: Naming the Nameless Evil


This is a student-created site for a History Day project in Washington (found on the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center Blog). While no lesson plans or specific resources exist within, it could be used for a webquest for students in defining the ‘nameless evil’. Includes an interactive map and timeline.

Facing History and Ourselves


A resource based sites devoted to all genocides. Includes a section on just genocide, as well as the various genocides. Includes references for videos, educational resources, professional development information (seminars, workshops, etc.). Based for teachers more than students.

The Genocide Education Project:


This site is for a non-profit that is devoted to assisting teachers in their teaching of Genocide. They specifically focus on the Armenian genocide. It includes many primary sources, as well as lesson plans, videos, etc.

PBS Teachers: Studying Genocide


This is a resource guide from PBS (creator of many of the resources themselves) about teaching thematically, on the theme of Genocide. Mostly deals with the Holocaust, but also has some sources for the Bosnian, Rwandan, and Cambodian genocides.

Teaching children about Genocide:


An article from 2004, marking the ten-year anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. Gives some resources for teaching the Rwandan genocide, but deals a lot with the idea of teaching children about genocide, and what role such an education should play on the shaping of young minds.

Genocide: Teaching the Social World


A very simple blog. Gives a short lesson idea, including a source for classroom discussion. The questions given are upper level on Bloom’s Taxonomy and could be used as a spring board into a fishbowl or another in depth discussion.

Center for Human Rights: Rwandan Genocide


This is another teacher oriented site, this one focusing on the Rwandan Genocide. It includes lesson plans, primary source, etc. Another example of governmental/academic people taking hold of most of the information about genocide out there.


 I don’t really think a conclusion is required, but I felt that it would be useful to sum up the information that I have found in my research over the past month or so.

The biggest thing that I found is that people have opposing views on the teaching of the Holocaust. Many blogs (which I did not include, as they did not go with my call) dealt with the opposition in Palestine and elsewhere for teaching the Holocaust. The Jewish community, rightfully, is the most outspoken about teaching the Holocaust in great detail, but one common theme premiates:

Do not romanticize it. Do not downplay it. Do no make it feel inevitable.

Students need to feel the weight of those who suffered, and I believe that many of the sources that I found agree with the statements I made above. I hope to use this knowledge in my future teaching, not only of the recognized genocides in history, but also the tough issues, such as racism in the United States, as I enter my classroom.




One response

6 05 2011
david hicks

nice post..don’t forget to link to http://sideshow.dhpp.org/

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