Essentials of Holocaust Education: Fundamental Issues and Approaches 1138792055, 9781138792050

Essentials of Holocaust Education: Fundamental Issues and Approaches is a comprehensive guide for pre- and in-service ed

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Essentials of Holocaust Education: Fundamental Issues and Approaches
 1138792055, 9781138792050

Table of contents :
Foreword: Teaching and Studying About the Holocaust This Time ?
1 Foundational Concerns: Developing Historically Accurate and Pedagogically Sound Holocaust Lessons and Units
2 Key Themes in Holocaust History
3 Myths and Misconceptions About the Holocaust
4 Teaching and Studying the Holocaust: Curricular Issues, Teaching Strategies, and Learning Activities
5 The Use of the Internet in Teaching and Studying About the Holocaust
6 Encountering the Holocaust Through Primary Documents
7 A Reflection on the Use of Iconic Holocaust Resources
8 Incorporating Literature Into a Study of the Holocaust
9 Incorporating Film Into a Study of the Holocaust
10 A Radical Innovation: Examining the Holocaust Through the Prism of Story
11 What About “Other” Genocides? An Educator’s Dilemma or an Educator’s Opportunity?
Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946: From Power to Punishment
About the Contributors

Citation preview


Essentials of Holocaust Education: Fundamental Issues and Approaches is a comprehensive guide for pre- and in-service educators preparing to teach about this watershed event in human history. An original collection of essays by Holocaust scholars, teacher educators, and classroom teachers, it covers a full range of issues relating to Holocaust education, with the goal of helping teachers to help students gain a deep and thorough understanding of why and how the Holocaust was perpetrated. Both conceptual and pragmatic, it delineates key rationales for teaching the Holocaust, provides useful historical background information for teachers, and offers a wide array of practical approaches for teaching about the Holocaust. Various chapters address teaching with film and literature, incorporating the use of primary accounts into a study of the Holocaust, using technology to teach the Holocaust, and gearing the content and instructional approaches and strategies to age-appropriate audiences. A ground-breaking and highly original book, Essentials of Holocaust Education will help teachers engage students in a study of the Holocaust that is compelling, thought-provoking, and reflective. Samuel Totten is a genocide scholar based at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Stephen Feinberg has held numerous positions at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. During his 14-year tenure, he developed and implemented the Museum Teacher Fellowship Program, and served consecutively as Director of National Outreach and Special Assistant for Education Programs.

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ESSENTIALS OF HOLOCAUST EDUCATION Fundamental Issues and Approaches

Edited by Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

First published 2016 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2016 Taylor & Francis The right of Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Totten, Samuel, editor. | Feinberg, Stephen, editor. Title: Essentials of Holocaust education : fundamental issues and approaches / [edited by] Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg. Description: First edition. | New York, NY : Routledge, [2016] | “2016 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2015038744| ISBN 9781138792050 (hardback) | ISBN 9781315762364 (ebook) | ISBN 9781138792067 (pbk.) Subjects: LCSH: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)—Study and teaching. Classification: LCC D804.33 .E835 2016 | DDC 940.53/18071—dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 978-1-138-79205-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-79206-7 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-76236-4 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Stephen Feinberg dedicates this book to his wife, Patricia Moser, to his immediate family, Joshua Feinberg, Alison Kemlitz, Sara Feinberg, and Scott Miller, and to his grandchildren, Zachary and Zoe Feinberg. Samuel Totten dedicates this book to his wife, Kathleen Marie Barta, and his brother, Michael Price Totten, for their love and incredible support over the years in regard to his obsessive focus and dedication to the field of genocide studies and his far flung field research in Africa. He also dedicates this book to the following friends and colleagues, all of whom have provided outstanding support in regard to his work in the field of genocide studies and/or his efforts to educate younger generations about the critical need to stanch crimes against humanity early on, before they morph into genocide: Israel W. Charny, Jerry Fowler, William S. Parsons, George Shirinian, Greg Sarkisian, Roger Smith, Herb Hirsch, Martin Mennecke, Henry Theirault, Anastase Shyaka, Alexander Tarjan, and Rafiki Ubaldo.

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Acknowledgments Foreword: Teaching and Studying About the Holocaust This Time? by John K. Roth Introduction by Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg 1

Foundational Concerns: Developing Historically Accurate and Pedagogically Sound Holocaust Lessons and Units Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

ix xi xv



Key Themes in Holocaust History Doris L. Bergen



Myths and Misconceptions About the Holocaust William F. Meinecke Jr.



Teaching and Studying the Holocaust: Curricular Issues, Teaching Strategies, and Learning Activities Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg


The Use of the Internet in Teaching and Studying About the Holocaust David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln




Encountering the Holocaust Through Primary Documents Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons



A Reflection on the Use of Iconic Holocaust Resources Elaine Culbertson



Incorporating Literature Into a Study of the Holocaust Kimberly Klett and Colleen Tambuscio




9 Incorporating Film Into a Study of the Holocaust Lawrence Baron


10 A Radical Innovation: Examining the Holocaust Through the Prism of Story Karen Shawn


11 What About “Other” Genocides? An Educator’s Dilemma or an Educator’s Opportunity? Samuel Totten


Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946: From Power to Punishment by Stephen Feinberg


About the Contributors Index

219 225


Stephen Feinberg I want to personally thank the teachers associated with the Museum Teacher Fellowship Program at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and those associated with the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program sponsored by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, who provided support and information to help make this book a useful and beneficial tool for teaching about the Holocaust. The encouragement and support of William Parsons over the past quarter century has meant more to me than I can express in words. His tremendous contributions to the field cannot be ignored by anyone teaching about the Holocaust. Finally, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Samuel Totten. Sam is not only a friend of long standing, he is also one of the most genuine, caring, and socially conscious people I know. Sam actually lives his beliefs. Working with Sam can be contentious, but it is never boring, and his constant striving for excellence never fails to amaze and inspire me.

Samuel Totten I wish to thank Steve Feinberg for suggesting this project and enthusiastically serving as the cheerleader of it. I greatly appreciate Steve’s longtime dedication to Holocaust education, his prodigious knowledge about the Holocaust, his willingness to put up with my insistence that every chapter of this new book had to be sterling or it wouldn’t find a place in the book, and the hard, hard work and thought he put into this project, from its conception to its publication. It has been a true honor and pleasure to work with him on this project, and I am proud to call him one of my dearest friends. Along with Steve Feinberg, I wish to sincerely offer a heartfelt thank you to Bill Parsons, a longtime buddy, who both inspired and supported my efforts over the years in the field of Holocaust education. It was an honor over the years to have had the opportunity and a pleasure to coedit special issues of Social Education on the subject of genocide, and to coedit four editions of Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts (Routledge) with Bill. It was also an honor and a pleasure to have worked with him in various capacities while he was, first, the chief educational



consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council (the predecessor to the USHMM), then Director of Education at the USHMM, and finally Chief of Staff at the USHMM. I also wish to sincerely thank all of the contributors for their dedication to Holocaust education, and for the great amount of thought and effort they put into the writing of their chapters. We offer a heartfelt thank you to Dr. John K. Roth for writing such a fine foreword for the book. It is a true honor to have someone of John’s caliber in the field of Holocaust scholarship support and praise one’s efforts. Finally, we both wish to thank Catherine Bernard, Senior Publisher at Routledge, for encouraging and supporting our proposal for this book, and for providing us with a contract.

FOREWORD Teaching and Studying About the Holocaust This Time?

Nothing has happened since Auschwitz that could reverse or refute Auschwitz. In my writings the Holocaust could never be present in the past tense. . . . Now the only thing to reflect on is where we go from here. —Imre Kertész, Nobel Lecture, 2002

A book called Teaching and Studying the Holocaust, compiled and edited by Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg, appeared in 2001. While still focused on that title’s themes, Totten and Feinberg’s Essentials of Holocaust Education: Fundamental Issues and Approaches is not a second edition of the earlier work but a sequel that features authors, topics, and perspectives different from those in the earlier volume. The publication of Teaching and Studying the Holocaust was an occasion for celebration and a source of joy because that important book ennobled scholarship, emboldened conscience, and enlivened teaching and education. Essentials of Holocaust Education deserves the same tribute, but the celebration will be overconfident and the joy deficient unless they are tempered and fortified to withstand the fact that the world has arguably become darker than it was in 2001—Teaching and Studying the Holocaust was published before September 11 of that year. On 9/11, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked airliners and used them to attack the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. That disaster is only one of many that preface and necessitate the arrival of Essentials of Holocaust Education. The short list would include genocide in Darfur, the crimes against humanity and potential genocide by attrition in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions of Sudan, and the crimes against humanity committed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram, as well as upsurges of antisemitism in Europe, racial violence in the United States, and the unrelenting misery caused by human trafficking, enslavement, and upheavals that turn hundreds of thousands into hapless refugees. With its different authors, topics, and perspectives, this book must find its place in a world so full of atrocious disrespect for human rights that it makes the slogan “Never Again!” little more than a cliché. Meanwhile, although the more one learns about the Holocaust the worse that catastrophe becomes, the Third Reich’s genocide against the Jewish people recedes ever more into the past. The day is fast coming when the survivors of that catastrophe will all be dead. Despite the most valiant efforts to stem the tide, the Holocaust seems destined to become less than an immediate



and everyday concern. Thus, a key question looms large: how shall we teach and study about the Holocaust this time? Sound responses to that question are found in the pages that follow, which provide counsel, as wise as it is ample, regarding developments in historical research, literary and film studies, technology, and pedagogical strategies that can enrich teaching and learning about the Holocaust, including attention to fraught questions about the relationship of the Holocaust to other genocides and to tumultuous current events, such as the conflicts in the Middle East. Teaching and studying about the Holocaust have never been for the faint of heart, but this time that judgment is underscored because those tasks may face indifference, failure, and discouragement more daunting than Holocaust education has encountered before. That bleakness involves the fact that teaching and learning about the Holocaust are no longer in their infancy. Currently, research, writing, and films about the Holocaust continue to proliferate. With significant institutional support from museums, school systems, universities, and colleges, teaching about the Holocaust has never been so widespread. Unfortunately, it can scarcely be said that the return on those investments has curbed—let alone eradicated—the multiple shortcomings and shortfalls of thought, decision, and action that tempt and incite us human beings to inflict incalculable harm. We cannot avoid dismay that memory of the Shoah and education about it have not dislodged the credibility of Imre Kertész’s claim that “since Auschwitz, nothing has happened that a makes a new Auschwitz impossible.”1 Hungarian Jew, Holocaust survivor, and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, Kertész made that judgment wistfully. He did not want it to be his final word. Essentials of Holocaust Education can help us to try our best to keep Kertész’s judgment from being the last judgment for us. Paradoxically and against stiff odds, one of the most important ways in which this book may do so is by creating and inspiring what I call an in-spite-of kind of joy. To explain what I mean, consider that about a century ago, in April 1915—a few weeks after the first use of poisonous gas in World War I—the Ottoman Turkish regime launched the first stateplanned genocide of the 20th century by annihilating the Armenian people in their homeland. Thirty years later, in April 1945, World War II approached its European ending, leaving enormous devastation, despair, and death in its wake. That carnage was evident at Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. Among the Jews who had been force-marched from Auschwitz to that place a few months earlier was a teenager named Elie Wiesel. Eventually the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel reminds us that “indifference and resignation are not the answer. . . . If life—mine or that of my fellow man—is not an offering to the other, what are we doing on this earth?”2 The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust took place decades ago, but the novelist William Faulkner was right when he said that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”3 It had been hoped that “Never again!” might be more than a slogan, but in April 1994, the Rwandan genocide began and was soon well under way. In just 100 days between 500,000 and one million Rwandans, predominantly Tutsi, were killed. As the violence of ISIL and Boko Haram reveals presently, the impulses that lead to mass atrocity crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing—continue to wreak havoc and inflict horrific suffering. Another Auschwitz survivor, the Jewish philosopher Jean Améry, who was tortured by the Nazis, speaks for our time as well as his: “Somewhere,” said Améry, “someone is crying out under torture. Perhaps in this hour, this second.”4 The French philosopher Albert Camus thought that even by its greatest effort humanity “can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world.” But, he insistently added, “the injustice and the suffering of the world . . . will not cease to be an outrage.”5 That outlook led Camus to contemplate the fate of Sisyphus, the mythical Greek king who passionately loved life and defied fate by thwarting death itself. The gods condemned Sisyphus to the endless task of pushing a weighty rock up a mountain only to have it roll back to the bottom as he neared the top.



In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus’s depiction of the king ought to characterize anyone who seeks to teach and learn about the Holocaust and everyone who is concerned about the fundamental issues and approaches of Holocaust education. “At the very end of his long effort,” wrote Camus, “Sisyphus watches the stone rush down . . . whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain. It is during that return, that pause,” said Camus, that Sisyphus interests me. . . . If the descent is . . . sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. . . . The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.6 The joy that Camus had in mind was not sentimental, occasional, or fleeting. It was scarcely synonymous with fun. Resistant and resilient, the joy Camus had in mind was an in-spite-of joy. Refusing to be driven to despair, such joy encourages study and defiance of atrocity, even if not always victoriously. Kindled and sustained by friendship, by the help that we give as well as receive, by doing what is right and good, by love, such joy sustains solidarity with those who oppose and limit harm, relieve suffering, and save lives. Declining to give in or give up, in-spite-of joy keeps people going, even though the work of studying and teaching about the Holocaust has no end and this time may seem to be a forlorn cause. In his book Moments of Reprieve, the Italian Jew and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi touched on related themes by recalling his friend Lorenzo Perrone, the person Levi credited with saving his life in Auschwitz. Not a Jew but an Italian civilian, Lorenzo, a skilled mason, was “officially” a “voluntary” worker helping to build the industrial plant that the Germans were constructing at a place known as Auschwitz III. Established in 1942, this subcamp in the vast Auschwitz complex, also called Buna or Monowitz, housed prisoners—Elie Wiesel and Levi among them—who toiled at the synthetic rubber factory located on the outskirts of a Polish village. In fact, however, Lorenzo was more like a labor conscript, and he despised the German cruelty that he saw at Auschwitz. After meeting Levi in late June 1944, Lorenzo decided to help his fellow Italian, although it was a crime with grave consequences for Lorenzo even to speak to an Auschwitz prisoner. For months, Lorenzo got Levi extra food, which was the physical difference between life and death. “I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today,” Levi would write, underscoring that Lorenzo’s help meant much more than food alone. What also sustained him was that Lorenzo constantly reminded me by his presence, by his natural and plain manner of being good, that there still existed a just world outside our own, something and someone still pure and whole, not corrupt, not savage, extraneous to hatred and terror; something difficult to define, a remote possibility of good, but for which it was worth surviving.7 When liberation came, Levi lost track of Lorenzo, but later he became determined to find out what had happened to the friend who saved his life. They reconnected for a short time in Italy after the war, but soon Lorenzo died. At one of their postwar meetings, Levi learned that he was not the only Auschwitz prisoner whom Lorenzo had helped, but Levi’s friend had rarely told that story. In Lorenzo’s view, wrote Levi, “We are in this world to do good, not to boast about it.”8 Those words could be an apt governing epigraph for a book called Essentials of Holocaust Education. Remote though it often seems, difficult to define though it may be, the possibility that we are in this world to do good remains. More than that, the possibility becomes an imperative if the world is to be less corrupt and savage and more opposed to hatred and terror. Levi was right to suggest that it is difficult to define precisely how it is that we are in this world to do good, but it was not difficult for Levi to feel Lorenzo’s “presence” and to discern his “natural and plain manner of being



good.” Lorenzo’s presence, his offering to Levi, his ways of being good were oppression-resisting, hope-sustaining, death-defying, and life-giving. Such qualities are the ingredients that inspire and nourish the in-spite-of joy that needs to be part of teaching and studying about the Holocaust. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” When those words were first written, their author was not thinking of Primo Levi’s friend Lorenzo. But let us hope that William Faulkner could have been doing that, for it is a fact—and a reason for the deepest kind of joy—that multiple Lorenzos, potential and actual, are among those who hold this book in their hands and who will practice what it teaches, never letting the Holocaust, in Imre Kertész’s words, be “present in the past tense” and keeping in mind his counsel that “now the only thing to reflect on is where we go from here.” It has been said that “moral beauty” happens “when someone carves out a place for compassion in a largely ruthless universe.”9 Those who take the insights of Essentials of Holocaust Education to heart and bring its wisdom to life will be doing that oppression-resisting, hope-sustaining, deathdefying, life-giving, and joy-creating work in teaching and learning about the Holocaust, not just this time but every time. John K. Roth Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

Notes 1. I am indebted to Alvin H. Rosenfeld for this quotation from Imre Kertész. See Rosenfeld’s book The End of the Holocaust (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 279. The translation is Rosenfeld’s. Kertész’s comment appeared originally in a 2006 interview. See “Imre Kertész über den neuen europäischen Antisemitismus,” which is available at For Kertész’s Nobel Lecture, which he delivered in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 7, 2002, see nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2002/kertesz-lecture.html. 2. Elie Wiesel, Open Heart, trans. Marion Wiesel (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 73, 75. 3. William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2011), 73. 4. Jean Améry, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor of Auschwitz and Its Realities, trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 24. 5. Albert Camus, The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, trans. Anthony Bower (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1956), 303. 6. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1955), 89–91. 7. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 121. 8. Primo Levi, Moments of Reprieve: A Memoir of Auschwitz, trans. Ruth Feldman (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1987), 160. 9. See Philip Hallie, Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1997), 173.

INTRODUCTION Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

Teaching about the Holocaust in schools across the United States has become more and more commonplace over the past four decades. Where once this watershed event was rarely, if ever, taught in classrooms in the United States, it is now taught in virtually every state. Where once the Holocaust was not mentioned in state curricula, it can now be found in nearly all state teaching standards, both in social studies and English. Where once this topic was never mentioned in social studies textbooks, today it is almost impossible to open a textbook without coming across mention of the Holocaust. Where once teachers had little, if any, classroom preparation for teaching this history, many recent university graduates benefit from having studied about the Holocaust during their undergraduate and graduate years. Where once information on this topic was largely limited to a study of Anne Frank and/or Night by Elie Wiesel, today there is an almost limitless amount of information on virtually every aspect of the history in both print and electronic form. Along with an increase in teaching about the Holocaust there has also been an increase in public awareness of this history. The opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in 1993 and its extraordinary success has helped to increase knowledge about the Holocaust in multiple ways. Regional, local, and college- and university-based Holocaust centers and museums have contributed to a greater understanding of the pivotal nature of this history. Cultural institutions and popular culture have spread information about the Holocaust around the United States and the world. While there are many courses of study (i.e., lesson plans and units) on the Holocaust available from a variety of sources for use by school systems and in individual classrooms, there is a paucity of works devoted to fundamentally sound pedagogical approaches for teaching about the Holocaust. After conducting a Google search in order to ascertain what was currently available in the way of books on teaching about the Holocaust, we felt that there was a profound need to present to teachers, in a clear and understandable manner, best practices in teaching about this history. With an outstanding group of scholars and classroom teachers, we have crafted a book that we believe will both be extremely welcomed and considered remarkably valuable by both entire school systems and individual educators. The inclusion of classroom teachers as contributors to the book was a purposeful decision on our part, as we keenly desired to include individuals who deal with many of the same issues that our readers are likely to encounter, including but not limited to large classes, an overpacked curriculum, an emphasis on standardized testing, constant changes in school reforms coming down from on high, and other demands, commands, and intrusions to



the instructional process. Accordingly, we believe that the chapters that make up this book present, for lack of a better phrase, “real world” perspectives on how to teach young people about the Holocaust. Educators will find each chapter of this collection informative, and not a few packed with innovative ideas and approaches—many of which are tried and true. The chronology at the end of the book helps to provide a contextual understanding of the Holocaust, and the extensive annotated bibliographies at the end of many chapters serve as up-to-date resources about numerous books and articles on a host of historical and pedagogical issues germane to the Holocaust. We humbly thank the wonderful groups of scholars and teachers we’ve had the keen pleasure to work with on this project. All are dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust in a historically accurate and pedagogically sound manner, and their contributions to the field reach far beyond their fine contributions to this book. We are also extremely grateful that the esteemed Holocaust scholar Dr. John K. Roth kindly crafted a foreword for our book. His thoughts, insights, and observations are, as always, extremely thought-provoking and perceptive. With our incredibly supportive acquisitions editor, Catherine Bernard, we have crafted a book that we hope will be of immense value to classroom teachers as well as teachers of teachers. Finally, we would be remiss, and less than totally honest, if we failed to acknowledge that we both were excited at the prospect of working with one another again. It is not always easy working with a co-editor or co-author, as their knowledge, insights, perspectives and/or work ethic may be so vastly different that the effort often becomes one of knocking heads and barely getting through the process, instead of true collaboration. We happen to work incredibly well together, highly respect one another’s knowledge base and thinking, and we’re both sticklers for accuracy, detail, and solid writing. Over and above that, we are best friends. So, it has been another great ride working together, e-mailing and speaking with one another on a weekly, if not, daily basis and sharing ideas and playing devil’s advocate with one another.

1 FOUNDATIONAL CONCERNS Developing Historically Accurate and Pedagogically Sound Holocaust Lessons and Units Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

Introduction Upon the liberation of the death camps by the Allies at the end of World War II, the fact and the horror of the Holocaust shocked humanity. Words and phrases such as “unbelievable” and “beggar description” were used by both the military troops that helped to liberate the death camps as well as members of the media in reporting what they had witnessed. In retrospect, the use of such words was understandable. Today their use is not. The Holocaust is one of the most well-documented historical events in the history of humanity. Tens of thousands of documents from the period are housed in the archives of such institutions as Yad Vashem, World Center for Holocaust Research in Jerusalem, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. The Yad Vashem Library houses more than 125,000 titles in over 54 languages. The Holocaust remains a major focus of study by scholars all across the globe, and a topic of study in major world universities, not to mention high schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, and beyond. Not only did the Holocaust shock the conscience of humanity, but it largely impacted the creation of the United Nations and its focus on the protection of basic human rights for all members of humanity. And yet, while various entities, including the USHMM and many educators across the United States, have worked assiduously to increase awareness of the Holocaust, according to a 2014 AntiDefamation League survey (, only 54% of the 53,100 people in 102 countries polled had ever heard of the Holocaust. Two-thirds had either never heard of the Holocaust or did not believe historical accounts of the Holocaust to be true. That is astonishing. It also speaks to the work that educators have cut out for them in regard to educating the young about the Holocaust. When the Holocaust is taught, it must be done in a way that is historically accurate and pedagogically sound. Understandably, the antecedents of the Holocaust and answers to why and how the Holocaust was perpetrated are numerous and complex. To even begin to understand the history of the Holocaust, teachers and students need to probe deeply into the whos, whys, whens, and wheres, before digging into the hows. Not to do so is both pedagogically unsound and likely to lead to major misunderstandings of the history. In this chapter, we discuss what we consider to be major foundational issues when either considering and/or actually teaching about the Holocaust. It is not, of course, the end-all of such a


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

discussion, but it is based on the authors’ collective experiences in the classroom and work with the USHMM in wrestling with and teaching about the Holocaust since the mid-1970s.

The Importance of Establishing and Examining Statements of Rationale Holocaust lessons and units bereft of controlling principles often lack a sound historical focus, including the critical need to address the “whys” of the historical events versus focusing solely on the “whats” of the history. Ultimately, a sound set of rationales helps teachers to design and implement clearly delineated goals, objectives, content, and assessment strategies. —( Totten, Feinberg, and Fernekes, 2001, p. 1)

The foundation of any lesson, unit, or course on the Holocaust must rest on a clear set of rationales. Without sound reasons for teaching the Holocaust, what may occur in the classroom will be unfocused and unlikely to contribute to a clear understanding of that complex historical and watershed event. Many teachers, administrators, and curriculum writers today are certainly well meaning in wanting to teach about the Holocaust, but far too many solely focus on the affective domain as opposed to a fine blend of the cognitive and affective domains. That is, as we shall discuss, a significant pedagogical problem. Historians, of course, do more than study the past. They gather documents and images from the past, evaluate and study them for the purpose of deepening humanity’s understanding about particular pieces of history, and then, of course, share their findings. Rationale statements that deal with the historiography of the Holocaust (e.g., How do we know what happened? What evidence is there for this history?) will help students counteract the malevolent intentions of Holocaust deniers and serve as a powerful entry to the factual study of this history. Questions of rationale are equally valuable to both teachers and students. While rationale statements help teachers to make critical decisions about the primary focus of the lesson or unit, the history to be taught, and the most valuable strategies and learning activities to use during the course of the lesson or unit, rationale statements help students to understand why the history they are about to learn is important for them to study. Indeed, they need to know why they are about to learn about an event that took place well over a half century ago in another part of the world. They need to know why, for example, they are studying about various pieces of legislation and laws, deportations, concentration camps, ghettos, mobile killing units, and killing centers. And this is where rationales come into play. Simply put, a rationale is a set of reasons or a logical basis for a course of action or a particular belief. The best rationales answer the age-old question, which sounds rude but which we believe should be at the heart of anything that is taught to anyone: “So what?” In this regard, “So what?” refers to all of the following (some of which are posited from the teacher’s point of view and some from the students’): What is the point in even teaching about this topic or body of information? What is the point of even learning about this topic and information? Of what value is this subject, topic, and information? What lessons can be learned from this history? How can an examination of the Holocaust be of value to the individual? How can a study of the Holocaust impact society in general? Haven’t a fair number of other genocides been committed in the past—including the very recent past? If so, why study the Holocaust rather than a more recent genocide? The question of “So what?” is, of course, intricately connected to the question that every teacher of any subject has heard at least once in their career: why do we have to do this? If teachers are not

Foundational Concerns


able to answer such a question intelligently and convincingly, then they have a major problem on their hands. On a different note, in order to not construct a unit that is primarily devoted to the memorization of dates, names, and a series of incidents associated with the history, solid rationale questions and statements will help an educator produce consequential lessons that are directly tied to the lives of students. As the original authors of the USHMM’s Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust noted: Because the objective of teaching any subject is to engage the intellectual curiosity of the student in order to inspire critical thought and personal growth, it is helpful to structure lesson plans on the Holocaust by considering throughout questions of rationale. Before addressing what and how to teach one should contemplate the following: Why should students learn this history? What are the most significant lessons students can learn about the Holocaust? Why [and when] is a particular reading, image, document, or film an appropriate medium for conveying the lesson about the Holocaust, which you wish to teach? (Parsons and Totten, 1993, p. 1, italics added) Asking the question “What is my main purpose(s) in teaching this history?” may seem facile. It is, however, anything but that. Among the many questions teachers may posit are as follows: Is it to examine how a modern nation-state, Germany, systematically went about perpetrating a genocide based on pseudo-scientific notions of race? Is it to examine and analyze the incremental nature of the assault against the Jews of Europe and others as well as the extermination process? Is it to convey the idea that no historical event is inevitable? Is it to help students understand the reactions of the various victim groups associated with this history? Is it to engage students in a study of the fate of the victims exclusively, or is it to help them examine the role of collaborators, resisters, rescuers, bystanders, and of course, the victims? Is it to help students understand the connections, if any, between the Holocaust and the reality of modern-day genocides? Is it to “focus on the complexity and danger of the bystander syndrome both within and outside the Nazi sphere of influence and power”? (Totten, Feinberg and Fernekes, 2001, p. 7). Is it to teach lessons about living in a world where crimes against humanity and genocide continue to be perpetrated on a regular basis? Or, is it a combination of several of these? Teachers need to address these questions, and many, many others, prior to their students’ study of the Holocaust. The development of sound rationales—and, ultimately, goals and objectives—can help teachers to avoid focusing exclusively on one or two issues to the exclusion of other critical issues. For example, some jump immediately to the killings without providing their students an opportunity to learn what motivated the Nazis in their exterminatory fury; others focus on the death camps to the exclusion of a discussion of ghettos; still others focus on the role of Germans and ignore the role of the many non-German collaborators. By adhering to sound rationales, teachers will more likely ensure that their units of study and individual lessons are as comprehensive, accurate, and engaging as possible. To forgo the delineation of such rationales is likely to result in a lesson or unit bereft of the structure, components, and aims that enable students to truly begin to grasp the intricacies of the history as well as its many and vitally significant ramifications. All of this goes back to the now classic volume by University of Chicago professor of education Ralph Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Tyler, one of the foremost scholars of curriculum that the field of education has ever known, posited what he deemed to be four basic questions that all educators should consider prior to attempting to teach a subject: (1) What is


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

worthwhile to learn? (2) How should it be taught? (3) When should it be taught? (4) How do we evaluate learning? Many of these concerns are further underscored by Elliot Eisner’s perspicacious comments visà-vis “the null curriculum.” In regard to the null curriculum, Eisner, a professor of education at Stanford University, states the following: It is my thesis that what schools do not teach may be as important as what they do teach. I argue this position because ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problem. The absence of a set of considerations or perspectives or the inability to use certain processes for appraising a context biases the evidence one is able to take into account. A parochial perspective or simplistic analysis is the inevitable progeny of ignorance. (Eisner, 2001, p. 97) Complementing all the aforementioned points, Fred Newmann, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, raises a host of critical issues when he broaches and comments upon the issue of depth versus coverage. More specifically: Knowledge is thin or superficial when it does not deal with significant concepts of a topic or discipline—for example, when students have a trivial understanding of important concepts or when they have only a surface acquaintance with their meaning. Superficiality can be due, in part, to instructional strategies that emphasize coverage of large quantities of fragmented information. Knowledge is deep or thick when it concerns the central ideas of a topic or discipline. For students, knowledge is deep when they make clear distinctions, develop arguments, solve problems, construct explanations, and otherwise work with relatively complex understandings. Depth is produced, in part, by covering fewer topics in systematic and connected ways. (Newmann and Wehlage, 1993, pp. 9–10) Crafting strong, well-thought-out rationale statements will also help teachers ensure that they are not relying on a single, overly simple, if not outright simplistic, explanation in regard to complex pieces of the history. Let’s take the case, for example, of the motivations of the perpetrators. It is facile to merely, and solely, blame “antisemitism” for the horrors of the Holocaust, as many prepackaged courses of study and textbooks do. Teachers must engage their students in a study of other key antecedents, including, for example, the underlying ideological proclivities of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party to accept the racial hatred of Jews that motivated the leadership of the Nazis. By doing so, they will discover racial and political motivations built upon a foundation of almost two millennia of Christian antisemitism. Still, students need to clearly understand that while the two millennia of Christian antisemitism is a key component of any study of the Holocaust, it is simply that: one key component among many. Thus, while one cannot blame the Holocaust on Christianity, one can hardly ignore the connection between the theological differences over the centuries that led to discriminatory actions and attacks against European Jews and the pervasive historical hatred against Jews that can be found in select episodes in the history of most European countries. The insane blood libels, the forced conversion and planned attacks on medieval Jewish communities, the depictions of Jews as servants of the Devil etched in cathedral walls, and the fanatical writings of Martin Luther in the 16th century attest to the cultural impact of religious differences.1

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Also at work, of course, were such issues as the perceived “stab in the back” concerning Germany’s loss of World War I, the fury over the various restrictions set by the Treaty of Versailles (especially in regard to Germany’s armed forces), as well as Germany’s loss of land as a result of the Treaty. The point is that the Holocaust cannot be blamed on a single person (Hitler), a single document (the Treaty of Versailles), or a single belief system (racial antisemitism). No serious study of the Holocaust can avoid investigating the development and impact of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the methods of modern war in the early 20th century, and the immense power of nationalism across virtually all of Europe when discussing the role of World War I as one of the many factors that impacted German political life in the 1920s and 1930s—a political life that produced a German government dominated by a political party with a pseudoscientific racial worldview. The nature of the course one is teaching will obviously impact the various rationale statements developed for teaching about the Holocaust. If teaching a government course, the rationale statement might include items that will allow for the examination of the Weimar Constitution so as to explain how Hitler was appointed, never elected, Chancellor of Germany. If teaching a literature course, the rationale statement might be more concerned with the varieties of human behavior exhibited by the victims of the Nazis. These can be explored in the many diaries and memoirs written by victims during and after the Holocaust, and in powerful short stories such as Ida Fink’s “The Key Game” and “Crazy.” Rationale statements that deal with how the Nazi propaganda system used preexisting prejudices and stereotypes to advance their political agenda in the years before the attainment of power could be used in social studies and history courses, as well as literature courses, during a study of the Holocaust. As will be discussed in Chapter 4 in this volume, “Teaching and Studying the Holocaust: Curricular Issues, Teaching Strategies, and Learning Activities,” by the authors (Totten and Feinberg), the amount of classroom time a teacher has to teach about the Holocaust will undoubtedly impact the number, and focus, of one’s rationale statements. If time is limited, it is hardly wise to develop multiple rationale statements in relation to extensive aspects of the history, as the teacher will then run the risk of presenting a disorganized and cursory portrayal of the history. While it is essential for teachers to craft rationale statements prior to the outset of the unit of study, it is equally important for them to revisit issues of rationale throughout the study. Given the complex nature of the history of the Holocaust, even with the most careful and knowledgeable teachers, students run the risk of becoming baffled by the enormity of information presented to them. By continuously revisiting issues of rationale throughout the study by positing questions for students to consider, students will more likely come to perceive and appreciate the importance not only of the history of the Holocaust, but also its connection to their role as citizens in a democracy. The upshot is that revisiting rationale statements with students provides them with the opportunity to refocus on salient issues and even to redirect the study in general. As educators concentrate on the development of rationale statements, it is prudent for them to build their historical knowledge of this complex history. Many of the concerns associated with this history (the impact of World War I; the birth, growth and development of the Nazi party; the varied life of Jews in all areas of Europe; and many other events and issues) occurred prior to the years generally associated with Nazi rule, 1933–1945. The complex interplay between various groups— such as the Wehrmacht and the SA and SS, the role of collaborators in virtually every country in Europe, and the evolutionary nature of Nazi policies toward people identified as racially inferior, to name but a few issues—suggest the potentially intimidating nature of a study of the Holocaust. Even educators who believe they have a thorough understanding of this history need to reacquaint themselves with the latest historical works devoted to this subject. And, of course, all of these issues are germane to developing and making use of well-structured and focused rationale statements.


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The thoughtful creation of useful rationale statements also comes into play in regard to the strategies one chooses to use or not use during a study of the Holocaust. Put another way, rationale statements lend themselves to prodding teachers to think critically and thoughtfully about some of the problematic teaching strategies and learning activities that have, unfortunately, been associated with teaching and learning about the Holocaust. If a rationale statement, for example, addresses the issue of resistance to the Nazis in camps, ghettos, and forests across Europe, is it more pedagogically sound to deal with this history through the use of word scrambles and crossword puzzles, or through the use of testimony by resisters, maps indicating the various European locations of resistance, and photographs clearly identifying the individuals who put their lives on the line to combat the murderous Nazi system? If a rationale statement addresses the issue of the complexity of the camp systems developed by Germans and their collaborators, is it methodologically sound to address this history by the construction of models, or through the examination of primary source documents indicating the direct wishes, plans, and actions of the ideologically motivated perpetrators with regard to Jewish and non-Jewish victims? Similarly, if a rationale statement addresses the issue of deportations across Europe, is it more pedagogically sound to deal with this history through the use of class simulations that purport to provide students with “a real sense” of what the victims went through and/or having them count out objects (e.g., six million paper clips) to instill how large a number six million is, or is it more pedagogically sound to examine railway maps showing the location of the camps and/or investigate the records kept by the Germans of arrivals at a camp such as Auschwitz? Rather than engage students in “learning” activities that lead to low-level (if not mindless) types of thinking, clear rationale statements can assist teachers to implement teaching strategies and learning activities that encourage critical analysis and thinking. Constructing rationale statements that take into account an accurate understanding of the history will also help teachers avoid other educational traps, such as crafting a study of the Holocaust that focuses heavily on rescuers, leaving students with the sense that the rescue of Jews from certain death was a common occurrence. While Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is a fine film and has been used in many classrooms, it is important to remember that a minute fraction of Jews were rescued during the Holocaust, and that the success of attempted rescues varied greatly from country to country. The same is true for resisters. While there were many different forms of resistance (armed struggle, work slowdowns, underground schools, to name but three), and some have attained cultural fame through films (Defiance tells the story of the Bielski brothers in what is today Belarus), intelligently crafted rationale statements will help teachers avoid tilting the Holocaust so it becomes more a history of rescue and resistance and less a history of the mass murder of almost six million men, women, and children for no other reason than who they were as human beings. Resources for teaching about the Holocaust now available to teachers will likely have a major impact on the development of rationale statements. Where once print materials dominated this market, today images and testimonies from electronic sources are readily available. The wise teacher will incorporate a wide variety of resources (e.g., online resources, photographs, films, survivor testimony, relevant print material, and fiction) into their lessons and units, which can be utilized to achieve the curricular and instructional goals, the latter of which should be articulated in the rationale statements. It is a simple but profound fact that the technological revolution that has brought us the Internet has changed the face of education. Essentially, classrooms have been brought right into the homes of the students. Vast quantities of information—much of it accurate, much of it not—enter the minds of both teachers and students with ease. Disappointingly, however, along with access to almost limitless factual information, historical distortions have also appeared in this new medium, which brings us to the importance of rationale statements in light of Holocaust denial.

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The authors of this chapter steadfastly believe that the discussion of Holocaust denial has no place in the classroom during a study of the Holocaust. We also believe that the crafting of meaningful rationale statements can help students understand the absurd claims of deniers by learning how historians examine the past. This, in the end, precludes the need to take precious time away from delving deeply into the history of the Holocaust and wasting it by discussing the absurdities issued by Holocaust deniers. On a different note, the assessment of lessons and units of study, of course, needs to be characterized by clear and explicit expectations. With goals and objectives as an outgrowth of rationale statements, the ability of the teacher to create meaningful and varied assessments increases significantly when guided by solid rationale statements.

Positing Questions About the Proposed Study (Unit/Lessons) in Order to Fashion the Strongest Rationale Statements Possible One of the most efficient and effective ways to develop statements of rationale for a study is to first posit numerous questions about the proposed study. This helps to both focus exactly on what to teach and to ascertain whether the study is too broad, too narrow, or bereft of key issues/events. For example, if a teacher plans to conduct a three-day study of the Holocaust that focuses on why and how the Nazis carried out the “Final Solution,” among the questions one might posit are: •

• • • • • • •

What past history must I examine? The accusation that the Jews killed Christ? The role of the Romans in Christ’s death? The distinctions between traditional antisemitism and racial antisemitism? The so-called stab-in-the-back theory in regard to Germany’s loss of World War I? The traumatic impact on Germany of the Treaty of Versailles? Is it crucial to trace the development of political and racial antisemitism in order to understand the pseudo-scientific worldview of the Nazi party? Is it critical to address the Nazi legislation that resulted in discrimination, disenfranchisement, ostracism, and isolation against the Jews, thus creating their pariah status in Germany? If not, why not? How much time should I spend on the Nuremberg Laws and their significance in creating “the other” in Nazi Germany? Is it critical to address Kristallnacht? If not, why not? If it is, why is that so? Is it essential to spend time on the role of collaborators in the unfolding of the Holocaust? How much time should I spend on the facts and significance of the Wannsee Conference? Should I focus solely on the gassing and burning of the Jews, or other forms of murder such as working and/or starving victims to death?

Assuming that a teacher posited the aforementioned questions in preparation of developing rationale statements and lesson plans, the teacher would then need to carefully examine them and ponder whether anything absolutely essential has been left out for such a short study. As Totten, Feinberg and Fernekes (2001) note: If, after designing a series of rationale statements, one discovers that the focus of the planned study is on the “whats, wheres, and whens” of the history but bereft of the “whys,” then it is imperative that the teacher reconsider the goals, objectives, and content for the lesson or unit. Likewise, if one discovers that the focus is solely on a series of facts versus the importance this history has for both the individual and post Holocaust society, then it would be wise to consider adding components that are likely to engage students in pondering long and hard what meaning this history has for their own lives and the world in which they live. (p. 4)


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

A teacher might ask any of the following questions, among scores of others: Did the early and massive amount of killing that the Einsatzgruppen carried out in Poland and then the Soviet Union have a potential message for the civilized world in regard to the Nazis’ potential aims, especially when the Nazis had already established the Nuremberg Laws in 1935? What does the evolution of the killing process—from the shootings by the Einsatzgruppen to the introduction of the gas vans to the creation of the gas chambers—tell us about the Nazis and their actions? What did the early gassings and other methods of “euthanizing” the mentally and physically handicapped by the T-4 Program in Germany tell us about the Nazis’ plans—again in light of the fact that they had already established the Nuremberg Laws in 1935? The variety of questions may or may not prompt teachers to revise their classroom lessons in order to address the issues they raise; however, if the teacher chooses not to do so, it will at least be a conscious decision. Ultimately, then, developing the aforementioned series of questions will help teachers make key decisions in regard to the schedule of instruction, the content to be taught, the type of learning activities to be used, and how outside work (homework and/or research projects) can help stretch the amount of academic time students spend on this topic. Once one has crafted a series of rationale statements, it is wise to ask another series of questions, such as: • • • •

• •

Do my rationales reflect the latest and best research into the Holocaust? Have I included rationales that address both the cognitive and affective domains of learning? Do rationales in the affective domain outnumber those in the cognitive domain, and is that problematic? Have I included rationales that address the ramifications of the most significant aspects of this history, thus encouraging students to reflect on the long-term impact of the history as well as its relevance to their lives today and in the future? Have I addressed the various roles/actions/reactions of the perpetrators? Collaborators? Victims? Bystanders? Have I ensured that the students will be absolutely clear as to the geography of the aspects of the Holocaust under study, and what the political/social/military conditions were in such places at the time? Do any of the rationales address the critical need to provide students with ample opportunity to voice their opinions, questions, concerns, and feelings about the facts and issues under study?

Examples of Strong Rationales for Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust The strongest rationales are those that are clearly stated, succinct and to the point, and highly specific. They also focus specifically on those issues, events, personages, decisions, and actions/ reactions that one deems significant to the study under preparation. In this section we highlight rationales that we have both culled from the lessons and units of Holocaust educators that we highly respect, as well as those we have crafted ourselves. They are highlighted here simply as examples of what conscientious teachers have developed via their own efforts to design the strongest lessons possible on the Holocaust. This first set of examples is taken from an article (“Teaching About the Holocaust: Rationale, Content, Methodology and Resources”) that the authors (Totten and Feinberg) wrote and published in Social Education, the official journal of the National Council for the Social Studies in October 1995. The rationales are as relevant today as they were some 20 years ago:

Foundational Concerns

• • • • • • • • • • • •


To gain a unique and valuable opportunity to study human behavior. To gain an understanding of concepts such as prejudice, discrimination, antisemitism, stereotyping, obedience to authority, conflict, conflict resolution, decision-making, and justice. To raise and examine key issues regarding individual responsibility in an industrial/technological/ information age. To reflect on the role and responsibilities of individuals, groups, and nations when confronting human rights violations and genocidal acts. To think about the use and abuse of power, and the implications for a society that violates civil and human rights. To consider the nature, structure, and purpose of governments. To study ethical issues involving the rights of governments and the rights of individuals. To hopefully “become sensitized to inhumanity and suffering whenever they occur” (Fleischner in Strom and Parsons, 1982, p. 6). To come to appreciate that silence and indifference toward the victimization of any person or group encourages perpetrators. To come to an understanding that the Holocaust was not an accident in history; nor was it inevitable (USHMM, 1993, p. 1). To appreciate the Holocaust is a watershed event not only in the twentieth century but also in the entire history of humanity (USHMM, 1993, p. 1). To gain insights into the fact that the Holocaust, and thus, other genocidal acts, are not inevitable. (Totten and Feinberg, 1995, p. 324)

Some of the many other rationales we would seriously consider using in developing lessons and units on the Holocaust are as follows: • • • •

To ponder what it means to be a bystander in a world where fellow humans are treated so brutally and where crimes against humanity and genocide continue to be perpetrated. To differentiate between bystanders in the actual region where the genocide is being conducted and those individuals/nations/organizations outside of the region. To clearly examine what bystanders in the region of the crisis could have done in light of the conditions under which they lived, the barriers they faced, and so forth. To examine the role of collaborators, thereby helping students to understand the complexity of the Holocaust.

Engaging Students in the Development of Rationale Statements We believe that it is always wise to include students in the development of rationale statements for a study on the Holocaust. One of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to ask the students to write out any questions that they have about the Holocaust, anything they are unclear or confused about, and so forth. A teacher could also ask the students to delineate any topics/issues/concerns that they are particularly interested in addressing during the course of the study. The teacher could then collate the responses and, where applicable, develop rationales based on the students’ work. During a special weeklong, four-hour-a-day summer course that one of the authors taught to high school students as part of an enrichment program offered by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, students posited the following questions (all quoted exactly as written): • •

Why exactly did the Holocaust happen? Why were the Jews blamed in the first place?


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

What percent of Germany’s population was Jewish during the time of the Holocaust’s beginning? How many people actually survived the Holocaust? Why did Hitler have so much power? What was Hitler’s motive in killing all the Jews? Did this affect America? Why are we usually only taught that Jews were persecuted? Why didn’t all the people in the camps rebel at once, so that their [sic] may have been a hope for freedom? Who else was eventually included with the Jews, and why? Why???

• • • • • • • •

Making Use of Rationales Throughout the Course of Study As alluded to earlier, we firmly believe that teachers should refer to their rationale statements throughout a study of the Holocaust (and especially so during the course of a more in-depth study—that is, one that involves more than a single lesson). More specifically, as we’ve noted elsewhere: By continually revisiting and wrestling with issues of rationale, students will more likely gain a greater understanding [and appreciation] of how and why the Holocaust is important to their own lives, their society, and the period in which they live. As a result, this particular piece of history will probably not be viewed as simply another set of inert facts. Concomitantly, by repeatedly highlighting questions of rationale throughout a unit or course, a signal is sent to students that this is not simply another piece of history to wade through, but that it has important lessons for both contemporary and future generations. Furthermore, by constantly reflecting on questions of rationale, both goals and objectives for lessons become clearer. Teachers are more apt to design lessons that address issues, concepts and topics that are meaningful for students, such as the following: questions of fairness, justice, individual identity, peer pressure, conformity, indifference, and obedience [to authority] all of which often engage adolescents because these are issues that they confront in the daily lives. ( Totten and Feinberg, 1995, p. 324; USHMM, 1993, p. 2)

Other Foundational Issues It is often easier for teachers to forgo thoughtful lesson planning and allow the textbook to “set the curriculum” each day of the school year. This is due to the serious time constraints that all teachers face because of (1) an overpacked curriculum, (2) time taken from instruction to prepare students to take standardized exams, (3) time gobbled up as students take standardized examinations, and (4) relatively short class periods (averaging 50 minutes each), in which teachers feel compelled to cover a huge amount of information in order to “get through the curriculum.” Teachers, obviously, need to overcome such a tendency—if in fact one tends to lean in such a direction—and thoroughly prepare a pedagogically and historically sound study of the Holocaust or forgo it altogether. The teaching of the Holocaust is profoundly serious, and anything that results in a perfunctory effort is not only unprofessional but unconscionable. Second, the overreliance by many, if not most, teachers on school textbooks—to the point where the information in the textbooks becomes/constitutes the curriculum—also provides teachers with little incentive to thoroughly plan lessons and develop rationale statements. Essentially, those teachers who rely on textbooks to such an extent are not acting professionally. That is never good, but, again, when it comes to the Holocaust, such an approach is unconscionable.

Foundational Concerns


Third, due to both of the previous situations, teachers frequently feel forced into a situation in which they have no choice but to engage in coverage of a topic in a superficial manner. As a result they do not go deep enough so that students truly begin to grasp and deepen their understanding of key concepts, facts, ideas, issues, and the significance/relevance of such to their own lived lives. We firmly believe that by creating rationale statements that are well-thought-out and address what teachers and students wish to explore can actually help the teacher stretch the learning time dedicated to a study. For example, once teachers have developed their rationale statements, they may discover that the list of topics is far more extensive than the allocated time. This should send a signal that teachers need to be creative in developing homework assignments and projects for students to work on outside the classroom. For example, in a traditional social studies or history course it is not unreasonable to assign students both a book to review (one approved by the teacher and one that is bound to deepen one’s understanding of the Holocaust) and/or a major report in which the student explores a topic in-depth (again, ideally, the teacher should provide a long list of potential topics/issues as well as welcome student suggestions, insisting that the latter be absolutely germane to the study at hand). Instead of requiring that such work be submitted during or shortly after the class study, the teacher could provide the students with a month or more to write the review or undertake the project. In regard to the project, to make absolutely sure that students are clear about the expectations of the teacher, the teacher should provide clear and extensive directions on a handout or an e-mail that students should be encouraged to review periodically as they complete their project.

Conclusion In the last 40 years or so in the United States, the Holocaust has entered popular culture (e.g., in movies, plays, fiction, poetry), has come to be an expected topic in most history and social studies textbooks, is included in state teaching standards, and in some cases has been elevated to legislatively mandated status. While good intentions are frequently behind such situations, greater care needs to be taken when one deals with the issue of inclusion of this history in the classroom. Without a clear understanding of the reasons for including this history in the curriculum, educators run the risk of creating lessons that lack historical integrity while drawing on the powers of emotions to preach rather than teach. If a major goal in teaching and learning about the Holocaust is to “make a student both knowledgeable and different” (Lipstadt, 1995, p. 29), then teachers need to consider how to accomplish that. And, again, this is where the crafting of solid rationale statements is essential. As Rosenberg and Bardosh (1982–1983) asserted long ago: There is a fundamental distinction between the process of learning and the process of integrating the meaning and implications of an important event into consciousness and conscience. One can learn about an event by consuming and assimilating the factual details that have gone into its making. But learning does not necessarily indicate understanding. The latter is the result of integration. By integration we mean that the actions of individuals who have successfully absorbed an event into their moral and intellectual world will display an awareness of that event into their everyday activities. (p. 3) The upshot is, those teachers who take the time and care to solidly prepare themselves and their students for a study of the Holocaust—and in doing so establish a strong foundation for such a study—are not only more likely to engage their students in a powerful, memorable and meaningful educational experience, but a profound one as well.


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

For a somewhat different discussion of rationale statements, see “The Significance of Rationale Statements in Developing a Sound Holocaust Education Program” by Samuel Totten, Stephen Feinberg, and William Fernekes, pp. 1–23. In Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg (Eds.), Teaching and Studying the Holocaust. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon Publishers, 2001 (Reprinted by Information Age Publishers in 2009).

Note 1. A problem long associated with the teaching of the Holocaust has been the simplification and distortion of the history. For instance, some textbook publishers have been known to avoid an in-depth discussion of the racial motivation of the Nazis in persecuting and murdering the Jews of Europe. Without an understanding of why the Nazis targeted Jews and others, however, students will scarcely be able to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust. Both textbooks and many others resources on the Holocaust frequently de-contextualize the history of European Jews, speaking of “the Jews” rather than drawing attention to the great variations of Jewish culture in Western, Southern, and Eastern Europe. Ladino-speaking Jews, Yiddish-speaking Jews, assimilated Jews, religious traditional Jews, and Jewish converts are treated as one group while ignoring the cultural differences that could possibly mean the difference between life and death. The point is: an overreliance on textbooks by teachers will invariably result in a sorely incomplete and simplistic—not to mention inaccurate—view of the complex history of the Holocaust. Some publishers have also mislabeled the purpose of certain “camps” established by the Nazis—a major one being the classification of a concentration camp such as Dachau as a killing center. While a horrible camp with a long history of brutality, Dachau was created as a concentration camp for the “reeducation” of political opponents of the Nazi regime; it was not created specifically to exterminate Jews, as were the killing centers at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, and Auschwitz-Birkenau located in German-occupied Poland. If an educator puts in ample thought and study and crafts clear rationale statements, the potential for distorting and/or simplifying the history will hopefully be avoided.

References Eisner, Elliot W. (2001). The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Lipstadt, Deborah (1995). “Not Facing History.” New Republic, March 6. Newmann, Fred M., and Wehlage, Gary G. (1993). “Five Standards of Authentic Instruction.” Educational Leadership, April, 50(7), 8–12. Rosenberg, Alan, and Bardosh, Alexander (1982–1983). “The Problematic Character of Teaching the Holocaust.” Shoah, Fall/Winter, 3–7, 20. Strom, Margot Stern, and Parsons, William S. (1982). Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. Watertown, MA: Intentional Education. Totten, Samuel, and Feinberg, Stephen (1995). “Teaching About the Holocaust: Rationale, Content, Methodology and Resources.” In a Special Issue on the Holocaust co-edited by Samuel Totten, Stephen Feinberg and Milton Kleg of Social Education, October, 59(6), 323–327. Totten, Samuel, Feinberg, Stephen, and Fernekes, William (2001). “The Significance of Rationale Statements in Developing a Sound Holocaust Education Program.” In Totten, Samuel and Feinberg, Stephen (Eds.), Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (pp. 1–23). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon Publishers (Reprinted by Information Age Publishers in 2009). US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) (1993). Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. Washington, DC: Author.

Annotated Bibliography Articles Blutinger, Jeffrey C. (2009). “Bearing Witness: Teaching the Holocaust From a Victim-Centered Perspective.” The History Teacher, May, 42(3), 269–279. Clearly delineating the need to examine the Holocaust from multiple historical perspectives, this article explores the reasons for presenting this history from the perspective of the victims. While indicating that

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it is also important to present the history from the point of view of the perpetrators, the author devotes considerable attention to delineating a strong rationale for including the experiences of the victims in any study of the Holocaust. Arguing that the point of view of the victims—both Jewish and non-Jewish— is historically valuable, the author believes that survivor testimonies should play a central role in the classroom. Davis, Bryan L., and Rubenstein-Avila, Eliane (2013). “Holocaust Education: Global Forces Shaping Curricula Integration and Implementation.” Intercultural Education, April, 24(1–2), 149–166. Claiming that there has been no clear and concise appraisal of the global scholarship on Holocaust education, the authors present their take on it. While concentrating on how Holocaust curricula found its way into schools, the article also focuses on how teaching about the Holocaust differs from memorializing it. The authors also address how the Holocaust has been used to teach about racism and human rights. Creating a framework for observing factors impacting the integration of the Holocaust into school curricula, the authors examine the role of national histories in Europe, antisemitism, and the state of Israel in the creation and implementation of Holocaust pedagogies. Donnelly, Mary Beth (2006). “Educating Students About the Holocaust: A Survey of Teaching Practices.” Social Education, January–February, 70(1), 51–54. The author asserts that due to the absence of reliable nationwide information on how the Holocaust was actually being taught in US schools, a yearlong study, commissioned by the USHMM, was conducted along that line in 2003–2004. In addition to assessing the ways in which teachers in middle schools through high schools in the United States taught about the Holocaust, data was also collected on teachers’ rationales for teaching about the Holocaust. Eckmann, Monique (2010). “Exploring the Relevance of Holocaust Education for Human Rights Education.” Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, March, 40(1), 7–16. Many educators believe that a study of the Holocaust is a valid pedagogical tool for human rights education. Based on her research, Eckmann believes that educators in both fields can find it difficult to include both topics in one educational program. The author explores some basic concepts regarding the foundations of Holocaust education and human rights education, and then makes distinctions between learning “about,” learning “for,” and learning “within a framework of ” human rights. She argues that such distinctions make it possible to differentiate the possible contributions—and the limits—of Holocaust education as a human rights tool in these three areas. Friedlander, Henry (1979). “Toward a Methodology of Teaching About the Holocaust.” Teachers College Record, 80(5), 519–542. While over 35 years old, this piece by the noted historian continues to be extremely worthwhile for educators to read and seriously consider. Presenting a clear and cogent examination of some of the many problems associated with Holocaust courses of study and curricula, Friedlander presents the reasons why the Holocaust should be taught in schools. Friedlander also summarizes potential topics for instruction. Karn, Alexander (2012). “Toward a Philosophy of Holocaust Education: Teaching Values Without Imposing Agendas.” History Teacher, February, 45(2), 221–240. “Most teachers hope to make a difference in the lives of their students, but whether they accomplish this with any regularity is often left unclear. With a topic like the Holocaust, the stakes are greatly raised. In this essay, the author discusses the place of the Holocaust in the liberal arts. He argues that the content of Holocaust education must revolve around a methodology that allows students to conjure and experiment with new and deeper self-understanding(s). Teaching the Holocaust effectively means freeing (and urging) students to ask questions about historical epistemology (i.e., the ways in which historians come to know what they do), as well as questions that speak directly to the challenges of the current moment. The idea behind this philosophy is to teach the past in a manner that equips students to see the ramifications of their choices in contrast to the Germans who, by virtue of their own choices, allowed themselves to be fastened in a system designed to achieve national revitalization and racial purification at any and all costs. He stresses that history teachers, as the most recent data show, cannot further their own agendas by using the Holocaust as an instrument for political indoctrination, but they can still lead their students toward new ways of thinking about the world and their place in it.” (Source: ERIC.) Meseth, Wolfgang, and Proske, Matthias (2010). “Mind the Gap: Holocaust Education in Germany Between Pedagogical Intentions and Classroom Interactions.” Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, June, 40(2): 201–222. Identifying a gap between the goals for teaching the Holocaust and the realities of classroom practices, the authors present findings from a qualitative study that explore this disparity. The authors show that


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

classroom interactions are strongly influenced by the manner in which students learn—ways that often conflict with the intended content of the lesson. They also disclose a tension between the need to represent the crimes of the Nazis in an adequate manner and to realize the goals of moral education. National Council for the Social Studies (1995, October). Special Issue (“Teaching About the Holocaust”). Social Education, 59(6). [Edited by Samuel Totten, Stephen Feinberg, and Milton Kleg.] Identifying challenges to Holocaust education and suggesting strategies to deal with them, this special issue of Social Education provides a host of practical suggestions for the effective teaching of the Holocaust. A good number of the articles deal with foundational issues teachers need to be aware of and consider. Pettigrew, Alice (2010). “Limited Lessons.” Teaching History, December, 141, 50–54. Many educators have claimed that the rationale for teaching about the Holocaust resides in its ability to improve citizenship skills. Pettigrew, working at the Centre for Holocaust Education at the Institute of Education at the University of London, argues that regardless of one’s rationale, it is essential to contextualize the historical study of this 20th-century watershed event in order to achieve any foundational understanding of its impact. While recognizing the many rationales educators offer for studying this history, the author states that so-called lessons of the Holocaust can only be comprehended by possessing a sound historical understanding of the complexity of that history. Without such an understanding, she argues, students will not be able to connect the study of the Holocaust to other genocides and crimes against humanity. Ragland, Rachel G. and Rosenstein, Daniel (2014). “Holocaust Education: Analysis of Curricula and Frameworks: A Case Study of Illinois.” The Social Studies, March, 105(4):175–183. Focusing on the state of Illinois, the authors address the historical development of Holocaust education in the United States on the secondary level with an emphasis on the rationales for introducing this topic into school curricula. Further, the authors differentiate between creating a framework for teaching about this history and developing a full curriculum. Given its more imprecise structure, a framework cannot lead to an in-depth examination of the Holocaust, they argue, while a full curriculum, including rationale statements, can increase understanding of the content and mastery of essential skills. Recommendations are provided for Holocaust education curriculum development. Stevick, E. Doyle, and Michaels, Deborah L. (2013). “Empirical and Normative Foundations of Holocaust Education: Bringing Research and Advocacy Into Dialogue.” Intercultural Education, 24(1–2), 1–18. “A scenario of Holocaust education gone awry, which was constructed from a real event in one author’s experience, and a 2010 critique of Holocaust education by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, are used to explore key issues and dilemmas for Holocaust education. The authors argue that we should pursue clarity about the empirical and moral bases for advocacy, research, and teaching, which will protect the field from unrealistic expectations that are counterproductive for the subject. Bringing advocacy and research into the dialogue will contribute to achieving clarity about both the purposes and the effects of Holocaust education. This article explores these tensions and suggests critical areas for further Holocaust education research, particularly regarding children’s emotional experiences in Holocaust education; the practical tools educators need to respond effectively to inappropriate or problematic comments; how we can speak about groups without reinforcing totalizing and homogenizing identities that ideologues attempt to promote; and the ways that children in different cultural contexts construct meaning from the Holocaust.” (Source: a summary of the article on ERIC.) Totten, Samuel (1998). “The Start Is as Important as the Finish: Establishing a Foundation for Study of the Holocaust.” Social Education, February, 62(2), 70–76. Totten discusses and describes possible opening activities for the study of the Holocaust for the purpose of ascertaining: (1) students’ current knowledge base about the Holocaust; (2) students’ depth of knowledge about the Holocaust; and (3) students’ crucial questions and concerns about the Holocaust. Totten, Samuel (1999). “Should There Be Holocaust Education for K-4 Students? The Answer Is No!” Social Studies and the Young Learner, September–October, 12(1), 36–39. Totten asserts that educators should not teach about the Holocaust to K-4 students. In doing so, he addresses the purpose of teaching the Holocaust and whether it can be taught to young children; questions the use of the term “Holocaust education” in K-4 educational settings; and suggests that a more appropriate term (human rights education, civil education, citizenship education) is needed for the type of information and ideals that should be taught to such young learners. He asserts that an education along the latter line is much more age-appropriate for K-4 students and apropos vis-à-vis cognitive and affective maturity.

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van Driel, Barry, and van Dijk, Lutz (2010). “Diverse Classrooms—Opportunities and Challenges.” Intercultural Education, May, 21(1): S1–S5. Based on the proceedings of a three-day seminar in April 2009 for experts in the field of Holocaust education from a dozen countries, this article posits a number of questions that framed the discussion of new and successful ways of teaching the Holocaust. Issues relating to rationales and pedagogies when teaching in classrooms with great cultural diversity are discussed in detail, as are ways to connect the Holocaust to the fields of human rights education, citizenship education, and intercultural/multicultural education.

Books Gray, Michael (2014). Contemporary Debates in Holocaust Education. New York, NY: Palgrave Pivot. While critically examining the latest research on various facets of Holocaust education, Gray also addresses one of the most discussed questions in the field: How will the Holocaust be taught when there are no longer any survivors of the actual events? Gray also examines the potential impact of the use of electronic technology and social media on the subject of the Holocaust. Contextualizing his examination of the entire field of Holocaust education by looking at both educators and students, Gray offers interesting observations on the possible directions for the future of this educational endeavor. Landau, Ronnie S. (1998). Studying the Holocaust: Issues, Readings and Documents. New York, NY: Routledge. Challenging the assumption that the Holocaust is “unknowable,” Landau offers practical guidelines for approaching the teaching of the Holocaust through the use of primary source documents and thematic units that deal with the complexity of Holocaust history. Niewyk, Donald L. (2012). “The Holocaust: Jews, Gypsies, and the Handicapped.” In Samuel Totten and William S. Parsons (Eds.), Centuries of Genocide: Essays and Eyewitness Accounts (pp. 191–247). New York, NY: Routledge. Devoting attention to the three groups targeted for total physical annihilation by the Nazis, exploring the underlying assumptions of Nazi ideology, and examining the genocidal policies and procedures of the Nazis, Holocaust scholar and historian Niewyk firmly places the Holocaust within a meaningful historical context. The extensive use of eyewitness accounts makes this an essential reference for any study of genocide. Russell, Lucy (2006). Teaching the Holocaust in School History: Teachers or Preachers? New York, NY: Continuum. While curriculum developers and classroom teachers have often taught the Holocaust from a moral and social point of view, Russell—after studying the teaching of the Holocaust in the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, and Germany—argues that what is truly needed is to present the narrative of the Holocaust as history. While she does not ignore the responsibility of educators to present the horrors of the Holocaust, she questions the context in which this is done. She asks whether the teaching of the Holocaust in schools is being done to develop the critical skills needed for historical understanding or to change social behavior in relation to social prejudice and discrimination. Totten, Samuel, and Feinberg, Stephen (2001). Teaching and Studying the Holocaust. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon (Reprinted by Information Age Publishers in 2009). This book includes a very detailed chapter on the foundations of Holocaust education by Samuel Totten (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and co-author of the USHMM’s Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust); Stephen Feinberg (longtime middle school teacher in Wayland, Massachusetts, and upon retirement, a leader in the USHMM’S Education Division (1993–2014)); and William Fernekes (longtime social studies teacher and department chair at Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey, and a teacher consultant with the USHMM throughout the 1990s and early 2000s).

Journals Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Published by Oxford University Press in conjunction with the USHMM. This leading international research journal dealing with the Holocaust is published three times a year. Articles deal with current historical and contemporary research, interpretive essays, and social science book reviews.


Stephen Feinberg and Samuel Totten

Prism: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators. Published by the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. Published once a year, this highly acclaimed peer-reviewed journal focuses mainly on thematic issues of interest to secondary educators. Bringing diverse perspectives from the fields of history, education, literature, psychology, and art, each issue deals with a specific topic.


The amount of information available on the Holocaust is staggering. An interested reader, conscientious teacher, or eager student who sets out to learn about the subject confronts a mountain of scholarly books and personal accounts from which to choose. Then there are the oral testimonies—52,000 interviews with survivors in the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive alone—and the countless websites and movies. In an effort to help teachers navigate this rich array of material and organize their knowledge, five key themes are addressed in this chapter: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Chronology matters, because the Holocaust was a step-by-step process. Jews were at the center of Nazi German processes of destruction, but there were other target groups, too, and their situations were intertwined. The Holocaust was linked to World War II. The Holocaust was a global event. The Holocaust was part of human history: everyone involved—whether a victim, witness, rescuer, collaborator, or perpetrator—was a human being.

Each of these points corresponds to a frequently asked question about the Holocaust: How did it happen? Why the Jews? How could people do such terrible things? Why did no one stop it? What lessons can we learn from this past? Addressing each theme in turn offers, if not definitive answers, at least some ways to respond to these questions frequently posed by students and others.

Chronology Matters How did the Holocaust happen? To this question, political scientist Raul Hilberg famously responded, “step by step.” In other words, the Holocaust was not a single event or the result of one decision, but a process that developed over time. This obvious point is frequently overlooked in what a colleague once described as her students’ rush to get to the gas chambers. I use an analogy of a burning house to capture the different components and overlapping stages of the process: the preconditions—racism and antisemitism—constituted the dry timber; Hitler and the leadership of the Nazi regime were the spark that ignited the fire; and World War II provided the favorable conditions—dry air, wind—that fanned the flames. To illustrate the importance of chronology in more detail, I will discuss three years: 1933, 1939, and 1942.


Doris L. Bergen

1933: Nazi Ideology in Power In January 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. This was a key event because it translated into political power what had been abstract, ideological notions about racial superiority and the right to conquer supposed inferiors, and made possible the institutionalization of antisemitism and aggression. Initially Hitler’s position was quite weak: the Nazi Party had received only about 33% of the popular vote in the Reichstag election of November 1932, and thus he had to work within a coalition. To maximize support Hitler developed a pattern of testing the waters with measures against target groups—Communists, Jews, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals—and waiting for the public response. Also typical already in this early stage were practices of divide and rule by the Nazis that singled out the most vulnerable targets first and set people against one another. Antisemitism constituted the core of Hitler’s worldview and the center of National Socialist (Nazi) ideology. But Hitler had not highlighted antisemitism in the campaign that brought him to office in 1933, nor did he immediately reveal action against Jews to be his top priority. Instead his first goal was to consolidate power. He used his position as chancellor to do so at the cost of his major political rivals—above all, the Communists. In turn, the offensive against the Communists, who were blamed for burning the Reichstag, the German parliament building, in February 1933, provided the pretext for dismantling what remained of German democracy. The following month, amid considerable fanfare, Nazi authorities opened the first official concentration camp at Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich. Its earliest inmates, all Germans, were primarily political prisoners. For the approximately 500,000 Jews in Germany, the first year of Nazi rule unleashed a series of bewildering mixed signals. Perhaps the new regime would not last. Attacks on non-Jews and protests from opponents of Nazism encouraged this line of thinking. Victor Klemperer, a professor of French literature in Dresden, provides a glimpse into how the situation appeared at the time. Klemperer, the son of a rabbi, converted to Protestant Christianity, married a gentile, served in the German army in World War I, and identified fully with German culture. Under Nazi law, however, he counted as a Jew. In his detailed and insightful diary, one of the issues that preoccupied him was what he referred to as the vox populi, the voice or mood of the people. What did “ordinary Germans”—that is, the non-Jewish Germans around him—think of Jews? What did they make of Nazi anti-Jewish measures? Throughout 1933, and during the entire Nazi period, Klemperer went back and forth on these questions, often within the same diary entry. As a veteran of World War I, Klemperer managed to keep his position at the university until 1935. After January 1933, however, enrollment in his classes plummeted. Students were among the most actively pro-Nazi elements of the German population, and few wanted to risk being associated with a Jewish professor, let alone one who taught French literature. By the middle of 1934, Klemperer had only three students: two women classics majors, both of them critical of Nazism, and a storm trooper. Klemperer’s comments about them capture something of his personal seesaw between despair and hope: At classes: Art poétique—Fräulein Heyne and (sometimes) Fräulein Kaltofen, prosody—both girls, principal lecture, classicism—the two of them and Herr Heintzsch. He is an SA man and says plaintively, “I am not a soldier.” I cautiously-incautiously talk politics with the girls at the beginning and end of classes. Both strongly anti-National Socialists, both oppressed by the feeling of tyranny. Especially Heyne, a Catholic, who wrote me a fine letter in spring from her work camp [not a detention site but a training camp for young adults, DB]. She said to me recently, “A kind of catechism was read out to us. ‘I believe in the leader Adolf Hitler . . . I believe in Germany’s mission . . .’ Surely no Catholic can say that.”

Key Themes in Holocaust History


I have a great deal to make up; all the important things turn on the one thing which is suffocating us. But everywhere, or almost everywhere, there is nevertheless a shimmer of hope. It cannot last much longer. (Klemperer, 1999, p. 64, diary entry 13 June 1934) Other events in 1933 indicated the same confusing patterns as Hitler’s regime tested the waters and isolated its targets. In April 1933, the Nazi leadership called for a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses, but then called it off ahead of schedule. Unpopular with consumers, the boycott was a failure because it revealed how deeply German Jews were integrated into the economic and social life of the nation. At the same time, however, the boycott succeeded in stigmatizing Jews and creating an impression that “world Jewry” was conspiring against Nazi Germany. The same week as the boycott, Nazi authorities introduced a law to remove Jews from the German civil service. Euphemistically labeled the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service,” it was a crucial step in transforming antisemitism from an attitude that required members of the public to share Nazi ideals into a wide range of actions that did not. In other words, once a law was in place to fire Jews, non-Jewish Germans did not have to hate or even dislike Jews in order to destroy their livelihoods and sometimes their lives. They only had to carry out the law, or at least not stand in its way. The civil service law met with much more approval than the boycott had. Non-Jews, the regime learned, preferred anti-Jewish measures that appeared to improve their own lives over those that cost them effort. Firing Jewish civil servants, from lowly clerks to high-profile professionals, opened up positions for non-Jewish Germans, or at least held out the promise of doing so. It also provided opportunities for self-serving initiatives that went even further than the law. For instance, some professors denounced colleagues who were converts from Judaism to Christianity or were married to Jewish women, and requested that they too be expelled from their posts. Meanwhile, radical antisemites found that Hitler’s rise to power gave them license to act out their violent fantasies. Margot S., who was born in Berlin in 1925, remembers that the city immediately became perilous for Jews. “Groups of hooligans” made it dangerous to walk the streets at night, she recalled in an interview decades later: People were assaulted frequently and at random . . . Sometimes, the SS took Jews to the Kneipe (the beer hall) to have a drink and “amuse themselves.” The Jews usually returned with an eye out, an ear cut off, or several broken bones. (quoted in Lindeman, 2007, p. 150) One night, her father witnessed some men cutting the beard off an orthodox Jew. Her father returned home distressed and physically sick. Jews were by no means the only targets of the flurry of brutality that followed Hitler’s rise to power. The vast majority of German Communists arrested, beaten, and thrown out of the country in the wake of the Reichstag fire in February 1933 were not Jewish. The Nazi regime also introduced measures against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, and proponents of rights for homosexuals; thugs enacted their hostilities against people associated with these groups in the streets, too. The prominent sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, a gay man and a Jew, was reviled in the Nazi press, and his research institute and library were destroyed by rampaging Nazi students. Forced into exile, he soon died. In some cases the new regime took formal steps against its target groups. In July 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, known as the Sterilization Law, was proclaimed.


Doris L. Bergen

That measure, which mandated the sterilization of people deemed unfit to reproduce—based on a list of conditions that included epilepsy, alcoholism, and feeblemindedness—was introduced the same week as an announcement of a Concordat (agreement) with the Vatican. The Concordat, a triumph for Nazi diplomacy, recognized the rights of Roman Catholic institutions and individuals in Germany and signaled the Vatican’s acceptance of Hitler’s government as legitimate. At the same time, it neutralized the objections of some parish priests and others who had opposed sterilization and who had warned that Nazism elevated the “Aryan race” above God’s grace. Under these conditions tens of thousands of Germans fled the country in 1933. In that year alone, more than 10,000 Jews left Germany. Many did not go far: they chose destinations where they had relatives, business connections, or opportunities. Anne Frank’s family moved from Frankfurt am Main to the Netherlands. Others went to Belgium, France, and Poland. The father of George Mosse, later one of the most influential historians of the 20th century, owned a large publishing conglomerate based in Berlin. Forced at gunpoint to sign over his assets to a fake organization for war veterans, he departed with his family for Switzerland. But already there were indications that Nazi power would not remain confined to existing borders. In October 1933, as Germany stepped up its secret rearmament program, Hitler announced his country’s withdrawal from the League of Nations.

1939: War as the Terrible Enabler The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 unleashed World War II in Europe. Even before Hitler’s war began, Nazi Germany had begun its assault on the Jews. “Europe cannot find peace until the Jewish question has been solved,” Hitler told the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, less than three months after the Kristallnacht pogrom, also known as the Night of Broken Glass. In that series of violent attacks in November 1938, Nazi thugs and local participants torched hundreds of synagogues throughout Germany, which by then included Austria and the Sudetenland, which the Nazis had “annexed.” Often led by Nazi Party officials or members of the Hitler Youth, but sometimes driven by local people eager for action and loot, mobs broke into Jewish businesses and homes, stealing, smashing, raping, and beating. Police arrested 30,000 German Jewish men and sent them to concentration camps, where they remained until their families could arrange to leave the country, in most cases without their property. Hitler had already decided that war would start in 1939. “In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet,” he proclaimed in his January speech, “and have usually been ridiculed for it.” Now, he concluded, things were different: Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe! (quoted in Noakes and Pridham, 2001, p. 441) Later, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and others often quoted this “prophecy,” which they purposely and consistently misdated to coincide with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. That “mistake” revealed a sleight-of-hand, an attempt to cast Hitler’s words as a response to attack rather than a declaration of murderous intent. The invasion of Poland was brutal against non-Jewish Poles as well as Jews. Part of Germany’s Blitzkrieg assault involved the destruction of Polish elites, people whom the Nazis surmised might be effective leaders of a national resistance. Roman Catholic priests, journalists, professors, and even

Key Themes in Holocaust History


schoolteachers found themselves targeted for arrest—and in many cases, murder. Nazi schemes to create purely German areas of settlement resulted in mass expulsions of Poles, Jews and non-Jews, to make room for ethnic Germans brought in from territories under Soviet control. The establishment of the first ghettos further isolated Jews and drove a wedge between them and their former Polish neighbors. Still, the first targets of mass killing in 1939 were not Jews but people deemed to be mentally or physically disabled—children to be precise—under the so-called euthanasia program. The murder of disabled children inside Germany began even before the invasion of Poland, and by autumn of that year the killing had expanded to include adults. In response to pressure from physicians and bureaucrats nervous that they might be charged with violating the law against murder, Hitler agreed in October 1939 to sign a memorandum—issued on his personal stationery—that authorized the “mercy killing” of people when deemed necessary. However there was nothing merciful about this program, which selected its victims not because they were suffering or wanted to die but because they were deemed useless. Hitler backdated the order to September 1, 1939, to create the impression that it was a response to the exigencies of wartime.

1942: The Peak Year of Killing At the beginning of 1942, of the approximately six million Jews who would be murdered in the Holocaust, 75% were still alive. By early 1943, that situation was reversed: 75% of those who would be killed were already dead. Over the course of a murderous year, the new killing centers established at Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Auschwitz-Birkenau had achieved a rate of killing that even the ravages of ghettos, mass starvation, open-air shootings, and forced labor in the preceding years had not reached. These five sites, sometimes referred to as the death camps, were established in German-occupied Poland where many Jews lived, and in each case, among the first victims of the new facilities were Jews from the surrounding region. The components of genocide had been in place since 1939: a war of annihilation, mass killing, development of methods of murder, techniques for disposing of bodies, and practices for dealing with surrounding populations. But Nazi German power had expanded dramatically since then, through the successful wars of 1940 in Western and Northern Europe, the attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, and the invasion of Soviet territory that same year. The Einsatzgruppen (SS killing squads) shot between one and two million Jews in Ukraine, eastern Poland, the Baltic states, and Belorussia. But centralized killing programs added enormous capacity, as Nazi authorities and local collaborators organized transports of Jews from all of the territories in German hands to the sites of destruction. In 1942, at the same time as the killing of Jews ramped up to its peak, attacks on some nonJewish targets were scaled back. Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), who had been massacred and left to die of starvation, disease, and exposure in 1941 and early 1942, now became valuable workers in the Nazi system. Those who had managed to survive that deadly first period found their chances had improved considerably. Meanwhile, the German leadership, eager to reduce demands on its overextended manpower, more actively cultivated its allied and client states: Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Vichy France, Slovakia, and Croatia. The pinnacle of German military power in 1942 proved to be the period most deadly for Jews. A sense of hopelessness comes across in many Jewish sources, as people confided to their diaries and letters that they would not live to see the end of the war. After the fact, the question is often asked: why did the Jews not fight? Until late 1942, German power seemed unassailable, and national resistance movements were practically nonexistent. Resistance appeared hopeless, even suicidal. And yet Jews did fight back, as individuals, in bands of partisans that formed in the forests as young people


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escaped from the ghettos, and collectively through efforts to keep alive culture, religion, and some semblance of dignity and communal life. In the midst of utter desperation, even taking one’s own life could be an act of protest. For instance, in July 1942, the head of the Jewish Council in Warsaw, Adam Czerniakow, committed suicide when he realized that he could not save the orphans of the ghetto from being sent to Treblinka and murdered. Chronology is a powerful tool, but it cannot answer some of the most profound questions, such as: Why did the Holocaust happen? What does it mean? It can, however, help address the more limited historical question: how did it happen? The answer, as we have seen, is step-by-step, through a process that took time to isolate its targets, recruit and train killers, confuse and terrify onlookers, and destroy its victims.

Jews and Non-Jews Different definitions exist, but, as a historian whose area of specialization is Holocaust history, the way I define the Holocaust is as follows: the Nazi-German state-sponsored programs of persecution and mass killing. This definition allows for the integration of a number of target groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexual men, Afro-Germans, black French soldiers, Roma/Sinti, Polish elites, Soviet POWs, Jews, and disabled people. Such inclusiveness is more than a politically correct impulse; it is essential to understanding the dynamics of the Nazi German system. Practices of divide and rule and the contagious effect of extreme violence fueled the flames. Thinking about non-Jewish and Jewish victims together reveals something else important about Nazi persecution. It was not really about “difference,” as if “anyone different” was persecuted. In fact violence and persecution often created and enforced difference. Consider again the example of Victor Klemperer. In January 1933, he was indistinguishable from his fellow academics in Germany. Like them he was baptized, spoke German, and had served in World War I. By 1942, he could not have been more different. Defined as a Jew, he had been forced out of his job and his home. He was impoverished and enslaved, required to wear an identifying badge, and excluded from every aspect of society. Sickly and frail, he had been beaten and imprisoned. In other words, he did not start out as “the other,” but years of abuse turned him into a pariah. Groups of victims were connected in general ways through Nazi ideology, with its hierarchies of worthiness and fixation on blood. But there were also specific linkages of policy and practice that reveal important features of the Nazi system. One was its cynical pragmatism. Consider the murder of disabled people. It was the first program of mass killing, and its first victims were children. Why? Nazi ideology seemed to dictate that “non-Aryans” or foreigners would be the primary targets, not “Aryan” Germans, and not children at that. But when viewed alongside measures against Jews, starting the killing with disabled children reflects a brutal logic. German Jews had to be separated out from the rest of the population before they could be easily attacked. They had to be rendered “socially dead,” outside the bonds of obligation that connect members of communities. In contrast, disabled people were already marginalized, many of them institutionalized. Some children were even isolated within their families. The sister of a girl killed in the so-called euthanasia program admitted that at some point the child had “disappeared from our family’s memory” (quoted in USHMM, 2002–2003, “Deadly Medicine” exhibit). This practice of killing the easiest targets first minimized public unrest within Germany—something the Nazi leadership feared deeply. It also points to the lie built into the Nazis’ preferred label, “euthanasia” program. Mercy for people who suffered or the idea of providing a “good death” had nothing to do with it; this was a program of calculated murder.

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Under cover of war, the killing was expanded to disabled adults. Nazi organizers learned it was not hard to recruit killers although it was difficult to maintain secrecy. Killers needed to feel they had official backing, or at least cover, hence Hitler’s backdated order. From the murder of the disabled, Nazi leaders also learned that some family members and clergy were willing to protest. In August 1941, Clemens August Count von Galen, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Münster, preached a sermon that publicly opposed the killings. This was murder, he told his parishioners, and it violated God’s laws and the German Penal Code. Galen warned that every German was a potential victim, because anyone could become “of no use to the state,” including soldiers who were wounded and no longer able to fight, people who became ill, or those who were simply old (quoted in Griech-Polelle, 2002, pp. 189–191). Goebbels was furious but did not dare openly attack the popular bishop, who remained in his position throughout the war. The Nazi leadership did respond to the protest, not by stopping the killing but by changing the program in 1941. But killing operations were decentralized to hospitals and numerous smaller institutions, while the larger facilities took on new victims. Instead of focusing on members of the general German population, the “euthanasia” killings now targeted even more vulnerable people: concentration camp inmates who had become unable to work, Jewish or so-called mixed-blood orphans, and recidivist criminals. In 1945, a “euthanasia” killing center became the final destination for a group of injured, elderly Germans whose nursing home had been bombed out. The last victim was a 4-year-old boy murdered in a hospital in Bavaria in late May or possibly early June 1945, weeks after V-E Day. Whatever motivated these killings, it was not antisemitism, although persecution and violence did prove to be contagious. In the Nazi system killing became a way to solve problems, and experts in destruction of human lives could be deployed against one target group or another. Perpetrators of murder of the disabled went on to make careers destroying Jews; men who received Iron Crosses for their work killing Jews at Sobibor and Treblinka were transferred in 1943 when those sites were closed to Belorussia, Yugoslavia, and Italy, where they burned villages and slaughtered people in the name of fighting partisans. Looking at non-Jewish and Jewish victims together does not answer the question, “why the Jews?” but it does decenter it. This is essential in order to avoid stigmatizing and blaming the victims. Examining victim groups together raises a different and ultimately more fruitful question about the origins of the Holocaust: what was it about the Nazis?

War The great historian Gerhard Weinberg has offered this tip for teaching the Holocaust: do not separate the Holocaust from World War II. Considering these events together helps address many questions, including: how did the killers do it? One answer is that they got used to it: war conditioned them, it normalized violence, and it militarized killing. War also delivered the victims into the hands of their murderers. Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, 95% came from outside the 1933 borders of Germany. Most of the one-quarter to one-half million Roma and Sinti killed came from outside Germany, too. Other victim groups were entirely composed of people conquered in war: think of the 3.3 million men killed or allowed to die in German captivity as Soviet prisoners of war (POWs). The millions of Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Belorussian civilians killed in so-called antipartisan massacres, deliberately starved to death, and destroyed through forced labor are usually considered victims of the war, not the Holocaust. But their fates were intertwined with that of Jews, too, and there were also Jews among them. War, like antisemitism, was central to the Nazi worldview. To achieve the world dominance it supposedly deserved, the “Aryan” race, Hitler reasoned in social Darwinist fashion, had to be in a


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constant state of increase. Such reproduction required land, and conquest of territory meant war. In Hitler’s eyes, because the Jewish “race” was the mortal enemy of the “Aryans,” any war would be or become a war against “the Jews.” Indeed, by Nazi logic, other enemies were either puppets and dupes of—or masks for—“international Jewry.” For Hitler and others who shared his views, the notion that Germany had lost World War I because of a stab in the back from a treacherous home front led by cowardly Jews meant that driving Jews out was necessary in order to win the wars to come. The dynamic of war eased the consciences of men and women initially unaccustomed to mass violence. In 1939, the brutality of the German invasion and occupation of Poland generated grumbling among members of the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces). Most famously, Colonel-General Johannes Blaskowitz, commander of the Ober-Ost military region, compiled a long list of German abuses and submitted it to Hitler himself. Such behavior, Blaskowitz complained, was unworthy of German men; it undermined military discipline and produced “brutalization and moral debasement” (Noakes and Pridham, 2001, p. 939). Moreover, Blaskowitz observed, it made subject people harder to control and risked uniting Poles and Jews against the Germans. Hitler was annoyed by the report, and Blaskowitz was transferred to western Europe, but he did not lose his rank and continued to serve throughout the war. One of 14 high-ranking officers charged by the Allies with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the High Command case, Blaskowitz committed suicide on the first day of the trial in 1948. No comparable complaint came from Blaskowitz or his fellow military men a year later when Germans in France massacred several thousand black French soldiers. In May and June 1940, as German forces invaded and defeated France, they took large numbers of prisoners. In many cases they separated the black men—most of whom belonged to units drafted in France’s West African colonies—from the white men and killed them upon capture. The carnage Germans had carried out in Poland likely made it easier for officers and soldiers to accept and participate in this round of killing. No doubt racist attitudes, the legacies of the genocide of the Herero and Nama that Germans had perpetrated in Southwest Africa in 1905–1907, and old colonial accusations about African fighters who mutilated the bodies of their victims and raped any white women they could get their hands on, also played a role. Goebbels exploited those prejudices and plied Wehrmacht units with viciously racist propaganda to prepare them for the assault on France. Nor were objections raised in the spring of 1941, when the Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia and carried out large numbers of reprisal killings of civilians. Even in the absence of special killing squads it was never necessary to force soldiers to participate; there were always enough volunteers to do the dirty work. In June 1941, Wehrmacht units, along with their Axis partners, attacked the Soviet Union, invading first through territory that the Soviets had claimed in 1939 and 1940. The assault was accompanied by the mass killing of Jews by the Einsatzgruppen, the German Order Police, local auxiliaries, and in pogroms that sometimes had little direct connection to German authority. There must have been at least some grumbling within German ranks, because it is not a usual practice for field marshals to explain themselves to their men. But this is precisely what Walther von Reichenau, commander of the Sixth Army, did in his infamous order of October 1941: There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the behaviour of the troops towards the Bolshevist system. . . . The main aim of the campaign against the Jewish Bolshevist system is the complete destruction of its forces and the extermination of the Asiatic influence in the sphere of European culture. As a result, the troops have to take on tasks which go beyond the conventional purely military ones. . . . Soldiers must show full understanding of the necessity for the severe but just atonement being required of the Jewish subhumans. It also has the further

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purpose of nipping in the bud uprisings in the rear of the Wehrmacht which experience shows are invariably instigated by Jews. (Noakes and Pridham, 2001, p. 495) There was no room for mercy in this logic, which cast all Jews, including children and the elderly, not only as racial enemies but as a security threat. In all its phases, the war facilitated and escalated the Holocaust. When Germany appeared unstoppable, that success made genocide possible. But as the Germans began to lose ground, particularly after the defeats in North Africa and at Stalingrad, military setbacks likewise enabled, justified, and sparked mass murder. In 1944–1945, as the spiral toward defeat and collapse accelerated, killing continued. The killers had a mix of motives: by then some were in the habit of using maximum force to resolve any problems or obstacles they encountered. Self-preservation was a factor, too, as guards and other personnel preferred to preside over columns of evacuated prisoners in the death marches rather than face armed enemies. The war and the Holocaust, separated by historians and commentators after the fact, were in fact contemporaneous, entangled, and inseparable. Jewish diarists understood this and realized that their fate depended on the outcome of the war. Even Anne Frank, from the secret annex in Amsterdam, followed the movement of the fronts with urgent interest. Paying attention to the war does not provide a key to what went on in the hearts and minds of individual perpetrators, but it does provide powerful insights into the dynamics of violence in conquered and occupied territories and the role of war in legitimating genocide.

The Holocaust as a Global Event The Holocaust was a global event in several ways. For one thing, it was part of a world war, and Nazi Germany’s partnerships with Italy and Japan were an expression of global ambitions. It also grew out of the logic of Nazism and the all-or-nothing quality of Hitler’s worldview. If the “Aryan race” were to prove itself superior to all others, it would have to expand continually and endlessly, not only to the borders of Europe. The security issue also implied boundless destruction. If all Jews everywhere were enemies of Germany, they would have to be destroyed wherever they were in order to eradicate the threat. We now know that an Einsatzkommando (special killing squad) had been established to murder the Jews in Palestine, and if the Germans and Italians had not been driven out of North Africa, it would have been called into action. The Holocaust was a global event for its victims, too. Jews sought refuge wherever they could; for example, the city of Shanghai, with its international sector and open policy toward immigrants, became a major site of Jewish survival. So did Central Asia, where as many as one million Jews from the Soviet Union, Poland, and elsewhere managed to survive the war behind Soviet lines. Argentina, Cuba, India, Kenya, Palestine, South Africa, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic—all became destinations for Jews desperate to escape Europe. The global reach of the refugee crisis in turn meant the roles of witnesses, helpers, beneficiaries, collaborators, and enablers reproduced themselves all over the world. Decisions made in Ottawa shaped the behavior and options of Jews in the Czech lands; relatives and strangers in Istanbul sought to broker deals that would rescue Jews still alive in Hungary in 1944. In some cases, people far from Berlin also profited from and betrayed those who looked to them for aid. To this day, scholarship on the Holocaust has barely begun to take seriously its global reach. The field needs experts on the world beyond Europe to elucidate issues and reveal connections that European specialists are unlikely to see. Perhaps one example of the importance of such scholars will suffice. Programs of Holocaust education invariably present the Evian Conference of 1938 as


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a turning point when the West, in particular the United States and Canada—traditional countries of immigration—refused to admit Jewish refugees. To highlight this failure it is often pointed out that at Evian, only the Dominican Republic agreed to open its doors, offering to take 100,000 Jewish refugees. Melanie Newton, a historian of the Caribbean, first alerted me to the backstory of this event. In October 1937, under orders from President Rafael Trujillo, Dominican soldiers massacred an estimated 20,000 Haitians inside the Dominican Republic. Although the motives for the killings and for the subsequent invitation to Jewish refugees continue to be debated, it seems evident that these developments were connected. Perhaps both were part of an effort to “whiten” the population, or the generous refugee policy might have been a form of damage control in the wake of an international investigation whose outcome remained under negotiation. In any case, for some 800 Jews, being able to enter the Dominican Republic made the difference between life and death. Still, viewing that haven in its context of extreme violence is essential to comprehend the complex, interconnected, and brutal world in which the Holocaust took place. Geographic distance could enable survival, but it did not prevent the shock of grief. Anka Voticky, a Czech Jew who survived the war in Shanghai, provides a case in point. Her recollections of the immediate aftermath emphasized neither the adventure of escape nor triumph—she had managed to bring her children and her parents with her—but unmitigated loss. In September 1945 she and her husband Arnold received a letter from a cousin describing the fate of their extended family. Arnold’s parents and many other close relatives had been murdered in Treblinka; altogether, 65 members of their family had been killed. For two days after reading the letter, Voticky recalls, her husband sat in a chair: “not moving, not speaking, not eating, not drinking, not sleeping.” When he finally spoke it was to express utter isolation: Tomorrow is Yom Kippur. You can do whatever you want, but I am not fasting. In all my life I never saw my mother in her underwear. The thought that in Treblinka she had to undress in front of everybody and, naked, my parents had to dig their own grave. . . . I no longer believe that there can possibly be a God. (Voticky, 2010, pp. 74–75) Considering the Holocaust as world history reminds us of its specificity but also its universal dimensions. Violence, expulsion, destruction, assault on communal and individual lives—these are all-too-familiar experiences in the human past and present. For the past decade or so, a module on the Holocaust has been a compulsory part of the national high school curriculum in South Africa. The only topic for which more hours are mandated is apartheid. According to a staff member at the Durban Holocaust Centre, students respond with keen interest. Many found learning about the Holocaust to be profoundly significant, he said, not least because they saw that a person did not have to be black to be the victim of prejudice. That comment is a reminder of the transformative possibilities of scholarship, with its combination of distance and proximity, empathy and reason. Seeing the global dimension of the Holocaust does not put to rest the familiar question: why did no one help? But it does highlight the simplistic nature of that question. Already by mid-September 1939, large parts of Europe were at war, and colonial ties pulled in many people from outside Europe, too. Territories that were home to many Jews—eastern Poland, Lithuania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina—were under a harsh Soviet occupation. The war and the global dimensions of the Holocaust multiplied and magnified many unintended consequences. Being arrested and sent to Siberia or recruited into the Red Army destroyed many lives, although for Jews those options ended up providing increased chances of survival. It is easy to judge the failures of the past. Being alert to the

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global dimensions of the Holocaust reminds us of the complexity of the event, the incompleteness of our own knowledge, and the inability of all people to see into the future.

The Holocaust as a Human Event The Holocaust was a human event. This point seems so obvious it hardly bears stating. But it does need to be emphasized that everyone involved in the Holocaust was a human being, with familiar human feelings, motives, and responses. There is a tendency to regard war as a chess game (or perhaps a video game), to imagine genocide as a diorama where the perpetrators are black-booted aliens, the victims either skeletal corpses or defiant heroes, and the collaborators leering vultures. The discourse of “dehumanization” sometimes reproduces such images along with notions of anonymity and inevitability. Part of the job of teaching about the Holocaust is to “rehumanize” that past, a first step to informed empathy. This task is most straightforward when it comes to victims of the Holocaust. Inviting a survivor to class and using personal accounts are key ways to give names, faces, and personalities to individuals; drawing attention to gender, family ties, and communal bonds help breathe life into what can seem fantastic tales of misery and strength. Yehudi Lindeman, hidden as a child in more than a dozen different sites in the Netherlands, told students in my class how he became used to taking the hand of the unknown adults who arrived periodically to move him from one place to another. The gesture he made, extending and raising his hand as a small child does when walking with a much taller adult, brought to life for his audience the combination of fear, trust, loneliness, understanding, and incomprehension that characterized his situation. Sara Ginaite, who survived the war as a partisan fighter in Lithuania, opened a presentation to a college class with the words, “I am not a museum exhibit.” Seeing her, hearing her speak about her love for her husband, a fellow partisan, and her guilt about leaving her mother behind in the ghetto, no one could reduce her to a label or mistake her for anything but a human being. It is harder to show the humanity of the people we tend to dismiss as “bystanders.” No one has succeeded in collecting many of their testimonies of the war years, nor would most of them have compelling reasons to narrate their experiences. Their situations, unless they became valorized as resisters or castigated as traitors, remain under the radar, not useful for projects of bolstering national pride or strengthening collective identities. Still, there are sources that allow us to see the enormous range of behaviors of people who were neither directly involved as perpetrators nor targeted as victims. Many sources also reveal the many and intense pressures under which people existed in regions that were occupied for years, sometimes by more than one occupying power. Toward the end of Neighbors, a searing examination of the murder of the Jews of Jedwabne in July 1941 by gentile Poles, Jan Gross (2001) provides an account by Karolcia Sapetowa, a former nanny who sheltered two Jewish children from March 1943 until the end of the war. Her neighbors were uneasy, Sapetowa recalled, because they knew the children were in her home and they understood that if the Germans discovered them, the entire village could be punished. At first she was able to appease the villagers with gifts or promises, but increasingly they pushed her to get rid of the children. “Don’t kill us yet today,” the little girl and boy would beg her. Desperate, Sapetowa said, she “got a brilliant idea”: I put the children on a cart, and I told everybody that I was taking them out to drown them. I rode around the entire village, and everybody saw me and they believed, and when the night came I returned with the children. (quoted in Gross, 2001, p. 108)


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What does it tell us, Gross asks after quoting Sapetowa’s testimony, that residents of a Polish village could sleep in peace only when they were convinced that their neighbor, with her own hands, had just drowned two children? Most challenging of all is to recognize and represent the humanity of the perpetrators. It is easy and even comforting to turn away from them in horror and shun those who identify too closely with them. But if we are to understand the Holocaust as part of human history, we need to grasp the fact that they too were people. Gitta Sereny’s brilliant study of Franz Stangl, Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (1983), is the best place to start. Stangl, a factory worker from Austria who became a policeman, rose through the ranks to become involved in the program to kill disabled people, and eventually became the commandant of two killing centers (Sobibor and Treblinka), emerges in the book as quite ordinary. It was not demonic hatred or sadism that appeared to drive him but such familiar motives as ambition and pride in his achievements. Indeed, the character trait that seems most crucial in leading him “into that darkness,” as Sereny titles her book, was his ability to lie to himself, to compartmentalize, to block reflection on what he was doing and what it meant for other people. Sereny also pays considerable attention to Stangl’s wife, Theresa Stangl, who emerges from the analysis as a partner and facilitator of his deeds, and all the more effective in that role because of her reluctance. For Franz Stangl, his wife’s devout Christianity and rejection of Nazism gave her willingness to stay with him, even after she learned what he did, a moral quality that implied acceptance and even forgiveness. Thinking about everyone involved as people does not lessen the horror of the Holocaust. If anything, it does the opposite. The victims were thinking, feeling human beings and so were the perpetrators. This simple fact and the shock of familiarity that comes with it makes knowledge of the Holocaust more painful even as it demands our empathy. To consider the Holocaust as a human event does not offer answers to the question: what should we do? Nor does it answer the question, how do we prevent genocide? But it does help us respond to a more modest question: what can we do with this knowledge? As fellow human beings, the victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of the Holocaust deserve our attention. They cannot solve our problems or tell us what to do. Perhaps teachers, in order to do our jobs well, have to hope that teaching and learning will change our students, ourselves, and even the world. But maybe that is too much to expect. Maybe it is enough to learn about and reflect upon events, histories, and people that are part of the world we all share.

References Griech-Polelle, B. A. (2002). Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Gross, J. T. (2001). Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Klemperer, V. (1999). I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933–1941 (M. Chalmers, Trans.). New York, NY: Modern Library. Lindeman, Y. (Ed.). (2007). Shards of Memory: Narratives of Holocaust Survival. Westport, CT: Praeger. Noakes, J., and Pridham, G. (Eds.). (2001). Nazism, 1919–1945.Volume 3: Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination: A Documentary Reader (3rd ed.). Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press. Sereny, G. (1983). Into that Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. New York, NY: Vintage Books. (Original work was published in 1974) US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) (2002–2003). Oral History Interviews of the “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” Exhibition Collection. Oral History Branch Institutional Archives. Retrieved from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website: 485&search_field=Accession+Number Voticky, A. (2010). Knocking on Every Door. Toronto, ON: Azrieli Foundation.

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Annotated Bibliography There are many sources of information and insight on the wider subject and specific themes of this chapter. The following are particularly helpful:

Websites US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM; An excellent starting point is the website of the USHMM in Washington, DC, through which one can access some of the museum’s own collections of photographs, maps, documents, and oral testimonies, as well as the Holocaust Encyclopedia, which includes a bibliography for each entry. University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive ( A wealth of personal accounts from Holocaust survivors is available through the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. The full collection can be accessed only through a subscribing institution, but some materials can be viewed on the website, which also offers more information about the archive. Yad Vashem ( The website of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, is an invaluable resource.

Historical Surveys Bergen, Doris L. (2009). War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 296 pp. A popular introduction to the history of the Holocaust, this book situates Jews at the center of Nazi German destruction but also examines the victimization of disabled people, Roma, homosexual men, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Polish elites, and Soviet POWs. Friedländer, Saul (1997). Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 464 pp. Friedländer, Saul (2007). The Years of Extermination,Vol. 2: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 870 pp. Saul Friedländer’s two volumes provide an in-depth examination of the Holocaust that integrates Jewish sources within a chronological framework. The first volume deals with Germany in the years before the onset of war; the second widens the scope to all of Europe and beyond. Weinberg, Gerhard L. (1995). The “Final Solution” and the War in 1943. In Germany, Hitler, and World War II: Essays in Modern German and World History (pp. 217–44). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 374 pp. Weinberg, Gerhard L. (1995). Germany’s War for World Conquest and the Extermination of Jews. Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Lecture Series. Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Memorial Council. 26 pp. Weinberg, Gerhard L. (1998). “The Holocaust and World War II: A Dilemma in Teaching.” In D. G. Schilling (Ed.), Lessons and Legacies II: Teaching the Holocaust in a Changing World (pp. 26–40). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. 264 pp. Weinberg, Gerhard L. (2008). “Two Separate Issues? Historiography of World War II and the Holocaust.” In D. Banker and D. Michman (Eds.), Holocaust Historiography in Context: Emergence, Challenges, Polemics and Achievements (pp. 379–401). New York, NY: Berghahn. 614 pp. Any work by the eminent historian of World War II Gerhard Weinberg is a good place to begin exploring connections between the Holocaust and World War II. Weinberg’s work is meticulously researched yet accessible to nonspecialists.

Primary Source Collections Noakes, Jeremy, and Pridham, Geoffrey (Eds.). (2001). Nazism, 1919–1945. Volume 3: Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination: A Documentary Reader. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press. 648 pp.


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Noakes and Pridham have assembled a superb collection of documents from the Nazi era, all translated into English. The chapter on so-called euthanasia is especially good and includes many documents sure to generate discussion. Other essential sources on the Holocaust can be found in this volume, including Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag from January 1939 and Himmler’s speech to SS leaders in October 1943. Note that the emphasis is on official records (government documents, speeches, and reports), not on victims’ accounts. Rubenstein, Joshua, and Altman, Ilya (Eds.). (2010). Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 446 pp. With his Soviet Jewish counterpart Ilya Ehrenburg, the writer Vasily Grossman spearheaded this collection of eyewitness accounts, starting before the war had even ended. The materials assembled for the “black books” are essential reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. This volume presents some of the accounts gathered by Grossman and Ehrenburg, which were prohibited from being circulated by officials in the Soviet Union, and thus were not available to the West until the collapse of Communism.

Diaries Berr, Hélène (2008). The Journal of Hélène Berr (D. Bellos, Trans.). Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart. 306 pp. This is a remarkable diary written by Jewish Parisian Hélène Berr during the German occupation of France. The young violinist and brilliant student of English literature did not survive the Holocaust, but her journal did. It was published for the first time in 2008. Klemperer, Victor (1999). I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933–1941 (M. Chalmers, Trans.). New York, NY: Modern Library. 519 pp. Klemperer, Victor (2001). I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1942–1945 (M. Chalmers, Trans.). New York, NY: Modern Library. 556 pp. Klemperer, a veteran of World War I and professor of French literature in Dresden, kept a diary for much of his life. His observations on the Nazi years in Germany are detailed, profound, impeccably well informed, and shaped by his position as someone defined under Nazi law as a “full Jew,” although he had converted to Protestant Christianity and was married to a woman categorized as “Aryan.” Klemperer’s diary, like those of Berr and Sierakowiak, is a powerful reminder that history is lived looking forward but written looking back: no one, no matter how intelligent, could see into the future. Sierakowiak, Dawid (1996). The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks From the Łódź Ghetto. A. Adelson (Ed.). (K. Turowski, Trans.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 271 pp. Another remarkable diary from the Holocaust period is by Dawid Sierakowiak, an acutely insightful Jewish teenager in the Polish city of Lodz, site of the second largest ghetto in German-occupied Europe (after Warsaw). Like Berr, Sierakowiak’s diary survived but he did not.

Memoirs and Other Postwar Personal Accounts Levi, Primo (1988). The Drowned and the Saved (R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York, NY: Summit Books. 203 pp. Primo Levi’s essays reflect his keenly analytical mind, offering a wealth of impressions and insights based on his experiences as an Italian Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz and informed by decades of reflection afterward. This collection contains his influential discussion of “the gray zone,” the area of moral ambiguity produced by extreme violence, which leaves almost no one uncompromised. Lindeman, Yehudi (Ed.). (2007). Shards of Memory: Narratives of Holocaust Survival. Westport, CT: Praeger. 222 pp. Together with another child survivor, Renata Skotnicka-Zajdman, Lindeman began interviewing Holocaust survivors on film in Montreal in the 1980s. This collection includes accounts from 25 of those interviews, including a rare testimony from a Sinti man. Melson, Robert (2005). “Choiceless Choices: Surviving on False Papers on the ‘Aryan’ Side.” In J. Petropoulos and J. K. Roth (Eds.), Gray Zones: Ambiguity and Compromise in the Holocaust and Its Aftermath (pp. 97–106). New York, NY: Berghahn. Robert Melson (born Sylvio Mendelsohn) survived the Holocaust with his parents in German-occupied Poland, “passing” as non-Jewish Polish aristocrats.

Key Themes in Holocaust History


Pomerantz, Jack, and Winik, Lyric W. (1997). Run East: Flight From the Holocaust. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 210 pp. Pomerantz, a young Polish Jew from a poor family, survived the war behind Soviet lines and returned to Poland as a soldier in the liberating Soviet army. Sereny, Gitta (1983). Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. New York, NY: Vintage Books. 379 pp. (Original work published 1974) Sereny’s masterpiece of investigative journalism is based on extensive interviews she conducted in the early 1970s with Franz Stangl, former commandant of the killing centers of Sobibor and Treblinka. Stangl was also involved in the T-4 Program to murder people deemed disabled, and through him Sereny demonstrates the links between these chapters of the Holocaust. Also pathbreaking was her analysis of the so-called ratline, along which perpetrators escaped from Europe after the war, and her discussion of its connections to elements within the Catholic Church. Voticky, Anka (2010). Knocking on Every Door. Toronto: Azrieli Foundation. 160 pp. Anka Voticky, born to a Jewish family near Prague in 1916, wrote her memoir late in life. It captures the global nature of the Holocaust as experienced by one person. From her origins in the Habsburg Empire, Voticky “moved” (without moving) to Czechoslovakia and then to the German-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Efforts to find refuge for her family in Yugoslavia, Italy, and North and South America failed, but she succeeded in getting to Shanghai. Together with her husband, father, and children, she survived the war there, under Japanese occupation. They returned to Czechoslovakia, but disillusioned by the antisemitism they encountered, moved again, this time to Canada.

Historical Thematic Works Aly, Götz (2007). Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State (J. Chase, Trans.). New York, NY: Metropolitan Books. 448 pp. In this very useful study, Aly considers the role of loot as a motivation for German conquest and a means of buying support from the German people for the Nazi projects of war and destruction. Beorn, Waitman Wade (2014). Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 314 pp. Beorn’s work on the Germans in Belarus (Byelorussia, in the western Soviet Union) is essential reading on the role of the military in Nazi atrocities. Blatman, Daniel (2011). The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (C. Galai, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 561 pp. The final stage of the Holocaust remains its least well studied. A significant exception is Blatman’s masterful analysis of the death marches in 1945. Brandon, Ray, and Lower, Wendy (Eds.). (2008). The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 378 pp. Since the opening of archives in the 1990s in former Communist countries, events associated with the German invasion of Soviet territory in 1941 and the destruction of Jews in Ukraine have received considerable attention. This volume includes chapters by some of the most important scholars working in this area. Browning, Christopher (1992). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 231 pp. The most influential work on the perpetrators remains Browning’s Ordinary Men, a study of a group of German policemen who became mass killers of Jews. Dwork, Debórah, and van Pelt, Robert Jan (2009). Flight From the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933–1946. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. 496 pp. This work on Jewish refugees from Germany and German-controlled Europe is particularly valuable for understanding the global repercussions of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. Friedlander, Henry (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press. 421 pp. Henry Friedlander’s outstanding work, a detailed examination of the murder of the disabled, remains unparalleled in the field. It is especially strong in analyzing the involvement of professionals—doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, judges, and academics—in persecution and killing. Garbarini, Alexandra (2006). Numbered Days: Diaries and the Holocaust. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 262 pp.


Doris L. Bergen

Garbarini uses Jewish diaries to provide a poignant glimpse into how events appeared from inside the time period to the people who had the most at stake. Giles, Geoffrey J. (2001). Why Bother About Homosexuals? Homophobia and Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany. Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. 35 pp. Much remains to be done on the subject of non-Jews as victims. Geoffrey Giles’s short piece on the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany is a helpful starting point on a complex subject. Gross, Jan T. (2001). Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 240 pp. Gross’s analysis of the dynamics of extreme violence at the local level is indispensable in understanding the destruction of the Jews of Poland. Based largely on testimony from trials in postwar Poland, Neighbors insists on approaching survivors’ accounts with a tendency to trust rather than skepticism. Kaplan, Marion A. (1998). Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 290 pp. Kaplan’s historical analysis of German Jews under National Socialism makes extensive and very effective use of personal sources. It pays particular attention to the increasing isolation of Jews within Germany after 1933 as experienced by children and women as well as men. Kassow, Samuel D. (2007). Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 523 pp. Kassow’s study of the Polish Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum and his effort to create a historical record inside the Warsaw ghetto is one of the most important books ever written on the Holocaust. For Jews living under the Nazi death sentence, Kassow demonstrates, recording and documenting were forms of resistance. Scheck, Raffael (2006). Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 202 pp. Scheck’s pathbreaking study examines the German massacres of French black soldiers in 1940, a littleknown aspect of Nazi mass murder. Weiss-Wendt, Anton (Ed.). (2013). The Nazi Genocide of the Roma: Reassessment and Commemoration. New York, NY: Berghahn. 272 pp. These essays by experts on different countries and regions provide a glimpse into the often deadly yet enormously varied situation of Roma and Sinti in Europe during World War II.

Literary Works Grossman, Vasily S. (2010). The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays. R. Chandler (Ed.). (E. Chandler, R. Chandler, and O. Mukovnikova, Trans.). New York, NY: New York Review Books. 373 pp. The brilliant Soviet writer Vasily Grossman produced stunning reports from the Holocaust and the war. But his works of fiction, some of which are collected here, may be even more important, because fictional forms allowed him to explore themes and issues that could not be addressed openly in the Soviet Union. Roskies, David G. (Ed.). (1988). The Literature of Destruction: Jewish Responses to Catastrophe. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society. 652 pp. Roskies has assembled an extraordinary collection of Jewish literary writings, including poems, stories, songs, jokes, excerpts from chronicles and diaries, and reportage. About half of the material comes from earlier eras of Jewish history (going back to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.E.), about half from the Holocaust and its aftermath. Much of the Holocaust material is translated from Yiddish. Spiegelman, Art (2003). Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. London: Penguin. 296 pp. (Original work published as volume 1: My Father Bleeds History, 1986; and volume 2: And Here My Troubles Began, 1992) Spiegelman’s two-part graphic novel presents his Polish Jewish father’s experiences during the Holocaust as told to him. In the process the author/artist raises questions and offers insights about his own relationship with his parents; memory, erasure, and trauma; antisemitism; and the connections between past and present.


The Holocaust was the mass murder of nearly six million innocent Jewish civilians during World War II. Driven by a racist ideology that regarded Jews as “parasitic vermin” worthy of eradication, the Nazis implemented genocide on an unprecedented scale. All of Europe’s Jews were slated for destruction: the young (including infants), and the aged, the healthy and the sick, the rich and the poor, and the religiously orthodox and even converts to Christianity. People across the globe, both young students and educated adults, continue to struggle to understand the Holocaust. They search for rational explanations for the killings, and in doing so invariably simplify what is at its core a complex historical development. How could Germany, advanced culturally, economically, and scientifically—the very embodiment of modern, Western society—carry out the systematic murder of a whole people for no other reason than that they were Jews? The struggle to understand is natural. Seeking reassurance that “nothing like what happened then could possibly happen today,” people look for simple, easily understood explanations for why and how the Holocaust happened so that they can then dismiss any possibility of a connection to themselves. Many of the myths and misconceptions about the Holocaust have resulted from this effort to find simplistic, easily understood answers to how the murder of a whole people could have happened, while separating themselves both intellectually and emotionally from the root causes and the profound consequences of the Holocaust. The myths and misconceptions discussed in this chapter are a result of a number of fundamental and false simplifications of the history. These include the following false assertions: Jews constitute a race of people; antisemitism “alone” caused the Holocaust; “ordinary Germans” were powerless during the Holocaust; only Germans were involved in the killing of Jews; killing the Jews diverted major resources from the German war effort; all camps during the Holocaust were alike; Jews “provoked” the Holocaust; there was very little Jewish resistance; Jewish resistance could have staved off the killing; the Allies did not know about the annihilation of the Jews; the Allies could have stopped the Holocaust; and finally, only Jews were victims of the Nazis and their collaborators.

Jews Constitute a Race Jews are not a race. Jews trace their origins to the patriarch Abraham who lived in the Middle East in the 17th century B.C.E. At that time, Jews inhabited Judea, the area around the city of Jerusalem, reaching from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. And in fact, the word


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“Jew” is derived from the word “Judea,” referring to a resident of this region. Sometimes Judea was an independent political entity; sometimes it was a province of a larger, mostly non-Jewish empire. Jewish settlement eventually spread beyond the borders of Judea, throughout much of the eastern Mediterranean, but the people kept the designation “Jews” as an indication of their origins. The retention of the name “Jew” was facilitated by the continued observance of a set of laws and traditions from Judea. The residents of Judea had a monotheistic religion known as Judaism. The Jewish religion is shaped by the belief in one God, the Exodus of Jews from bondage in Egypt, and the revelation to Moses at Sinai. Their religious beliefs are contained and preserved in the Hebrew Bible, or Torah, commonly known to Christians as the Old Testament. The designation “Jew,” therefore, has geopolitical and religious significance. The term “Jew,” then, refers to people originating from Judea and it also refers to an adherent of Judaism.1 The Nazis, however, insisted that Jews were a distinct race separate from other peoples, with fixed features and behaviors. Nazi racists assumed physical and psychological differences between individuals and races were indicative of their relative worth, and constructed racial hierarchies that purportedly reflected their value. This idea was at the center of Hitler’s worldview and was the driving force behind the murder of European Jewry in the Holocaust. For the Nazis, Jews were a destructive and dangerous race. Hitler insisted it was their biological make-up that separated Jews from the body politic of the nation, not their religion or their behavior. Accordingly, Jews could not be converted to Christianity or fully assimilated. The Nuremberg Laws (promulgated in 1935) defined a Jew in Nazi Germany as one who had three or four Jewish grandparents (i.e., grandparents who were members of the Jewish religious community). Although the Nazis continued to publicly assert Jews were a race, the Nazi state’s definition of a Jew relied ultimately on religious practice—the religion practiced by one’s grandparents.2 Once Jews were defined by law as a racial group, the only way toward a Germany without Jews was through their complete removal or elimination from Germany and the German sphere of influence in Europe. In the absence of an easy way to remove or eliminate Jews from German society, during World War II the Nazis turned to murder as the only “practical” policy toward Jews.

Antisemitism Alone Caused the Holocaust Antisemitism is prejudice, discrimination, and even hatred against Jews for no other reason than they are Jews. Antisemitism was widespread in Europe before the Nazi rise to power and provided an important backdrop to Nazi anti-Jewish policies, which culminated in the early 1940s during the Holocaust. For centuries, Christians regarded Judaism and the Jews with hostility, demonizing Jews as the epitome of evil. They forced Jews to the margins of European society, treated them as disloyal and inferior outsiders, and subjected them to intense discrimination. Even by the 1930s, antisemitism remained widespread and commonplace. Indeed, Europe has had a long and troubled history of antisemitism; it has persisted in many forms for over 2,000 years. Early Christian leaders, for example, blamed Jews for the crucifixion of Christ, and some falsely accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children in religious rituals (blood libel). Such myths often fueled pogroms, or massacres of Jews. In the early modern era, Jews were banned from land ownership, the main source of wealth in society, and were encouraged to engage in activities, like commerce and banking, that the Church deemed “worldly”—and, therefore, immoral. These economic functions became increasingly important as Europe modernized. Most Jews engaged in commerce and handicraft production for the local market and often remained as poor as the peasantry who bought their wares. Nevertheless, antisemites charged that Jews were greedy and exploitive, desiring to manipulate and cheat their Christian neighbors. The emancipation of Jews following the Enlightenment in the 18th century

Myths and Misconceptions


sought to make Jews equal members of society and formally ended legal and religious restrictions on Jews. As Jews began to live and work among non-Jews, antisemites asserted that Jews were not members of the body politic of the nation and were secretly disloyal. They charged that Jews secretly engaged in a broad conspiracy to dominate and exploit non-Jews. This is reflected in the publication and widespread distribution of a forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In the modern era, racial antisemites charged that Jews were biologically different and fundamentally inferior to other peoples and that the innate antagonism between competing races meant the Jews, defined racially, sought to dominate and supplant other peoples. In 20th century Europe, then, antisemitism had religious, economic, political, and racial overtones.3 If the Holocaust is an expression of hatred toward Jews, does it necessarily follow that antisemitism, a hatred of Jews, explains the Holocaust? It seems rational: the Nazis were antisemites and they perpetrated the Holocaust; it follows, therefore, that antisemitism caused the Holocaust. This false logic, or misconception, leads ultimately to the simple statement, “I am not an antisemite therefore the Holocaust has no meaning for me.” Yet, in truth, antisemitism was no more prevalent in interwar Germany than in other areas of Europe. Historian George Mosse suggested that if we could ask a European living in the late 19th century which country posed the greatest danger to European Jewry, most would have suggested either Republican France or Tsarist Russia.4 Very few would have postulated Germany as a serious danger to Jews. At the time, France was in the throes of the Dreyfus affair, which fanned the flames of popular antisemitism. The Dreyfus affair centered on a French army captain named Alfred Dreyfus who had been convicted in 1894 of treason for allegedly selling French military secrets to the Germans. Many assumed Dreyfus was guilty only because he was Jewish. Dreyfus symbolized the supposed disloyalty of Jews in France to the nation.5 In Russia, on the other hand, Jews suffered from extreme poverty, intense popular hostility, and public discrimination. The reactionary policies of the Tsar, Alexander III, emphasized Russification as the solution to the country’s problems and exacerbated public hostility toward religious minorities. There were a series of large-scale pogroms, or massacres of Jews, in the 1880s throughout southwestern Russia, most notably in Kiev, Warsaw, and Odessa. In Germany, the Jewish community appeared to be secure. In fact, extreme antisemitic parties in the German parliament were on the wane and Jews were well integrated into the larger society. German Jews were proud of their citizenship in a country that had produced many great poets, writers, musicians, and artists. About 100,000 German Jews—a high percentage given their numbers—served in the German armed forces during World War I. Between 30,000 and 35,000 Jews were decorated for bravery; some 12,000 died fighting for their country.6 German Jews served in high public office, taught in universities, and were active in the arts, sciences, the professions, and commerce. Of the 38 Nobel Prizes won by German writers and scientists between 1905 and 1936, 14 were awarded to Jews. During the first third of the 20th century, intermarriage between Jews and Christians had become common; often Jews in such relationships converted to Christianity and raised their children in their new faith.7 Although some German Jews continued to encounter discrimination in their social lives and professional careers, most remained confident of their future in Germany. They spoke the German language and regarded the country as their home.8 Yet despite this German-Jewish integration, Jews in Germany were the first victims of the Holocaust. Antisemitism is also not the reason for the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933. In truth, few Germans cared very much about antisemitism; indeed, it was always much more important to Hitler than to most Germans. In fact, no antisemitic party received more than 4% of the vote in parliamentary elections between 1871 and 1914.9 Many leading Nazis such as Goebbels, Himmler, Göring, Frank, and Hess did not join the Nazi movement because of antisemitism.10 This


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is also generally true of the lower ranks within the party. The historian Peter Merkl, for example, examined the questionnaires filled out by some 500 Nazi storm troopers (SA) in 1933. The overwhelming majority of them indicated they joined the SA to fight the Communists. Only a small minority indicated the party’s antisemitic stance as the defining reason for joining the SA.11 Similarly, when the Nazis’ electoral breakthrough came in the parliamentary elections of 1930, Hitler was careful to downplay antisemitic propaganda.12 The voters knew that the party was antisemitic, but that generally did not affect their decision to vote for or against either Hitler or the Nazi Party. Hitler’s antisemitism also did not deter “respectable” politicians from dealing with him. Hitler understood German audiences were generally unmoved by his campaign against the Jews. Instead he often appealed to issues that were important to ordinary Germans, like national defense, full employment, traditional values, and the restoration of Germany’s status as a great power. Far from using antisemitism to mobilize ordinary Germans to support Nazi goals, the Nazis, once in power, often had to spend considerable time and effort to convince ordinary Germans of the need for state-sponsored, overt persecution of Jews.13 Germans initially found the Nazi movement’s platform attractive; over time, they began to espouse support for the Nazis’ antisemitic policies, but did not flock to the Nazi banner because they were antisemitic.14 Once the Nazis came to power in Germany, they embarked on a concerted effort to depersonalize and demonize Jews. Antisemitism became a pillar of the state ideology, and the image of the Jew as a worldwide conspirator against the German people became a central feature of government propaganda. The aim of this antisemitic propaganda was to convince Germans that Jews were enemies, a race bent on destroying the German nation. Knowledge was widespread among ordinary Germans, especially of the massacre of Jews in the occupied Eastern territories in 1941.15 Far from mobilizing Germans to enthusiastic participation in the Holocaust, years of Nazi antisemitic propaganda led most Germans to conclude that the plight of Jews had nothing to do with them or that they should welcome the elimination of Jews. No doubt the course of the war partly accounted for public indifference to Jewish suffering. Many Germans were preoccupied with their own war-related concerns, including the relentless Allied bombing of German cities as well as food and coal shortages. They had no time for the suffering of others, especially for those branded as enemies by the state.

Ordinary Germans Were Powerless in the Holocaust Misconceptions about antisemitism as the cause of the Holocaust or the reason Hitler and the Nazi came to power in Germany are often linked to misconceptions about the role of individuals in the Holocaust. Many believe “ordinary Germans” were powerless in the Holocaust. Not only did the Nazis establish a totalitarian state in Germany, but they organized German society according to the Nazi leadership principle, thus demanding absolute obedience to Hitler as the sole “national” authority. Yet there were acts of personal nonconformity as well as acts of defiance against Nazi ordinances that indicate a much broader range of decision making. Those who over emphasize the importance of totalitarianism wrongly conclude that Hitler, alone, bears responsibility for the Holocaust. Integral to this argument is the assumption that some pathology of Hitler’s—his hatred of Jews together with his absolute control over Germany—explained the mass murder of European Jewry during World War II.16 For those who believe this, the key to understanding the unfolding Holocaust is Hitler: his personality, history, and character. There is no doubt that Hitler was an antisemite. His antisemitism was vocal, consistent, and often voiced in the most extreme language imaginable. But the leap from arguing that Hitler hated Jews (since he wanted them killed and

Myths and Misconceptions


since he was the uncontested dictator of Germany) to arguing that ordinary Germans followed him blindly is plain wrong. In attempting to explain the Holocaust by explaining Hitler’s hatred of Jews, some allege that he himself was part Jewish or that his mother died while in the care of a Jewish physician. Neither of these assumptions is accurate. According to the Nuremberg Laws, the Nazis did not regard those with even one Jewish grandparent as fully German. This definition proved troubling for Hitler because the identity of his paternal grandfather was and remains unclear. For whatever reason, Hitler’s grandmother, Maria Anna, did not disclose the paternity of Hitler’s father, Alois, and left blank the relevant entry on the birth certificate. Later family circumstances indicated that the father of Alois, that is, Hitler’s paternal grandfather, was likely one of two brothers, neither of whom was Jewish. Nevertheless, the uncertainty of Alois’s paternity has fueled speculation that Hitler was Jewish.17 Rumors to that effect circulated in Munich in the early 1920s and were later fostered by sensationalist journalism of the foreign press during the 1930s. There is, however, no historical evidence whatsoever that Hitler’s paternal grandfather was Jewish. Alternatively, some people argue that Hitler’s genocidal hatred of Jews stemmed, not from his fear of being exposed as a Jew himself, but from the death of his beloved mother, Klara, from breast cancer while under the care of a Jewish physician in 1907. Her doctor, Dr. Eduard Bloch, supposedly bungled her treatment, causing her to die a prolonged and painful death. Some argue then that Hitler hated him and all Jews because a Jew was “responsible” for his mother’s suffering. This “explains,” some say, Hitler’s attempt to kill every Jew in Europe. Yet, Bloch’s own testimony refuted this: Hitler did not hold the doctor responsible for his mother’s death. During the war, Bloch reported to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the US intelligence service during World War II, that Hitler thanked him for the treatment of his mother, wished him no ill will, and even facilitated the required documents permitting his emigration from Austria.18 Thus, the argument that Hitler’s antisemitism originated from the death of his mother is patently untrue. The central role of Hitler and other Nazi party leaders in the Holocaust is indisputable, but does that mean that they are wholly responsible for the crimes of the Nazi regime? No! It is important to focus on how the Holocaust happened, because this emphasis makes the question of Hitler’s role in the whole process much less significant and thereby much more troubling for people in the 21st century. Hitler indeed set the goal, “A Germany without Jews,” and there is no doubting Hitler’s intention, real or presumed. But in addition to Hitler were the arguments, decisions, and actions of a whole set of others within the Nazi leadership. Less well known is the dependence of Nazi leaders on countless others, who made the Holocaust possible. At every stage of the anti-Jewish policies that ultimately culminated in genocide, the leaders of Nazi Germany needed many thousands of helpers. They found them—at home in Germany and wherever Jews lived in areas of Europe subject to German control or influence. In more concrete terms, in Germany, culpability for the Holocaust extended beyond Hitler and the Nazi leadership corps to the active and willing agents of large sections of the non-Nazi elites in industry, economy, military, and state bureaucracy. Deportations of Jews from Germany, for example, began in 1940. The secret state police (Gestapo), and other security police officers organized the deportations. Local police and state officials, who often assembled Jews for transport in broad daylight, carried them out. Transport Ministry functionaries prepared the timetables for the transports, and employees of the state-owned railways scheduled, assembled, and ran the trains. Most deportees died within a few months. Some died from deprivations and mistreatment. Some were shot. Others were gassed at Auschwitz and other Nazi killing centers. While Nazi officials concealed specific knowledge about the fate of those deported from both victims and ordinary


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Germans, many thousands were involved in the deportations and were thus complicit in the killings that resulted from them. The complex administration required to orchestrate the Holocaust is illustrated by a conference of leading German officials at Wannsee in the southwestern suburbs of Berlin in January 1942. Fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and German government officials, including representatives from the ministries of interior, justice, foreign affairs, occupied eastern territories, state chancellery, 4-year plan, and the general government of German-occupied Poland, gathered at the lakeside resort to coordinate logistics for carrying out the systematic murder of Jews. After the conclusion of the meeting, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Main Office and the organizer of the conference, expressed satisfaction that no one present had posed any significant opposition to the killings.19 Ancillary to the “Hitler is responsible” myth is the claim many Nazi war criminals made after the war: that they faced death themselves if they refused to participate in the killing of Jewish civilians. In fact, it was not in the interest of the Nazi state to try police officers for refusing to kill unarmed civilians in the occupied territories. During the massacre of Jews in Józefów, Poland, for example, some of the officers from Reserve Police Battalion 101 refused to take part in the killings. Only a small minority—11 to 13 police officers out of 500 members of the unit—refused outright to take part in the massacre. A further 10–20% of the unit probably avoided participation in the shootings either by asking directly for reassignment or through some subterfuge. No disciplinary action was taken against them for this refusal.20 Evasion was readily tolerated. There is no example of a German officer facing execution himself for refusing to shoot Jewish men, women, and children. Ultimately, the “Hitler is responsible” myth suggests that no one else was responsible for what occurred during the period of the Third Reich and the Holocaust years. That is simply not true.

Only German Nazis Were Involved in the Killing of Jews Just as the Nazis depended on ordinary Germans to implement anti-Jewish policy in Germany proper, Nazi Germany depended on local people across German-occupied Europe to aid them in implementing the Holocaust. During World War II, German forces were thinly spread across vast occupied areas of Europe, and lacked both the manpower and local knowledge needed to identify, persecute, concentrate, and then kill millions of Jews without help. In summer 1941, for example, the Germans relied on the help of tens of thousands of nonGermans—Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukrainians, among others—as “auxiliary police” in the shooting of an estimated 1.5 million Jews, Communist officials, and Roma (Gypsies) during the invasion of the Soviet Union. Local officials were also involved in the shootings, and they, in turn, employed their fellow countrymen as clerks, gravediggers, wagon drivers, and cooks. Similarly, the deportations of Jews from France, beginning in the summer of 1942, required the cooperation of the French police.21 It is also true that the Waffen-SS (or armed SS forces) included a substantial number of foreign volunteers from France, Denmark, the Baltic States, the Low Countries, Ukraine, Lithuania, Croatia, and even from Muslim Bosnia, among others.22 Some locals collaborated because they were committed antisemites who acted within a climate of licensed violence against Jews and pervasive Nazi propaganda that reinforced existing anti-Jewish prejudices. Other motives for collaboration and complicity ranged from the quest for employment, income, and food; self-enrichment resulting from looted property; the need to prove loyalty to new German masters; and nationalist hopes for the establishment of independent, ethnically homogeneous states.23

Myths and Misconceptions


Killing the Jews Diverted Large German Resources From the War Effort One final extension of the “Hitler is solely responsible myth” is the assertion that Hitler’s pathological hatred of Jews extended even to the detriment of Germany’s war effort. Some have argued that Hitler supposedly devoted so many resources to the “war against the Jews” that Germany lost the war against the Allies. This is clearly false. In comparison to the overall war effort, the Nazi regime expended minimal resources to carry out the Holocaust. For the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, for example, Germany assembled 152 divisions, more than three million men.24 At its height, the German army had some 10 million soldiers. The mobile killing squads that were assigned to kill Jews and Soviet political commissars during the invasion of the Soviet Union numbered only about 3,000 men.25 The thousands of Order Police who followed in their wake and continued the shootings were almost exclusively above military age, and thus represented no drain on military manpower. At Treblinka, the SS killed more than 870,000 Jews, yet the German staff at the camp only numbered between 20 and 35 SS men and the Ukrainian watch personnel numbered between 90 and 130 men.26 In January 1945 the SS reported that the extensive concentration camp system had about 720,000 prisoners, and required only about 40,000 SS watch personnel.27 Even deportation trains transporting Jews from all over Europe to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the other Nazi camps had minimal impact on vital rail transport for the war effort. Trains carrying Jews had the lowest priority on the rails and, contrary to legend, were never allowed to impede military traffic or supplying frontline troops. For example, almost no one was deported by rail to Auschwitz in summer 1942, when Germany needed the railways to support the renewed offensive toward Stalingrad on the Eastern front. The heaviest use of the railways was during the deportation of Jews from Hungary in the spring of 1944, and even then no more than three or four trains rolled every day.28 On average from mid-1941 until the end of the war, tens of thousands of trains were underway daily in German-controlled Europe, but only two or three of the trains were transporting Jews to Nazi camps.29

All Camps During the Holocaust Were the Same Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany established about 20,000 camps.30 These camps were used for a range of purposes, including concentration camps that held suspected political opponents of the Nazi regime, forced-labor camps that supplied labor to German war industries among other concerns, transit camps that served as temporary way stations, and killing centers built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. Millions of people were imprisoned and abused in the various types of Nazi camps.31 From the start of the Nazi regime in 1933, a series of detention facilities to imprison and eliminate so-called enemies of the state were built. These were called “concentration camps” because those imprisoned were physically removed from society and concentrated in one location. Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of socially deviant behavior like vagrants or beggars.32 The Nazis subjected millions of people (both Jews and others) to forced labor under brutal conditions. Especially after the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, starting World War II, the Nazi regime relied on forced labor camps to expand the use of prisoner labor in war production. They established hundreds of forced labor camps, many of them subcamps of the main concentration camps, adjacent to coal mines, munitions and aircraft parts factories, sites for underground tunnels, and other sites convenient to production of goods for the German war effort. Thousands of prisoners died from exhaustion, starvation, and exposure in such places.


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Jews in Nazi-occupied lands often were first deported to transit camps, such as Westerbork in the Netherlands, Malines in Belgium, or Drancy in France, en route to the killing centers in German-occupied Poland. The transit camps were usually the last stop before deportation to a killing center. In Drancy, for example, the Nazis assembled and then deported almost 65,000 Jews from across France, mainly to Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland. Killing centers, on the other hand, were designed for efficient mass murder. Under SS management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three million Jews in the killing centers alone. Within the Auschwitz camp complex, the Birkenau killing center, for example, had four gas chambers—rooms that could be filled with poisonous gas to kill those inside. The use of stationary gas chambers increased the efficiency of the killings and also made the process more impersonal for the perpetrators. During the height of deportations to the camp, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed there each day.33 Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived.

Jews Provoked the Holocaust Just as there are myths and misconceptions about the perpetrators of the Holocaust, so too are there mistaken ideas about the victims of the Holocaust, especially the charge that Jews “provoked” the Holocaust, either because of their supposed betrayal of Germany in World War I or due to the wealth and power they supposedly wielded in German society. This is essentially blaming the victims for their own victimization. Those who do so assume that Jews must have done something to provoke the rage of the Nazis; otherwise, the systematic mass murder of Jewish civilians makes little sense. In the Weimar Republic, the predecessor to the Third Reich, nothing inflamed popular antisemitism more than the charge that Jews were somehow responsible for German defeat in World War I. The dreadful carnage on the battlefield was for many ordinary Germans a sacrifice made for no gain. Germany’s defeated military leadership deliberately spread a stab-in-the-back legend that attributed the defeat not to a failure of German policy or arms but to internal traitors working for foreign interests, primarily Jews and Communists. This legend was widely believed, despite the fact that it was entirely untrue. In fact, German Jews had served in the German armed forces loyally, bravely, and out of proportion to their numbers in the population. Nevertheless, those who accept this charge believe as well that the Holocaust resulted from that supposed betrayal. Others parrot factually wrong Nazi antisemitic rhetoric to justify Nazi anti-Jewish policy: “Jews controlled the economy, they controlled the professions, or that they were too wealthy.” The Nazi German state then was compelled, they argue, to act against the Jewish population in order to free the German population from “Jewish control” or to win back the wealth Jews supposedly stole from ordinary Germans. This too is factually wrong. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Jews were a tiny minority in Germany, constituting less than 1% of the overall population. In a country of about 67 million, only about 525,000 were Jewish.34 And the community was only getting smaller as time passed, in part because Nazi persecution dramatically increased Jewish emigration from the country. Such a small group simply could not dominate and control the population of the country as a whole. Jews certainly did not control the country’s wealth. According to an internal and secret memo of November 28, 1938, the total value of Jewish property in Germany was about 8.5 billion reichsmarks. In contrast, between 1933 and 1938 the Nazi state spent 1,060,000 billion reichsmarks, excluding personnel and administrative costs. Of this, they spent almost 42 billion reichsmarks on military spending, 25.5 billion reichsmarks on investment in industry, and nearly 40 billion reichsmarks on the civilian economy. Assuming the Nazis could recap the total value of the wealth held by Jews, eight billion reichsmarks—while considerable—was not vital, necessary or even a

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significant part of the state budget. The value of Jewish-owned property in 1938 was just 8% of state expenditures between 1933 and 1938. Certainly, Jews were over represented in certain professions, but that did not mean that Jews “controlled” the German economy. In 1933, Jews accounted for 11% of all doctors and dentists, 16% of all lawyers, and 5% of all journalists and theatrical producers.35 But this meant that non-Jews made up 89% of all doctors and dentists, 84% of all lawyers, and 95% of all journalists and theatrical producers. There were some very wealthy Jewish individuals in Germany, but there was also widespread poverty in the Jewish community. One in four of the Jewish population of Berlin—by far Germany’s largest Jewish community—was dependent on charity.36 The Great Depression and economic trends favoring large-scale factory production in the economy threatened the livelihoods of many Jews, especially those employed as small artisans, shopkeepers, traveling salesmen, doctors, lawyers, and real estate agents. The unemployment rate among Jews in Germany was staggering— almost 32% in 1933. The Nazis did not kill Jews to get their hands on their wealth; they killed them and then sought ways to use the property confiscated from the victims. During the war, the Nazi state used assets seized from Jews to “buy” the loyalty of local people in areas conquered or allied to Germany. But, in the bigger scheme of things, the wealth seized from Jews was not so great. The amounts of wealth that Nazi Germany confiscated from Jews were dwarfed by those that they stole from non-Jews across Europe, especially from the central banks of the countries they conquered. On January 5, 1944, the SS estimated the total worth of valuables—money, gold, silver, precious stones, and other property—taken from Jews during the operation of the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka killing centers through 1943—at about 180 million reichsmarks.37 In comparison, the official cost of the occupation of France was set at the enormous sum of 20 million reichsmarks per day—far more than the costs required to maintain the German army in France. The costs for just 1 year equaled more than seven billion reichsmarks. Almost half of all public expenditures in France between 1940 and 1944 were paid to Germany.38

There Was Little Jewish Resistance, and If There Had Been More, It Could Have Hindered the Killing Related to the misconception that Jews provoked the Holocaust is the idea that Jews could have done more to save themselves or that greater Jewish resistance would have reduced the numbers killed in the Holocaust.39 Most Jewish armed resistance took place after 1942, which was too late to save most of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. Holocaust scholar Christopher Browning estimated that about 80% of all Jews killed in the Holocaust were killed before February 1943. The key question here is, then why did Jewish resistance organize so late? Many Jews finally realized that Nazi policy was to kill unarmed Jewish civilians only when the Nazis murdered their families. The speed of the killings was astonishing and played a role in blunting resistance. Between July 1941 and spring 1943, for example, mobile killing units, or Einsatzgruppen, killed more than a million Jews living in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union. In July 1942, Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the German police and Reich Leader of the SS, ordered the deportation and killing of more than 1.2 million Jews living in the administration of German-occupied Poland by the end of the year. The acceleration of the killing program in Poland followed: between July and September 1942, the Germans deported and killed about 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto alone. In all, the Nazis murdered about 2.7 million Jews in 1942 alone.40 Despite great obstacles such as lack of armaments and training, rampant antisemitism especially in Eastern Europe, and the relentless Nazi terror, many Jews throughout German-occupied Europe attempted armed resistance against the Germans. There was, in fact, a great deal of


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Jewish resistance to Nazi policies even though they were vastly outgunned, outnumbered, and had little hope for success. Between 1941 and 1943, for example, underground resistance movements developed in about one in four Jewish ghettos, or about 100 ghettos in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Their main goals were to organize uprisings, break out of the ghettos, and join partisan units in the fight against the Germans. The Jews knew that uprisings would not stop the Germans and that only a handful of fighters would succeed in escaping, and yet many chose to fight. Jews organized uprisings even in far worse conditions than in the ghettos. There were Jewish uprisings in four of the five killing centers: Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, and AuschwitzBirkenau. The uprising at Auschwitz-Birkenau is a good example here. On October 7, 1944, prisoners assigned to Crematorium IV at the camp rebelled after learning that they were going to be killed. They successfully blew up Crematorium IV and killed several guards, but the Germans quickly crushed the revolt and murdered almost all of the several hundred prisoners involved in the rebellion.41

The Allies Did Not Know About the Annihilation of the Jews The American press reported Nazi violence toward Jews as early as 1933, and by 1938, published reports of anti-Jewish measures such as the Nuremberg Laws, along with other incidents of antisemitic violence, which had multiplied dramatically. In 1941, as the magnitude of anti-Jewish violence increased, American newspapers began running descriptions of the Nazi mass murder of Jews, some even using the word “extermination” to refer to these large-scale killings. However, it wasn’t until late 1942 that the American public received official confirmation of these reports. On November 24 of that year, Rabbi Stephen Wise disclosed in a press conference that the US State Department had investigated and confirmed reports about the Nazis’ extermination campaign against European Jews. A few weeks later, on December 17, the United States, Britain, and 10 Allied governments released a formal declaration confirming and condemning Hitler’s extermination policy toward the Jews. Despite the official status of these announcements, most major dailies in the United States minimized their importance by burying them on inner pages. The New York Times, for example, allocated space on the front page for only the latter of these official reports, relegating Wise’s press conference to page 10.

The Allies Could Have Stopped the Holocaust Could the Allies have stopped the Holocaust? Here the timing of the killings and the state of the war at the time played a decisive role in regard to this issue. By mid-March 1942, the Nazis and their collaborators had killed 20–25% of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. By the time the war had turned in favor of the Allies in February 1943, the Germans and their collaborators had killed 75–80% of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Indeed, fully half of the victims of the Holocaust were killed in just the 11 months between March 1942 and February 1943. Further, half of all Holocaust victims came from interwar Poland. Poland was in the core area of the German-occupied eastern territories during the war and remained out of reach of Allied military forces until 1944. The decision to systematically kill all Jews—men, women, and children—was implemented extraordinarily quickly, at a time when Germany was at the zenith of military success, and when the Allies could do almost nothing to stop it.42 The idea that the Allies could have stopped the Holocaust is usually tied to the charge that they should have bombed the killing center at Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland. The decision whether or not to bomb Auschwitz was controversial from the start. Some Allied leaders feared the possible death toll among the prisoners that could result from Allied bombings—the

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barracks located not far from the gas chambers at Birkenau housed more than 50,000 prisoners (many of them women and children)—and also feared that German propaganda might exploit any bombing of the camp’s prisoners. The Nazis consistently denied systematic mass killing of Jewish civilians and would probably have blamed the deaths of Jews there on the Allied bombing campaign. In any case, the Anglo-American air forces only developed the capacity to bomb the camp in July 1944—much too late to save most of the Jews deported from Hungary between May 15 and July 11. When it could have made a difference, the Allies lacked the capacity—and some would argue they also lacked the inclination—to intervene to help save Jews.43

Only Jews Were Victims of the Nazis and Their Collaborators Finally, when thinking about the Holocaust, remember the Nazis did not just kill Jews. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, acclaimed author, and 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said: “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”44 The main Nazi goal was the creation of a racially homogenous national community under Hitler’s leadership. Once that was accomplished he planned to marshal the German population in an effort to seize territory in Eastern Europe and thus secure for Germany the resources required to achieve world power status. While Hitler and the Nazi German state classified Jews as the main enemy, the Nazi ideological concept of race led to the targeting of other groups for persecution, imprisonment, and annihilation, including the Roma, people with mental and physical disabilities, ethnic Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, and Afro-Germans. The Nazis also identified political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and so-called asocials as enemies and security risks, either because they consciously opposed the Nazi regime or because some aspect of their behavior did not fit Nazi perceptions of social norms. They faced persecution, brutality, and arrest. Essentially, the Nazis united a crusade-like vision of saving Western Civilization from Jews by killing every Jew within their reach; with a strategic vision of a dominant German “Aryan” race ruling subject peoples, especially the Slavs whom they judged to be innately inferior.45 At the same time, the Nazis sought to root out nonconformists and racial threats by instituting the perpetual self-purge of their society. They believed “superior races” had not just the right but the obligation to subdue and even exterminate “inferior ones.” The Nazis were convinced that through brute force and genocide they could establish an empire of Germans for Germans in Eastern Europe. If they had won the war, no one would have been left to question their right to do this.

Conclusion The Holocaust was not an accident in history. It happened because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but allowed prejudice, hatred, and, ultimately, mass murder to occur. The Holocaust was not simply the logical and inevitable consequence of unbridled antisemitism, political ambition, or the search for wealth. History is much more complicated and nuanced. The Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act. The context in which these decisions were made included: a long tradition of racism combined with centuries-old bigotry and antisemitism; the resurgence of nationalistic fervor that emerged in Europe in the latter half of the 19th century; Germany’s defeat and national humiliation in World War I; a worldwide economic crisis; the ineffectiveness of the Weimar democracy; international indifference; and the political charisma, ideology, and manipulative propaganda of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. All of these factors played into the events of the Holocaust. Ordinary people succumbed to the pressures of their times 70 years ago and failed both their country and fellow human beings. This is a cautionary tale: have we learned to think


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more critically about the world and the responsibility of individuals, institutions, and governments to establish and safeguard civil society?

Notes 1. David Engel, The Holocaust, The Third Reich, and the Jews (New York, NY: Longman Press, 2000), 7. 2. William F. Meinecke Jr., Alexandra Zapruder, Timothy Kaiser, Laura Glassman, and Barbara Hart, Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust (Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2007), 118–119. 3. James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001). 4. George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 168. 5. Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, 453–455. 6. Michael Meyer (ed.), German-Jewish History in Modern Times:Volume 4. Renewal and Destruction: 1918–1945 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1998), 8–14. 7. Ibid., 231–261. 8. Margarete Limberg and Hubert Ruebsaat (eds.), Germans No More: Accounts of Jewish Everyday Life, 1933–1938 (New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2006), 1–5. 9. For a brief survey of the failure of antisemitic parties in Germany see Oded Heilbronner, “From Antisemitic Peripheries to Antisemitic Centres: The Place of Antisemitism in Modern German History,” Journal of Contemporary History, 35 no. 4 (October 2000), 570–573. 10. Alfred Low, The Men Around Hitler: The Nazi Elite and Its Collaborators (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1996). 11. Peter Merkl, Political Violence Under the Swastika (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 499. 12. Martin Broszat, Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany (New York, NY: Berg, 1984), 79–91. 13. Karl Schleunes, The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy Towards German Jews 1933–1939 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 60. 14. William Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922–1945 (New York, NY: F. Watts, 1984), 77. 15. Steven Luckert and Susan Bachrach, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2011), 115–139; Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (Cambridge: Perseus Books Group, 2005), 393. 16. Ian Kershaw, Hitler, The Germans, and the Final Solution (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 151. 17. Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889–1936 Hubris (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1998). 18. John Lukacs, The Hitler of History (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1998), 25–26, 195–197. 19. Mark Roseman, The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, 2002), 145. 20. Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1993). 21. Philippe Burrin, France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise (New York, NY: New Press, 1993), 156–157. 22. German Order of Battle 1944 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1944), F1–F12. 23. Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 177. 24. David Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 31. 25. Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski, and Shmuel Spector (eds.), The Einsatzgruppen Reports (New York, NY: Holocaust Library, 1989), vi. 26. Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 19–22. 27. Geoffrey Megargee (ed.), Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 191. 28. Randolph L. Raham, “Hungarian Jews,” in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, ed. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 463. 29. In November 1942, the German Rail Authority (Reichsbahn) calculated they needed 900 trains per day just to supply the German army in the East. See Alfred C. Mierzejewski, The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 101. 30. Geoffrey P. Megargee, Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), xxxiv. 31. Ibid., 194. 32. Ibid., 183–186.

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33. Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Auschwitz 1270 to the Present (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1996), 342–343. 34. Ibid., 114. 35. Richard Grunberger, The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933–1945. (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1995), 456. 36. One in four Berlin Jews, or 31,000 out of 170,000, were receiving charity. Ibid. 37. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, 161. 38. Alan S. Milward, War, Economy and Society 1939–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 137–139. 39. This is one of the arguments made by Hannah Arendt. See Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York, NY: Viking Press, 1963). 40. Dwork and van Pelt, Auschwitz, 336. 41. Hermann Langbein, “The Auschwitz Underground,” in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, ed. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 500–502. 42. Christopher R. Browning, “One Day in Jozefow: Initiation to Mass Murder,” in Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning of the Holocaust in a Changing World, ed. Peter Hayes (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1991), 196. 43. David Wyman is one of the critics of American policy here, and he notes the first bombing run capable of striking Auschwitz was on July 7, 1944. Deportations from Hungary ended on July 11, 1944. David Wyman, “Why Auschwitz Wasn’t Bombed,” in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, ed. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 578. 44. Remarks made upon President Ronald Reagan’s Presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Elie Wiesel and on Signing the Jewish Heritage Week Proclamation, April 19, 1985. 45. Meinecke et al., Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust, 11–20.

Annotated Bibliography Books Aly, Götz (2007). Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books. 448 pp. Aly argues that ordinary Germans supported the Nazi state because they were the beneficiaries of organized plunder from Jews, from other targeted groups, and from German-occupied countries across Europe. Hitler, he argues, essentially bought the support of the German people. Bergen, Doris (2009). The Holocaust: A Concise History. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 296 pp. Bergen traces not only the persecution of the Jews, but also other segments of society victimized by the Nazi regime: Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), homosexuals, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, physically and mentally disabled people, and other groups deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Bergen explores the two interconnected goals that drove the Nazi German program of conquest and genocide: purification of the so-called Aryan race and expansion of its living space, and discusses how these goals affected the course of World War II. Browning, Christopher (2000). Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 200 pp. Browning examines the behavior and motivations of ordinary people who became involved in the Holocaust, especially those who became members of the German police. Even when not convinced Nazi ideologues, Browning concludes, most of these policemen did what they were told once the killing of Jews began. The presence of a minority of men, who sought to avoid participation in racial killing, had no measurable effect on the outcome of the Holocaust. Carroll, James (2001). Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History. New York, NY: Mariner Books. 756 pp. Carroll surveys the long history of religious antisemitism, beginning with the Catholic Church’s religious struggle against Judaism, and argues the Church’s legacy of hatred toward Jews laid the foundation for the Nazi murder of Jews in the Holocaust. Engel, Peter (2000). The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews. London: Longman. 160 pp. Engel’s text is a concise overview of the history and the major historical controversies surrounding the Holocaust. In less than 150 pages, this slim volume includes 28 documents, a chronology, a glossary, and four maps.


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Fritzsche, Peter (2008). Life and Death in the Third Reich. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 384 pp. Fritzsche examines how ordinary people became integrated into the “people’s community” through national appeals for Germans to be part of a great undertaking with the goals to redress Germany’s grievances over the Treaty of Versailles, to make the country united and strong, and finally to rid the body politic of the nation of unhealthy and “alien” elements. Fritzsche shows how these Nazi concepts saturated everyday life and examines the efforts of Germans to adjust to new racial identities, to believe in the necessity of war, and to accept the dynamic of unconditional destruction—in short, how to become Nazis. Gellately, Robert (2001). Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 384 pp. Gellately insists that Hitler was successful in winning popular German support for the police state and for racial policies. Terror was focused and targeted outsiders. It was only in the latter phases of a losing war that terror became directed against ordinary Germans. Most ordinary Germans were willing to accept the proscriptions of a police state in exchange for reduced crime, a return to prosperity, and efficient government. Herf, Jeffrey (2006). The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 400 pp. Herf traces the efforts of Nazi propagandists to mobilize public support for Nazi anti-Jewish policies from the Nazi rise to power in 1933 until the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945. Nazi propagandists depicted Jews as a mortal threat to Western Civilization in general and to the German body politic in particular. In short, Jews were the ultimate scapegoat, responsible for every conceivable problem facing the German Reich. Jäckel, Eberhard (1984). Hitler in History. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 121 pp. Jäckel’s pithy, readable book concisely outlines in little more than 100 pages many of the decisive questions about Hitler: how he came to power, his goals, his role in the Holocaust, and his relationship to ordinary Germans. Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 400 pp. This is a collection of insightful essays that examines Hitler’s role in the Nazi system that conceived and perpetrated the murder of the Jews and what Germans thought about the Holocaust. The author concludes that Nazi ideology fused with Germany’s modern bureaucratic state structure and advanced technology facilitated the Holocaust. Koonz, Claudia (2003). The Nazi Conscience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 368 pp. Koonz argues that the Nazis had their own morality that they believed justified their crimes in the name of the greater good. They believed the needs of the “Aryan” German ethnic community were paramount and that non-Aryans were aliens and not worthy of their concern. “Good” and “evil” were concepts that evolved according to the needs of a particular ethnic community. Essentially, popular belief in the innate superiority of Aryan Germans justified genocide. Luckert, Steven, and Bachrach, Susan (2001). State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. 288 pp. Based on an exhibition of the same name at the USHMM, this volume is extensively illustrated with rare posters, photographs, and historical artifacts that help document how Nazi propagandists promoted indifference toward the suffering of neighbors, disguised the regime’s genocidal actions, and helped shape a climate in which ordinary people carried out or tolerated mass violence. Steinweis, Alan E. (2009). Kristallnacht 1938. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 224 pp. Steinweis depicts Kristallnacht as the result of unrest from below and manipulation from above. Hitler gave the approval for the pogrom, yet the perpetrators of the pogrom extended well beyond the core of Nazi thugs. While only a minority of Germans participated in the pogrom, most notably Hitler’s SA storm troopers, they were joined by a much larger number of “ordinary” Germans and a sizable minority of people in Nazi Germany approved of the violence.

Pedagogical Concerns Chapters in Books Totten, Samuel (2002). Holocaust Education: Issues and Approaches. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Focusing on foundational issues (e.g., What are the reasons for studying the Holocaust? How does an educator avoid simplification of good and evil when teaching the Holocaust? What misconceptions about this

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history should be avoided?), Totten advocates a more nuanced understanding of the pedagogy of the Holocaust and a direct confrontation with misconceptions associated with this history. Addressing both issues of content and pedagogy, educators are asked to complicate student thinking and increase critical learning opportunities by dealing with essential Holocaust topics and avoiding historical misconceptions. Dealing with misunderstood issues (e.g. Do the Jews Constitute a Race?) is essential to a dynamic understanding of the Holocaust. Two entire chapters in this book deals with the issue of misconceptions: “Common Misconceptions and Inaccuracies That Plague Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust,” and “Do the Jews Constitute a Race? An Issue Holocaust Educators Must Get Right.”

Articles on the Internet Centre for Holocaust Education, University of London (n.d.). “Myths and Misconceptions.” London: Centre for Holocaust Education, University of London. Retrieved from teacher-resources/subject-knowledge/myths-misconceptions This site, consisting of six short films with Stephen Feinberg, addresses the 20 most common misconceptions about the Holocaust. Segments include myths about the role of Hitler, myths about the Germans, myths about the passive response of the victims, confusion about camps created by the Nazis, and myths about Holocaust literature. Emory University (n.d.). “Holocaust Denial on Trial: Using History to Confront Distortions.” Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from This site resulted from the libel trial brought by Holocaust denier David Irving against noted Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt in Great Britain in 2000. The site includes defense documents, transcripts of the trial, and the judgment in Lipstadt’s favor. See also the Myths Fact Sheet at learning/myth-fact.html. Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (n.d.). “Misconceptions.” Skokie, IL: Author. Retrieved from This site provides brief and pointed responses to some of the most common misconceptions about the Holocaust, including the false assertion that Norwegians wore paper clips out of solidarity with the plight of Jews, and that the Germans used the bones of murdered Jews in the construction of the autobahn. Leopold, Wendy (2009). “Holocaust Expert Counters Myths About the Holocaust: Peter Hayes Tries to Narrow the Gap Between Holocaust Scholarship and Popular Opinion.” November 18. Northwestern University Public Relations Office. Retrieved from This very brief article outlines a lecture on myths about the Holocaust given by Northwestern University Professor Peter Hayes, a renowned scholar on the Holocaust, in 2009. This is a great starting point for students interested in pursuing the topic. The Museum of Tolerance (n.d.). “36 Questions About the Holocaust. Museum of Tolerance.” Los Angeles, CA: Author. Retrieved from ED04/36_Questions_About_the_Holocaust.htm The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California, provides answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Holocaust, especially the who, what, where, and when questions related to the Holocaust. US Holocaust Memorial Museum (n.d.). “Holocaust Deniers and Public Misinformation.” Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from The USHMM in Washington, DC, provides this site for the express purpose of helping the public understand the sources of Holocaust denial, and to help differentiate simple myths or misconceptions about the Holocaust and outright antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust. US Holocaust Memorial Museum (n.d.). “Introduction to the Holocaust.” Washington, DC: Author. US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved from A straightforward article, with photographs and other media and a brief bibliography on the Holocaust, that serves as an introduction to the Holocaust for nonscholars. University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (n.d.). “Essential Definitions and Myths Associated With the Holocaust.” Minneapolis: Author. Retrieved from histories/myths.html This website ably debunks specific myths about the Holocaust, including the false assertion that King Christian X of Denmark wore the yellow star out of a feeling of solidarity with Jews during the war and that the Germans made soap from the bodies of Holocaust victims.

4 TEACHING AND STUDYING THE HOLOCAUST Curricular Issues, Teaching Strategies, and Learning Activities Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

Introduction For close to half a century, teachers, teacher educators, Holocaust museum staff, and educational consultants have wrestled with and debated over what content should be included in a study of the Holocaust at the secondary level, and at the same time developed a wide array of strategies and learning activities for such a study. Unfortunately, as more and more individuals have joined this effort, both questionable content has been included in various curricula (lessons plans and units of study), and extremely weak pedagogically strategies and activities have been developed and touted as special. Disturbingly, many of the latter have been disseminated far and wide as a result of their being posted on the Internet. In this chapter, we address a host of those issues, including but not limited to the following: practical classroom concerns, content selection, potential difficulties in teaching about the Holocaust, and the critical need to carefully select and use pedagogically sound teaching strategies and learning activities. We conclude the chapter by providing a sampling of powerful teaching strategies and learning activities for teaching about the Holocaust. A short annotated bibliography of articles and chapters on pedagogically sound teaching strategies and learning activities follows the conclusion. In this chapter, we have absolutely no intention of providing teachers with a so-called toolbox of strategies to draw from in order to teach this history in a lockstep fashion, in a mechanical and simplistic manner, or in a way that is bereft of deep reflection about what one is learning. Rather, we offer strategies in the hope that teachers will make use of them in order to deepen student engagement and understanding of the complex and often horrendously sad issues/events they will encounter during such a study.

Issues of Content Choosing what aspects of the history of the Holocaust to teach harkens back to Chapter 1 in this volume, in which we address the critical need to craft well-thought-out rationales for teaching about the Holocaust. Ultimately, well-thought-out rationale(s) will provide a roadmap of sorts in regard to the topics and issues that teachers need to address in a study with a particular focus or theme. It is imperative to help students understand and appreciate the fact that the Holocaust spanned some 12 years (1933–1945), and that it did not simply begin with the killing process. In fact, the Holocaust essentially began with the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933 and its subsequent and

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


systematic effort to gain a stranglehold over Jews, first in Germany and then beyond. It was a lengthy process and one that was not linear. Rather, it was a process that evolved over time and was influenced by ever-changing internal decisions by the Nazi leadership and the geopolitical situation as the Nazis began their quest to create a so-called master race, and acquire the requisite Lebensraum (living space) necessary for the establishment of their “thousand-year Reich.” Ultimately, of course, it was also dramatically impacted by the latter stages of World War II and was subsequently squelched when the Allies won the war. In this regard, teachers need to assist their students in understanding how the Nazis’ policies changed over time and why. The “whys” of such changes are not always easy to ascertain. Clear evidence of this is the longtime, historiographical debate among scholars over the origins of the Holocaust and how and why it unfolded the way it did. Simply put, the intentionalists argued that the polices and intentions to exterminate the Jews were clearly spelled out from the very beginning by the Nazi leaders, while the functionalists argued that varying circumstances dictated the policies, decisions, and actions of the Nazis as they were confronted by various options/opportunities as time went on. Following many years of debate, numerous scholars, including Michael Marrus and Ian Kershaw, asserted that a more realistic theory is that of “cumulative radicalization.” That is, they argue, the decisions and actions during the Holocaust were driven by a synthesis of the intentionalist and functionalist schools, and that competition between and among various Nazi officials resulted in more extreme policies. It is imperative that students come to understand that the Jews of Europe were the primary victims of the Nazis. In this regard, it is essential to examine the role of historical antisemitism in Europe so that students will understand that the Nazis did not invent antisemitism, but did build their racial ideological program against the Jews on a foundation of Christian theological doctrine that spanned close to two millennia.1 To fail to examine Christian antisemitism during a study of the Holocaust runs the risk of presenting students with a distorted image of the underlying social, cultural, and ultimately political beliefs that were generally accepted by many, if not most, Germans both prior to and following the Nazi assumption of power. It is also important to examine the fact of antisemitism in other parts of Europe beside Germany. To single out only German antisemitism, whether religious or racial, and not examine antisemitism in other European nations, ignores an important fact: the Holocaust could not have been carried out without the collaboration of states and individuals across Europe. Since time is always a major factor in the classroom, it is not wise to spend an inordinate amount of time on the theological beliefs of Judaism. That said, time should be allocated to examine, even if briefly, the varied and diverse nature of the world of the Jews of Europe. Too often, in many packaged curricular programs on the Holocaust, the word “Jew” is used as if Jews were but one monolithic strand of European society. That was simply not the case. The Jewish experience both within and between each nation of Europe was remarkably varied in a religious sense as well as in a social, cultural, and political sense. Comprehending this diversity and variety will help explain the many and varied reactions to the horrors experienced by the victims. For instance, Sephardic Jews in Greece arrived in Auschwitz without the linguistic ability of many Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, thus preventing them from comprehending even the simplest commands in German; this resulted in their horrible beatings, if not deaths, at the hands of the Nazis for not immediately heeding an order. Assimilated Jews in Western Europe, such as Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, were able to begin planning for emigration based on their personal experiences. On a different note, based on their history of noninvolvement with the secular world, traditional orthodox Eastern European Jews, in contrast to their secular brethren, were less able to organize armed resistance groups. Explaining such diversity will go a long way toward showing students that the Holocaust was not a simple event between Jews and Nazis, but rather a complex and multifaceted event involving a myriad of forces, belief systems, and attitudes.


Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

While the mass killing of the Jews largely took place in the death camps beginning in the spring of 1942, the Germans had already killed many Jews prior to that. In quick succession, on November 9–10, 1938, the Germans killed at least 91 Jews during Kristallnacht, the thoroughly planned “spontaneous” attack against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria. In October 1939, Hitler formally authorized the T-4 Program, whose express purpose was the systematic killing of mentally and physically handicapped Germans who were deemed “life unworthy of life.” And, prior to carrying out the systematic killing of over one million Jews in the Soviet Union under cover of Operation Barbarossa, the Einsatzgruppen had carried out killings in various territories the Germans occupied in the aftermath of its invasion of Poland in September 1939. At the same time, it is critical that students understand that the status of the Jews in Germany was not static between the rise of the Nazis in 1933 and the first case of overt mass violence against the Jews (i.e., Kristallnacht) in 1938. As Michael Berenbaum (2006) has noted, between those years “four hundred separate pieces of legislation [were] enacted that defined, isolated, excluded, segregated and impoverished German Jews” (p. 18). The beginning of the end for German Jewry was the implementation of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. The Nuremberg Laws essentially stripped Jews of their citizenship. More specifically, two laws promulgated at the annual Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg on September 15—the Law for the Protection of German Blood, and the Honor and the Reich Citizenship Law— became the centerpiece of Hitler’s anti-Jewish legislation. . . . For the first time in history, Jews were persecuted not for their religious beliefs and practices, but because of their so-called racial identity, irrevocably transmitted through the blood of their grandparents. (Berenbaum, 2006, p. 29, italics added) As one can readily ascertain, becoming conversant with the chronology of the Holocaust years is critical for understanding how the Nazis’ policies and decisions affected the life of the Jews in Germany and beyond. Furthermore, without solid knowledge of what transpired in the years prior to the various decisions and actions that led up to the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, a meeting of German government and high Nazi officials at which the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was enunciated, students will never gain a real understanding as to why the Nazis decided to exterminate the Jews. What all of this suggests, then, is that the conscientious teacher will take the time and put in the effort to become well read about the history of the Holocaust and its antecedents. This need not be an onerous or laborious task. Indeed, if a teacher is selective in what he/she chooses to read, a solid overview of the history can be gleaned by reading a relatively few books. Among the books we would recommend, some of which would also be ideal for use in a secondary classroom, are as follows: Michael Berenbaum’s The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006); Doris L. Bergen’s War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), or David Cesarani’s Holocaust: From the Persecution of the Jews to Mass Murder (Routledge, London, 2004). Please see the annotated bibliography that accompanies this chapter for a succinct description of the contents of these works.

Pedagogical Issues The pedagogical issues, concerns, and problems that teachers are likely to face when teaching about the Holocaust are many, but with ample thought and careful attention to detail they can be readily overcome, if not avoided altogether. Whenever students study genocide—a difficult subject at

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


best, and one that can take a psychological toll due to its horrific nature—it is absolutely essential that ample time be allocated for student questions and student discussion. By assiduously incorporating such learning activities into the study, not only will students better process the information they are being introduced to, but it will avail students of opportunities to articulate any difficulties they may be having in studying and reading (or viewing documentaries and movies) about such horrific actions by one group of humanity against another. Bluntly put, not to allow for ample discussion constitutes poor pedagogy. During any study of the Holocaust students naturally read about a host of events that occurred in various nations and/or listen to lectures by teachers and guest speakers that mention key locales in Germany (e.g., Berlin, Nuremberg, Wannsee, Dachau, Ravensbrueck); Poland (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka); the Czech Republic (e.g., Theresienstadt); the Netherlands (e.g., Amsterdam, Westerbork); Sweden; Denmark; the Baltic States (e.g., Vilnius, Riga); the Soviet Union (e.g., Kiev, Minsk); and France (e.g., Drancy, Gurs, Natzweiler). More often than not, students are not provided with a solid sense as to the location of such nations, cities, or concentration and/or death camps—or the events that took place therein. As a result, the names become little more than a jumble of information that students have difficulty processing and understanding. In this regard, constant referral to maps is essential during such a study. As noted earlier, another major issue is helping students to understand the chronology of the Holocaust. In order to present students with a solid understanding of the history of the Holocaust, a chronological approach to this history makes great sense. Here’s why we say that. First, the 15-year period prior to the assumption of power by the Nazis in 1933 is an essential topic when dealing with the Holocaust. In addition to discussing the catastrophic impact of the loss of World War I on Germany, the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany’s political landscape (the loss of territory, the impact on the military establishment, the traumatic impact of the War Guilt Clause, the abject anger at the perceived unfairness of the conditions set by the Treaty, etc.), along with the political and economic instability of that time, it is also critical for students to understand the totalitarian principles and racial belief systems of the nascent Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party. These principles would later be used to justify the establishment of a political dictatorship, the creation of concentration camps for political opponents, and, ultimately, the construction of camps dedicated to the murder of the Jews of Europe. While intended to last a thousand years, the Third Reich survived a mere 12 years, but a horrifically disastrous 12 years. Teachers can conveniently divide this 12-year period into two halves (1933–1939 and 1939–1945). The first half, Germany before World War II (1933 to 1939), largely deals with the following: (1) the Nazis’ racial and political beliefs, and the translation of the beliefs into legislation and actions that would establish an “Aryan” state; (2) the jailing of political opponents; (3) the alteration of the fragile and fledging democratic political system into a totalitarian dictatorship; (4) the reshaping of cultural and social institutions so that they were in line with the Nazis’ belief system; and (5) the beginning of the process of removing German Jews and other racially and politically undesirable people from all aspects of German society. The evolutionary nature and all-encompassing aspect of this process, and both domestic and foreign reactions to it, will make for thought-provoking classroom activities. The second half of the Nazi period (1939 to 1945) can be broken down into other essential topics. Rather than devoting an inordinate amount of classroom time solely to the extermination centers specifically built to murder Jews (i.e., the “Final Solution”), which many teachers are apt to do, ample time should be allocated to examine the start of World War II; the so-called euthanasia program (T4 program) that targeted for death mentally and physically disabled Germans (and not exclusively Jewish people); and the establishment of ghettos in Eastern Europe. Next, an emphasis should be placed on the murderous work of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing


Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

squads that followed the German army, the Wehrmacht, as the war expanded into the Soviet Union in 1941. (Today that region consists of Belarus, the Baltic countries, and Ukraine.) Once the class reaches the point where the domination of Europe by the Nazis was largely assured, students should examine how the early concentration camp system, centered in Germany and Austria, gradually grew into a far-flung empire of camps (including the notorious work camps and extermination centers) run by the same organization, the SS, which had developed and perfected them years earlier. With this understanding, students can then be helped to recognize the perverted logic of the leadership of the Nazi party and the SS insofar as the development of camps devoted exclusively to the murder of Europe’s Jews is concerned. While exploring these killing centers, the fate of other victims of Nazi ideological thinking (especially the Roma—or Gypsies—and Sinti, who were also targeted for extermination) should be addressed. Additionally, the role of collaborators, both in the Einsatzgruppen and at killing centers, should be highlighted, as well as the role of collaborationist governments. Educators must always be careful, however, to remember to present more than just one historical perspective of the events of the Holocaust. To concentrate on the measures of the perpetrators while ignoring the many varied actions and reactions of the victims does a disservice to the study of this history. Resistance, both by Jews and non-Jews, was real and historically significant. One cannot paint a true history of the Holocaust without reference to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the work of the partisans, or the actions of condemned men and women in the killing centers who bravely resisted in a variety of ways. In regard to the latter concerns, the following point by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM, 1993) is important to seriously consider: The Holocaust provides one of the most effective subjects for an examination of basic moral issues. A structured inquiry into this history yields critical lessons for an investigation into human behavior. It also addresses one of the central mandates of education in the United States, which is to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen. (n.p.) That being said, during a study of the Holocaust it is critical for teachers to posit questions, such as the following, for students to wrestle with: • • •

What was the difference (both in regard to their situations and their responsibilities to act) between those bystanders living under Nazi rule and people living outside it? What was the response of the Allies to the ongoing isolation and ostracism of the Jews? Should it have been something different? If so, how so, and why? And if not, why not? What was the response of the Allies to their discovery of the existence of the killing centers? Was their reaction sensible? If so, why or why not? Was it moral? Why or why not? Could they—or should they—have done more than they did? Why or why not?

Pedagogical Issues That Are Essential to Consider After carefully determining one’s rationale(s) for teaching about the Holocaust (see Chapter 1 in this volume, which addresses issues of rationales), it is wise for a teacher to address a series of questions about what to teach and how to do so. Included in the latter category are such questions as the following: What are among the most engaging, thought-provoking, and pedagogically sound

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


teaching methods and learning activities that can be used to help students gain a solid understanding of this history? How should lessons be structured so as to encourage personal reflection by the students? Every teacher, of course, faces extremely tight time constraints. Whether a teacher has 45 or 55 minutes for a class period, it is rarely enough time for serious teachers who engage their students in active and deep learning. There are numerous ways, though, to stretch the time one has for a study of the Holocaust—and that is true even if a teacher, for example, only has a few days to dedicate to such a study in class. One of the easiest and most efficient ways is for a social studies (or history) teacher and an English teacher to team up and teach an interdisciplinary unit or course. By co-planning a unit or course of study on the Holocaust, the English teacher is able to select literature (essays, short stories, poetry, or even a short novel) that complements and/or extends the focus provided by the social studies teacher. Thus, instead of focusing on the Holocaust for about 50 minutes a day, the students receive about 100 minutes of instruction a day. Another outstanding way to stretch the time for such a study is through the creation of wellthought-out, highly engaging, and thought-provoking homework assignments. Students could be required to read a biography of a major figure tied to the Holocaust, such as a leader of Jewish resistance or a Nazi associated with the planning of the Holocaust. In such cases, students should be provided with an outstanding example of a fairly short but critically constructive book review to serve as a model for such a homework assignment. Within the review, the teacher could also require the students to include the following: three revelatory and/or major new facts that the students learned about the Holocaust, along with an explanation how each deepened their knowledge about the Holocaust; key motivations of the biographical figure in relation to their actions during the Holocaust, as well as the ramifications of their actions; and speculation about what the outcome might have been if the individual had not made certain key decisions and/or carried out certain actions. Obviously, the extent and type of questions posited are boundless and only limited by the thought put into them by the teacher. Yet another way to stretch the amount of time available for students to engage in a study of the Holocaust is to require a final project by each student (or pair of students). Although the study of the Holocaust will likely have been concluded prior to the completion of such projects, the key is that the students are still learning and thinking about the history. Furthermore, the teacher is providing them with an opportunity to engage in in-depth research and higher-order thought (ideally analysis, evaluation, and synthesis). (For an outstanding article on depth over coverage, see Fred Newmann [1988, p. 345].) In conducting such projects, students should be encouraged to explore substantive issues that intrigue them. Likewise, students should be given a fair amount of leeway in regard to presenting their findings. To make sure that the final product is as strong as possible, teachers ought to provide their students with a set of written guidelines to which they are expected to adhere. The guidelines might include, for example, the following: You will not simply report on a topic but focus on key issues and provide an analysis of the involvement and/or impact on various actors (i.e., victims, perpetrators, collaborators, and/ or rescuers) and the carrying out of the Holocaust; each project should include a minimum of 10 citations; sources used should be by noted scholars and not simply something off the Internet; all quoted and paraphrased work must be properly and fully cited; the report should conclude with a reflective piece in which the author (you!) comment on what you learned, particularly anything that was revelatory.


Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

With the many constraints that teachers face (e.g., relatively short class periods; teaching five to six periods a day; a plethora of interruptions, such as school assemblies, practice sessions in relation to standardized testing; proctoring standardized testing; teaching a packed curriculum that is mandated by the state), it is difficult for teachers to avoid the trap of covering large swaths of information and material versus going into depth on key issues and events. In regard to the problem of coverage versus in-depth study, Fred Newmann (1988), an educational researcher at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has commented as follows: Knowledge is thin or superficial when it does not deal with significant concepts of a topic or discipline—for example, when students have a trivial understanding of important concepts or when they have only a surface acquaintance with their meaning. Superficiality can be due, in part, to instructional strategies that emphasize coverage of large quantities of fragmented information. Knowledge is deep or thick when it concerns the central ideas of a topic or discipline. For students, knowledge is deep when they make clear distinctions, develop arguments, solve problems, construct explanations, and otherwise work with relatively complex understandings. Depth is produced, in part, by covering fewer topics in systematic and connected ways. (pp. 9–10)

The Significance of Carefully Selecting and/or Crafting and Implementing Solid Teaching Strategies and Learning Activities Perhaps one of the most demanding aspects of teaching is selecting and/or crafting highly thoughtprovoking and engaging learning activities for students. We believe that there are at least five basic reasons to carefully select and implement pedagogically sound teaching learning activities: (1) to engage students in higher-order thinking, and thus deepen their knowledge; (2) to engage students as thoroughly as possible in the study (moving them from passive to active); (3) to provide ample opportunity for authentic discussion, analysis, and debate; (4) to complicate (in the best sense of the word) student thinking; and (5) to encourage students to engage in reflective thought. There are many teaching strategies and learning activities teachers have used in teaching about the Holocaust that do not meet these criteria (see, e.g., Riley and Totten, 2002; Totten and Riley, 2005). There are many, as well, that trivialize the very history teachers are attempting to teach. (For a succinct discussion of this issue, see the section later in this chapter titled “Instructional Strategies and Learning Activities to Avoid”) More often than not in the “typical” classroom, teacher talk (i.e., lecture and/or simple recitation) rules the day, essentially crowding out opportunities for authentic student involvement. Likewise, far too many pedagogical strategies and learning activities involve students in lower levels of thinking versus critical and higher-order thinking. The weakest strategies and learning activities during a study of the Holocaust involve students in simplistic and mindless tasks, such as word finds, elementary crossword puzzles, and role-playing and simulations that purportedly provide students with a real sense of what the victims of the Holocaust went through. To be crystal clear, in regard to “engaging students as thoroughly possible” we are talking about the teacher creating both a climate of inquiry and providing ample opportunities for students to truly wrestle with the information and ideas at hand by (1) engaging in discussion and debate with the teacher and other students; (2) digging deeply into issues versus being satisfied with pat answers to complex questions and issues; (3) conducting research, both individually and with others, into persisting questions; and (4) constructing their own understanding of the issues.

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


As for providing ample time for authentic discussion and debate, the operative term here is authentic. Authentic discussion, as opposed to recitation (where the teacher asks a question, and one or two students attempt to respond with the “correct” answer), involves students in: (1) discussing issues they really care about and/or that intrigue them; and (2) engaging in debate and playing the devil’s advocate with the teacher and/or one’s peers about ideas, situations, decisions, and events that they may perceive and understand differently than what is conveyed in the teacher’s lecture, course readings, or other students’ comments. Johannessen (2003) argues that authentic discussion is more like a conversation in which there is a genuine dialogue or inquiry into a problem or issue with no predetermined answer. I like to think of authentic discussion as classroom discussion that is purposeful and engaging. (p. 73) Put another way, Johannessen and Kahn (2005) argue that authentic discussion “should involve student-to-student conversations in which students respond to each other’s comments without the prompting or intrusion of the teacher” (p. 99). (For powerful ways to engage students in authentic discussion, see Johannessen, 2003.) In their article “Five Standards of Authentic Instruction,” Newmann and Wehlage (1993) assert that research indicates that high levels of substantive conversation are indicated by three features: •

There is considerable interaction about the ideas of a topic (the talk is about disciplined subject matter and includes indicators of higher-order thinking such as making distinctions, applying ideas, forming generalizations, raising questions, and not just reporting experiences, facts, definitions, or procedures). Sharing of ideas is evident in exchanges that are not completely scripted or controlled (as in a teacher-led recitation). Sharing is best illustrated when participants explain themselves or ask questions in complete sentences and when they respond directly to comments of previous speakers. The dialogue builds coherently on participants’ ideas to promote improved collective understanding of a theme or topic (pp. 10–11).

(For a much more detailed discussion of authentic instruction, see Authentic Instruction and Assessment: Common Standards for Rigor and Relevance in teaching Academic Subjects by Fred. M. Newmann, M. Bruce King, and Dana L. Carmichael. Des Moines: State of Iowa Department of Education, 2007). In regard to the issue of “complicating student thinking” during a study of the Holocaust, Parsons and Totten (1993) comment as follows: A study of the Holocaust raises difficult questions about human behavior, and it often involves complicated answers as to why events occurred. Be wary of oversimplifications. Allow student to contemplate the various factors that contributed to the Holocaust; do not attempt to reduce Holocaust history to one or two catalysts in isolation from the other factors that came into play. (p. 3)

Range of Pedagogically Sound Teaching Strategies Where once classroom presentations exclusively by the teacher was the primary educational strategy in most US schools (and, in fact, is still overused by many if not most teachers), such an approach


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is considered more or less archaic and counterproductive to meaningful learning. Rather than viewing students as empty receptacles to be filled with information by talking heads (i.e., teachers) or spoon-fed the dry and sententious facts found in textbooks, astute educators recognize the necessity of actively involving students in their own learning. This, of course, does not mean that teachers cannot or should not present information directly to students; rather it means that activities that allow students to discover and/or construct meaning should be an integral part of the learning process. Along with access to readily available printed materials in the educational marketplace (e.g., trade books, edited books, journals, pamphlets), teachers now have access to almost unlimited amounts of electronic information that includes photographs, oral histories, interviews, maps, charts, and films, to mention the most obvious. Creative use of such electronic data in the teaching of the Holocaust demands crafting new teaching strategies and learning activities. (See Chapter 5 in this volume.) Selected readings that present various perspectives on key issues and topics need to be located and used in class so that students can create a multifaceted understanding of this history. No one single book or film is capable of relating the story of the Holocaust. Educators who teach about the Holocaust need to take into account both the complexity of the history as well as the terrible nature of much of it. This is particularly true in regard to having students examine photographs and view films about the Holocaust that delineate terrible human suffering.2 Readings that spell out in immense and gruesome details about human suffering also need to be used with great care and sensitivity. Bluntly put, exposing youngsters to graphic images of horror, be they visual or via the written word, is not only unprofessional but could prove damaging, and result in nightmares or worse in certain children. In that regard, levels of psychological maturity and cognitive development are essential concerns teachers must take into serious consideration when teaching about the Holocaust. Below we highlight an array of instructional strategies and learning activities that we believe are pedagogically sound and, when used with care, can lead to higher levels of thinking and worthwhile student engagement.3

Developing a Cluster/Mind-Map An engaging and effective strategy for ascertaining the depth of student knowledge about the Holocaust is to have students develop a cluster (alternatively referred to as a mind-map, web, or conceptual map) around the target word/event “Holocaust.” A cluster has been defined as “a nonlinear brainstorming process that generates ideas, images, and feeling around a stimulus word until a pattern becomes discernible” (Rico, 1996, p. 17). To develop a cluster, have students write the term “Holocaust” in the center of a piece of paper (a minimum of 8-1/2″ by 11″), circle it, and then draw spokes out from the circle on which to place related terms or ideas. Each time a term is added, students should circle it and draw new spokes for relating it to other terms and concepts. Each new or related idea can lead to a new clustering of ideas. As Rico (1996) points out: A cluster is an expanding universe, and each word is a potential galaxy; each galaxy, in turn, may throw out its own universes. As students cluster around a stimulus word, the encircled words rapidly radiate outward until a sudden shift takes place, a sort of “Aha!” that signals a sudden awareness of that tentative whole. (p. 17)

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust

Definition: intent to destroy in whole or in part a specific group of people

Armenian Genocide 1915–1919

U.N. Convention on Genocide



Holocaust 1933–1945

Cambodian Genocide 1975–1979


Rwanda Genocide 1994

A simple cluster.

For many students, clustering is more graphic and generally easier and more engaging than outlining to delineate their knowledge about a topic. On the other hand, some students may not find clustering to their liking and prefer traditional outlining. We are of the mind that students should be encouraged to choose and use the form that they prefer. To help students understand both the purpose for and the method of clustering, the teacher should choose a totally unrelated topic and demonstrate the development of a cluster, progressing from simple to more complex stages. More specifically, the teacher should first create a simple, almost perfunctory, cluster and then a more complex cluster on the same topic. The two clusters should be used as a nonexemplar (e.g., the simplistic cluster) and an exemplar (the more complex cluster) of what the students should avoid and strive for, respectively, in developing their own clusters. It is important, when illustrating how to develop a cluster, not to develop a cluster on the Holocaust, as students may be tempted to replicate the same kinds of information and connections that the teacher has delineated (see Figure 4.1). In directing students to develop a cluster, teachers should encourage them to develop the most detailed, comprehensive and accurate cluster possible. At the same time, students should be encouraged to delineate the connections between or among key facts, concepts, and ideas, etc. If such directions are not given and emphasized, then many students are likely to develop disappointingly simple, if not simplistic, clusters (see Figure 4.2).

Definition: intent to destroy in whole or part a specific group of people

Holocaust 1933–1945

Armenian Genocide 1915–1919 Rwanda Genocide 1994

Genocide US did not ratify until 1986 “intent requirement” is ambiguous

Went into force 1/12/51

Cambodian Genocide 1975–1979

Adopted by U.N. General Assembly 12/9/48 U.N. Convention on Genocide

Compromise definition


Condemn genocide Does not include political, social, or gender groups


A more complex cluster.

Lacks a distinction and gradation between genocides




Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


Once each student has completed a cluster, groups of three to four students should meet face to face in a small circle in order to share and discuss their individual clusters. A succinct amount of time should be given (2–3 minutes should suffice) for each student to explain his or her cluster, and in doing so they should address the following: • • •

An overview of key points Reasons why such ideas were chosen An explanation of the connections between or among the various ideas.

As students present their clusters, others in the group may add items that they think are particularly significant to their own clusters, in a color other than the one originally used, thus highlighting those ideas borrowed from others. At the end of this session, all of the clusters may be taped to the classroom wall or stored for revisiting during the course of the Holocaust study. Developing a cluster serves a number of key purposes. First, it assists each student to recognize what he/she does or does not know about the subject. Second, teachers gain a sense about each student’s depth of knowledge, as well as the sophistication of their conceptual framework of the subject. Third, teachers are able to pinpoint specific inaccuracies, misconceptions, and/or myths that students hold about the Holocaust. In other words, the activity serves as a powerful preassessment exercise. At various points during their study of the Holocaust, students could be asked to complete another cluster. This provides both the students and the teacher with a vivid sense as to the students’ acquisition of knowledge, insights, and connections between and among topics. It also allows teachers to determine whether such newfound knowledge is of a greater depth and sophistication than what the students had at the outset of the study. This, of course, serves as a powerful way of conducting both formative and postassessments.

Using the Cluster to Develop a Working Definition of the Holocaust Next, using the information they have included in their clusters (facts, concepts, connections), students should develop a working definition of the Holocaust. In doing so, they need to be encouraged to look carefully at all of the components of their cluster and then make every effort to develop the most comprehensive and accurate definition they possibly can. They also need to be informed that as they develop their definition, if they discover they have left out key facts or concepts or failed to make certain connections, then they should add such information to their clusters. They should also be informed that they are not expected to use all of the clustered material in their definitions, not even a majority of it; rather, they should extrapolate key ideas from the clustered material in order to craft the definition. Once everyone has developed a definition, students should be placed in groups of three to four to share their definitions. A recorder should be chosen to jot down the salient points of the discussion that ensues as each definition is read. At the conclusion of the small group discussion, it is a worthwhile activity to hold a general class discussion. Key questions and issues that demand further discussion/examination should be written on a large sheet of paper with the heading, “Holocaust: Issues to Resolve and/or Examine in More Detail.” Throughout the study of the Holocaust, the class should return to these issues and questions and attempt to answer them—all in an effort to help the students to come to a more comprehensive and accurate definition of the Holocaust and to deepen their understanding of key issues. To simply provide the students with an accepted definition of the Holocaust (for example, the one used by the USHMM) would certainly be a lot easier and faster but less pedagogically


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sound than the method described here. By using their own knowledge and insights to construct a definition and to revise it over time as they gain more knowledge, students are likely to develop a much deeper understanding of key elements of the Holocaust. This process, of course, need not preclude the examination of various scholars’ or institutions’ definitions of the Holocaust at a later time. In fact, doing so may further deepen the students’ understanding of the Holocaust. Ultimately, it is actually a good idea to share a strong definition of the Holocaust (again, along the lines of the USHMM’s definition) and have the students compare and contrast, in writing, their definition with that of the definition developed by historians. This activity, too, should be debriefed via class discussion. Again, like the development of the clusters, the development of such student definitions provides the teacher with valuable insights into the students’ understanding of the Holocaust, including their depth of knowledge, misconceptions, and so forth. This activity, of course, can variously serve as either and/or powerful preassessment, formative assessment, and/or postassessment exercises.

Helping Students to Gain Insights Into the Chronological Context of the Holocaust Have students in each class create a class time line of Holocaust history. Cover one wall of your classroom with pieces of butcher paper. The far left of the paper should be labeled “November 1918: End of World War I” and the far right should be labeled “May 1945: End of World War II.” On a daily basis, as students complete their reading of historical works, read and/or listen to survivor testimony, or view a video, they should, as a class be asked to add key information to the historical time line. As the students learn new facts, the question of the day becomes, where in the chronology does the new information belong? As the various classes build their own time lines, discussions will develop between classes over the worth of the details that have been included or excluded by each class. This activity helps students develop a chronological understanding of the Holocaust and it helps students note the importance of significant events within the historical context.

Mapping Major Issues/Events Map Provide each student with a specially made desk-size map of the Europe (which is easy to craft: enlarge six parts of a regular size map, tape them together on the back side, and have a copy store print off one large copy per student). Students should have ready access to the map in class and at home while reading and studying about the Holocaust. Students should be informed that each time they come across a major incident/event, they should neatly jot down the event on the map where it took place (village, town, city, forest, ghetto, camp, etc.), along with the date of occurrence. By doing so, students will begin to have a better sense of (1) those countries involved and/or impacted, in one way or another, by the Holocaust; (2) the far reach of Nazi Germany and the threat it posed to other nations; (3) the astonishing breadth of land/nations involved or impacted by the Holocaust; and (4) where different concentration camps and death camps were located (thus providing students with the understanding that the death camps were not located in Germany as many are wont to think). This is an outstanding way to incorporate geography into the study of the Holocaust and provide students with a real sense as to where and when events took place during the Holocaust years. (Since today’s world is radically different than that in World War I—the purpose of going back that

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far is due to the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany—it is imperative to make sure that the map provided for the students is germane to the time period between 1918 and 1945. For the latter, see Martin Gilbert’s The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust. Fourth Edition. London: Routledge, 2009).

Examining and Weighing the Ramifications of Nazi Laws and Decrees Paul Wieser, a highly respected former social studies teacher and Holocaust educator, developed the following lesson to help students gain an understanding and appreciation of the year-by-year onslaught by the Nazis against the Jews, beginning in 1933. While the lesson largely focuses students’ attention on the barrage of Nazi laws and decrees that resulted in the deprivation, ostracism, and isolation of the German Jewish population, it also addresses the impact on German gentiles as well. In regard to this lesson, Wieser (1995) states the following: In an attempt to personalize the lesson, the measures chosen to be examined were those laws that had a particular impact on the lives of young people of the time. Thus, many of these laws and decrees (prohibition on pets, radios, bicycles, etc.) were included along with some of the more widely known laws and decrees such as the boycott of 1933 and the Nuremberg Laws (1935), among others. Arranging the decrees by the year issued, students were asked to rate (1–5) the impact of these laws and decrees on various segments of the population. Here, the teacher had the flexibility to choose from as many groups as he/she wished. Typically, “Jewish student,” “Jewish adult,” Jewish businessman,” as well as their non-Jewish counterparts. As students totaled the scores by year, they could clearly see which groups had been most affected and what patterns, if any, developed. The activity required students to carefully evaluate and reflect on the impact on the selected populations. What on the surface appeared to be an outright attack on the Jewish community also resulted in serious ramifications for gentiles. Thus, students will often come to the realization that although Jews could not sell their newspapers on German streets after September 6, 1935, the non-Jewish businessman who relied on advertising in those papers might feel the sting of this measure as much as the Jewish publishers. (Wieser, p. 77) (For other powerful teaching strategies and learning activities by Wieser, see his chapter, “Instructional Issues/Strategies in Teaching the Holocaust,” in Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg’s Teaching and Studying the Holocaust. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers, 2009.)

Examining Choiceless Choices During a study of both the history of the Holocaust and/or Holocaust literature, students could focus on what literary critic and Holocaust specialist Lawrence Langer (1982) refers to as the “choiceless choices” that the Nazis’ victims were forced to make on a daily basis. For example, Langer explains that the people were plunged into a crisis . . . where crucial decisions did not reflect options between life and death, but between one form of abnormal response and another, both imposed by a situation that was in no way of the victim’s own choosing. (p. 72)


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One choiceless choice that Langer (1982) cites involved the case of a non-Jewish physician/prisoner at Auschwitz who was able to save one woman selected for gassing by reporting to the Political Division that an SS man needed her particular skill in his work. But her success was tainted by the response from that department: “We’ll have to take another [to be gassed] in her place.” (p. 75) Both the history and literature of the Holocaust are rife with such situations. By examining such choiceless choices, students can begin to gain insight into the tortuously difficult situations faced by the victims of the Nazis. Likewise, through an examination and discussion of such situations students may be more likely to empathize with the horribly difficult dilemmas that confronted the victims on a daily basis. As students come across such situations in their readings, they could be required to record and comment on them in reflective journals. Or, a large piece of butcher paper could be taped to the class wall during the study, and each time a student or the class as a whole comes across such a situation, it could be noted on the paper. Periodically, the teacher could draw the students’ attention to the list and conduct a class discussion or learning activity around it.

Concentration Camps Within Germany Prior to studying the Holocaust, many students automatically assume that all of the concentration and death camps were located in Germany. That, of course, is not true. At the same time, most students will have little idea which concentration camps were actually located in Germany, let alone the purpose of such camps. The activity delineated here is a good one to undertake with half of the class. That leaves the other half of the class to undertake a second activity (see the next activity titled “The Expansion of Concentration Camps Outside of Germany.”). In this activity, divide half the class into four groups. Have each group of students access Holocaust Memorials (, which is an index of sites associated with the Holocaust, listed by country. Have one group select Dachau (; the second group, Buchenwald (; the third group, Flossenberg (; and the fourth group, Bergen-Belsen ( Each group should locate and jot down the following information about the camp for which it is responsible: (1) the date it was established; (2) the exact reason(s) why it was established; (3) how its function(s) changed over time; and (4) when it was closed down and why (or captured by the Allies). At the close of the activity, one student from each group should orally present his/her group’s findings. The teacher should write key points on the whiteboard or overhead projector as the student presents his/her group’s report. Once all of the information is on the board, the teacher should guide the students through a discussion of the camps, helping them come to appreciate that different camps were created at different times for different purposes and evolved in various ways over time.

The Expansion of Concentration Camps Outside Germany In this activity, the other half of the students in the class should examine the history of Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, Natzweiler-Struthof in occupied France, Mauthausen in Austria, and Terezin in occupied Czechoslovakia. Again, these students should be divided into four groups

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and conduct their study in the same manner as those students who examined Nazi camps in Germany in the previous activity. At the conclusion of both learning activities, a class discussion and analysis of the key findings of the various groups should be conducted. This should result in a situation in which the students in class glean their own insights into the Nazis’ concentration camp system, which was created initially for Germany but then evolved and spread across Europe as the Nazi implemented their racial ideological belief system.

Documentary Evidence: The Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units) Prior to the class period, the teacher should locate a map of the activity of the various mobile killing groups (see the website of the USHMM,, and the website of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Remembrance Center in Israel, http://www.yadvashem. At the Yad Vashem website, the teacher should go to “The Holocaust” and click on “Mobile Killing Units,” and then click on “Documents.” The teacher should preselect as many documents from each of these two sites as needed for group work. Each small group of students should be tasked with deconstructing the meaning of a report, situate it in time and place, and examine any euphemistic language in the reports. They should submit their findings in writing.

The Ghetto System of the Nazis The teacher should preselect five to seven of the largest ghettos in occupied Europe (e.g., Warsaw, Biaylstok, Lodz, Lublin, Kovno, Krakow, and Vilna). Groups comprised of three to four students should be assigned to each ghetto. Using the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the USHMM (http://www. and the survivor testimonies online at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, students should access maps, photographs, and information on their assigned ghetto. Groups should be allowed one to two classroom periods to create a 10-minute classroom presentation on each ghetto—a presentation that must include maps, photographs, and the personal testimony of survivors, all germane to the particular ghetto they’ve been assigned. Subjects to be dealt with in the presentation might include: the origin and location of the ghetto, its purpose, evolution, living conditions, leadership, and victims’ resistance to the actions of the perpetrators. At a minimum, each group could be required to include the following in their oral presentations: (1) a map delineating the location of the ghetto; (2) photographs of the ghetto and its inhabitants; (3) at least three powerful and revealing excerpts from three first-person accounts that describe the situation/conditions in the ghetto; and (4) the ultimate fate of the ghetto and its inhabitants.

Those Who Helped the Jews: The Righteous Among the Nations The teacher should access the website at Yad Vashem ( Under “Digital Collections” click on the “Righteous Database,” and then click on “Lists of the Righteous Recognized by Yad Vashem.” From the list of 48 countries, the teacher should select five to seven nations and then select the names of any three people from each country. Using the “Search for Righteous” function, the teacher should print out the information on the 15–21 people who have been identified. The teacher should laminate each page of information for distribution to the students. The class should be divided into small groups and provided the information printed out on the Righteous Among Nations, either by country, gender, or age. Each group should read the information, noting the location of the assistance/rescue, the mode


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of rescue, the number of victims helped, the challenges and barriers faced by the rescuers and whether or not they were overcome during the rescue, and the fates of the rescued and the rescuer. Each group should prepare a visual presentation delineating this information in chart form. At a minimum, during their presentation each group should be required to include the following components: (1) a map delineating the location of the rescue efforts; (2) any photographs available of the rescuers; and (3) at least three powerful and revealing excerpts from three first-person accounts that describe the situation/conditions in the ghetto under study. A class discussion based on the information gathered by the students should be conducted regarding the issue of rescue in different countries in Europe.

Establishing a Basic Understanding of Holocaust History Grace Caporino, a former English teacher at Carmel High School in Carmel, New York, helped her students gain key insights into the history of the Holocaust prior to their reading literary works about the Holocaust by doing the following: I began with a brief chronology of the immediate events in Europe which preceded the Holocaust and then I assigned Chapter One (“Precedents”) in the student edition of Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985). That chapter illuminates both the historical and religious policies that paved the way for the events of the Holocaust. [More specifically,] Hilberg discusses the cyclical “trend in the three successive goals of anti-Jewish administrators” (e.g., the conversion, expulsion and exclusion policy from the fourth century through the middle ages laid the ground work for Hitler’s final solution of annihilation). My students raised questions such as “Why the Jews?” They did not understand why the Jews have been a target group for persecution throughout history and they knew nothing of Christian complicity in this matter. Students examining Holocaust literature for the first time are often confused about the apparent ease with which Hitler implemented the Final Solution. Hilberg’s historical perspective explains the contemporaneous events of the Holocaust by shedding light on the past. Hilberg notes that in the past, The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: You have no right to live among us as Jews. The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed: You have no right to live among us. The Nazis at last decreed: You have no right to live. (Caporino, 1985, p. 8) Another feature of the chapter is Hilberg’s illustration of a side-by-side comparison of the Church Canonical Law and the Nazi anti-Jewish measures. For students seeking a better understanding of the dynamics of both perpetrator and victim in the Holocaust, as well as an understanding of the forerunners of Hitler’s policies, Hilberg’s “Precedents” provides satisfactory answers. (written statement provided by Caporino) (Another excellent work for assisting students to gain an understanding of the history of the Holocaust is Michael Berenbaum’s The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Revised edition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. This volume was written for use by high school students; it is not only reader-friendly, but also includes numerous invaluable photographs and excerpts from firstperson accounts.)

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


Preparation for Class Discussions/Short Lectures For certain articles and/or chapters read for a particular class session, students should be asked to write a minimum of three key points, along with an accompanying statement/rationale for each point. These points, for example, might address any of the following: (1) the most significant point one has gleaned, and why one considers that the most significant point; (2) a totally new insight one has gleaned, and the importance of that insight; (3) an idea one disagrees with, and why; (4) an issue, decision, event or reaction, and so forth that one does not understand, and an accompanying discussion as to what is not understood; or (5) one additional point in relation to item 1, 2, or 3. Students need to understand that the accompanying statement/rationales must be well thought out, clearly stated, and detailed. In other words, it will not suffice to jot down a simple thought in a sentence or two. The points in these papers should be used as a catalyst for class discussion. The goal in using such assignments is to cultivate as high a level of thinking and discussion as possible. The points should be collected at the end of each class session and subsequently graded.

Reflective Journals Having students keep reflective journals throughout the study is a good method for accomplishing all of the following: getting students to examine their newfound knowledge of the Holocaust; encouraging them to raise questions or concerns about what they have read and/or discussed in class; having them ponder the meaning of the history for their own lives; and providing the teacher with key information in regard to the depth of their students’ understanding or misunderstanding of key facts, concepts, and issues. Specific journal assignments could, for example, require students to reflect on specific questions and issues posited by the teacher. Reflective journals can also serve as a means for two-way communication between the teacher and student. While reading a student’s journal, the teacher could pose questions for the student to address in the next set of entries. Likewise, a student could raise questions and/or issues for the teacher to address. Students could make entries in the journal in class and at home. It is imperative that clear and well-structured guidelines be provided to the students for how they should go about writing a reflective journal: (1) the need to avoid simply reiterating what one has read and/or what the teacher said during a lecture; (2) the need to be analytical; and (3) the need to be detailed in one’s responses. If the latter is not done, then more often than not the journals will become little more than either a recapitulation of the content the student has read or what the teacher has said in class.

Reader Response Theory Activities An extremely powerful way to engage students in a study of literature is through the use of “reader response theory.” Commenting on the basic difference between a traditional approach to literary study and the reader response process, Louise Rosenblatt, a pioneer in the field of reader response theory, argues persuasively that the reader should not be perceived as “a blank tape registering a ready-made message. [Rather, the reader should be] actively involved in [coming to an understanding of a work] out of his/her responses to the text” (quoted in Sheridan, 1991, p. 804). Unlike many traditional methods of literary study, reader response is a process that honors the students’ background, diverse experiences, unique insights, and perspectives as integral components in the study of literature. Thus, instead of relying on the privileged thoughts of a critic or the privileged


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knowledge of the teacher, it recognizes and highly values each student’s response to a piece of literature. In the essay “Rewriting the Book on Literature: Changes Sought in How Literature is Taught, What Students Read,” O’Neill (1994) comments as follows: Basically, reader response theory differs most radically from previous theories about teaching literature in the degree of emphasis placed on the reader’s response to an interpretation of the text. . . . In reader response theory, the text’s meaning is considered to reside in the “transaction” between the reader and the text, not from the text alone. . . . In practice, reader response theory considers very carefully how students respond intellectually and emotionally to the text. . . . By validating students’ responses, teachers can spark a lively discussion from which a careful literary analysis will flow. . . . Rather than beginning with a discussion of symbolism or metaphor, for example, teachers should allow an exploration of those aspects that develop from students’ own observations about the work. . . . the emphasis on getting students to respond to the literature doesn’t mean that any response is as good as another. Students are continuously urged to return to the text to find validation for their views. (pp. 7, 8, italics added) The key is to provide the students with an opportunity to begin to examine literature from their own perspective without imposing anyone else’s interpretation on them. This avoids that stultifying situation where students feel compelled to come up with the so-called single correct or right answer. (For a crystal clear discussion of reader-response theory methodology, see Alan C. Purves, Theresa Rogers and Anna O. Soter’s How Porcupines Make Love III: Readers, Texts, Cultures in the Response-Based Literature Classroom, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1994).) For a discussion of a pedagogical strategy that uses reader response theory to assist students to examine a Holocaust-related poem, see Samuel Totten, “ ‘Written in Pencil in the Sealed RailwayCar’: Incorporating Poetry into the Study of the Holocaust via a Reader Response Theory Activity,” in Samuel Totten (Ed.), Teaching Holocaust Literature (Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2001).

Closing Activities Many teachers tend to close lessons on the Holocaust with a quiz or exam. More often than not, such activities do not assist students to truly synthesize or reflect on what they have learned. The fact is, however, that there are numerous activities available for completing a study of the Holocaust that are ideal for helping students: (1) synthesize what they have learned, and (2) reflect on what they have learned. There are others that are ideal for planting seeds for ongoing rumination. Some are ideal for use prior to or in conjunction with traditional assessments, whereas others are capable of standing on their own. One way to set the stage for a final discussion or for student-designed extension projects is to have students reflect on a number of issues. Among the questions they might respond to in writing are: • • • •

Is there anything you are still perplexed about regarding this history? If so, what is it and why does it perplex you? What issues or events do you feel you need to learn more about, and why? Are there any issues or concerns that you would be interested in researching on your own? If so, what are they, and what is it about such topics that particularly catch your attention? What are the most significant insights, concepts, or pieces of information you have gleaned from your study, and why do you deem them so significant?

Teaching and Studying the Holocaust


As a prologue to more conventional evaluation procedures, a teacher could require students to respond in writing to a select number of probing philosophical questions such as the following: • • • • •

Can any lessons at all be learned from the Holocaust? If so, what are they? Please provide a rationale for your thinking. Can it be said that the history of humanity has been a history of progress in human relations? Why or why not? Please provide a detailed explanation. Does the idea of technical progress correlate to human behavior? If so, how? If not, why not? Why should people living today even care about the Holocaust? Now that you know about the Holocaust, do you think, feel, or believe that you have a responsibility to be more aware and/or concerned about human rights abuses and genocide perpetrated in your own lifetime? Why or why not? And if so, what might such awareness and concern look like in regard to your own actions?

These and other open-ended questions can serve as a means for students to reflect on what they have learned from their study of the Holocaust. A discussion of such issues moves the study from one that may be solely fact- and concept-oriented to one that is more personal. It is also one that is likely to prod students to be more reflective about what they’ve learned. After the students have responded in writing, they could then meet in small groups or as a large group and discuss their responses. Another activity that could be used as a prologue to more conventional evaluation procedures is as follows: Have the students individually write down those facts, concepts, events, issues, and images that they never want to forget about the Holocaust, and why. Taking part in such an activity encourages students to articulate that which is most meaningful to them as a result of their study. It also has the potential of planting the seeds for ongoing concern about the ubiquitous deprivation of human rights around the world, including that of crimes against humanity and genocide. For a more structured and in-depth approach to closing the unit, teachers can ask students to write a letter to their parents or guardians in regard to what they have learned about the Holocaust, and what they are unlikely to forget and why. This allows students to share their insights with familiar individuals and to engage in thoughtful discussions with people who, at least in theory, will interact with the students in a supportive manner.

An Alternative to a Final Evaluation As part of the learning process, students can be asked to maintain a journal during the course of study of the Holocaust. As part of this activity, teachers can posit questions about the history for students to address in their journals. Ideally, the students’ written responses will reflect the depth of their understanding of the subject and issues at hand. If the teacher designs solid standards and tasks for completing these assignments, and holds them responsible for the quality and depth of their responses, then a final examination may not even be needed.

Instructional Strategies and Learning Activities to Avoid As alluded to throughout this chapter, over the years both curriculum developers and teachers have either created and/or used a plethora of mindless and useless teaching and learning activities in their attempt to educate about the Holocaust. Among some of the many, for example, are: •

role-playing activities in which students are asked/expected to “experience” what the victims of the Holocaust did;


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mindless simulations that purportedly approximate what victims of the Holocaust suffered through during the Holocaust (such as drawing a large rectangular on the floor of the classroom and then “stuffing” students inside it so that they “know” what the people transported in boxcars experienced); finding a term or series of terms (i.e., Holocaust, Nazis, Auschwitz) on a page of scrambled letters; simplistic crossword puzzles dealing with aspects of the Holocaust; and reading articles and discussing topics far afield from the Holocaust (e.g., censorship in US classrooms); songs by contemporary rock and roll stars about one social issue or another; local protests in a community over one controversy or another).

• • •

All of these activities—and others like them—take valuable time away from a study of the Holocaust and trivialize its history. (See Samuel Totten’s “Diminishing the Complexity and Horror of the Holocaust: Using Simulations in an Attempt to Convey Historical Experiences” in Social Education for a detailed critique of such approaches.)

Conclusion To teach about the Holocaust is a serious undertaking. It deals with a cataclysmic event that is both complex and tragic. In order to thoroughly engage students in such a study and to help them gain a solid and comprehensive understanding of the history, teachers must prepare thoroughly and with great care. By carefully selecting pedagogically sound instructional strategies and learning activities, teachers will more likely help their students to gain a solid understanding of the history of the Holocaust and, hopefully, induce their students to think about, ponder, and wrestle with the history of the Holocaust and its many and significant ramifications for years to come.

Notes 1. Some teachers reach back to biblical times to help students understand how and why Jews became known as “Christ killers.” Here they will discover that the actual Christ killers were not Jews but the Romans. To learn about and begin to appreciate how Jews were wrongly accused of killing Christ and the calumny that was directed at them over the ages will likely be eye-opening. While the chronology of antisemitism is complicated, it is worth delineating, for the treatment of Jews changed in various and significant ways through the centuries. In the 19th century, for example, religious antisemitism evolved, in many quarters, into political antisemitism, which ultimately influenced Adolf Hitler. Over time, traditional religious antisemitism and political antisemitism morphed, at least in the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, into racial antisemitism. There were distinct reasons for such a metamorphosis and to help students understand both the reasons for the gradual but existential-laden changes, and the chronology of such will contribute to deepening the students’ understanding of such complex but significant issues that contributed in their own inimitable ways to the perpetration of the Holocaust. 2. On a different but important note, teachers also need to be mindful about who produced certain films and for what purpose; indeed, this is a key issue that is worthy of ample discussion with the students as it speaks to perspective, bias, and so forth. For example, in Nazi-produced films, both Hitler and the Third Reich are glorified and thus served propagandistic purposes. 3. This hardly constitutes all of the strategies that are likely to be of value in teaching about the Holocaust. In fact, each year smart, innovative, and hard-working educators come up with new strategies on their own that they find particularly valuable. The latter can be found in the pages of educational journals (including but not limited to, for example, Social Education, The Social Studies, and The History Teacher) and on the Internet.

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References Berenbaum, Michael. The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Caporino. Personal correspondence to Samuel Totten from Grace Caporino, May 2000. Cuban, Larry (2001). How Can I Fix It? Finding Solutions and Managing Dilemmas. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Gilbert, Martin. (2009). The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust (4th ed.). London: Routledge. Hansen, David T. (1995). The Call to Teach. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Johannessen, Larry R. (2003). “Strategies for Initiating Authentic Discussion.” The English Journal, September, 93(1), 73–79. Johannessen, Larry R., and Kahn, Elizabeth (2005). “Engaging Students in Authentic Discussions of Literature.” In Thomas M. McCann, Larry R. Johannessen, Elizabeth Kahn, Peter Smagorinsky, and Michael W. Smith (Eds.), Reflective Teaching, Reflective Learning: How to Develop Critically Engaged Readers, Writers, and Speakers (pp. 99–116). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Langer, Lawrence (1982). Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit. Albany: State University of New York Press. Newmann, Fred M. (1988). “Can Depth Replace Coverage in the High School Curriculum?” Phi Delta Kappan, January, 69(5): 345. Newmann, Fred M., King, M. Bruce, and Carmichael, Dana L. (2007). Authentic Instruction and Assessment: Common Standards for Rigor and Relevance in Teaching Academic Subjects. Des Moines: State of Iowa Department of Education. Newmann, Fred M., and Wehlage, Gary G. (1993). “Five Standards of Authentic Instruction.” Educational Leadership, April, 50(7), 8–12. O’Neill, John (1994). “Rewriting the Book on Literature: Changes Sought in How Literature Is Taught, What Students Read.” ASCD Curriculum Update, June 1994, pp. 1–9. Parsons, William S., and Totten, Samuel (1993). Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Rico, Gabriele Lusser (1996). “Clustering: A Prewriting Process.” In Carol Booth Olson (Ed.), Practical Ideas for Teaching Writing As a Process (pp. 17–20). Sacramento: California State Department of Education. Riley, Karen, and Totten, Samuel (2002). “Understanding Matters: Holocaust Curricula and the Social Studies Classroom.” Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(4): 541–562. Sheridan, Daniel (1991). “Changing Business as Usual: Reader Response in the Classroom.” College English, 53(7), 804–814. Totten, Samuel, and Riley, Karen (2005). “Authentic Pedagogy and the Holocaust: A Critical Review of State Sponsored Holocaust Curricula.” Theory and Research in Social Education, 33(1), 120–141. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1993). Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. Washington, D.C: Author, p. 1. Wiesel, Elie (1982). Night. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Wieser, Paul (1995). “Hitler’s Death Camps.” Social Education, 59(6), 374–376.

Annotated Bibliography Research Donnelly, M. B. (2006). “Educating Students About the Holocaust: A Survey of Teaching Practices.” Social Education, January–February, 70(1), 51–54. Donnelly presents the results of a yearlong study (2003–2004) commissioned by the USHMM that examined the teaching practices in Holocaust education in the nation’s secondary public schools. The study assessed secondary teaching practices in middle and high schools in teaching about the Holocaust, and examined teachers’ rationales for teaching about the Holocaust. Hernandez, Alexander Anthony (2004). Voices of Witness, Messages of Hope: Moral Development Theory and Transactional Response in a Literature-Based Holocaust Studies Curriculum. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ohio


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State University, 2004. Retrieved from NUM: osu1087317918 The abstract to this dissertation states the following: “This study explores students’ responses to first-person Holocaust narratives through the lens of reader response theory in order to determine if prolonged engagement with the literature enhances affective learning. This study also explores the students’ sense of personal ethics and their perceptions on moral decision-making. . . . Lastly, the study explores students’ views on racism, and how or if an extended lesson on the Holocaust causes affective change in students’ perceptions of racism and their role in combating it within our society.” Metzger, Scott Alan (2012). “The Borders of Historical Empathy: Students Encounter the Holocaust Through Film.” The Journal of Social Studies Research, 36(4), 387–410. The abstract to this article reads as follows: “This case study explores potential educational tensions in historical empathy for learning about emotionally difficult topics through lessons that use dramatic feature films (movies). It investigates one case of historical empathy in the classroom by analyzing what a high-school teacher and her students do and talk about in class. The observed lesson was part of the teacher’s unit on World War II and the Holocaust in a World History course using the 2002 Academy Award-winning film The Pianist. The conclusion presents this case as an example of how the visual and emotional power of movies may lead some students to ‘over-empathize’ and feel that they can ‘really’ know what a historical period must have been like. The ‘caring’ aspect of historical empathy has the potential to overrun historical context and override other educational goals like learning and applying content knowledge.” Riley, Karen, and Totten, Samuel (2002). “Understanding Matters: Holocaust Curricula and the Social Studies Classroom.” Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(4): 541–562. In this article, the authors analyze curricula designed and/or endorsed by state departments of education in the United States. In doing so, they highlight and examine those that are weakened by a lack of historical accuracy, a lack of depth, and historical gaps. Russell, William Benedict, III (2007). “Teaching the Holocaust With Online Art: A Case Study of High School Students.” Journal of Social Studies Research, Fall, 31(2), 35–42. Russell, a professor of social studies education, presents an analysis of students’ (four males and five females) perceptions “of using primary sources (online Holocaust artwork) and non-traditional teaching methods in a high school social studies classroom to help students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the content.” Schweber, S. (2003). “Simulating Survival.” Curriculum Inquiry, 33(2), pp. 139–188. In this thought-provoking piece, Schweber concludes as follows: “Ms. Bess’s simulation, though hardly generalizeable, nonetheless ‘instantiated the possible’ for her students, allowing us to recognize that simulations, even simulations of atrocity, like all pedagogical arrangements, pose moral tradeoffs (Cuban, 2001; Hansen, 1995). Done well, they allow students emotional and intellectual access to past events; done poorly, they pose miseducative, indeed harmful, opportunities galore. Although Ms. Bess’s Holocaust simulation was not morally uncomplicated, it was nonetheless impressive enough to change this researcher’s biases against the possibilities of the genre.” Editors’ note: The following two pieces resulted from the publication of Schweber’s article: “Identifying with Horror: Teaching About the Holocaust—A Response to Simone Schweber’s ‘Simulating Survival’ ” by Miriam Ben-Peretz, Curriculum Inquiry, June 2003, 33(2), 189–198, and “Rejoinder to Miriam Ben-Peretz” by Simone Schweber, Curriculum Inquiry, June 2003, 33(2), 199–206. Schweber, S. (2008). “ ‘What Happened to Their Pets?’: Third Graders Encounter the Holocaust.” Teachers College Record, October, 110(10), 2073–2115. The author’s conclusion is that “third graders [are] too young, as a group, to be taught about the Holocaust, thus recommending that ‘curricular creep’ be reined in for this topic. That said, the competing interpretations of the teacher, parents, and some of the students are included for consideration as well.” Spector, Karen (2005). Framing the Holocaust in English Class: Secondary Teachers and Students Reading Holocaust Literature. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 2005. Retrieved from https://etd. “A qualitative research study of three secondary school Holocaust literature units in the Midwest involving three teachers and 126 students. Involved 369 hours of observation within the three schools, tape recording

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of class sessions and small group discussions, interviews with teachers and students, and the collection of all written or drawn artifacts that the students produced. Among the findings were: the three teachers and 79 of 126 students at both schools used religious narrative frames to interpret Night (Wiesel, 1982); students at one school used narratives of hope to interpret The Diary of Anne Frank. Students in all three schools ‘enfigured Hitler as the sole, and demonic, perpetrator of the Holocaust, enfigured Jews as sheep being led to the slaughter, and claimed to learn 368 different lessons.’ All three teachers desired their students ‘to learn lessons of tolerance through their study of the Holocaust, and none of the three teachers taught students the history of antisemitism before the 20th century.’ ” Totten, S., and Riley, K. L. (2005). “Authentic Pedagogy and the Holocaust: A Critical Review of StateSponsored Holocaust Curricula.” Theory and Research in Social Education, 33(1), 120–141. In their abstract, the authors state the following: “We present a critical analysis of the instructional strategies advocated in state-sponsored Holocaust curricula. We ground our evaluation within the framework of ‘authentic pedagogy.’ More than an attempt to simply criticize these works, we offer constructive alternatives to inadequate and/or poorly designed instructional strategies. Fundamental to the intent of this article is its usefulness as a guide for evaluating instructional activities designed to support the teaching of content knowledge about the Holocaust.”

Reports Hecht, Shirah W. (2008). “Best Practices in Holocaust Education: Guidelines and Standards.” Jewish Educational Leadership, Fall, 8(1), n.p. Retrieved from The author states that “The research conducted for this report was originally designed to provide general information about ‘best practices’ in Holocaust education, Holocaust education delivery systems, and the training of Holocaust educators. It was also intended to respond to an interest in considering alternative educational models to address the diminishing access to survivors (who are aging and passing away) and whose first-hand presentations have been a centerpiece of many of the educational programs. The questions addressed by the research included several designed to identify characteristics of the most effective Holocaust education programs, including: What are characteristics of these programs that make them effective? What is the role and importance of first-hand testimony by survivors? How are field leaders thinking about Holocaust education in coming years, in light of the diminishing access to survivors and first-hand testimony? The results reported here are based on interviews with leading professionals in a variety of positions related to Holocaust education, in addition to other collected documents and resources. Using a ‘snowball sample’ approach, the interviewees included noted professionals associated with a range of institutions related to Holocaust education, including Holocaust museums, Holocaust education and resource centers and state commissions.” (The sample included an emphasis on professionals in California and the San Francisco area.) UNESCO (2014). Holocaust in a Global Context. Paris, France: Author. A major section of this major report is titled “The Pedagogy of Holocaust Education.” Many of the chapters in this section address pedagogical issues that are more or less of universal concern versus those that are largely nation-centric, including the following: “Research in Holocaust Education: Emerging Themes and Directions” by Doyle Stevick and Zehavit Gross; “Comparing Genocide in the Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities” by Paul Salmons and Matthias Haß; “Holocaust Research in a Comparative Perspective” by Peter Longerich; and “Facing History and Ourselves” by Leora Schaefer and Marty Sleeper. One chapter that will be of particular interest to educators in the United States is “Holocaust Education and the Promotion of Democratic Ideals—The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum” by Jennifer Ciardelli. The last section in the book is titled: “Final Reflections: The Moral and Political Issues Ahead,” and includes two chapters, “The Civic and Political Challenges of Holocaust Education” and “Holocaust Education and the Prevention of Genocide,” both by Yehuda Bauer. Overall, the report is extremely informative. The most disappointing chapter is Bauer’s second one. Instead of deeply probing the issue of preventing genocide and how Holocaust education could contribute to it, he tends to suggest that all educators everywhere (even where genocide has been perpetrated, for


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example in such countries as Cambodia, Rwanda) would be wise to teach the Holocaust over all others, especially if their time is entirely limited.

Books Fallace, Thomas (2008). The Emergence of Holocaust Education in America. New York, NY: Palgrave. In various parts/sections of this book, Fallace discusses teaching strategies in relation to teaching about the Holocaust. Among these sections are “USHMM’s Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust”; “How Is the Holocaust Being Taught?”; and “Three Approaches to Teaching the Holocaust, Improving Holocaust Education.” Schweber, Simone (2004). Making Sense of the Holocaust: Lessons from Classroom Practices. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. 185 pp. In an attempt to “make sense of the Holocaust,” Schweber, a professor of education and Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, employs three case studies to explore how the Holocaust is taught in the nation’s schools. While delving into the structure of the three Holocaust-centered approaches, she is intent on helping educators determine what lessons of the Holocaust might be learned from a structured study of the topic. In doing so, she shows that lessons, both implicit and explicit, carry moral implications and that educators should be aware that what they teach has moral consequences. Totten, Samuel (Ed.). (2001). Teaching Holocaust Literature. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon Publishers. 258 pp. This book comprises two parts and 11 chapters: Part One: Rationales, Issues, Caveats and Suggestions (Chapter One: “Teaching Holocaust Literature: Issues, Caveats, and Suggestions” by Margaret A. Drew; Chapter Two: “Incorporating Fiction and Poetry Into a Study of the Holocaust” by Samuel Totten; and Chapter Three: “The Diary of Anne Frank: Why I Don’t Teach It” by Elaine Culbertson); and Part Two: Lessons/Units of Study (Chapter Four: “Face to Face: The Study of Friedrich: A Novel About the Holocaust” by Rebecca G. Aupperle; Chapter Five: “Virtual Community, Real-Life Connections: A Study of The Island on Bird Street via an International Reading Project” by Karen Shawn; Chapter Six: “Analyzing Stories About the Holocaust via Multiple Intelligences and a Reader-Response Approach” by Samuel Totten; Chapter Seven: “ ‘Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car’: Incorporating Poetry into the Study of the Holocaust via a Reader Response Theory Activity” by Samuel Totten); Chapter Eight: “The Babi Yar Massacre: Seeking Understanding Using a Multimedia Approach” by William R. Fernekes; Chapter Nine: “Tapping the Sensibilities of Teens” by Beth Dutton; Chapter Ten: “Choiceless Choices and Illusions of Power: A Study of Thorne of Straw in the Lodz Ghetto in an Advanced Placement English Class” by Carol Danks; and Chapter 11. “Encountering the ‘Night’ of the Holocaust: Studying Elie Wiesel’s Night” by Samuel Totten. It concludes with one piece in its appendix: “Diminishing the Complexity and Horror of the Holocaust: Using Simulations in an Attempt to Convey Historical Experience” by Samuel Totten. Totten, Samuel (2002). Holocaust Education: Issues and Approaches. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 195 pp. This book comprises the following chapters: 1. The Significance of Rationale Statements in Developing a Sound Holocaust Education Program; 2. Establishing a Foundation for a Study of the Holocaust: Assessing the Students’ Knowledge Base; 3. Selecting Essential Issues and Topics for a Study of the Holocaust; 4. Common Misconceptions and Inaccuracies That Plague Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust; 5. Do the Jews Constitute a Race? An Issue Holocaust Educators Must Get Right; 6. “Complicating” Students’ Thinking Vis-à-Vis the History of the Holocaust; 7. Diminishing the Complexity and Horror of the Holocaust: Using Simulations in an Attempt to Convey Personal and Historical Experiences; 8. Closing a Lesson or a Unit on the Holocaust: Assisting Students to Synthesize and Reflect Upon What They Have Learned; 9. The Imperative to Avoid Clichés; and 10. What’s Next? The book includes two appendices: “Holocaust Education of K-4 Students? The Answer is NO!” and “Teaching About the Holocaust: A Select Annotated Bibliography.” Totten, Samuel, and Feinberg, Stephen (Eds.). (2001). Teaching and Studying the Holocaust. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon Publishers. 342 pp. (Reprinted by Information Age Publishers in 2009). Of this volume, noted Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum (the first director of research at the USHMM) said the following: “There are many scholars who are wont to criticize the teaching of the Holocaust. Many journalists critique what they regard as kitsch or trendiness. All critics of contemporary Holocaust education would do well to read this book. One cannot fail to be impressed by the quality of its

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learning and the seriousness of its purpose. It is a wonderful place for teachers to turn as they contemplate teaching the Holocaust, an open invitation to learn more and teach more effectively.”

Booklet US Holocaust Memorial Museum (2001). Teaching About the Holocaust: A Resource Book. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from This booklet includes the very useful and highly influential USHMM-developed Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. Every educator who is considering the possibility of teaching about the Holocaust, or is already doing so, should seriously consider reading the Guidelines. This booklet is now only available online at the USHMM website.

Articles Blondo, Richard A., and Schmael, Wynell Burroughs (1993). “Correspondence Urging Bombing of Auschwitz During World War II: Teaching With Documents.” Social Education, April–May, 57(4), 150–155. In this lesson, the authors, educators with the US National Archives and Records Administration, use two letters written in the 1940s about whether or not the United States should carry out the bombing of Auschwitz. The authors include seven teaching strategies that are ideal for use with this lesson. Burroughs, Wynell, and Mueller, Jean (1985). “A Letter of Appeal on Behalf of Raoul Wallenberg.” Social Education, September, 49(6), 539–543. A well-structured lesson about Raoul Wallenberg, the man who courageously did his all to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. The authors, educators with the US National Archives and Records Administration, highlight the use of a primary source document (a letter written to President Truman by Guy von Dardel concerning the disappearance of his brother) for teaching the lesson. Danks, Carol (1995). “Using Holocaust Stories and Poetry in the Social Studies Classroom.” Social Education, October, 59(6): 358–361. In this article, Danks, a highly respected English teacher from Ohio, succinctly discusses certain caveats and guidelines to be taken into consideration when using short stories and poetry in a study of the Holocaust. She also explores ways to teach Ozick’s “The Shawl,” the short stories in Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and various pieces of poetry. Fernekes, William (2000). “Education for Social Responsibility: The Holocaust, Human Rights, and Classroom Practice.” In Ted DeCoste and Bernard Schwartz (Eds.), The Holocaust: Art, Politics, Law, Education (pp. 496–512). Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. This is an extremely interesting and thought-provoking essay by a noted social studies and Holocaust educator that discusses the rationale for bridging the gap between the study of the Holocaust and contemporary human rights infractions. Gamber, Cayo (2010). “From Photographs to Elegies: Engaging the Holocaust in a Writing Course.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, March, 37(3), 243–255. Gamber discusses the use of photographs of the Holocaust in a first-year writing class at George Washington University, which is a required course for all first-year students (most of whom are 18 years old). The students are required to analyze and then write about their discoveries/findings. Haverkamp, Beth, and Schmael, Wynell (1995). “Nazi Medical Experiment Report: Evidence From the Nuremberg Medical Trials: Teaching with Documents.” Social Education, October, 59(6), 367–373. The authors, educators with the US National Archives and Records Administration, provide various ways that teachers can include primary documents in their study of the Nazi medical experiments and the Nuremberg War Trials. In addition to providing historical background about the trials, the authors present seven teaching strategies that can be used to incorporate these primary documents that was used at actual trials in trying the Nazi defendants. Jackson, Darius (2013). “ ‘But I Still Don’t Get Why the Jews’: Using Cause and Change to Answer Pupils’ Demand for an Overview of Anti-Semitism.” Teaching History, December, Issue 153, 111–117. The abstract to this article reads: “Research by the Centre for Holocaust Education has suggested that students need and want more help with building an overview of the historical roots of antisemitism and that they often lack knowledge of Jewish life prior to the Holocaust. Jackson discusses a lesson [presented


Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg

herein] that engages students in an examination of the context of antisemitism in two contrasting settings: medieval England and Nazi-occupied Poland. After building their own analysis of the causes of antisemitism in both contexts, pupils then situate this within an overall question about historical change, looking at patterns of change and continuity across the causes of both events.” Judson, Leanne (2013). “ ‘It Made My Brain Hurt, But in a Good Way’: Helping Year 9 Learn to Make and to Evaluate Explanations for the Holocaust.” Teaching History, December, Issue 153, 118–124. The author discusses a strategy she designed to help students think about, evaluate, and propose explanations for perpetrators’ actions during the Holocaust. In her abstract, she says: “Students in a mixed ability class were given explanations of differing levels of complexity to evaluate, drawing on a wide range of complex materials about perpetrators as ‘real’ people rather than simply ‘monsters.’ Students were also provided with explicit guidance to help them scaffold their arguments. . . . Results were positive, in terms of the quality of pupil work and in motivating pupils to take pride in their work.” Kalfus, Richard (February 1990). “Euphemisms of Death: Interpreting a Primary Source Document on the Holocaust.” The History Teacher, 23(2): 87–93. A fascinating and thought-provoking lesson. Kalfus describes a learning activity in which he uses a primary document that he asserts “illustrates the all-pervasive, destructive force that was National Socialism” (p. 87). Continuing, he states that “the insidious, administrative language used here is a concrete, dramatic example of how an entire caste of civil servants could become active participants in the extermination process” (p. 87). In part, the activity requires that the students replace the euphemisms in the document with their intended meaning; for example, “merchandise, pieces and load become Jews; operating time becomes annihilation; operation becomes gassing” (p. 88). Manfra, M. M., and Stoddard, J. D. (2008). “Powerful and Authentic Digital Media and Strategies for Teaching About Genocide and the Holocaust.” The Social Studies, 99(6), 260–264. In this article, the authors identify new digital media resources and strategies that engage students in authentic learning experiences about genocide and the Holocaust. They use F. W. Newmann and G. G. Wehlage’s (1993) framework for “authentic instruction.” Using this framework, the authors identify digital media that engage students in moral and ethical valuing, emphasize historical inquiry, and are relevant to the world outside of school. National Council for the Social Studies (October 1995). Special Issue (“Teaching About the Holocaust”) of Social Education edited by Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg, 59(6). Recipient of the EdPress Award for special topics, this issue includes, among others, the following pieces: “Anti-Semitism: Antecedents of the Holocaust,” “The Other Victims of the Nazis,” “Altruism and the Holocaust,” “Using Holocaust Short Stories and Poetry in the Social Studies Classroom,” “The American Press and the Holocaust—A Unit of Study,” “Anti-Semitism: A Warrant for Genocide—A Unit of Study,” and “Hitler’s Death Camps—A Unit of Study.” Schweber, Simone (2006). “Holocaust Fatigue.” Social Education, January–February, 70(1), 44–50. Schweber argues that because the Holocaust is now frequently taught in many lower grades, by high school many students are likely to experience what she refers to as “Holocaust fatigue.” As a result, she asserts, teachers must meet such a challenge by teaching about the Holocaust in more intellectually engaging and emotionally affecting ways. Shawn, Karen (1993). “The Warsaw Ghetto: A Documentary Discussion Guide to Jewish Resistance in Occupied Warsaw 1939–1943.” Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, 7(2): G1–G15. This discussion guide, which includes a succinct historical overview of Jewish resistance in occupied Warsaw, is packed with fascinating primary documents and photographs from the period. Shawn, Karen (1995). “Liberation: A Documentary Guide to the Liberation of Europe and the Concentration and Death Camps.” Dimensions, 9(1): G1–G23. This excellent study guide is packed with key information about the liberation of the Nazis’ concentration and death camps. In addition to both “questions for discussion” and “questions for further research,” it includes a solid historical overview of liberation, photographs from the period, excerpts from eyewitness testimony, and a short bibliography and videography on liberation. Totten, Samuel (1998). “Incorporating Contemporaneous Newspaper Articles About the Holocaust into a Study of the Holocaust.” In Robert Hauptman and Susan Hubbs Motin (Eds.), The Holocaust: Memories, Research, Reference (pp. 59–81). New York, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc. (Note: This article was co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, Numbers 61/62, 1988.)

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The author suggests ways in which teachers can use newspaper articles from the period of 1933 to 1945 to assist students in grappling with key aspects of Holocaust history. Totten, Samuel (2000). “Diminishing the Complexity and Horror of the Holocaust: Using Simulations in an Attempt to Convey Historical Experiences.” Social Education, April, 64(3), 165–171. Totten discusses why and how teachers use simulations to teach about the Holocaust. He asserts that simulations constitute “poor pedagogy” and oversimplify Holocaust history. Wieser, Paul (October 1995). “The American Press and the Holocaust.” Social Education, 59(6), C1–C2. The purpose of this lesson by a high school social studies teacher is to engage students in a study about the fact that while news of mass killings of millions of Jews reached the United States in the early 1940s, the press gave the subject little prominence. Wieser, Paul (October 1995). “Anti-Semitism: A Warrant for Genocide.” Social Education, 59(6), C-4–C-6. The purpose of this thought-provoking lesson is to engage students in an examination of the impact of the relentless build-up of Hitler’s antisemitic policies and anti-Jewish legislation. Wieser, Paul (October 1995). “Hitler’s Death Camps.” Social Education, 59(6), 374–376. The purpose of this lesson, which features a top-secret Nazi document on the shipment of used clothing and possessions taken from Jewish deportees to the Majdanek and Auschwitz camps, is to engage students in a study of the existence and function of the Nazi extermination camp system.


Introduction In April 1993, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) opened to the public. That December, Schindler’s List debuted in movie theaters across the nation. Within a decade, the Holocaust became an established topic in American cultural discourse and one almost universally studied in secondary schools, colleges, and universities across the nation.1 In 1993, World Wide Web software first entered the public domain. Mosaic, the first Web browser to display images and text, was released. Within 2 years, the Web grew from just 26 websites worldwide to over 10,000. By 1998, there were millions of websites. The ways in which people found, communicated, consumed, and created information were irrevocably changed, as were the ways teachers taught and students learned about the Holocaust. In 1973, some 20 years before the advent of Mosaic, a student would have had a limited choice when it came to works about the Holocaust. In 2014, an online search of the word “Holocaust” returns between 13 million and 19.6 million results. Students now have access to primary sources and scholarly works previously open only to researchers in archives and university libraries. They can “visit” former concentration camps and memorial sites online. One can “like” the Auschwitz Memorial on Facebook. However, the Internet is also home to Holocaust denial and hate sites. Like New York City, the Internet is the medium “that never sleeps” and is replete with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Students and teachers using the Internet thus encounter significant challenges and will be faced with the need to consider such critical questions as: • • • • •

How can I/we stay focused while exploring a myriad of Holocaust-related websites? How can I/we ascertain whether a website is operated by Holocaust deniers? What tools are available to identify authoritative, reliable, and valid online providers, while avoiding inaccurate, unreliable, and often hateful information? Which sites provide Holocaust-related content designed specifically for secondary school students? How can online content be utilized in a classroom when Internet access is not readily available?

In order to optimize the use of Holocaust-related Internet resources, teachers must incorporate website evaluation guidelines into instruction, and identify appropriate websites to support learning

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about the Holocaust. The Internet integrates research, production, and communication tools in a single platform. Used judiciously, it is a source of outstanding, accurate, and reliable content. Case studies in this chapter demonstrate how teachers have used the Internet while teaching about the Holocaust to help students: • • • • • • • •

Ask questions of each other, the public, and experts Develop research skills using a multitude of sources and media Collaborate with peers, locally and globally Present findings/projects for private and public audiences in a variety of media Reflect and share analyses, evaluations, and opinions Travel virtually to foreign locales and meet people outside the community Develop nurturing networks of learners with similar interests Deepen their understanding of the history.

In summary, this chapter offers a practical guide for educators who want to use the Internet to teach about the Holocaust. In doing so, it addresses three fundamental questions: 1. 2. 3.

What criteria should be used to evaluate online Holocaust-related resources? Where can teachers find appropriate Holocaust instructional resources online? How do case studies offer models for meaningful online Holocaust instruction?

Evaluating Online Resources As with any curriculum or lesson plan, teachers need to assess the best sources available to support learning objectives. Several university libraries and educators have developed guidelines for website evaluation.2 All provide consistent advice. In doing so, they focus on the following criteria: authority, accuracy, currency, and reliability. Authority refers to the qualifications and credentials of an individual or organization as a source of information. Because any person can publish on the Internet, even nonauthoritative sources may have websites with authoritative sounding names (“museum,” “archive,” etc.). When accessing content from a university (.edu) or school (.k12), one must examine the academic institution’s policy governing content published to their site. This may be found in sections “About” the organization or hidden behind a “Disclaimer” link,3 typically at the bottom of the screen. In conducting such an examination one should ask, does the school describe its editorial review process for publishing to the website? It is not uncommon for a secondary school to employ a team of staff, students, and sometimes parent volunteers to maintain its website, and content may be produced by any of them. Caution must be taken in using such information. In the case of a university, it is extremely important to differentiate between content produced by faculty, staff, and students. Even in the case of content produced by university faculty, one must assess an author’s qualifications per his/her expertise on the Holocaust, and attempt to determine whether a publication has been subjected to peer review or similar processes to ensure high standards of scholarship. History, of course, is not static. Students need to know that understanding the past is an ongoing process. They should assess whether information is well sourced and current, referencing reputable scholarly works and primary sources. Currency is a further indicator of accuracy; when content is consistently accurate over time, that source is considered reliable.4 Finally, students must differentiate between fact and opinion to determine if a site’s purpose is persuasion, research, education, or a combination thereof. Authoritative sources attempt to clearly label and separate factual content from opinion. Although not without bias, such sources provide


David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln

TABLE 5.1 Evaluation Criteria for Online Holocaust Resources





Who hosts the site and authored the content? What qualifies an author as an expert on Holocaust history? Does he/she have related expertise (e.g., in Genocide Studies or German History)? How broad or narrow is an author’s expertise? Holocaust survivors, for example, are expert in their own stories, but are not necessarily knowledgeable about Holocaust history overall. Has the author published works on the Holocaust? If so, on what topic and in what publications? Does the content reflect current historical knowledge and scholarly research?

Websites published by United States government (.gov), military (.mil), institutions of higher education (.edu), and some nonprofit organizations (.org) hold content to established standards; all are subject to editorial review. Perform a Web, Google Scholar, or Google Books search on an author’s listed name. Search the Holocaust Museum’s Library catalogue ( to learn more about an author’s work. See if this organization or author is cited as a source by authoritative scholars of the Holocaust.



Does the author cite sources thoroughly and accurately (replete with notes and a bibliography) from highly respected scholars, organizations, or preferably, primary sources? Reliability If one returns to the site 1 week, 1 month, or several years later, will it still be there and offer consistently accurate, authoritative content? Fact versus Does the host organization or author provide opinion a mission statement? How might that shape the content? Why was this content written, and for whom? Is the author using “persuasive” or “objective” language? Does the site separate opinion pieces (persuasive arguments, commentary, editorials, etc.) from factual content? Is the factual content based on valid scholarly research, including reference to primary source documentation (see “Accuracy”)?

Some websites provide date stamps indicating when content was last updated or published. Others, like the USHMM’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, provide access to scholarly articles and regularly publish new research. Authority and currency are strong indicators of content accuracy.

National, international, and state-funded organizations, like the USHMM and Yad Vashem, tend to be the most reliable. Facts can usually be verified; opinions represent the interpretation of facts. Beware of sites that cloak propaganda or Holocaust denial in the guise of historical research. Sites may be heavily footnoted, but may reference suspect sources or purposefully misinterpret and distort the meaning of historical documents and scholarly research. Beware of sites that repeatedly use superlatives (i.e., best, worst, greatest, most, and never), as well as sites that offer (or demand) simple answers to complex issues (Holocaust deniers often demand a single piece of evidence that proves that the Holocaust happened).

explicitly defined mission statements. They separate educational and research content from editorials and persuasive speech. Table 5.1 delineates how these criteria provide guidance for evaluating online Holocaust resources.

Finding Appropriate Online Resources The scope of Holocaust-related websites—ranging from esoteric resources such as translations of Yiddish poetry from the Oneg Shabbat archives of the Warsaw Ghetto5 to virtual 360-degree

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panoramic tours of Auschwitz-Birkenau6—is too large and diverse to fully represent in this chapter. Rather, this section focuses on several of the most reliable sites that are ideal in meeting the needs of most educators and students. The URL for each site mentioned in this chapter can be found in the Selected Webography at the end of the chapter.

Historical Overviews Both the USHMM and Yad Vashem are memorial museums with extensive collections and missions dedicated to education. Accordingly, their websites provide online exhibitions and encyclopedias, with excellent overviews of Holocaust history, supported by primary sources including photographs, artifacts, film footage, and survivor testimonies. Currently, the USHMM offers the most comprehensive, authoritative, accurate, and reliable scope of English-language online resources and content available on the Holocaust. Its website is an appropriate starting point for teachers developing a unit or for students researching a topic. The USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia offers authoritative encyclopedic information, along with hyperlinks to related materials, thus providing further context. Articles on individuals such as Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, and Raoul Wallenberg contain links to time lines, multimedia, and outside resources (e.g., the Anne Frank House, the Elie Wiesel Foundation, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation). In cases such as SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, for example, the biographical article links to a time line and encyclopedia articles on the “Final Solution” and the Nazis’ concentration camp system. The Holocaust Encyclopedia also provides an article for educators linking to “topics to teach” in a survey course on the Holocaust. For teachers and students who desire a starting point more basic than the Holocaust Encyclopedia, the USHMM offers The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students. It provides a simple multimedia overview of the Holocaust for younger learners and is appropriate for students in grades 6 and up. Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, located in Jerusalem, Israel, also has an encyclopedia, titled The Holocaust Resource Center. This encyclopedia presents material similar to that of the USHMM. However, content and design of the Yad Vashem encyclopedia can prove challenging, due to pop-up windows and links taking the user away from the encyclopedia site itself. The standout feature of Yad Vashem’s encyclopedia is the integration of primary source documents in English translation. Teachers will appreciate this useful resource, which is noticeably absent from the USHMM site.

Primary Sources The USHMM and Yad Vashem provide access to sizable collections of primary sources, particularly artifacts, historical photos, film footage, survivor testimonies, and archival documents. The USHMM conveniently facilitates a search across its collections ( search), connecting to over 28,000 photographs, 5,000 oral testimonies, and 3,400 historical film records as streaming video. Several sites affiliated with research institutes, universities, libraries, and nonprofits also offer significant online archives of Holocaust-related collections. Some of the most notable are highlighted herein. An outstanding source for materials related to Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Europe is the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, located in New York City, which includes a substantial multimedia Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe and Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland. The Centropa Jewish Historical Institute in Vienna, Austria, offers a unique archive of interviews with 1,200 Jewish Holocaust survivors who remained in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Balkans; the archive also includes 22,000 family photographs.


David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln

Search results for “deportation” in the Harvard Law School Library. Nuremberg Trials Project: A Digital Document Collection.


Several online sources document the International Military Tribunals and subsequent postwar trials. For example, the Harvard Law School Library Nuremberg Trials Project has a well-indexed collection of scanned documents and evidence presented at the trials (Figure 5.1). In contrast, the Yale Law School Avalon Project provides English-language translations of key documents produced at the trials. Both are excellent resources for teachers and students. One of the most infamous documents produced as evidence during postwar trials of the Nazi leadership was the protocols of the Wannsee Conference. The museum at the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin, Germany, provides a complete history of the Wannsee House and the conference that took place there, including digital scans and translations of original documents related to the coordination and planning of the “Final Solution.” This resource is an excellent complement to the feature film, Conspiracy.7 For teachers seeking primary sources to help students better understand Nazi propaganda, Professor Randall Bytwerk maintains a large archive of documents and translations in the German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Survivor and Eyewitness Accounts Beyond the USHMM’s collection of full oral histories available for streaming online, the USHMM and Yad Vashem both make available short, curated survivor testimony clips presented in their historical context via their online encyclopedias. Yad Vashem also organizes testimony clips by topic and region and streams them via YouTube. The USHMM provides a podcast series, First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, which may be downloaded for off-line use. Biographies and photographs for survivor volunteers, representing experiences of children during the Holocaust, are made available as a printable classroom set. The University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation Institute offers a useful online tool for teaching and learning with oral testimonies. The IWitness project provides access to nearly 1,300 of the 52,000 testimonies in the Shoah Foundation’s collection, which are designed to deepen understanding of the Holocaust (Figure 5.2). Encyclopedic content is integrated into the testimony

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IWitness site homepage, the online educational platform of the USC Shoah Foundation— The Institute for Visual History and Education.


viewer to provide context for what one hears, and students can curate testimonies for individual projects. IWitness activities are aligned with various teaching standards, providing access to lesson plans, activities, and online exhibitions featuring Shoah Foundation content. Several other universities host oral history collections. Notable among them are the University of Michigan–Dearborn Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, which offers an extraordinary group of oral history transcripts with audio; and the Yale University Library Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, which contains short-form clips, long-form individual testimonies, and thematically edited interviews. Among the themes explored in the Fortunoff Video Archive are juxtaposing survivor, bystander, and rescuer testimonies to help individuals examine various events and experiences, including ones similar to Anne Frank’s. In other videos, survivors discuss the lasting impact of the Holocaust and their memories today. Other renowned collections include the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Voices of the Holocaust; the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust; the Southern Institute for Education and Research’s Louisiana Holocaust Survivors; and the Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project.

Lesson Plans and Curricula Yad Vashem provides educational materials for using survivor testimonies: Schindler’s List, and Echoes and Reflections (developed in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League). The Museum of Jewish Heritage has available Coming of Age During the Holocaust, Coming of Age Now, a curriculum that focuses learners on stories of children and teenagers who experienced the Holocaust. It provides guidance and resource suggestions for educators. The USHMM has lesson plans supplementing a museum visit or for use in the classroom without an Internet connection. USHMM Teacher Fellows have independently posted a collection of 39 field-tested lesson plans and 39 book reviews


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online via the USHMM’s Fellowship Teaching Resources site. Facing History and Ourselves offers a large collection of online Holocaust-related lesson plans and teaching units, including materials extending to civil and human rights.

Professional Development Many organizations offer professional development opportunities for those educators interested in teaching about the Holocaust.8 Only a handful, however, provide regular workshops and seminars online. These include offerings from Yad Vashem and Facing History and Ourselves along with the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation’s e-learning modules on Jewish resistance. Yad Vashem’s courses leverage their diverse collections to develop learner knowledge around core content related to the Holocaust. They are designed for self-paced learning. Yad Vashem provides a certificate of completion. Select courses are accredited by Seton Hall University. Facing History and Ourselves offers online courses, workshops, and webinars. Their multiweek courses train educators in two curricula, The Holocaust and Human Behavior and Choices in Little Rock. Workshops and webinars focus on specific issues in teaching about the Holocaust, individual rights, genocide, and related topics. Educators that complete a Facing History online course become part of their large teacher network with access to the complete Facing History website, lending library, and professional coaching from Facing History staff. Facing History provides a certificate of completion, and their online courses can be taken for graduate credit from either Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. In contrast to Yad Vashem and Facing History, which provide interactive, instructor-moderated courses for multiple students, the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation provides self-paced, selfguided e-learning modules free of charge. Their courses focus exclusively on the topic of Jewish resistance and include two courses on teaching using the feature film Defiance.9 Upon completion of a unit, the learner receives a certificate and is eligible for continuing education units via Touro College in New York, NY.

Scholarly Content and Research Support The USHMM and Yad Vashem contain scholarly centers that publish research papers online and provide access to digitized collections and databases. These research centers and their publications provide valuable insights into current research trends regarding the Holocaust, as well as useful texts for advanced learners. The USHMM is compiling the world’s largest online resource for information about individual victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution: the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database.10 Similarly, Yad Vashem hosts the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names containing the names of over three million victims of the Holocaust, as well as a database of deportation records. These databases readily translate statistics into individual people and families. Intrepid educators can use them to engage their students in meaningful research projects. In addition, Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School publishes PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, which includes both scholarly content and material for the practitioner. PRISM is available in print and online.

Historical Sites One of the most exciting aspects of online instruction is the ability to virtually visit historical sites. Those that may be of particular interest to teachers and students are highlighted here.

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The Anne Frank House This site provides a historical overview of Anne Frank’s life, including background on those who inhabited the “Secret Annex” and detailed information about Anne’s diary. A highlight of this site is the narrated 3-D interactive tour of the Secret Annex.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum This site provides a history of the concentration camp and killing center during the Holocaust. It reminds students that the Holocaust is living history. The virtual tour of the site includes over 200 high-definition panoramic photographs providing 360-degree views of key locations throughout the historical sites at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and the so-called Alte Judenrampe. Historical descriptions, witness accounts, archival documents, and photographs are integrated into the tour. Equally interesting is the official Auschwitz Memorial Facebook page, which regularly posts information about daily events in Auschwitz history, as well as comments on current events.

House of the Wannsee Conference This site offers an indispensable history of origins of the “Final Solution,” including scanned documents with translations, audio recordings from the Eichmann Trial, online exhibitions, and a virtual tour of the Wannsee House as preserved today.

Mauthausen Memorial This site provides a history of Mauthausen and its subcamps via time lines, interactive maps, and survivor video testimony.


Anne Frank’s room in the secret annex online, courtesy of the Anne Frank House.


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Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial Illustrating the complexity and pervasiveness of the Nazi camp system, this site’s greatest asset is its collection of brief histories (with maps, photos, and links to memorial sites) vis-à-vis the Neuengamme camp and its many subcamps.

Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum This site features stories of ghetto inhabitants in a compelling format. An engaging virtual tour of the ghetto is provided through historical photographs and survivor testimony.

Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum This site provides a fascinating glimpse of Sachsenhausen through an interactive historical map, spanning its existence as a Nazi concentration camp, a Soviet special camp, and ultimately as a memorial and museum in reunified Germany. Students can explore the changing significance of such historical sites and the nature of historical memory.

State Museum at Majdanek This site is dedicated to the preservation of memory and education. It provides time lines, photographs (historical and contemporary), documents, and survivor video testimonies in relation to Majdanek.

Topography of Terror Foundation This global database of Holocaust memorials provides an important overview of numerous and diverse memorial sites and museums worldwide.

Confronting Holocaust Denial It is an unfortunate reality that students engaged in independent research increasingly encounter Holocaust denial and antisemitic content. Fortunately, though, the Internet provides resources to help learners recognize such offensive material and to refute arguments of Holocaust deniers who promote historical distortion, lies, and hatred. These sites include Holocaust Denial on Trial (HDOT), the Holocaust History Project, the USHMM’s resources on Holocaust Denial, and the Anti-Defamation League’s content on Holocaust denial and online hate.

Social Media Several Holocaust memorials and museums use social media to disseminate information and communicate with interested parties. While Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube seldom offer conducive environments for critical thinking or meaningful discussion, the USHMM, Yad Vashem, the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, and the Anne Frank House all make good use of social media. Yad Vashem and the USHMM host lively Twitter feeds posting daily “today in history” tweets, and the Auschwitz Memorial Museum makes similar use of its Facebook page. The USHMM maintains an iTunes U course with multimedia content available for download, which teachers can use off-line without a classroom Internet connection.

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Case Studies and Model Approaches for Online Holocaust Instruction A key question/issue that remains is, how might a teacher best use Internet content for Holocaust instruction? A review of several case studies provides various possibilities. The Internet is the Swiss Army knife of educational instruments. As a research tool or course organizer,11 the Internet supports significant educational endeavors. It can facilitate communication between students, content experts, and Holocaust survivors. Students utilize the Internet for multimedia presentations and to publish original work. The Internet also makes possible virtual tours of remote locations and immersion in 3-D environments. The Internet, of course, may also be employed like television, radio, and newspapers simply to broadcast content for consumption. The following case studies illustrate how teachers have used the Internet to enhance students’ learning experiences by challenging them to (1) critically analyze sources of information, (2) communicate effectively with peers, (3) engage in authentic research using primary sources and related data, and (4) synthesize content for review, evaluation, and even publication.

Case Study 1 How Publishing Student Research and Eyewitness Oral History Interviews Online Reunited Holocaust Survivors With Their Liberators Matt Rozell, History Teacher, Hudson Falls High School Hudson Falls Central School District, Hudson Falls, New York “My kids have made history. They’ve literally made history. They’ve preserved history. . . . To me, that is the bottom line” —Matt Rozell In 1987, history teacher Matt Rozell decided to supplement his world history course with a more in-depth World War II unit. To do so, he began incorporating the narratives of the World War II generation, desiring that his students begin to understand the importance of individual stories in the historical record. This was a passion for Rozell, who hoped that by making the history personal it would become “real” for students. Soon, this led to an oral history project, which involved capturing local veterans’ stories to preserve history. Initially, Rozell conducted the classroom interviews as students helped with videotaping and transcribing. As the project evolved, and a full-semester elective was added, students began conducting and recording their own interviews. In 2001, Rozell interviewed Carroll “Red” Walsh, a student’s grandfather and former World War II tank commander. During the interview, Walsh’s daughter suddenly asked her father, “Did you tell him about the train?” What unfolded was the fascinating story of a trainload of Jewish prisoners evacuated by Germans from Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 and subsequently liberated by American soldiers outside the town of Magdeburg. This interview sparked a new learning project that would change the lives of many Holocaust survivors and their liberators, even influencing how history is exhibited at the Bergen-Belsen memorial. Walsh put Rozell in touch with a fellow tank commander, Dr. George Gross, who provided further details and photographs from the day of liberation, April 13, 1945. Subsequently, Rozell posted interviews and photographs on his school website ( Four years later, a Holocaust survivor in Australia contacted Rozell, having been directed to his website by Bergen-Belsen memorial staff who knew of Rozell’s efforts. The survivor had been on the transport as a 7-year-old and had now found her liberators. Over time, more survivors from the transport discovered Rozell’s work—often through Web searches—and e-mailed or called Rozell in order to share their stories.


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Homepage of the Teaching History Matters blog, courtesy of Matthew Rozell.

Many of the survivors expressed astonishment and joy at seeing the photographs. Six years into his effort, Rozell and his students organized a reunion between liberator Red Walsh and three Holocaust survivors at the school in September 2007. The Associated Press and Yahoo! News covered the event, resulting in over 15,000 hits on Rozell’s website and crashing the school’s server.

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Another liberator, Frank Towers, also learned of Rozell’s work and invited him and the Holocaust survivors rescued from the transport to the annual reunion of the 30th Infantry Veterans of World War II in March 2008, the first of eight annual gatherings. Two more reunions were held at the school in 2009 and 2011, culminating in a broadcast on ABC World News, with Rozell, his students, and the survivors and soldiers being chosen as “Persons of the Week.” In 2011, Towers and Rozell were invited to a special gathering in Israel of 65 survivors of the transport, Israeli dignitaries, and US State Department officials. In 2007, Rozell created a blog (Figure 5.4) using WordPress to publish updates about his students’ research on what the soldiers called “the train near Magdeburg.” According to Rozell, the Internet opened up resources, networks, and partnerships that previously were unthinkable. To date, nearly 240 survivors have discovered the photographs and documentation of their liberation. While Rozell didn’t use the Internet specifically to instruct students, online resources allowed students to interact directly with eyewitnesses to history, who otherwise would have been inaccessible. The Internet added authenticity and purpose to the students’ research efforts, and led to collaboration with the USHMM and the Bergen-Belsen Memorial in Germany. Staff at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial were thrilled to find testimony from American liberators and photographs corroborating their research, and Rozell’s project altered their vision for the exhibition (in development) on evacuation transports. The staff also shared the transport manifest with Rozell, allowing him to publish the list of the nearly 2,500 prisoners on the transport. Rozell, in turn, regularly sends queries and updates to the Bergen-Belsen Memorial so they may update their records. The research from this project has since influenced the writing of several Holocaust-related books: Rona Arato’s The Last Train: A Holocaust Story; The Words to Remember It, edited by Caroline Jones; Leslie Meisels’s Suddenly the Shadow Fell; Dan Porat’s The Boy: A Holocaust Story; Catherine Porter’s Leslie’s Stamps: A Saga of the Holocaust and Escape to Freedom; and Fred Spiegel’s Once the Acacias Bloomed. Rozell and his students have drawn the attention of Holocaust deniers, too. Periodically, Rozell shares the hateful messages he receives with students to underscore the importance of their research and the ramifications of taking on the role of witnesses. His students learn that if they are going to publicize their work, then they have to be prepared to be attacked for their research, findings, and conclusions. Deniers have even created a webpage attacking Rozell’s project. This was a wake-up call for many of Rozell’s students. Ideally, he works with his students to discuss how these assaults can help them further their education and research objectives. Matt’s students experienced how Internet publication of their interviews made a difference in the lives of others, and he continues to hear from former students for whom the experience demonstrated the importance of taking lessons from history and applying them to their own lives. Working directly with survivors and liberators and knowing that their work was useful to others validated his students’ efforts and made them feel that their research had meaning.

Case Study 2 How a School Librarian Used Internet Resources to Provide Meaningful Opportunities for Students to Learn About the Holocaust Through Collaborative E-learning Projects Margaret “Gigi” Lincoln, Librarian/Media Specialist Lakeview High School, Battle Creek, Michigan For educators faced with the challenge of teaching 21st-century learners about the Holocaust, the inclusion of Internet resources offers a powerful means to enhance instruction. In Battle Creek, Michigan, longtime Lakeview School District Librarian Margaret Lincoln is determined to bring accurate and up-to-date knowledge and awareness of Holocaust history to students and adults


David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln

in the community. An examination of several e-learning projects described here illustrates how Lincoln is realizing this goal. Like Matt Rozell, Lincoln recognized the potential of blogs as a valuable instructional tool. More specifically, she has employed blogs for the purposes of (1) exploring and analyzing literature, (2) documenting student work through online discussion, and (3) facilitating collaboration between students at different schools for the purpose of bringing about shared learning experiences. A USHMM traveling exhibition was the impetus for Lincoln’s first blogging project. In autumn 2005, Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust was on display at the Art Center of Battle Creek. Lincoln was concerned about how she and her fellow Lakeview teachers could find unique ways to help students focus and engage with the content during a visit to the exhibition. Since the school’s English curriculum had recently been revised to include Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, Lincoln approached her colleagues with a proposal to integrate blogging into their lessons on the book. Lincoln succeeded in partnering with Carol Terburg, an English teacher at Lakeview High School, and with Honey Kern, a teacher at Cold Spring Harbor High School in New York. Each teacher selected a 10th-grade class to participate in the project. Lincoln volunteered to establish and moderate the blog. Blogging was seen as a powerful motivator for giving the students a voice, an audience, and the opportunity for immediate feedback. In 2005, the notion of students as authorized online content creators was a new idea, and because Lincoln and her colleagues were asking students to publish online, they required parental permission for student participation. Students enthusiastically embraced the blog project and responded to reading and reflection questions that Lincoln posted to the blog and that served as historical and literary prompts. Discussion topics included dehumanization, spiritual resistance and faith, and a memorable passage in Night (Figure 5.5). Additional links allowed students and teachers to explore the background of


Students respond to discussion prompts on the Night blog.12

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Wiesel’s life and work. Students replied to each other’s comments on the blog, guided by a rubric, which included criteria for content and style. Discussion was asynchronous, allowing students to post responses 24/7. In an exemplary blog post, a student would discuss a topic thoroughly with specific examples and demonstrate—in a respectful, coherent, grammatically correct, and organized way—his/her response to another student’s comments. One of the many indications of the effectiveness of blogging as a pedagogical tool was reported by teacher Carol Terburg. She had two classes read Night, but only third-block students joined in the blog. The third-block students averaged 98% on the common unit assessment, whereas nonblog participants averaged 74.9%. At the conclusion of this collaborative effort, students in both schools exchanged class photos and wrote articles for their high school newspapers. The “Great Blog” appeared in the June 2006 issue of An End to Intolerance, the online global magazine of Cold Spring Harbor’s Holocaust/ Genocide Project, founded by Honey Kern in 1992. Students normally separated by some 720 miles had been brought together, bridging the constraints of geography and time. Elie Wiesel wrote letters13 to the students and teachers to congratulate them on their fine work: Please know that I so enjoy reading young people’s responses to my work, including yours which were the first “blogs” I have ever read! If Night has helped you better understand the tragedies of the past, I am deeply grateful. All I can say now is: read, go on reading, go on studying, and one day you will understand that what you learn today will have been the guiding spirit that shaped your future. With best, best wishes to you—and to your teacher Elie Wiesel In 2007, Lincoln saw another opportunity to use blogging to engage Lakeview students in collaborative learning within the larger community. Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein was scheduled to speak in Battle Creek in April. Prior to this address, Lincoln created a blog for students and teachers at several area schools, as well as for senior citizens at nearby Kellogg Community College. The latter two groups joined together to read and discuss online Gerda Klein’s memoir, All But My Life. For this blogging round, discussion topics focused on historical relevance, life and religion, the power of good, the power of evil, family and friendship, and individual characters. In anticipation of Mrs. Klein’s visit, students were encouraged to post insightful and reflective thoughts to the blog discussion, exhibiting a fine blend of analysis and synthesis of key ideas. USHMM Teacher Fellows Bill Younglove and Darryle Clott (in California and Wisconsin, respectively) moderated an Unanswered Questions Discussion Forum illustrated in Figure 5.6. Lakeview students also participated in an interactive video conference with Gerda Klein, organized by the University of Pennsylvania MAGPI.15 Klein challenged students to engage in service learning projects so as to combat social ills in the community. Students were inspired by Gerda Klein to “stand up” today to similar types of discrimination and extremism that befell European Jews. Students responded by helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at the local veterans hospital, and collecting school supplies for Iraqi children. The Klein project (blending online blogging and real-world components) saw positive outcomes on many levels. Over 3,400 requests statewide were made on the behalf of Michigan students wanting tickets for Klein’s April address at the W. K. Kellogg Auditorium (seating capacity 1,900). Fortunately, Merit Network in Ann Arbor made an Internet/Internet2 broadcast stream available free of charge to schools unable to attend, archiving the Webcast.16 Gerda Klein’s powerful message of hope, love, and humanity made a profound impact on both students and adults.


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Unanswered Questions Discussion Forum on the All But My Life blog.14

Lincoln’s most recent venture into Holocaust online instruction was undertaken with her Lakeview High School colleague, social studies teacher Scott Durham. Together they utilized the open source course management system Moodle to create two Holocaust instructional units for Durham’s World at War elective history class.17 The first Moodle-based unit transposed content of a lesson originally created to support the USHMM Life in Shadows traveling exhibition. “Hidden Children and the Holocaust: A Lesson and Pledge for Action” is accessible to schools worldwide for preview via Michigan Learns Online REMC Moodle Hub.18 Lincoln and Durham launched a second Holocaust Moodle unit, this time customized for the iPad. They again targeted the World at War class, developing three lessons whereby students considered the themes of bystanders, resisters, and perpetrators. Instruction was not delivered in a traditional way using lecture, note-taking, and worksheet completion. Instead, students utilized the artwork of Holocaust survivor Dr. Miriam Brysk and developed skills to navigate a virtual course site containing such features as a Discussion Forum, Assignment Uploader, RSS News Feed Updates, and Ask a Librarian for support. Figure 5.7 is a screenshot of the home Moodle page for the unit, “Holocaust Art & Remembrance,” and displays a link to the unit’s teacher page that includes pedagogical goals, objectives, and a description of alignment to standards. The lessons utilizing Miriam Brysk’s artwork are now available in print: The Stones Weep: Teaching the Holocaust Through a Survivor’s Art. The beauty of the iPad, however, allowed students to analyze Brysk’s art and other primary source documents in much greater detail, utilizing the “pinch” feature, zooming in and out and scanning to any part of an image. Figure 5.8 provides an example of how a student was able to type a response to an art reflection question right on the Moodle screen. Upon completion of the Moodle-based lessons, Lakeview High School students contributed their own chapter to an e-book. In this personalized final product, students linked photographs and images from their own lives to the art of Miriam Brysk, illustrating how they found personal relevance from the history. A final class discussion let students interact virtually with Miriam Brysk in an online meeting using Adobe Connect.19 A learning cycle that is truly natural, meaningful, and purposeful was thus completed. Lincoln continues to introduce Lakeview teachers to new technology and encourages teacher and student cooperation between schools. Acting on the belief that school librarians can serve as


Holocaust Art & Remembrance unit on Learns Online REMC Moodle Hub.


Student response to reflection question for Holocaust Art & Remembrance on Moodle.


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leaders in effectively integrating technology into classroom learning, she offers advice to teachers seeking to incorporate collaborative Internet tools into Holocaust instruction: • • • • • •

Determine pedagogical goals. Develop creative ways to engage students by promoting reading and writing skills. Choose technology appropriate to the task instead of hastening to adopt the latest Web 2.0 tool. Paying a modest fee to a commercial provider may yield improved functionality. Start small. If partnering with another school, it may be easier to facilitate robust communication and collaboration with fewer student and teacher participants. Enlist outside help. A library media specialist can administer backend technology, facilitate partnerships, and moderate discussions alongside teachers. Seek out content experts. Anticipate challenging questions to be raised during online discussions designed to promote inquiry. The Night Blog drew upon Lincoln’s training as a USHMM Teacher Fellow and that of Honey Kern. The All But My Life Blog tapped the expertise of USHMM Fellows Bill Younglove and Darryle Clott, who volunteered to address “unanswered questions.” Build on prior successful collaborations.

Neither Matt Rozell nor Gigi Lincoln used the Internet primarily for research. They leveraged the Internet’s capacity as a communication tool to publish student work and expand their learning communities by forming larger communication networks. In both cases, teachers connected students directly with larger learning communities beyond the classroom, specifically with Holocaust survivors and other eyewitnesses to history.

Case Study 3 How Students Used the Internet to Increase Their Understanding of the Holocaust, Perform Authentic Research, and Collaboratively Reconstruct the Stories of the Nazis’Victims Cayo Gamber, Assistant Professor of Writing George Washington University, Washington, DC Professor Cayo Gamber regularly teaches a first-year writing course at George Washington University titled “Legacies of the Holocaust,” focusing on memory, art, and commemoration. Gamber’s course is a hybrid, in which students learn online and via face-to-face contact in the classroom. In 2008, Gamber and her students participated in an experiment with the USHMM to uncover the fates of several thousand schoolchildren from the Lodz ghetto. Working in a collaborative online environment, Gamber’s students accessed data indexed from archival holdings of the USHMM, piecing together stories of young Holocaust victims. As they uncovered information about students from the ghetto, students entered it into the site, where other researchers would review and comment on the work. Student researchers showing particular promise were invited by the USHMM to become “expert reviewers” for the project. Pending confirmation by USHMM staff, information updates were then added to the project database (Figure 5.9). This project demanded that students critically evaluate data and cross-reference discoveries with established research from secondary sources. Students exercised creativity and superior problem-solving skills to determine with accuracy the identities and fates of ghetto schoolchildren. Why did Gamber, a writing professor, ask students to engage in this form of online research? Gamber spells that out in her set of project goals.20 In that regard, she wanted students to: •

Learn to perform research, with an emphasis on peer review and collaboration;

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FIGURE 5.9 Student research with feedback from an expert reviewer and USHMM staff member displayed on the Children of the Lodz Ghetto Memorial Research Project website. Courtesy of the USHMM.

• • •

Rescue evidence, and contribute to the historical record; Learn how the experiences of individuals enhance our understanding of specific historical events or even larger trends and developments in history; Preserve the memory of Holocaust victims.

Students used research as raw material for writing projects. They wrote about children they had researched, along with the experience and emotional impact of performing the research. They reflected upon what is known and unknown about individual Holocaust victims. They explored what it means to remember the Holocaust and memorialize its victims in the 21st century. Using Children of the Lodz Ghetto: A Memorial Research Project,21 Gamber’s students accessed primary sources and databases formerly unavailable to the public. Students were encouraged to subject each other’s research to peer review and interact with other researchers worldwide and with museum staff. Such purposeful learning can be incredibly motivating for students. According to Gamber: [Students] would be doing work at 11 PM or 1 AM and would discover that an expert reviewer was reviewing and responding to their research at the same time. This experience also happened during the workday. It meant so much to them to learn that they lived in the world of research with other researchers who were . . . researching at the same time.


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The collaborative process reinforced for students that they were “real” researchers, and offered realtime evaluation of their work. They came to appreciate the fact that the project would only succeed if they all contributed high-quality research. Gamber found that through research to uncover the lives and experiences behind the schoolchildren’s names, her students had “come to feel deeply the sense that all of those who were meant to be erased had been ‘erased’ and would have disappeared from the historical record because had it not been for their [the students’] efforts.” It was difficult but rewarding work. The absence of data was frustrating. Most Holocaust victims were killed anonymously with no record left behind. Often Gamber’s students would research a child only to find that the trail ran cold. One student wondered tearfully whether she might be the only person who had said the child’s name in the last 60 years. At other times, students felt guilty about the pleasure derived during rare instances when they found a record confirming the death of a research subject. It was a valuable, if uncomfortable, lesson: the unknown is more painful than the known. Confirmation of an individual death provides some relief and sense of closure. Gamber’s use of the Internet enabled students to develop research skills and better understand Holocaust history. Through their investigation of historical data, students ultimately were forced to confront the void left behind by genocide—the “disappearance” of entire communities. In this way, unexpectedly, and through the absence of information, the Holocaust became something tangible.

Conclusion Early in this chapter, New York City was offered as a metaphor for the sprawling, exciting, sometimes terrifying reality that is the Internet—a global metropolis full of opportunity and risk. Despite its many challenges and distractions, the Internet remains a place of hope, potential, and great “riches.” The Internet is also disruptive. Matt Rozell, Gigi Lincoln, and Cayo Gamber found that teaching using the Internet changed their instructional practices in relation to teaching about the Holocaust. The Internet challenges some educators to balance teacher-led instruction with independent or paired student learning. The Internet may mark a shift to experiential or applied learning. For most teachers, the Internet is one of many resources supporting different aspects of the learning experience, from knowledge acquisition through analysis and synthesis to evaluation, personal reflection, the teaching of others, and colearning. Of equal importance, the Internet provides students with online tools to demonstrate and/ or share their newfound knowledge. In that regard, students are now able to produce their own podcasts, YouTube videos, 3-D environments, and multimedia portfolios. As Rozell, Lincoln, and Gamber demonstrate, the Internet allows students to: • • • • •

Communicate and collaborate locally and globally as a natural part of the learning process; Develop or join nurturing networks of learners with similar interests; Document their interactions with peers and eyewitnesses to history; Apply critical thinking and problem solving to synthesize information, form opinions, and test hypotheses; Demonstrate learning through the creation of written products.

Through the Internet, students touched history and experienced learning as part of a larger community. Most importantly, because of how they learned using the Internet, the students sense that their work matters and can make a difference beyond the walls of their classrooms.

The Use of the Internet


Notes 1. In 2014, the Association of Holocaust Organizations ( included well over 100 member organizations in the United States alone. 2. See Cornell University Library’s “Evaluating Websites: Criteria and Tools” (, The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University’s “Evaluating Information Found on the Internet” (, University of Mary Washington Libraries’ “Evaluating Information Research Guide” ( information), North Carolina State University Bluford Library’s “Evaluating Web Resources” (http://, and Teacher Tap’s “Evaluating Internet Resources” (http://eduscapes. com/tap/topic32.htm). 3. For example, Northwestern University, employer of notorious Holocaust denier Arthur Butz, provides a disclaimer ( in which it states the following: “Recognizing the value of diversity and free speech, Northwestern makes online resources available to all segments of the Northwestern community but does not review, edit, or endorse all items accessible from these pages. Similarly, opinions expressed in personal or non-departmental home pages should be construed as those of its author, who is responsible for the information contained therein.” 4. For a discussion of “How to Identify Reputable Historical Sources,” see article.php?ModuleId=10008002. 5. Poetry in Hell (, a website created by Sarah Traister Moskovitz, is dedicated to telling the story of the poets and poetry hidden as part of the Ringelblum archive project in the Warsaw Ghetto. 6. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial ( includes over 200 high-definition panoramic photographs, providing 360-degree views of key locations throughout the historical site. 7. Conspiracy is a 2001 BBC/HBO television film dramatizing the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, in which SS and German government officials discussed coordination of the “Final Solution” of the Jewish question. 8. For example, the USHMM conducts national conferences, regional programs, and hosts a well-regarded teacher fellowship program ( The Centre for Holocaust Education in the UK ( offers excellent online discussion forums and regional professional development programs for educators in the United Kingdom. 9. Adapted from Nechama Tec’s book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, Defiance is a 2008 feature film about the Bielski brothers, leaders of a Jewish partisan band in western Byelorussia who sheltered more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. 10. Through the World Memory Project (, volunteers index data from documents in the Holocaust Museum’s archives. Anyone, including students, may join this effort to grow the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database. 11. An example of a website as course organizer is high school English teacher Laurie Schaefer’s Holocaust Studies site, “Schaef ’s House” ( 12. The Night Blog is now hosted by Blogger. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission. 13. E. Wiesel, personal communication, May 31, 2006. 14. The All But My Life blog is hosted by 15. MAGPI, the Mid-Atlantic Gigapop in Philadelphia for Internet2 ( is a regional high-speed network. 16. Gerda Weissman Klein’s webcast is archived on the MERIT site ( specialevents/kleinwebcast/). Information about state computer networks for data sharing and videoconferencing via Internet2 may be found at and http://www. 17. Moodle is an open source course management system allowing educators to create online courses focusing on interaction and collaborative construction of content ( 18. The Michigan Learns Online Portal helps educators bring anytime, anywhere learning to K-12 students ( 19. Adobe Connect is a web conferencing platform for web meetings, eLearning, and webinars. 20. George Washington University Writing Program’s “UW20 Students Ensure That Children of the Holocaust Are Not Forgotten.” UW20 News and Notes, April 10, 2009 (http://gw-uw20.blogspot. com/2009/04/uw20-students-ensure-that-children-of.html). 21. The site is an experimental pilot project which the USHMM plans to discontinue but will use as the basis for similar projects.


David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln

References Arato, R. (2013). The Last Train: A Holocaust Story. Toronto: Owlkids. Jones, C. (Ed.). (2009). The Words to Remember It. Melbourne: Scribe Publications. Meisels, L. (2014). Suddenly the Shadow Fell. Toronto: Azrieli Foundation. Porat, D. (2010). The Boy: A Holocaust Story. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Porter, C. (2013). Leslie’s Stamps: A Saga of the Holocaust and Escape to Freedom. Toronto: Star Dispatches. Spiegel, F. (2011). Once the Acacias Bloomed: Memories of a Childhood Lost. Margate, NJ: ComteQ. Spielberg, S. (Producer and Director) (1993) Schindler’s List. Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment. Wiesel, E. (2006). Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Zwick, E. (Producer and Director) (2008). Defiance. [Motion picture]. Paramount Vantage.

Selected Webography Resources



Memorial Museums

US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority USHMM: A Learning Site for Students

Historical Overviews

USHMM: Holocaust Encyclopedia Primary Sources

Centropa German Propaganda Archive Harvard Law School Nuremberg Trials Project House of the Wannsee Project Poetry in Hell USHMM: Collections Search Yad Vashem: Digital Collections Yad Vashem: Holocaust Resource Center (Documents of the Holocaust) Yale University Avalon Project (IMT)

Survivor Stories and Oral Histories (See also “Primary Sources”)

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research IWitness Project Southern Institute for Education and Research’s Louisiana Holocaust Survivors Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project USHMM: First Person: Conversations With Holocaust Survivors USHMM: ID Cards and Personal Stories the-holocaust-a-learning-site-for-students/ ww2era.htm resources/index.asp holocaust/resource_center/index.asp imt.asp holocaust_education/holocaust_survivor_ testimony.html html museum-programs-and-calendar/firstperson-program/first-person-podcast

The Use of the Internet


Lesson Plans and Curriculum

Online Professional Development Courses

Scholarly Resources

Historical Sites



University of Michigan–Dearborn’s Voice/ Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive USC Shoah Foundation—The Institute for Visual History and Education Yad Vashem: The Voice of Survivors

Yale University Library Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies Coming of Age in the Holocaust, Coming of Age Now Echoes and Reflections: Leaders in Holocaust Education Facing History and Ourselves: Lessons and Units Museum Fellowship Teaching Resources USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education: Lesson Plans USHMM: Lesson Plans Yad Vashem: The International School for Holocaust Studies Facing History and Ourselves: Online Learning Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation: E-Learning Courses Yad Vashem: Online Courses Yad Vashem: Holocaust Education Video Toolbox PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators USHMM: Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies USHMM: Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database Yad Vashem: Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names Yad Vashem: International Institute for Holocaust Research Yad Vashem: Transports to Extinction: Shoah (Holocaust) Deportation Database Anne Frank House Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum House of the Wannsee Conference Mauthausen Memorial Neungamme Concentration Camp Memorial

97 remembrance/multimedia.asp curriculum_components/resource_center.asp units educators/resources/lessons education/educational_materials/index.asp education/courses/index.asp education/video/index.asp IY_HON_Welcome institute/index.asp html?language=en de/


David Klevan and Margaret Lincoln


Confronting Holocaust Denial Social Media



Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum State Museum at Majdanek Topography of Terror Foundation Database of Holocaust Memorials Virtual Tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Denial on Trial The Holocaust History Project USHMM: What Is Holocaust Denial and Distortion? Anne Frank House Facebook Page Anne Frank House: “Anne’s Amsterdam” Mobile App

Auschwitz Memorial Facebook Page USHMM Facebook Page USHMM Twitter Feed USHMM iTunes U Course Page

Case Studies

Yad Vashem Facebook Page Yad Vashem YouTube Channel All But My Life Blog An End to Intolerance Children of the Lodz Ghetto: A Memorial Research Project Hidden Children and the Holocaust: A Lesson and Pledge for Action Holocaust Art and Remembrance Moodle Hudson Falls High School World War II Living History Project Night Blog Teaching History Matters Blog WebObjects/ITF News/2012/May/App-Anne-FranksAmsterdam/ auschwitzmemorial holocaustmuseum view.php?id=66 view.php?id=67 http://teachinghistorymatters.wordpress. com/


A Rationale: Why Do We Study Primary Sources? One autumn day in October 1943, in the town hall of Posen, in German-occupied Poland, the head of the SS, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, addressed a closed meeting of almost 100 senior SS officers. In a speech that lasted more than three hours, Himmler sought to explain Germany’s setbacks in the war, strengthen the officers’ resolve for the next stage of the conflict, and extol the “virtues” of the SS men gathered there. Behind these closed walls, Himmler spoke openly about the most extensive program of mass murder the world had yet seen. But while he privately congratulated these SS officers on their conduct in these killings, Himmler also decreed that this would be a page of history that would never be written: I want to mention another very difficult matter here before you in all frankness. Among ourselves, it ought to be spoken of quite openly for once; yet we shall never speak of it in public . . . I am referring here to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. This is one of the things that is easily said: “The Jewish people are going to be exterminated,” that’s what every Party member says, “sure, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination—it’ll be done.”1 And then they all come along, the 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his one decent Jew. Of course the others are swine, but this one, he is a first-rate Jew. Of all those who talk like that, not one has seen it happen, not one has had to go through with it. Most of you men know what it is like to see 100 corpses side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have stood fast through this and—except for cases of human weakness—to have stayed decent, that has made us hard. This is an unwritten and never-to-be-written page of glory in our history . . . We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill this people who wanted to kill us. (US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, pp. 563–564) Some 14 months before Himmler stood in the Posen town hall and made this speech, he appointed SS officer Paul Blobel to lead Aktion 1005, a plan to destroy all forensic evidence of the mass murder of European Jewry.


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

At the mass graves of the killing site at Chelmno, in occupied Poland, tens of thousands of bodies were dug up and burned. The sites of the graves were flattened, plowed, and replanted to hide all trace of what had happened there. Later, such scenes were repeated at the death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. When Himmler spoke of his “page of glory,” prisoners had already reopened the mass graves at Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, and burned the bodies of some 33,000 Jewish men, women, and children who had lain buried there for almost two years. The destruction of mass graves under Aktion 1005 continued at sites across the occupied Soviet Union, Poland, Belorussia, the Baltic States, and Yugoslavia. In this context, where the perpetrators did all they could to hide the evidence of their crimes, the question “how do we know what we know?” takes on new meaning. The study of history is not just about the learning of historical narratives; it must also be a disciplinary understanding of where those narratives come from, a recognition that narratives are constructed accounts assembled through the careful analysis of the remnants of that past: primary sources (written documents such as diaries, memoranda, telegrams, etc.), material artifacts, archaeological remains, artworks, photographs, and other evidence.2 During the genocide that today we call the Holocaust, the value of these sources to future generations was understood not only by the perpetrators (who consequently set about the systematic destruction of such evidence) but also by victims who, amid this destruction, strove to preserve some trace of themselves and the atrocities committed against them. Since the end of World War II, a number of documents written by three members of the Jewish Sonderkommando have been discovered buried in the very soil of Auschwitz-Birkenau. One, a note by Zalman Gradowski written on 6 September 1944, was hidden in an aluminum flask. It reads: Dear Finder Search everywhere, in every inch of soil. Tens of documents are buried under it—mine and those of other persons—which will throw light on everything that was happening here. Great quantities of teeth are also buried here. It was we, the Sonderkommando, who expressly have strewn them all over the terrain, as many as we could, so that the world should find material traces of the millions of murdered people. We ourselves have lost hope of being able to live to see the moment of liberation. (quoted in Gilbert, 1987, p. 712) Gradowski buried these documents shortly before he lost his life fighting in the Sonderkommando revolt of 7 October 1944, an uprising of some 300 Jewish prisoners who killed their SS guards and managed to blow up Crematoria IV. Gradowski, then, was a man of action. But as well as taking up arms, he and others found another form of resistance: “Show an interest in this document,” he wrote; “It contains rich material for the historian.” Gradowski—and others, such as Emmanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw ghetto—resorted to history as a means of defiance, determined that the crimes perpetrated against them would not disappear without trace. They risked their lives to document and record their own persecution and that of their fellow Jews, and to cry out to subsequent generations to learn about what happened to them. Your students’ study of the Holocaust at times may be distressing and disorienting. So why do we, as educators, put them through it? It seems to us that we have a responsibility to the people whose lives and deaths we study. Of course, your students will not be able to change what they find in this traumatic past. But neither are they altogether powerless. When studying about the Holocaust they should remember Himmler’s decree that this history must never be written; think

Encountering the Holocaust


about the attempts by the perpetrators to destroy the evidence; and reflect upon the risks taken by the victims to document and preserve it. In the very act of historical enquiry, in struggling to learn and to understand, your students can honor the last wishes of people in the past who resisted the Nazis’ desecration of memory. So let us give the last word of this introduction to Zalman Gradowski: Dear reader I write these words in the moments of my greatest despair . . . It may be that these lines that I am now writing will be the sole witnesses to what was my life. But I shall be happy if only my writings should reach you, citizen of the free world. Perhaps a spark of my inner fire will ignite in you and even should you sense only part of what we live for, you will be compelled to avenge us—avenge our deaths! Dear discoverer of these writings! I have a request of you: this is the real reason why I write, that my doomed life may attain some meaning, that my hellish days and hopeless tomorrows may attain a purpose in the future. I pass on to you only a small part of what took place in the hell of Birkenau-Auschwitz. It is for you to comprehend the reality. I have written a great deal besides this. I am certain that you will come upon these remnants and from them you will be able to construct a picture of how our people were killed. (quoted in Roskies, 1988, p. 548)

How to Approach the Sources Primary documents are frequently used in history courses and in Holocaust education, often to illustrate a point or to tell part of a grand narrative of the past. Here we suggest a more dynamic approach to using primary documents—not so much as part of a narrative or in order to present a particular point of view or to convey a certain message or “lesson,” but rather to suggest ways to help students inquire into the past. To use primary documents in this manner, though, requires that students have a certain amount of background knowledge in order for them to be able to make sense of the information in the documents. Ultimately, the aim of student interrogation of the sources is to reveal to how differing narratives of the past are constructed; deepen student understanding of the history of the Holocaust; to add nuance and complexity to their understanding; and to allow students’ own meanings to emerge out of that encounter with the past, rather than using the past to teach predetermined lessons. We have purposely chosen to highlight a small, select group of historical documents, thus emphasizing depth over breadth. In doing so, we examine how different documents from different periods of time written by either the same or different individuals can approach certain issues and concerns from different angles, thus challenging students to probe more deeply by wrestling with them from different perspectives. In order to interrogate primary documents effectively, several elements need to be in place: a clear purpose (in our case, this may be provided by the plea of Zalman Gradowski); the contextual knowledge required to make sense of the document (this requires teachers to put in some careful thought to planning and answering such questions as, “what prior learning needs to have taken place before students encounter the source at hand?”); and a pedagogically sound approach to help students thoroughly analyze the documents. This last component is provided in the pyramid diagram and explanatory notes provided in Figure 6.1.


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

What can the source tell us? Place the source into the broader historical narrative(s) using your own knowledge. Compare and contrast the information in this source with that in other sources. What does this source add to your picture of the past? What new questions does it raise? What themes and issues arise from this source? What meanings and conclusions can you draw?

FIGURE 6.1 This pyramid diagram suggests a scaffold of three stages that might help students in approaching historical sources.

Without these elements, the evaluation of historical documents can quickly descend either into a simple comprehension exercise or else into a constantly repeated, mechanistic, dull series of questions: How useful is this source? Can we rely on what is being said? Is it biased? Such questions tend to produce formulaic answers, a dispiriting exercise that has been described as “death by sources A to F” (Counsell, 2000, p. 36). But if students are engaged in the task—if they see its purpose—and if they are sufficiently equipped with both the substantive knowledge and the conceptual tools for source analysis, then exploring primary documents can greatly deepen historical understanding. The first stage in examining a new source—whether a written document, a photograph, artifact, or piece of artwork—is usually to read it for information: what can the source tell us? This means considering not only what it tells us on the surface, but also what can reasonably be inferred: what deductions can we make that can be supported by the evidence? The upshot is that students should spend a fair amount of time examining it closely. By doing that, one’s students are already moving beyond simple comprehension and are beginning to use the source as evidence about the past. At the same time, while the source may be rich in historical detail, it is also important to locate it within its historical context. Students need to relate the source in question to other sources dealing with the same issue. In doing so, they need to ask: How does this source “fit” within the historical context? Is the information included in the source backed up or contradicted by what else I know? If the latter, are there grounds to dismiss the source as unreliable or untypical, or do students need to rethink what was already known in the light of this new evidence? Finally, the third stage of this pyramid structure requires deeper reflection on the construction of meaning. Put another way, how do students’ interpretations of the source deepen their understanding of this complex past? Teachers should encourage their students to consider what issues, meanings, questions, and themes emerge for them from this encounter with the past, rather than imposing upon their students their own interpretations of the source, and their own predetermined meanings.

Encountering the Holocaust


Teachers may wish to provide a copy of the pyramid diagram in Figure 6.1 and ask their students to try out this approach on Himmler’s speech on page 99. Following the stages outlined earlier, a teacher should ask his/her students to: 1. 2.


Carefully read the extract of Himmler’s speech, and jot down notes on what he said. Place the Himmler speech into its broader context. Using their own knowledge (prior learning) students should answer this question: “Why did Himmler say what he did at that particular time and to that particular audience?” Consider the historical significance of this speech given Himmler’s particular use of language, and try to explain why he was prepared to speak so openly in that situation. Questions that may support students in this analysis include: What does this extract from Himmler’s speech tell us about the reasons why the Nazi hierarchy decided upon the mass murder of the Jewish people? What does it tell us about how much ordinary German people appeared to know about the plan? To what extent did the Nazi hierarchy believe the public supported the genocide? Teachers should also use careful questioning to encourage student discussion about what further issues, questions, and meanings arise from this document.

It is important that sources are selected carefully, so that students can consider how they relate one to the other. Here, for example, far deeper meanings emerge from a comparative approach that juxtaposes Himmler’s speech and Gradowski’s note than would be the case if each document were to be examined in isolation. No single source reveals the past as it was, but instead reflects the perspective of the individual who created it, mediated by his/her own knowledge of the situation, as well as his/her own beliefs, purpose, and motivation in creating it. In comparing and contrasting different sources, a variety of perspectives and voices emerge, and with these come a more complex and nuanced understanding of the past.

The Importance of Chronological Understanding It is also necessary to consider where each source is located in time. Each document provides only a partial glimpse of a more complex past—a reflection of the moment when it was produced. To move from description to historical explanation, students need to appreciate how moments and events relate to each other over time. A highly illustrative example can be found in Himmler’s Posen speech where he refers to the murder of the Jews being in the Nazi Party Program: “every Party member says, ‘sure, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination—it’ll be done.’ ” But what was this Party Program, and were the Nazis’ aims really so explicit when it was first produced? Closer examination will reveal that in fact the meaning of “elimination of the Jews” altered radically from when it was first formulated to when Himmler stood in the Posen town hall in October 1943. Taking the Nazi Party Program (originally issued in 1920 with a minor edit in 1928 to include an additional explanatory note of Hitler’s; see later) as a starting point, teachers should ask their students to research how far, through what means, and when the Nazis achieved the objectives stated in that program (and which objectives, if any, were not met? Can they explain this?). Producing a time line that illustrates this research will not only provide a historical overview and help to develop chronological understanding, it will also enable students better to contextualize other primary documents as they encounter them.


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

Program of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party National Socialistic Yearbook 1941 Edited by: Dr. Robert Ley Published by: Central Publishing House of the N.S.D.A.P. Franz Eher, successor Munich The Program of the NSDAP

The program is the political foundation of the NSDAP and accordingly the primary political law of the State. It has been made brief and clear intentionally. All legal precepts must be applied in the spirit of the party program. Since the taking over of control, the Fuehrer has succeeded in the realization of essential portions of the Party program from the fundamentals to the detail. The Party Program of the NSDAP was proclaimed on the 24 February 1920 by Adolf Hitler at the first large Party gathering in Munich and since that day has remained unaltered. Within the national socialist philosophy is summarized in 25 points: 1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples. 2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain. 3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population. 4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race. 5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners. 6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities. 7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from the Reich. 8. Any further immigration of noncitizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich. 9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations. 10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently we demand: 11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery. 12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.

Encountering the Holocaust

13. 14. 15. 16.



19. 20.


22. 23.




We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts). We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, Schieber and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession. The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army. We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that: a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race: b. NonGerman newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language: c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: common utility precedes individual utility. For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration. Adolf Hitler proclaimed the following explanation for this program on 13 April 1928: Explanation Regarding the false interpretations of Point 17 of the program of the NSDAP on the part of our opponents, the following definition is necessary: Since the NSDAP stands on the platform of private ownership it happens that the [phrase] of “gratuitous expropriation” concerns only the creation of legal opportunities to expropriate, if necessary, land which has been illegally acquired or is not administered from the viewpoint of the national welfare. This is directed primarily against the Jewish land-speculation companies. (US Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, pp. 208–211) When the class addresses the Party Program, students will need contextual information. Adolf Hitler publicly announced the Program in Munich on 24 February 1920, at the same occasion when the party that had emerged a year before as a regional right-wing group was renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). It vehemently opposed the democratic Weimar Republic that was born in the revolution of November 1918, and demanded the annulment of the hated peace terms imposed by the western Allies upon Germany and Austria in the Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain in 1919.

For producing the aforementioned time line, students should focus on items 1–8, as well as items 16–18, 20, and 22–24 of the Party Program, since these are directly or indirectly relevant to the antisemitic politics of the Nazis. If one’s students do not have access to a sufficiently equipped library, then teachers might wish to provide them with key lemmata for an Internet search, such as: Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich (Action Work-shy Reich); Anschluss (GermanAustrian unification); Anti-Jewish regulations; “Aryanization”; Citizenship in Nazi Germany; Foreign Policy of Nazi Germany; General Plan East; Law Against the Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities; Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service; Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass,” referencing the pogrom in Nazi Germany of November 1938); The Nuremberg Laws and the following regulations, Ordinance on Antisocial Parasites, Polenaktion (expulsion of Jews of Polish citizenship from the German Reich), Press policy in Nazi Germany, Reichserbhofgesetz (State Hereditary Farm Law), Reichstag Fire Decree; Treaty of Saint-Germain, Treaty of Versailles; and Wehrmacht (German army).

By having students construct a time line and completing it during the ongoing learning process, they should come to perceive the Holocaust as a process that emerged and developed over time, rather than as a single moment or event in history that just “happened” because Hitler and the Nazis willed it. Realizing that the systematic killing of Jews went far beyond the measures that Hitler and other founding members of the Nazi Party had envisaged at the beginning can provoke the question: which changes and additional factors caused the radicalization process that resulted in genocide across Europe?

Encountering the Holocaust


Was Hitler’s Antisemitism a Blueprint for Genocide? Antisemitism was not the only driving force in the Nazis’ process of radicalization when it came to the treatment of the Jews, but every explanation must include it. Students can learn about Nazi antisemitism by analyzing statements made by Hitler, who unquestionably had the leading role in this area. Antisemitism was a key element of Hitler’s worldview since the very beginning of his political career, was a constant throughout the Nazi era, and remained central to his understanding and his political vision until his death. This obsession may be highlighted through the comparison of two documents at the very beginning and end of the students’ time line in the earlier task: Hitler’s first antisemitic manifesto (of 1919) and his last will and testament (“My Political Testament,” of 1945). However, it is important that students do not think that this continuity of anti-Jewish feeling made the development of mass murder inevitable. As can be seen in the comparison of these two documents, Hitler’s early statements did not provide a blueprint for genocide; rather, it is unlikely that even the wildest fantasies of the Hitler of 1919 would have run to the idea of mass murder across the continent. On 16 September 1919, Hitler wrote his first antisemitic manifesto: If the danger which Jewry constitutes for our people today takes the form of an undeniable aversion felt by large sections of the population, then the cause for this aversion is not, as a rule, to be found in the clear recognition of the consciously or unconsciously planned destructive effect of the Jews as a whole on our nation, but it is mainly due to the almost always unfavorable impression made in personal contacts by the individual Jew. Antisemitism can thus easily assume the character of a purely emotional phenomenon. But this is not right, for antisemitism as a political movement must not and cannot be determined by emotional criteria, but only by facts. The facts are these: First of all, Jewry is undoubtedly a racial and not a religious community. . . . Even the Jewish religion, however important it may be for the preservation of this race, cannot be regarded as exclusively determining the question as to who is a Jew and who is not. There is hardly a race whose members profess the same religion without exception. Through thousands of years of inbreeding, frequently within the narrowest sphere, the Jew on the whole has preserved his race and its special characteristics more outstandingly than many of the nations among whom he is living. It follows that a non-German, alien race is living among us, unwilling and unable to sacrifice its racial characteristics and peculiarities, to renounce its own feelings, thoughts and aspirations, but which nevertheless enjoys the same political rights as we . . . The longing for money and the concentration on it, the desire for the power to protect it, spring from these sentiments, and make the Jew unscrupulous in the choice of means and pitiless in its application to achieve his ends . . . The effect of the Jews’ activities is a racial cancer among the nations. This leads to the following conclusion: Antisemitism for purely emotional reasons will in the last resort express itself in the form of pogroms. Antisemitism prompted by reason must lead to the planned and legal combating and elimination of the privileges enjoyed only by the Jew as distinct from the other aliens living amongst us (Aliens Legislation). Its ultimate aim must be the inexorable removal of the Jews altogether. A government of national strength is capable of achieving these two aims, but never a government of national impotence. (Kampe, 1992, pp. 47–48) Students should realize that the central claim in the Party Program—that Jews should be deprived of their rights as citizens and live “under the authority of legislation for foreigners”—is


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

here prefigured in Hitler’s manifesto. However, they should also be encouraged to recognize the antecedents of Nazi thinking—to understand that it did not spring fully formed from Hitler’s mind but rather drew on longer and deeper currents of European thought—and also to see how this thinking became more radical and extreme in Nazi ideology as time went on. During the 19th century, those hostile to Jews had protested against every step forward in the process of Jewish emancipation in Germany, and always asked to revoke it. This claim had already been made before racist antisemitism emerged and had roots in a long European history of religious anti-Judaism. Assuming that the German nation state should be a Christian one, German nationalists wanted the Jews to be excluded and discriminated against unless they were prepared to abandon all semblances of their former culture and traditions and fully assimilate into Christian German society. In the Nazi Party Program, the intention to exclude the Jews is already based on racist antisemitism, a secular form of “Jew-hatred” that emerged later in the 19th century and was popularized by the journalist Wilhelm Marr from the 1870s. Marr’s contention, influenced by pseudo-scientific ideas of Social Darwinism, was that Jews were a race apart from the Germans, and whose hereditary characteristics made assimilation impossible. On the same basis, Hitler went much further. He wanted to be rid of the Jews entirely. In his manifesto, however, Hitler did not yet define how the Jews should be “removed,” but rather emphasized that Jews and non-Jews should not live side by side. Hatred of the Jews was a constant element of Hitler’s thinking, often expressed in his writings and speeches. Since there will not be enough time available in a course to follow up all of his antisemitic statements (not to mention the countless anti-Jewish remarks of his followers), we suggest focusing on the early manifesto to Hitler’s last written statement that he penned a few hours before his suicide on 30 April 1945. In particular, teachers should encourage their students to read each of the documents in the context of their respective time periods; in other words, they need to avoid reading the 1919 manifesto with the hindsight afforded by the political testimony of 1945. Instead, the students should identify both the consistency of Hitler’s worldview on the one hand and, on the other, how the antisemitic measures that he and his followers instigated had, by 1945, gone far beyond the “two aims” (the legal removal of “Jewish privileges” and, ultimately, the “inexorable removal of the Jews altogether”) cited in his 1919 manifesto. My Political Testament It is untrue that I or anybody else in Germany wanted war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests. . . . Centuries may pass, but out of the ruins of our towns and monuments of art there will arise anew the hatred for the people who alone are responsible: International Jewry and its helpers! . . . [T]he leading circles in English politics wanted the war, partly on account of the business hoped for and partly under the influence of propaganda organized by international Jewry. I also made it quite plain that if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be bought and sold by these international conspirators in money and finance, then that race, Jewry, which is the real criminal of this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility. I further left no one in doubt that this time not only would millions of children of Europe’s Aryan peoples die of hunger, not only would millions of grown men suffer death, and not only hundreds of thousands of women and children be burnt and bombed to death in the towns, without the real criminal having to atone for his guilt, even if by more humane means . . . From the sacrifice of our soldiers and from my own unity with them unto death, will in any case spring up in the history of Germany, the seed of a radiant renaissance

Encountering the Holocaust


of the National-Socialist movement and thus the realization of a true community of the people . . .3 Above all, I charge the leaders of the nation and those under them with the strict observance of the laws of race and to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry. Given in Berlin, this 29th day of April 1945, 4:00 a.m. Adolf Hitler. (US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946b, pp. 260–263) Students should be able to find remarkable consistency in Hitler’s worldview between the two documents, though they roughly cover a span of a quarter of a century. In his “testament” of 1945, Hitler tries to substantiate his 1919 allegation of a “destructive effect of the Jews as a whole on our nation” by accusing the Jews of being responsible for both World Wars and for the ruination of Germany. In both documents, Hitler projects his own aggressions onto the Jews and uses them as a scapegoat. While he accused “the Jew” in 1919 of being a “racial cancer among the nations,” in 1945 he calls “international Jewry” “the universal poisoners of all peoples.” The verbal assaults are interchangeable. Meanwhile, Hitler and his followers committed genocide on an unprecedented scale. Hitler tried to justify this program of wholesale mass murder by indirectly referring to his notorious “prophecy,” a public speech on 30 January 1939, in which he had warned “if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war” then the outcome would be the “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” (Kampe, 2009, p. 140).4 This, Hitler argues in his 1945 testament, he has brought about in order that the Jewish people “atone” for their “guilt” in orchestrating these wars; a punishment, he also intimates in an oblique reference to the gas chambers, that was “more humane” in his eyes than the death of German civilians in Allied bombing campaigns. Setting the suffering and death of Germans (in a war that he himself had largely instigated) against the genocide that the Nazis had set in train, Hitler coins a pattern of argument and false equivalence that neo-Nazis in Germany still use today when diminishing the Holocaust by referring to the bombardment of Dresden by Allied airplanes. Though Hitler expressed the vague hope that one day there would be “a radiant renaissance of the National-Socialist movement and thus the realization of a true community of the people,” students should be encouraged to reflect on the fact that racism and antisemitism, as emphasized in the last sentence of his 1945 testament, are indeed the only legacy that he had to offer. This path, which he blindly traversed, had led not only to genocide and continent-wide destruction but also to the deaths of huge numbers of German soldiers and civilians and the ruination of Germany. By analyzing Hitler’s 1919 manifesto and his 1945 political testament, students should come to understand two main functions of antisemitism: on the one hand, reducing all fears and anxieties inherent in a changing, complex world to a single, mythical cause—“the Jews”—thus inciting violent actions and directing aggressive policy against them; and, on the other, the subsequent attempt to legitimize the horrific crimes committed against them.

Radicalization and the Decision-Making Process As noted earlier, the radicalization of Nazi politics against the Jews cannot be explained by the inherent dynamism of antisemitic ideology alone. Other factors also must be considered. The Nazi leaders came to understand that the shadow of a great war created a new context in which a genocide across Europe became possible. It both contributed to the brutalization of the executioners


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

and made it possible that the vast majority of the German population would not question the murderous politics of the Nazi leaders. Those who believed Nazi propaganda more readily accepted actions against Jews and others as necessary for winning the war; others preferred to ignore the information and rumors about the mass crimes. The war also for a long time hindered interventions by countries that were not under German rule or dominated by Germany. Furthermore, the course of the war was a critical factor in the decision-making process and the realization of the Holocaust. The decision to murder the Jews of Europe was taken in several steps. Systematic mass murder of Jews was initiated with the German assault on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. The decision to extend it to all European territories was taken about half a year later. An attempt to analyze the whole decision-making process is outside of the scope of one section of a chapter exploring the use of primary sources, as it would require a reconstruction of a complicated and unfinished debate among historians and constitute an entire chapter in itself. Within the limits of this chapter, we suggest instead that students might explore the mechanisms of how Nazi decisions emerged, with reference to a particular source—a file note “concerning the solution of the Jewish question” written on 16 July 1941 (and reproduced here). Far from being “the moment of decision,” this document provides an insight into the kind of considerations and discussions that preceded the decision for genocide, and also illustrates that mass murder was neither predetermined nor inevitable, but rather was the conscious development of policy that could have evolved in other ways. It should also help to move students away from a naïve view that historical events simply happen because great or powerful men will them to happen, and thus to a more sophisticated understanding about how power operates; how intentions are translated into action; and how this depends and relies upon the participation of large numbers of individuals distributed across a wide range of institutions and agencies in complex relationships with each other. SS-Sturmbannführer Rolf-Heinz Höppner sent the note in question to Adolf Eichmann, head of the Gestapo’s Office of Jewish Affairs, in order to inform him about the content of various meetings held at the office of Arthur Greiser, the Reich governor in Posen administrating the Warthegau, the west Polish territory that had been annexed to the German Reich. It summarized a series of suggestions for the “solution of the Jewish question” in that province: During discussions in the office of the Reich Governor various groups broached the solution of the Jewish question in Warthe province. The following solution is being proposed. 1.

2. 3.


All the Jews of Warthe province will be taken to a camp for 300,000 Jews which will be erected in barracks form as close as possible to the main railroad line for transport of coal and which will contain barracks-like installations for economic enterprises, tailor shops, shoe manufacturing plants, etc. All Jews of Warthe province will be brought into this camp. Jews capable of labor may be constituted into labor columns as needed and drawn from the camp. According to SS-Brigadeführer Albert’s view, a camp of this type may be guarded with substantially fewer police forces than are required now. Furthermore, the danger of epidemics, which always exists in the Lodz and other ghettos for the surrounding population, will be minimized. This winter there is a danger that not all of the Jews can be fed anymore. One should weigh honestly if the most humane solution might not be to finish off those of the Jews who are not employable by means of some quick-working device. At any rate, that would be more pleasant than to let them starve to death.

Encountering the Holocaust




For the rest, the proposal was made that in this camp all the Jewish women, from whom one could still expect children, should be sterilized so that the Jewish problem may actually be solved completely with this generation. The Reich Governor has not yet expressed an opinion in this matter. There is an impression that Government President Übelhör does not wish to see the ghetto in Lodz disappear since he seems to profit quite well with it. As an example of how one can profit from the Jews, I was told that the Reich Labor Ministry pays 6 Reichsmark from a special fund for each employed Jew, but that the Jew costs only 80 Pfennige.5 (Hilberg, 1971, pp. 87–88)

In a cover letter to Eichmann accompanying this note, Höppner commented: “These things sound in part fantastical, but in my view would indeed be feasible.” Students would do well to note that within the Nazi state, rather than each level of the hierarchy being terrorized into action by those above them, officials felt comfortable in expressing an opinion in writing on proposals under consideration by those in more senior positions—that is, many functionaries took an active role in the formulation of policy and decision-making process. The traditional view of a strictly hierarchical, even totalitarian, decision-making process could be explored further if teachers were to ask students to consider if and how the Höppner note fits into the “intentionalist” conceptual model, which assumes that the Holocaust can be understood as the systematic realization of Hitler’s intention to murder the Jews and that, according to this interpretation, originated in his antisemitism long before World War II. We suggest testing this against a flow chart of the type commonly used to delineate the Nazi hierarchy and how it worked (see chart in Figure 6.2). Such diagrams are based on the assumption of a top-down procedure, which implies that decisions were made in the center—Berlin or Hitler’s headquarters—and implemented at the periphery, in the occupied territories. According to this interpretation, Hitler made a decision about an important issue and gave an order to high-ranking leaders who would then operationalize it and hand it down—possibly over several stages—to the executioners at the periphery, who would finally realize Hitler’s intentions. The diagram in Figure 6.2 supports this intentionalist view. Rather than including all relevant institutions, it focuses on the agencies and persons mentioned in the Höppner document and the accompanying letter. Höppner’s note suggests that in reality the process was, at least in this case (and presumably in many other cases), quite different from the chain of command illustrated in the diagram. Middlelevel bureaucrats and SS officers such as Eichmann and Höppner already shared the willingness to kill tens of thousands of “not employable” Jews even before Hitler had given such an order, or before Nazi leaders such as Reinhard Heydrich (Eichmann’s boss) and Arthur Greiser (the governor of the Warthe Province) had developed a concrete plan for mass murder. It is indeed remarkable that Nazis working in middle-level positions at the periphery of the Nazi regime actively participated in discussions about removing the Jews and made such a radical suggestion as killing Jews “by means of some quick-working device” before the top leaders made such decisions and took such measures. The suggestion must be interpreted in the context of the other statements and propositions in the document. They are characteristic of the Nazis’ way of proceeding. For various reasons, the Jews had been concentrated in ghettos. As a result, the means of subsistence of the Jews had been destroyed. The Germans then realized that maintaining the isolation of the Jews in these so-called Jewish residential areas and subsequently guarding them required manpower, and they could not be kept alive without providing minimal


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons Adolf Hitler

Nazi Party


Leader of SS + Police

Minister of the Interior

Order Police

Reich Governor in Warthe Province

Police Chief in Lodz

Government President in Lodz

Security Police

Department IV B 4

Head of the Central Office for Resettlement FIGURE 6.2

The decision-making process—an “intentionalist” model.

nutrition. In contrast to the assumption in the note, sufficient food was available, but the Nazis did not agree on providing it for “unproductive” Jews (Klein, 2009, p. 130). However, they were indeed fearful of the threat posed by “epidemics . . . [to] the surrounding population,” in particular to the Germans themselves who had created the conditions under which diseases spread. These problems could have been immediately solved by tearing down the ghetto walls and fences and letting the Jews return to normal life. But, as we see from the note, the Nazis did not even take this option into consideration. Instead, they discussed ways how to use Jewish manpower up as cost-effectively as possible; to prevent the births of more Jewish children by forcible sterilization; and to “get rid of ” those Jews who could not be exploited via forced labor. These suggestions fit a pattern of “solving problems” that was deeply rooted in the ideological orientation of the regime. Rather than revoking decisions when they faced serious issues that the Germans themselves had caused by their drastic measures, Nazi leaders instead would try to overcome them by implementing even more radical actions. Essentially, those decisions that were in line with Nazi ideology and in line with the explicit or alleged wishes of the Führer never had a chance of being revised. Does this mean that the decision to kill the Jews resulted from attempts by the Germans in the occupied territories to solve the problems that they themselves had created? The following flow chart (Figure 6.3) indicates that new policy initiatives—even mass murder—rather than being

Encountering the Holocaust

Reich Minister of the Interior

Order Police Kurt Daluege Leader and Reich Chancellor

Division for Jewish Issues Adolf Eichmann


Central Resettlement Office Leader of SS and Police Heinrich Himmler

Security Police Reinhard Heydrich Berlin


Reich Governor Arthur Greiser Police Chief in Lodz Wilhelm Albert

Government President Friedrich Übelhör Posen/Lodz

The decision-making process—a “functionalist” or “structuralist” model.

imposed by terror from above might first have been suggested by those on the ground. This could be used for motivating the students to discuss this thesis. The discussion might be controversial, because most people share an intentionalist, Hitlercentered view of the Nazi regime and its functioning. It may also be rejected because it is potentially far more destabilizing and uncomfortable to widen the responsibility and complicity (potentially to thousands of lower-level functionaries) than to explain away the Holocaust as solely being the responsibility of Hitler and his henchmen. Indeed, the model presented in this diagram is itself too simple. Students will come to understand this if teachers provide further contextual information that allows them to develop a more complex understanding. In his note, Höppner stated the following: “The Reich Governor [Arthur Greiser] has not yet expressed an opinion in this matter.” Whether Greiser had not yet made up his mind or simply did not find an opportunity to express his views because he was travelling through the Warthegau is not known. Two days after Höppner had sent his note, however, Greiser met with Hitler in Rastenburg where, he claimed, Hitler assured him that he could claim greater powers than other Reich governors because he (Greiser) had the “unique task” of Germanizing the Warthe province. As a result Greiser, whose administration was formally subordinated to the Reich Ministry of the Interior, told an Interior Ministry official on 12 September that “the Jewish Question need not always be solved through first asking the Interior Ministry, but rather through energetic and responsible action there and then” (Epstein, 2010, pp. 183–185).6 Instead of waiting for ministerial decisions, Greiser made a deal with Himmler, who was eager to implement Hitler’s mid-September decision to deport Jews from the Reich. Himmler informed Greiser that he intended to send 60,000 Jews to the ghetto of Lodz. Greiser, who was aware that the local administration would oppose such an enormous influx into the already overcrowded ghetto, finally agreed to accept 20,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma (Gypsies) in the Warthe province in exchange for allowing him to have 100,000 “unproductive” Jews murdered. In short, it was Greiser who initiated the murder of the Jews in the Warthe province, who were executed in Kulmhof (Chelmno) from 8 December 1941 in gas vans. However, he could do this only with Hitler’s backing and after an agreement with Himmler.


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

Once informed about these proceedings, students could be asked to complete the flow chart (see Figure 6.3) on the relations between the center and periphery so that it reflects the decision-making process of the Nazis more precisely. In this way, we suggest, through the use of primary sources connected with one particular (horrendous, catastrophic) decision, the web of relations between the center and periphery may be revealed, thus providing students with the opportunity to gain a far more complex, nuanced, and powerful understanding of how power operated in the Nazi system— of how intentions were translated into action—and also a deeper appreciation of the wide network of complicity and responsibility that enabled and facilitated the genocidal process. Teachers should also inform their students that this was far from being the only case where important impulses came from the periphery, although the interests and strategies of the particular perpetrators involved varied. The attitude of perpetrators in the occupied territories is one important factor that helps to explain why the deportations and the killing processes were executed in different ways and at different points of time in the various territories. That the radicalization process would culminate in a comprehensive genocide of the Jews was not yet recognizable when Höppner sent his note to Eichmann. It was not until half a year later that Hitler most likely made the decision to extend the mass murder to all European Jews. The most important of the measures mentioned by Höppner as seemingly “fantastical,” yet in his view still perfectly “feasible,” were then indeed implemented. To deepen the students’ thinking about this entire issue, they should be required to read the January 1942 Protocol of the Wannsee Conference7 (which represents a later stage of the decision-making process) and compare it with Höppner’s file note. In doing so, they would likely come to understand that the protocol also envisaged the double strategy of an exploitation of forced labor and mass murder, but now— based on experiences with deportations also from the German Reich, with mass shootings and the use of gas vans—Heydrich aimed at finally exterminating all Jews of Europe after having used the manpower of those fit for work. Enforced sterilization (also raised in the discussions reported by Höppner) was only taken into consideration for so-called Mischlinge (those seen as Aryan-Jewish mixed race). For a preliminary summary visualizing the process of radicalization, teachers could ask their students to choose a quote from each of the preceding documents produced by the perpetrators and write them in chronological order, citing the date when they were issued. Students should choose the sentence or phrase from each document that expresses the most radical “solution of the Jewish question” on the given date, and then color-code each quotation to indicate whether it constituted a general intention, a threat, a concrete suggestion, a plan, or a retrospective statement. As students complete the task, they will likely recognize that the Wannsee Conference marks the stage of the radicalization process when the plan for a comprehensive genocide of the European Jews—one in which no man, woman, or child was supposed to survive—was documented and set into motion.

By way of example, the completed task may look something like the following:

Quotations from perpetrator documents that express the most radical “solution” at the given date KEY TO THE CODING: General intention: plain Threat: italics

Encountering the Holocaust


Concrete suggestions: underlined Plan: bold Retrospection: capital letters

Hitler’s manifesto, 16 September 1919 Its [antisemitism’s] ultimate aim must be the inexorable removal of the Jews altogether.

Hitler’s “prophecy,” 30 January 1939 “Annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” in case of a world war.

Himmler’s memorandum, end of May 1940 I hope that the concept of Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of a large emigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony. . . . one rejects as un-German and impossible the Bolshevist method of physical extermination of a people.

Höppner’s note, 16 July 1941 To finish off those of the Jews who are not employable by means of some quick-working device.

Wannsee Protocol, 20 January 1942 Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in an expedient manner in the course of the final solution. [. . .] Jews capable of work will be moved into these areas as they build roads, during which a large proportion will no doubt drop out through natural reduction. The remnant that eventually remains will require suitable treatment.


Hitler’s testament, 29 April 1945 THE REAL CRIMINAL HAVING TO ATONE FOR HIS GUILT. [. . .] I charge the leaders of the nation and those under them with the strict observance of the laws of race and to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry.

The Diffusion of Responsibility: The Bureaucratic Process Having considered the decision-making process, students could move on to an examination of those documents that reveal something of the organizational issues involved in continent-wide mass murder, instituted and carried out by a modern nation-state. One such document is that of a report filed about a deportation from Skopje in Macedonia to the killing center of Treblinka (Arad, 1999, p. 145). Macedonia was then under Bulgarian rule.


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Work Report Subject: Escorting the Jewish Transports On the basis of a telephone command from SS Hauptsturmführer Dannecker, the train left for Skopje on March 23, 1943, at 12:00, escorted by platoon No. 1, which comprised thirty men and was commanded by Police Sergeant Buchner.8 The train arrived at 23:00. On March 29, at 6:00, the loading of 2,404 Jews onto freight cars commenced at the former tobacco sheds. Loading was completed at 12:00, and at 12:30 the train departed. The train passed through Albanian territory. The final destination, Treblinka (the camp), was reached on April 5, 1943, at 7:00, via Czestochowa, Piotrokow, Warsaw. The train was unloaded that same day between the hours 09:00 and 11:00. Incidents: Five Jews died on route. On the night of March 30—an elderly woman of seventy; On the night of March 31—an elderly man, aged eighty-five; On the night of April 3—an elderly woman, aged ninety-four and a six-month-old child. On April 4 an elderly woman aged ninety-nine died. Transport Roster: total delivered at Treblinka

received 2,404 less 5 2,399

(signed) Karl, Military Police Lieutenant and Company Commander (Arad, 1999, p. 145) The brief and terse nature of this document belies the magnitude of what it reports. For the author of this “work report,” killing has become so routine that the deaths of five people, from a baby of just 6 months of age to an old woman of 99 years, are referred to as “incidents”—deaths not to be explained or investigated but merely noted, so that the precise numbers of those who set off on the journey can be correctly tallied with those who arrived at their destination. But despite its brevity, the precision of the document—the exact ages of the dead, for example, and the careful accounting of the numbers—indicates something of the overall purpose of a “project” of which this one train formed only a part. Teachers could ask their students to take 5 minutes and respond in writing to the following statements in preparation for a class discussion: (1) how the police escort would likely have known the exact ages of the dead; and (2) why the police escort would issue a report at this level of detail, including the precise date of each death. In other words, why was such information considered important? Because those who wrote the report could have, of course, left out such detail and solely provided the headline, “Incidents: Five Jews Died on Route.” Students should also be asked to respond in writing to the following question as well: why did it matter to them which Jews had died, or when? We suggest that the answer to the overarching question lies in the unprecedented scope of the Nazi genocide—the intention was total mass murder, wherever the Nazis could extend their reach, so that in the German sphere of influence not one Jewish man, woman, or child would be left alive. As with other government policies in modern nation-states, if a program is set in motion with targets and deadlines, then follow-up needs to be performed, reports filed, and progress monitored to ensure that the work is completed. So it was with the Nazi genocide. This was not indiscriminate killing. Those who were deported were deliberately and painstakingly marked for death—each name, address, gender, and age was listed on transport documents; they were told when and where to report for deportation. These same lists were checked off as they boarded and disembarked the train. Each individual was tracked, so that if he/she entered the camp system rather than the gas

Encountering the Holocaust


chamber then it was known to the authorities which camp or subcamp he/she had been sent to and where he/she was at that particular moment. Each and every person was registered and given a number, and thus every prisoner could be traced to the particular barrack in the particular camp to which he/she had been transferred. The fate of every last Jew was to be death; so, when a corpse was discovered in a cattle wagon on route to Treblinka, the guards demanded from other deportees the name of the person who had died. This would be marked on the deportation list, and so the police report reproduced here was able to provide the precise age of the deceased. It was not enough that “this elderly lady” or “that baby” had perished—it was necessary to know which old woman, which infant, so that, ultimately, the regime could be sure that it had killed them all. So, in that work report are five more people inscribed on a scrap of paper, five more in the tally toward the goal of killing all Jews, everywhere. This key insight can be revealed as a result of sophisticated analysis of this primary document, this work report. Analysis of this document may, potentially, reveal one of the deeper layers of meaning that students arrive at in the third stage of the analytical method described earlier in the chapter (i.e., concerning the pyramid approach to interrogating primary sources). The routine tone of the document indicates just how unexceptional this all was to those responsible for seeing to it that the Jews were rounded up, loaded on the trains, dispatched to ghettos, concentration camps or death camps, and unloaded upon reaching their destination. So how many trains, how many victims, how many people participated in these murders? An indication of this can be found in a remarkable intercept by British intelligence of a secret radio report from SS Major Hermann Höfle, the “Section Head for Jewish Affairs—Operation Reinhard,” who was stationed in Lublin, to SS Lieutenant Colonel Franz Heim, deputy to the Commander of the Security Police in Krakow (Witte and Tyas, 2001, pp. 469–470). The translation reads as follows: 13/15 OLQ de OMQ 1005 83 234 250 State secret! To the commander of the Security Police, for the attention of SS Obersturmbahnfuhrer HEIM, CRACOW. Re: 14-day report operation REINHARD. Reference: radio telegram from there. Recorded arrivals until December 42, L 12761, B 0, S 515, T 10335, totaling 23611. Situation 31 December 42, L 24733, B 434508, S 101370, T 71355, totaling 1274166. SS and police leader of Lublin, HOFLE, Sturmbannfuhrer. At the time of the intercept, it appears that the significance of this brief report went unrecognized by British Intelligence—even decrypted, its meaning is oblique, and the staff at Bletchley Park were sifting through perhaps hundreds of decodes every day, many of them mundane, dealing with such matters as weather reports, transfers of personnel, or requests for food or equipment. Without contextual knowledge, the series of letters and numbers is meaningless. And so this document lay in the files of the British National Archives at Kew, London, for decades and was only discovered at the turn of this century. One’s students, however, could be given the task of making sense of it. The clue that they need to spot, of course, in order to unlock its meaning and significance, is the reference to “Operation Reinhard,” the systematic murder of Polish Jews. This again demonstrates the importance of prior learning: as long as students already know the code name of this murder program, they should reasonably be able to deduce that the initials B, S, and T could refer to the death camps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. (The letter L is less clear, and teachers may need to help students in recognizing that this refers to the concentration camp of Majdanek, in the city of Lublin. Until the surfacing of this document, it was not appreciated that Majdanek had played a role in Operation Reinhard.) From there it is a relatively simple step to speculate that the first set of numbers indicates the people killed at each of these sites in a particular period of time, and the report


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clearly specifies that this time period was the last 2 weeks of December 1942: “14-day report . . . Recorded arrivals until December 42.” Students should be encouraged to think about how they might verify this interpretation and should be struck by the zero next to the letter B: a little research into Belzec will quickly reveal that the camp had ceased to operate by the end of that year. The significance of the date 31 December 1942, cited in the document should also unlock the meaning of the second set of figures: Himmler had issued an instruction in July 1942 that the “deportation” (by which he meant murder) of Polish Jews was to be completed by that date. This document is, therefore, providing a progress report against that target, detailing both the arrivals in the 2 weeks preceding 31 December 1942, and those who had been caught up in Operation Reinhard since that killing program began. Reading more closely, students may be puzzled as to why the second set of numbers does not add up to the total cited. It is worth having students solve this conundrum for themselves, to work with the numbers, to struggle to make sense of the document. We suggest this because it is easy for a string of figures on a scrap of paper to seem rather abstract, and there can be an unfortunate tendency to dismiss such statistics as too difficult to engage with. But given some time and perseverance, students may find that these figures take on greater significance: there is only one convincing solution to the problem, and if they are provided with the hint that there is a typing error—that a digit is missing—then they may work out that a 5 has been left off the figure for the letter T—a human error either in the sending of the telegram or in its transcription by the British agent who intercepted it. Suddenly, the death camp of Treblinka has become some 10 times more lethal—not 71,355 people gassed there by December 1942, but an even more staggering 713,555. That is 642,200 more murdered people, and thus our picture is transformed by a mere digit on the page. We feel it is imperative that students see past the list of figures. Teachers can assist their students by asking them to search for names, dates, biographical details, and even photographs of people who were murdered in the four camps mentioned in the Höfle telegram. If they use the online “pages of testimony” database provided by Yad Vashem9 and enter the names of these camps, they will find thousands of files with information about individuals who were deported there. They then may better understand that beyond the edges of a sheet of paper are murdered families that a statistician reduced to a list of numbers: mothers and fathers, friends and lovers, grandmothers, sons and daughters killed in the gas chambers of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek. And that imperative—to recognize the individual—is not only to better remember the dead, to go beyond the “faceless mass” of victims, and to better appreciate the distance placed between these people and those who organized their murder, but it is also to understand more about how vast numbers of people in offices across Europe could become complicit in that genocidal process. The bureaucrats who compiled such reports, filed them away, organized the concentration of Jews before their deportation, drew up the timetables of the trains that would carry them to their deaths, itemized the belongings of the murdered people, or disposed of their bank accounts and insurance policies—not to mention the tens of thousands of young women from the German Census Bureau who punched holes in the cards of Hollerith machines (the forerunner of modern computers), carefully recording where people lived, their age, and crucially their “race”—all of these people no doubt felt very distant from the act of killing itself, and yet all were instrumental in facilitating it. Thousands of women who worked for the German Census Bureau and thousands of others who worked for the railways perhaps felt little direct responsibility for their personal role in a continentwide program of destruction, even if they knew what was going on. And students might, quite correctly, point out that had these people resigned from their jobs, others would have taken their place and the program would have rolled on. So in that sense, it is true, such action would have made no real difference to the Holocaust. And yet, it would have made a difference to how they had

Encountering the Holocaust


chosen to live their own lives, and that in itself may be something on which one’s students should reflect: those people with jobs at the German Census Bureau and with the railways cannot have been unaware of the plight of the Jewish people, living as they did under a virulently antisemitic regime. Nor could they have been unaware that the holes they punched in Hollerith cards identified some as “Jews,” “Gypsies,” or “Aryan,” according to the Nazi conception of “race”—or that other holes punched in these cards provided the authorities with detailed information about where these people lived. Nor could those who worked for the railways have thought that trains pulling cattle wagons full of human beings to the East would bode well for those crammed inside. Yet they still drew up the train schedules, drove the engines, and operated the railway signals. Organizations break down large tasks to make the work more efficient; the impact can be that each person involved does not feel personal responsibility for the project as a whole. Bauman (1989) emphasized how this functional division of labor allowed people to concentrate on their specific tasks in the process and disregard its final results (pp. 98–102). Antisemitic ideology therefore played a crucial role when the persecution was started and radicalized, but many who did not have strong anti-Jewish feelings also participated in its organization. Social psychologists have argued that our sense of ourselves, our identity, status, morality, and self-image are in large part shaped and confirmed by how we are seen by others, including our colleagues and peers. This self-image can be reinforced by being good at our work; turning up on time; being diligent, hardworking, and reliable—much of which we are socialized for at school and through other factors. In the modern world, argues Baumann (1989), we may gain status more from our technical capacity and our ability to do a good job than from our moral responsibility. In this way, he argues, thousands could become complicit in the genocide while distancing themselves from the consequences of their actions, managing not to feel personally responsible and to preserve a positive moral view of themselves.

At the Limits of Historical Empathy: Nazi “Morality” While tens or hundreds of thousands could be complicit in the genocide and feel little direct personal responsibility, clearly this was not the case for leading decision makers, the Nazi elite, and those directly involved in face-to-face killing—and so we return to the decision makers and explore how they attempted to justify mass murder. In Höppner’s description of mass murder as “the most humane solution,” students might find an echo of Hitler’s contention in his testament that the Nazis’ killing of Jews employed “more humane means” than the bombing of Germans by the Allies during the war. Obviously, the perpetrators felt a need to justify their deeds, however absurd the justification was, and this theme of Nazi “morality” will now be taken up in consideration of other primary sources. When we use documents that express the perpetrators’ way of thinking and invite students to understand this worldview, we are asking them to work at the limits of historical empathy. The very notion of “empathizing” with the Nazis may appear abhorrent to some educators, but it is important to distinguish empathy in its everyday sense—the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes, to identify with or to share their thoughts or experiences of another—from the very different concept of historical empathy. As Ozro Luke Davis (2001) has observed: Too commonly, people misunderstand historical “empathy” as sympathy or a kind of appreciative sentiment. To develop empathy, according to this unfortunate notion, is to develop a positive attitude or feeling toward an individual, event, or situation. Such meanings wreak violence not only against empathy, but, also, against the entire sense of history. (p. 3)


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Clearly, we are not asking students to sympathize with the Nazis or to develop a positive attitude toward them, nor would we want them “to stand in the shoes” of a mass murderer. Rather, historical empathy, sometimes also referred to as “historical understanding” or “perspective taking,” is instead an attempt to understand how the beliefs, attitudes, and values of people in the past shaped their perspectives, which in turn influenced their decisions and actions (Barton, 1996, p. 4). This absolutely is not to have students “share” those ideas, to stand in another’s shoes, to identify with them, or to sympathize with them. We recognize that it can be incredibly demanding of students to ask them to attempt the cognitive, analytical examination of the Nazis’ worldview, to try to understand what drove and motivated them, while these very ideas and actions understandably shock the students’ own moral sensibilities, perhaps causing revulsion and incredulity. Heinrich Himmler’s Posen speech, quoted earlier, can be used to demonstrate the challenges and the learning opportunities of exploring the Nazis’ worldview. Not surprisingly, many students will be stunned when reading Himmler’s claim that the SS had the “moral right,” even the “duty” to kill the Jews, not to mention his assertion that the murderers remained “decent” fellows. Some teachers may consider the moral outrage that this provokes in students to be their major aim in Holocaust education, but we contend that this in itself is not enough—that students also need to deepen their historical understanding. Himmler’s Posen speech can be discussed in view of the question whether there existed such a thing as a specific “Nazi morality,” a system of values quite different from the students’ own, that guided the perpetrators and allowed them to perceive their deeds as justified. We may be inclined to immediately take the term Nazi morality as an oxymoron, as the way of thinking and behavior of Nazi perpetrators totally contradict basic beliefs that seem to be self-evident today. Therefore, we usually consider Nazi ideology and politics not simply as immoral but as profoundly amoral. There are good reasons for this assessment, such as the very real, and understandable, concern that to even consider whether the Nazi worldview had its own internal ethical basis may lead to the worst kinds of moral relativism. However, if we genuinely seek to understand how and why the Holocaust was possible, then we also need to face the uncomfortable truth that simply condemning or even demonizing those who held such views cannot contribute to an explanation of their murderous actions. If we take into account that the Nazis’ statements and actions resulted from a principal opposition to a universalistic morality (one that recognized the equal rights and worth of all human beings) and were based instead on an alternative moral concept (a particularistic morality that recognized only the worth of their own people), then this may help to explain why Nazi leaders declared mass murder to be a moral duty and, moreover, how they could find support for this notion. Of course, such an explanation does not make Nazi crimes acceptable. Teachers must make sure that students understand the difference between a historical explanation and a statement of approval or acceptance of any and all beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Indeed, herein lies another vitally important learning opportunity—it can be the case in our liberal society that the important value of respecting the different worldviews and belief systems of others, so often expressed as “everyone is entitled to their opinion,” inhibits moral judgment. It is our contention that young people should both come to a better understanding of how the Nazis saw their world and be able to unreservedly condemn such beliefs. Basic assumptions of this particularistic Nazi morality can be found in another passage from Himmler’s Posen speech that aimed at justifying the ruthless treatment of the Slavic civilian population under Nazi occupation. When analyzing this text we can also understand what Himmler meant when he spoke of “decency,” a term that is absolutely bewildering when applied to the perpetration of mass murder against the Jews. Himmler not only mentioned the alleged virtues of

Encountering the Holocaust


the SS, but also spoke very openly about the consequences of actions that followed the guidelines of Nazi morality. Himmler begins with a remark about the good nature and idealism of the Germans, a remark that locates these events in the broader time frame of European development, recalling the tremendous contributions to Western civilization by the German people. And yet, at the same time it seems grotesque considering it was made by the Reichsführer-SS in the year 1943. In Himmler’s eyes, it was basically wrong to infuse a national spirit into foreign peoples. He particularly criticizes Germans whom he believes have inspired a sense of national identity in others, such as Czechs and Slovenes. One such German Himmler criticized was Johann Gottfried Herder, who had promoted the appreciation of the cultural traditions of many European peoples by publishing a collection of folk songs that was later captioned “Voices of the Peoples in their Songs” (Herder, 1807). Himmler maintained that Herder did so “in a state of drunkenness” (quoted in US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, p. 559). With this vulgar remark, Himmler rejects in toto the humane tradition of the German Enlightenment, his nationalism based on a racism that did not accept the equality of all peoples but rather claimed certain rights as an absolute privilege of his own national group. Himmler argued that certain virtues should be directed only toward members of one’s own “blood,” propagating a radically particularistic morality: “One basic principle must be the absolute rule for the SS man: we must be honest, decent, loyal and comradely to members of our own blood and to nobody else” (US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, p. 559). Himmler then spelled out the practical consequences of this attitude. His audience was well aware that the examples he used were indeed characteristic of the policies of the German occupiers toward the civilian population in Eastern Europe: What happens to a Russian, to a Czech does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary, by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur; otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished. (US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, p. 559) Himmler noted that even among German officers there were reservations about such a murderous practice. In his view, such reservations were a crime, while killing civilians through forced labor in favor of the German war effort was meritorious: When somebody comes to me and says, “I cannot dig the anti-tank ditch with women and children, it is inhuman, for it would kill them,” then I have to say, “You are a murderer of your own blood because if the anti-tank ditch is not dug, German soldiers will die, and they are sons of German mothers. They are our own blood.” (quoted in US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, p. 559) Himmler asserted that this attitude, which he “instilled into the SS,” was “one of the most sacred laws of the future.” Emphasizing this stance, he said: “I wish the SS to adopt this attitude to the problem of all foreign, non-Germanic peoples, especially Russians” (quoted in US Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946a, p. 559). Himmler’s particularistic moral concept was intended to reassure the murderers about what they had done, and to help silence the consciences of those who had doubts. That same “morality,”


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however, was not only instrumental in justifying to themselves their deeds after the fact, it was also intended to strengthen their resolve and to motivate them to commit further unspeakable acts that were completely unacceptable from the position of a universalistic morality, which went against everything the Germans knew from centuries of Judeo-Christian values and ethics. Himmler’s views seemed to legitimize the practices of the SS. We therefore can assume that the SS officers agreed with him. This is even more likely since a particularistic morality characterized the Nazis from the very beginning. Himmler’s remarks—in spite of their outrageous brutality— were fully compatible with positions that had already been declared in the Nazi Party Program. We therefore suggest that teachers have their students return to the Nazi Party Program. The Program mentions “the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race” (paragraph 24) in opposition to “the Jewish materialist spirit within and without us,” an alleged threat not only from outside, but—supposedly because of the long history of Jewish influence and “corruption” in Germany—also from inside German society. This phraseology—applied in a paragraph that concerns the freedom of religion and its limits—might be of minor programmatic relevance, but it hints to a particularistic approach that also inspired concrete and fateful positions and postulates elsewhere in the Program. According to Point 4 of the Program, “German blood” should be the precondition for enjoying the rights of a citizen. Persons who are not of “German blood” should be “under the authority of legislation for foreigners” (Point 5). These persons could even be expelled under certain conditions (Point 7). And according to Point 8, “all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, [should] be forced immediately to leave the Reich.” This agenda was aimed against Jews. Though lethal consequences were not yet apparent, the Party Program already in 1920 highlighted the principle that rights should only be granted to those who were deemed to belong to the nation according to racist criteria. It showed a way of thinking that excluded other human beings from the sphere of moral obligations. Analyzing yet another document written by Himmler, students can discern stages in the process of radicalization. Over time, they will discover, perpetrators increasingly rid themselves of moral and ethical scruples and became more aware of what they were capable of doing, actions that otherwise would have been bound and prohibited by traditional moral norms. At the end of May 1940, Himmler wrote a memorandum for Hitler that he called Reflections on the Treatment of Peoples of Alien Races in the East (US Government, 1952, pp. 147–150). On the one hand, it suggests brutally applying, without compassion, racist ideology in the conquered and partially annexed territories; on the other hand, it displays a certain hesitancy to proceed to systematic mass murder. Himmler aimed not only at controlling and oppressing the population in territories occupied by the Germans, but at creating fundamental demographic changes in the resident population. Likewise, he strove to create a “racial sifting” that would allow the selection of the “racially valuable” for Germany. By splitting the peoples in these territories “into as many parts and fragments as possible,” he aimed to prevent the development of a national identity by the socalled alien races in the East. In some cases, even the concept of an ethnic group was to no longer exist. Himmler outlined different procedures for Jews and different procedures for Slavs. While he intended to reach his goals concerning Slavic peoples by splitting them up, he expressed the hope that Jews would disappear through “emigration.” At this stage, “emigration” meant violent resettlement actions as foreseen in the Madagascar plan: “I hope that the concept of Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of a large emigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony.” Himmler intended to turn the population of the conquered territories into “a people of laborers without leaders” through cultural deprivation and by forcibly transferring “racially valuable” children to the Germans. In this context he stated: “Cruel and tragic as every individual case may

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be, this method is still the mildest and best one if, out of inner conviction, one rejects as un-German and impossible the Bolshevist method of physical extermination of a people” (quoted in Browning, 1995, p. 17). Hitler concurred with Himmler, stating—according to Himmler’s diary—that the proposals were “very good and correct,” and then authorized their distribution to Nazi governors in the East, noting that they constituted the authoritative guidelines of occupation policy. Less than 18 months later, Himmler had entirely overcome his earlier hesitation to physically exterminate the Jews. After a meeting with Hitler on 18 December 1941, he wrote in a brief note: “Jewish question, to be eradicated as partisans” (quoted in House of the Wannsee Conference, Memorial and Educational Site, Kampe, 2009, p. 151). And by October 1943, extermination had become, in his eyes, a moral duty—and genocide a glorious page in the history of the SS. Examining the development of Hitler’s and Himmler’s thinking and policies—and, as we have seen, the willingness of lower-level functionaries to carry out these policies—to ever more extreme positions and “solutions,” one’s students will come to learn that there is no harmless form of racism. Rooted in a radically particularistic morality, racist thinking that in the beginning expressed itself in the Party Program “only” as calling for discrimination was ultimately used in wartime to advocate violent forced movement of peoples, and, ultimately, later to incite and approve systematic mass murder.

An Alternative Moral Universe One encounters a completely different perception of the events of the Holocaust when reading letters or diaries of Jews who were victimized. We suggest using an excerpt from the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak in order to offer the students an extremely powerful insight into the situation of Jews in the ghettos and their responses. This will provide students with an opportunity to contrast the moral world of the perpetrator with that of the victim. Dawid, born in Lodz on 25 July 1924, began to write his diary on 28 June 1939, and made his last entry on 15 April 1943. Five of his notebooks survived. Together, with his mother and father, Sura and Majlech, and his younger sister, Nadzia, Dawid was forced to move into the Lodz ghetto. None of them survived. His father died in the ghetto on 6 March 1943, and Dawid on 18 August of the same year. His sister was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered there. The diary entry that we suggest using presents Dawid’s response to the arrest of his mother on 5 September 1942. During the first days of that month, sick and elderly people as well as children up to 10 years of age were deported to Chelmno and murdered. Among these 15,685 persons (Klein, 2009, p. 475) was Dawid’s mother, Sura. Saturday, September 5. Łódź. My most sacred, beloved, worn-out, blessed, cherished Mother has fallen victim to the bloodthirsty German Nazi beast!!! And totally innocently, solely because of the evil hearts of two Czech Jews, the doctors who came to examine us. From early morning on the City was anxious: the news spread like a thunderbolt that at night they had taken the children and elderly to the empty hospitals from which they will be deported (3,000 persons a day!) beginning on Monday. I, too, felt somewhat uneasy from early in the morning, chased by foreboding and unable to stay home because of heat and humidity. After two, after we had thrown together a dinner soup, cars and wagons pulled in with the medical examiners, policemen, firemen, and nurses, who started the roundup. The house across from us (8 Spacerowa Street) was sealed off, and after an hour and a half three children were brought out of it. The screams, struggling, cries


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of the mothers and of everyone on the street were indescribable. Parents of the children who were taken away actually went insane. While all that was going on, two doctors, two nurses, several firemen, and policemen entered our building completely unexpectedly. They had lists with the names of the tenants in every apartment. A frantic, unexpected examination began. The doctors (old, mean, and sour deportees from Prague), despite policemen’s and nurses’ objections, started an extremely thorough examination of every tenant, and fished out a great many of the “sick and unable to work,” and the ones whom they described as “fragliche Reserve” [German: “questionable reserve”]. My unfortunate dearest mother was among the latter, but it’s little consolation for me, since all have been taken to the hospital at 34 Łagiewnicka. What hurts most is the fact that they didn’t search at all for those tenants who weren’t in their homes, and that although there were over a dozen children in our apartment building, they didn’t take even one of them. Our Cousin hid with the children behind the bed, her family scattered, and everyone came out safe and sound. Meanwhile, my beloved mother has fallen a victim! Our neighbor, old Miller, a seventy-year-old man, uncle of the ghetto’s chief doctor, has been left untouched, and my healthy (though emaciated) mother has been taken in his place! . . . The shabby old doctor who examined her searched and searched and was very surprised that he couldn’t find any disease in her. Nevertheless, he kept shaking his head, saying to his comrade in Czech: “Very weak, very weak.” And despite the opposition and intervention from the police and nurses present at the examination, he added these two unfortunate words to our family’s record. These doctors apparently didn’t realize at all what they were doing because they also took our neighbor’s son, Dawid Hammer, a young lad of twenty-four, who never had had anything to do with any sickness or doctor in his entire life. Later on, however, through the connections of his cousin, a commissioner, he was examined for a second time and was released in the evening. And what difference does it make to me that as a result of the above case those two doctors have been dismissed by the president and haven’t been allowed to continue examining other people? What difference does it make to me that the entire hospital, its entire personnel, are indignant!? My mother has been caught, and I doubt very much that anything will save her. After the doctors announced the verdict, and when Mom, unfortunate Mom! was running like mad around the house, begging the doctors to spare her life, Father was eating soup that had been left on the stove by the relatives hiding in our apartment, and he was taking sugar out of their bag! True, he was kind of confused, questioned the policemen and doctors, but he didn’t run out anywhere in the city; he didn’t go to any friends’ connections to ask for protection. In a word, he was glad to be rid of a wife with whom life had been becoming harder and harder, thus pushing Mom into her grave. I swear on this human life that’s holy to me that if I only knew that my mother wouldn’t have to die, that she’d survive the war despite the deportation, I could accept what has happened. Dear Mother, my tiny, emaciated mother who has gone through so many misfortunes in her life, whose entire life was one of sacrifice for others, relatives and strangers, who might not have been taken away because of her exhaustion had it not been for Father and Nadzia robbing her of food here in the ghetto. My poor mother, who always accepted everything so willingly and who invariably continued to believe in God, showed them, in spite of extreme nervousness, complete presence of mind. With a fatalism and with heartbreaking, maddening logic, she spoke to us about her fate. She kind of admitted that I was right when I told her that she had given her life by lending and giving away provisions, but she admitted it with such a bitter smile that I could see she didn’t regret her conduct at all, and, although she loved her life so greatly, for her there are values even more important than life, like God, family, etc. She kissed each one of us good-

Encountering the Holocaust


bye, took a bag with her bread and a few potatoes that I forced on her, and left quickly to her horrible fate. I couldn’t muster the willpower to look through the window after her or to cry. I walked around, talked, and finally sat as though I had turned to stone. Every other moment, nervous spasms took hold of my heart, hands, mouth, and throat, so that I thought my heart was breaking. It didn’t break, though, and it let me eat, think, speak, and go to sleep. (quoted in Adelson, 1996, pp. 218–220) Dawid carefully observed and documented events in the ghetto that befell many of its inhabitants. He had no illusions about the fate of those who were deported. He vividly described the despair of the parents who tried to save their children by any means. But when he was confronted with the threatening loss of his beloved mother, his reaction was completely focused on his personal tragedy. His diary entry from 5 September provides insight into the moral conflicts, disorientation and dilemmas of Jews in the ghetto. Here, then, is an opportunity for a further development of historical empathy, a concept that we raised earlier in relation to Nazi morality. To repeat, inviting students to develop empathy with Dawid does not imply that we seek to “walk in his shoes,” to identify with him, or to personally share his point of view or approve all of his statements. Instead, we need to ask our students to do their best to attempt to understand Dawid’s perspective from the context of the time and place in which he wrote, not to impose their own values or make use of the benefit of hindsight but rather to try to gain insights into the world as he experienced it. Students should be able to understand Dawid’s response to the loss of the person whom he loves most, but there remain good reasons to read his diary entry critically. Although Dawid is aware who was responsible for the crimes—“the bloodthirsty German Nazi beast”—he directs his anger against the Jewish doctors who took part in the selections process. They are the persons with whom he is directly confronted, whereas the Germans are out of sight for him, an incarnation of evil that he describes with a metaphor. He criticizes the doctors because they did not apply the criteria for selection adequately, rather than questioning these criteria as fundamentally inhumane. He cannot feel satisfaction or consolation that his cousin and her child managed to escape from the deportation by hiding, but almost seems to blame them for being responsible for his mother’s fate because they temporarily saved themselves. None of this is to judge his feelings, of course, nor is it to share Dawid’s own judgment of, for example, the Jewish doctors; rather it is to try to better understand the desperate situation of those incarcerated in the ghetto, the ways in which people tried to respond as the genocide unfolded, and the inner turmoil that this caused. The extreme deprivation in the ghetto also endangered and destroyed family bonds. Dawid accuses his father and his sister of having stolen his mother’s food, thus causing her weakness that led to the assessment that she is too weak for work—a death warrant for Jews under Nazi rule. On the other hand, Dawid admires his mother exactly because of her self-sacrificing attitude and behavior. We can assume that this is the reason why he calls her “most sacred” and “blessed.” In his description she is like a saint and martyr who unswervingly cherishes the highest values, even accepting the loss of her own life without blaming those closest to her for her desperate situation. In contrast, Dawid criticizes himself for continuing to live like before. Teachers could facilitate a deeper understanding of the diary entry by asking their students to consider how Dawid’s cousin, his father, his mother, and the Czech doctors may have perceived, interpreted, and evaluated the occurrences in the Lodz ghetto on 5 September 1942. By contrasting these different perspectives with Dawid’s judgment of them, students could explore the possible reasons for the differences and deepen their appreciation that a range of responses was not only possible but to be expected from different people, depending on their own character, knowledge, circumstances, constraints, and possible scope of action.


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Some teachers may hesitate before introducing such a raw, complex, and deeply troubling document to their students. Certainly, where the victims’ voices are being introduced to the school classroom there is a strong tendency today to focus on stories of heroic struggle, such as that of Mordecai Anielewicz and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, or of spiritual resistance where people continued to help and support each other. Clearly there is a place for such narratives, which can effectively challenge a stereotype of Jews going passively to their deaths. And yet, it is also possible that we present such stories because they provide a comforting, cathartic, and hopeful message of courage and the resilience of the human spirit. Again, there is much to be said for such an approach, particularly given the duty of care that educators feel for their students; however, we also believe that a picture that only—or even mainly—presents such heroic and uplifting images is a serious distortion of the reality of what an untold number faced. The study of genocide should be disturbing and unsettling; it should not be comforting or redemptive. And we have a responsibility to the people in the past—a kind of “piety,” as Paddy Walsh (1992, p. 36), a scholar of education in the United Kingdom, has termed it, not to misuse or misrepresent them. In the case of the Holocaust that can mean a responsibility to reveal the despair and the shame, the humiliation and the suffering of the victims as so many experienced it—and to resist the impulse to repair the past, lest we beautify something that was irredeemably ugly and horrible. If we are concerned that our young people may judge the victims too harshly, then we have all the more reason to provide opportunities and ample time for our students to explore such documents as these. It just might help them to develop compassion for those in such desperate circumstances. For what learning is taking place if such perspectives/experiences are not examined? Indeed, what type of education is taking place if we do not present young people with opportunities to grow and to develop for fear of their possible negative reactions? If one’s students realize the contradictions in Dawid Sierakowiak’s diary and relate them to the ghetto situation, withholding easy moral judgment of people undergoing such extreme suffering, well beyond (thankfully) the limits of their own experience but rather locating the dilemmas and the choices of these people in the context of their own time, then they have developed a far deeper historical understanding than the kind of “empathy” found by simply expressing sympathy for a young boy who suffered so terribly, or by playing the rather futile and potentially insulting game of trying to imagine what they would do if they were in the victims’ shoes.

Conclusion: The Value of Documents in Imagining the Past It is sometimes said that history is too important to be left to the historians alone. We would certainly agree that historians do not have exclusive ownership of the past, that other disciplinary perspectives and approaches can enrich young people’s understanding of the Holocaust and their attempts to make meaning of it. However, we also wonder if sometimes those who make that claim may have a rather diminished view of what “history” is, as we also hear, not infrequently, “Yes, it is important to know the history, but the Holocaust is so much more than facts and dates”; as if “history’” can indeed be reduced to a set body of knowledge—a chronicle of dates and events—and that “to do” history is little more than to memorize and recite them. History is sometimes depicted as a dispassionate, dry, analytical subject—a lot of “stuff ” about the past that is there to be learned for its own sake. We hope that in this exploration of a small number of primary documents we have shown why and how a disciplinary historical study can be far more than that. “Disciplinary history” (as opposed to more traditional approaches that tend to present a single, uncontested narrative of the past, often used to inculcate certain morals, identities,

Encountering the Holocaust


or beliefs) is concerned instead with how we think historically—how we can know the past, how we know what we know (i.e., epistemology), and on what our truth claims rest. This approach is based on the point that “the past” and “history” are not synonymous—there is no fixed body of knowledge, no single “historical reality” that can simply be handed down from generation to generation. Rather, historical accounts are constructed: many and multiple, sometimes conflicting, accounts of the past are possible, and these depend upon and can say much about the interests and perspectives of the person who produced that account, as well as the period of the past that it purports to represent. Disciplinary history, then, is concerned with where we get our ideas about the past from—with sources—and how this leads to different interpretations of the past; it is interested in how we use sources as evidence to answer our questions; and how the questions that we ask and the interpretations that we draw are conditioned by our own perspectives in the present. In that regard, disciplinary history may help to develop in young people a critical way of thinking, and the capacity to weigh the relative merits of different interpretations against the historical evidence. Essentially, it introduces them to the framework of rules and approaches that make “history” as an academic discipline possible (such as being honest and open about our sources, not willfully leaving out sources that do not fit our thesis, being prepared to refine or change our ideas in the face of new evidence, etc.). We have suggested ways to use primary documents in this chapter as evidence about the past in order to help students contextualize and interrogate sources. This will allow them to understand events, decisions, and actions in more complex and nuanced ways and, crucially, to construct their own meaning. Rather than selecting sources that will illustrate our own (i.e., teachers’) fixed and stable narrative of the past, one loaded with the predetermined “lessons” or “morals” that we want students to imbibe, students should be encouraged to use a broader “disciplinary” approach when studying primary documents. It is also, we suggest, an approach that belies the charge that the study of the Holocaust as history rather than as a “moral fable” neglects the human story or will fail to engage students. Instead, it is our contention that the human experience emerges from and is more tangible within the primary documents than it is within the many empathetic approaches that we see in classrooms, or those based solely on the imagination of the students, often unconnected to historical understanding. For who could remain “dispassionate” when presented with a document as heartbreaking as that of the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak? Indeed, what historian does not feel deep emotion, inspiration, awe, horror, and moral outrage as they explore the story of the past, wherein we discover such a wide range of human experience? The emotional depth and complexity that Dawid Sierakowiak reveals in his diary raises important issues about what we mean by the “literary” and the “historical” imaginations, the relationship between them, and the relative merits of each. It is not uncommon to ask young people to draw upon their literary imagination to reach back into the past, to imagine that they were there. This may involve, for example, an anachronistic (but engaging) exercise of writing a newspaper account of the Battle of Hastings, creating a tea-stained “medieval manuscript” describing life in a monastery, or writing a letter home from the trenches of World War I. These activities are valued by many teachers, partly because they can successfully engage students, partly because it is thought that young people will better retain an impression of the past when their literary imagination has been fired, that it will help the past to come alive, will render it more vivid, and bring students closer to what life—and death—might have been like “back then.” There is much to commend such an approach, and as long as the aim is reflection rather than identification, then creative writing can be used as one tool alongside an analytic approach to help young people explore meaning in the past. However, there may also be a risk if such an approach replaces rather than is based upon genuine historical enquiry and understanding. In that case,


Wolf Kaiser and Paul Salmons

development of the historical imagination may be neglected. The reconstruction of the past through the study of primary documents and other evidence also requires an effort of the imagination in order to piece together different fragments, to make inferences and deductions, to read between the lines of a text; it is just that this type of imagination is bound by the evidence and what it can reasonably say. It is this distinction between the literary and the historical imaginations that may lead to a hierarchical view—the freedom of the literary imagination may appear to be richer and more powerful, unfettered as it is from the discipline of the historical method. We like to think of the human imagination as boundless, and its exercise as being more active, more experiential, more “real.” That said, it is our contention that in some ways the historical imagination may be the more powerful of the two, and that the careful selection of primary documents allows access to a past that is richer than any conjured up purely by the imagination. We believe that the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak is one such document. However creative we consider our students to be, it is unlikely that they would independently evoke the layers of conflicting and contradictory emotions that are to be found in the pages of this young boy’s diary, because our imaginations are always to some extent bound by our own experience. By turning to the remnants of the past—the primary documents written by people in extremis—we have the opportunity to go beyond the confines of our own imagination, and to encounter that world far more directly, more authentically. And more than this, if our aim is to respond to the demand of those murdered people such as Zalman Gradowski to try “to comprehend that reality,” then we have no choice but to explore select primary documents. If we want to know and to understand, then what else is there? As Raul Hilberg explained when asked the value of a document (quoted in Lanzmann, 1985, pp. 141–142): When I hold a document in my hand, particularly if it is an original document, then I hold something that is actually something that the original bureaucrat held in his hand. It’s an artifact, it’s a leftover. It is the only leftover there is. The dead are not around. —Raul Hilberg interviewed in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah

Notes 1. In the audio recording of Himmler’s speech he appears to hesitate over the use of a particular term—in the middle of the word Ausschaltung (“elimination”) of the Jews. Perhaps this is a mental check because Himmler is both citing the Party program of 1919 and, while doing so, feeling the need to explain what that term has come to mean to him (and what it had come to mean in practical policy terms) by 1943. And so, after his momentary hesitation, Himmler adds the far more explicitly murderous term, Ausrottung (“extermination”). The radicalization of Nazi thinking, policy, and practice over time to which this refers is returned to later in this chapter. 2. Peter Lee argues that “The ability to recall accounts without any understanding of the problems involved in constructing them or the criteria involved in evaluating them has nothing historical about it” (1994, p. 45). 3. The translation for the International Military Tribunal is misleading at this point. It reads “true community of nations”; Hitler wrote: “Verwirklichung einer wahren Volksgemeinschaft.” Hitler did not hope for peaceful relations between different nations in the future, but for a racially based unity of the German people under the banner of National Socialism. 4. Though Hitler was determined to begin the war as soon as possible in January 1939, his infamous “prophecy” does not document his decision that the Jews should be exterminated. As an analysis of the speech shows, it was the Nazis’ intention at that point of time to expel the Jews from the German-dominated sphere. Hitler wanted to blackmail foreign governments so that they would accept more Jewish refugees.

Encountering the Holocaust


5. The translation of this paragraph (pp. 87–88) in Raul Hilberg’s Documents of Destruction. Germany and Jewry 1933–1945 (New York, NY: Quadrangle Books, 1971) is incorrect. It reads: “as close as possible to the coal precincts.” The Reich Governor and his men did not plan not to employ Jews as mineworkers, but to use them for building a railway track, connecting the railroad from the coal district in Silesia to the Baltic Sea with the railroad Warsaw-Berlin. These railroad lines crossed each other, but were not connected, near to Chelmno. The sentence, “In my view, a camp of this type may be guarded by SS-Brig. Gen. Albert with substantially fewer police forces” is not a precise translation. Höppner referred to the opinion of SS Brigadier General Albert concerning the number of police forces needed, not to his own view. In the last paragraph, the translation adds in brackets: “[and his office]”. There is no equivalent to this addition in the German original. The sixth paragraph intends to denounce Übelhör personally, as an official who gives priority to his own profit rather than promoting the regime’s policy. The authors of this chapter have made corrections/changes to the original translation accordingly. 6. In regard to this issue, see the excellent analysis in Catherine Epstein’s “Model Nazi.” In Epstein’s Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 183–185. 7. A facsimile of the Wannsee Protocol can be found at pdf-wannsee/protokoll-januar1942.pdf; for an English version see upload/pdf-wannsee/engl/protokol.pdf. 8. The translation of the document published by Arad reads: “the train left Skopje”; the word “for” was omitted. The German policemen under the command of Police Sergeant Buchner came from Niška Banja, near Niš in Serbia (Matkovski, 1959, p. 250). 9. The pages of testimony database can be found on Yad Vashem’s website at advancedSearch.html?language=en accessed 7 August 2015.

References Adelson, Alan (Ed.). (1996). The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto (K. Turowski, Trans.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Arad, Yitzhak (1999). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Barton, Keith (1996). “Did the Evil Just Run Out of Justice? Historical Perspective Taking Among Elementary Students.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York. Bauman, Zygmunt (1989). Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge: Polity Press. Browning, Christopher (1995). The Path to Genocide. Essays on Launching the Final Solution. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Counsell, Christine (2000). “‘Didn’t We Do That In Year 7?’ Planning For Progress In Evidential Understanding.” Teaching History, May 99, 36–41. Davis, Ozro Luke (2001). “‘In Pursuit of Historical Empathy.” In O. L. Davis, E. A. Yeager and S. J. Foster (Eds.), Historical Empathy and Perspective Taking in the Social Studies (pp. 1–12). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Epstein, Catherine (2010). Model Nazi. Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gilbert, Martin (1987). The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy. London: Fontana Press. Herder, Johann Gottfried (Ed.). (1807). Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (2nd ed.). Tübingen: J.G. Cotta (title of the 1st ed.: Volkslieder). Hilberg, Raul (1971). Documents of Destruction. Germany and Jewry 1933–1945. Chicago, IL: Quadrangle. Kampe, Norbert (Ed.). (1992). Jewish Emigration from Germany 1933–1942. A Documentary History (Volume 4/1: Programs and Policies Until 1937). London: K.G. Saur. Kampe, Norbert (Ed.). (2009). The Wannsee Conference and the Genocide of the European Jews. Catalogue of the Permanent Exhibition. Berlin: House of the Wannsee Conference. Klein, Peter (2009). Die ‘Gettoverwaltung Litzmannstadt’ 1940–1944. Eine Dienststelle im Spannungsfeld von Kommunalbürokratie und staatlicher Verfolgungspolitik. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition. Lanzmann, Claude (1985). Shoah. An Oral History of the Holocaust. The Complete Text of the Film. New York, NY: Pantheon.


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Matkovski, Aleksandr. (1959). The Destruction of Macedonian Jewry. Yad Vashem Studies 3, Jerusalem, Israel. Roskies, David G. (Ed.). (1988). The Literature of Destruction. Jewish Responses to Catastrophe. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society. United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality (Ed.). (1946a). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Volume IV). Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality (Ed.). (1946b). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (Volume VI). Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. United States Government. (1952). Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10 (Volume 13: United States of America v. Ernst von Weizsaecker et al. (Case 11: ‘Ministries Case’). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://forum.axishistory. com/viewtopic.php?t=63400 Walsh, Paddy (1992). “History and Love of the Past.” In Peter Lee, John Slater, Paddy Walsh and John White (Eds.), The Aims of School History: The National Curriculum and Beyond (pp. 35–44). London: Tufnell Press. Witte, Peter, and Tyas, Stephen (2001). “A New Document on the Deportation and Murder of Jews during ‘Einsatz Reinhardt’ 1942.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Winter, 15(3), 468–486.


Over the past 30 years or so, the field of Holocaust education has undergone an astonishing metamorphosis, from brief mention in textbooks to weeklong units of study; websites that detail every possible fact or photo; an overwhelming number pedagogical materials advising how to teach the subject; movies with varying perspectives of real and fictional events; and a barrage of memoirs detailing lives filled with despair and triumph. With such a vast array of possible sources available today, certain books and movies, certain images and phrases, and certain methods and techniques have become iconic and almost sacrosanct. As a result, educators around the world share lesson plans and project ideas for making the most of reading or viewing by the class. Diagrams of the death camps and the Franks’ attic in Amsterdam are readily available, and photos that depict the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis are displayed in classrooms all over America during April, the traditional Holocaust remembrance month. The public seems to have come to believe these icons are at once universal in their meaning and power while also being particular in their essence. Teachers believe that student exposure to them will bring about “knowledge” of that time period because they are so powerful. But are they? Well-meaning teachers believe that a study of the abominable events of the Holocaust will bring about a change in their students, making them more empathetic human beings, more vigilant citizens, more responsible for one another and all humankind. Educators imbue the materials with deep meaning. Many perceive the photos as so shocking and emotionally powerful that they are bound to keep children from committing violence against each other; that the memoirs are cautionary tales of how neighbors can turn against neighbors and how important the desire to survive against all odds can be; and that the movies depict the privation and cruelty that twisted ideologies can perpetrate. And thus there is the belief that anyone who is exposed to such resources cannot help but be transformed into the kind of person we all want our children to be: caring, life-revering, soulful, self-sacrificing, quick-witted, and resourceful. But what responsible educators must be aware of is that it takes more than just exposure to the horrors of the Holocaust for students to be “changed for good.” That is, unfortunately, not so easy to accomplish, but what is under our control as educators is the choice of the materials we use in our classrooms to establish a pedagogy of responsibility. In this chapter, I plan to explore some of the many icons of Holocaust education, those materials—be they books, films, photos, items, explanations, and so forth—that have a life of their own, existing sometimes without serious examination of their historical accuracy or applicability.


Elaine Culbertson

In doing so, I wish to consider such questions as: How did they come to be so widely accepted? Why do we rely—actually, rely too much—on certain books, films, or other materials? Because they were written by famous people, like acclaimed novelist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, or by Academy Award–winning director Steven Spielberg? Or, is it something more pragmatic; for example, because the books or CDs are readily available in our schools? Is it because the reading level matches the particular class to which we wish to assign it? Is there a kind of narrative simplicity in the story that allows students to follow the events chronologically, thereby making it easier to develop classroom activities that support the work? Is it because we have embarked on a theme for the year such as “citizenship” or “moral responsibility,” which is supported by certain Holocaust titles? Is it because a particular work (e.g., a novel or memoir) has been around long enough that it has withstood any parental objections to the topic and is now considered a classic? The parents and teachers of today’s students probably read The Diary of Anne Frank as children and believe that they know all about the Holocaust. They want their children to have the same experience—just a touch, not too much, and let’s not dwell too long on what happened to Anne after the family is routed from the attic. Given the questions I raised earlier as to their unquestioned status, let me begin to explore some of the “icons” that many hold so dear. Some deserve our veneration, others need a rethinking before we use them again, if at all. But why listen to what I have to say? Each of us comes to our classroom filled with well-intended goals for the year, shaped by our own life experiences and our values. What does my opinion mean to the reader of this piece? I am the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, who spent her childhood immersed in their stories of survival, surrounded in our survivor community by the stories of their closest friends. Unlike many of this second generation, I came from a family that did not hide what had happened, and there was no family meal or holiday that passed without a reference to the family that had been killed. My brother and I bore their names, and perhaps their likenesses in our physical being, but we did not know them as real people, only as shadows. I did not learn about the Holocaust in school; in fact, we barely reached World War I in my history classes. Perhaps it was the proximity of the event that kept my teachers from being able to talk about it, or perhaps it was a reluctance to address what was probably the greatest destruction of lives in the 20th century. Growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I should have been formally taught about the Holocaust, but it was not until I was mature enough to begin to read and search out information on my own that I learned events beyond what my extended family group had told me. My unique perspective is formed by an amalgam of historical fact and personal testimony. Each camp, each ghetto, each “action” is matched with a story told to me by one who was an eyewitness, or by someone who lost a dear one there. The places and events are not anonymous; they have faces and names. I cannot talk about the death camps or the labor camps with statistics only. I cannot talk about Auschwitz-Birkenau without telling of my mother’s experience there. She was separated from her mother and younger siblings at the selection, and “saved” for hard labor with her older sister. Of the 1,265 people on the transport that day in February 1943, only 399 were not gassed upon arrival. My mother was stripped, shaved, tattooed, and sent to a barracks where she “lived” for the next 2 years. She had turned 16 a month before. For me, the suffering is personal and long-lasting. My mother lived with the effects of that imprisonment; the tattoo was only the most superficial of her scars. How to convey that to students is my dilemma, but it should be part of what a conscientious teacher wants her students to learn. I cannot mention the Aktion Reinhard camps without envisioning my paternal grandmother Malkah, who was brought to Belzec in 1942, days after having given birth to a daughter, and who was gassed upon her arrival there, probably with her two older daughters and her youngest son. I say probably because there are no records of what happened to document their deaths, as Belzec

The Use of Iconic Resources


was plowed under after it had served its purpose. I use the term grandmother for a woman who was only in her late thirties or early forties, and who did not live to see her grandchildren, born to her two sons who survived the war. Her death sits heavily with me; all of their deaths are a void that cannot be filled. My father once told me that I resembled my grandmother a bit; my mother told me I looked like her sister who died in Auschwitz. There are no photos, only stories of these lives cut short. The death tolls are not anonymous, impersonal figures to me. I am torn over how much to tell, of what horrors to convey. Long ago, I decided that I would stress the humanity of the victim rather than the deranged mind of the perpetrator. I want students to know that people like my mother were saved by others in the camps—in her case, an older woman unknown to her before they met in the barracks, who saw my mother’s desperation when her sister was killed and who decided to take my mother under her wing, encouraging her to stay clean, to stand up at the appel (roll call), to pinch some color into her cheeks in order to avoid being selected for the gas. I want to tell the story of my father, whose brother saved him by trading away a secreted diamond for his brother’s life. It is a story of brothers who were brought up to believe that family was the most important asset, and that protecting each other was their responsibility, even though the rest of the world seemed to have capsized morally. Each piece I write about in this essay echoes for me personally as well as pedagogically. I cannot separate these strands, nor do I want to, as my fervor for teaching this subject is driven by a need to connect with the lives of those shadows that have haunted my life.

The Diary of Anne Frank I have written previously about The Diary of Anne Frank (see Culbertson in Samuel Totten (Ed.), Teaching Holocaust Literature. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2001). It is emblematic of every positive point that leads teachers to use it in their classrooms. That is, the writer is an adolescent, on the verge of womanhood, fighting with her mother, falling in love, and feeling the physical and emotional changes that adolescence is fraught with. Our young female readers especially find her observations resonate with their own struggles to mature. Anne is a good writer, able to express a wide range of emotions, and serves as an example of the power of good writing, especially for one so young. Literature teachers trying to encourage students to write about what they know have a powerful example here. There is romance, family drama, sibling rivalry, deprivation, and an examination of the power of the human spirit to rise above a perilous time into a higher spiritual realm of hope and forgiveness. Without recounting the plot, which is familiar to all of us, Anne’s existence in the attic was not fully explained in the dramatic version of her story that is anthologized in many eighth-grade texts. I remember that my students could not understand why she was there, but they didn’t really want to delve into the politics of mid-century Europe unless I forced them to do so. As for antisemitism, that was a topic that could be ignored if we just thought of Anne as someone who was suddenly poor enough to need to change her lifestyle. Her arrest was a bit confusing, not to mention that she disappears almost into thin air. Interestingly enough, there is no retribution mentioned for the actions of her rescuers, Miep and the others, who avoid any sort of punishment for their defiance of the Nazis. My students were shocked when I told them that Anne and Margot had perished in Bergen-Belsen, a point that was missing from my students’ version of the play/diary. Anne’s hopeful writing, her insistence on believing that there is good in everyone, seems hollow when students learn the full truth. I remember seeing the movie version of The Diary of Anne Frank as a preteen. I came home full of excitement to tell my parents about the attic and the sweet love story that I had viewed. My father’s face grew dark as he told me that there was nothing in that story that could convey what


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most Jews had gone through during the Holocaust. He scoffed at the situation. “They could save a cat, we couldn’t even save a baby.” I was horrified and angry. I rushed to read the diary, waiting to know what had happened to Anne, but there was no resolution, especially not in the earliest versions. Teaching that story was always a problem for me; I had to let my students know that the story of Anne was not untrue, just hacked off at a very critical point. I felt compelled to stress that hiding was not the usual course of action, nor were there many hiding places or people willing to help. It was not until many years later, when I had reached adulthood and was already a mother, that my father revealed another story to me that explained his anger more clearly. My father, my uncle, and several friends had built a bunker in the woods outside their hometown of Drohobycz, Poland (now in Ukraine), as a hideout from the “action” they knew was coming, one that would round up whatever remaining Jews were left in their town. They were clever young men; they lined their underground hideaway with wood panels and even ran a water line so that they could hide for extended periods of time. At night they would forage for food under cover of darkness, perhaps killing a forest animal or stealing vegetables from a nearby field. One night in the dark my father stepped on something that did not feel like a branch or a rock. He lit a match to see what it was. To his horror, he had stepped on the body of a dead woman whose infant child was still alive, attempting in vain to nurse from her dead mother’s breast. My father wanted very much to bring that child back to the bunker, but he knew that would mean certain discovery and death for everyone hiding there. He could not take the risk that the baby would cry; he knew they could not provide food for the baby. At that moment, at the age of 19, my father made a decision that haunted him for the rest of his life. He left the child and returned to the bunker. He never forgave himself, and he cried when he told me that story. It was only then that I understood why he had been so vehement about the Franks’ cat. Many continue to teach this book/play without a full consideration of the historical supports that must be put in place to even begin to understand its real significance. Should students really leave the story without knowing the real ending? If you, as a teacher, are going to use the diary or the play, you must tell the full story and you must balance it with the fate of most other Jews. In the past few years, materials appropriate for students that provide context for Anne’s stay in the attic have become available. If a teacher is charged with teaching Anne’s diary or the play, these books will provide information to aid understanding and to promote critical thinking about the events. Some of the best include Melissa Muller’s Anne Frank: The Biography, Understanding Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl by Hedda Rosner Kopf, and The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. Through these and other historically accurate works is it not now wise, indeed, critical to emphasize that the Frank family’s considerable financial means and powerful contacts allowed them to sustain themselves in a hiding place that would not have been available to most Dutch Jews, not to mention most Jews anywhere in Europe? Just as significant, how can students truly understand the dire circumstances that await the Frank family if they are discovered without learning about the concentration camps and death camps? These are questions/issues that all truly conscientious teachers must ask themselves if they choose to use Anne Frank’s story with their students. As an example of altruism, Miep Gies and the other helpers are extraordinary. They embody all of the good traits we want our students to exhibit. Students should be exposed to Miep’s memoir, Anne Frank Remembered (Simon and Schuster) for an in-depth look, from the rescuer’s point of view, at what it was like to provide aid in a time of war. However inspiring this story may be, it is not representative of how most people reacted during the Holocaust. One must counterbalance the relatively small number of those who actually risked offering help with the much larger number who were silent or perhaps even complicit in the crimes of the Nazis. I do not mean to diminish the possible punishments that awaited those who were found to be helping Jews, but I do want

The Use of Iconic Resources


to dismantle the notion that there was a vast army of helpers/rescuers. If there had been as much rescue as is often taught, there would not have been nearly so many victims. This is an example of when one part, the rescue of one family, becomes mistaken for the whole experience of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. This happens a great deal in Holocaust studies, as one story becomes emblematic of all stories, or when people think they “understand” what happened in the Holocaust because they have read Anne Frank’s diary or been to Dachau. I am not sure one can ever understand, but an exposure to more than one person’s experience is essential.

Night Reading Elie Wiesel’s Night seems to have become a rite of passage for adolescents today, but I have spoken with teachers who are primarily using it in seventh and eighth grade because their students have read The Diary of Anne Frank or Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars in fourth grade. While it is certainly true that our youth are getting more sophisticated and inured to violence through their exposure to graphic scenes on television, particularly on cable stations, we must take into account that there is a level of maturity and a state of cognitive development that is required for certain kinds of texts that is not present in most 13-year-olds. Though it looks deceptively simple, Night is an exceedingly complex book. Just because students can get through it in a few hours does not necessarily mean they truly understand it. Wiesel’s artistry has repeatedly been mistaken for fiction, and the book was published and sold as a novel for many years. Given the brutality and the scenes of death and despair, most students assume it is a piece of fiction. The passages are vivid with description and full of the pain that the young narrator watches others suffer and endures himself. There is little doubt that tweens and early teens have the ability to read the words, but do they have the maturity to value the quality of the writing and to understand what they are reading? Watching violent films that are absolute fiction and fantasy does not prepare them for the brutality of historical fact. When a survivor such as Wiesel recounts his own experiences, even the most hardened of us must be taken aback by what he has witnessed and what we are witnessing as we read. This is not a call urging teachers to forgo Night. It is a classic and will remain one for many reasons, not the least of which is its ability to turn us into witnesses of a place and events none of us should ever experience. That said, what I am suggesting very strongly is that teachers need wait to use this book until students have attained a level of maturity that the content demands. And then, it is incumbent upon teachers to spend the time necessary to extract from this slender volume all of its intense meaning. Perhaps one unexplored aspect of this book is the fact that by the time Elie and his family are being subjected to the abject brutality of the Nazis in 1944, almost 80% of the Jews of Europe had already been murdered. This does not lessen the suffering depicted here, but it does provide a perspective for the relatively short span of one man’s suffering as compared to the enormity of the Holocaust. By the time Elie arrived in Birkenau, my mother had already been there for more than 18 months. She had lost her sister at the hands of a guard and had suffered through a case of malaria. She had lost about 60% of her body weight. She had witnessed the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands. What Elie describes is indeed horrific, but his time in Birkenau was not long, nor was his entire stay in the camps. I am not attempting to match horror for horror, but only trying to provide perspective. If you use Night, also use other witness accounts to frame the experience. Some that I would suggest are: I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson, Alicia by Alicia Appleman-Jurman, The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman, A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal, All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein, Helga’s Diary by Helga Weiss, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, and Hope Is the Last to Die by Halina Birnbaum. A conscientious teacher will balance one survivor’s story with several more to provide a broader perspective.


Elaine Culbertson

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas A recent phenomenon is the publication of a book and the release of a film based on that book that have taken the Holocaust world by storm: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I no longer teach, but I am director of a program that takes teachers to Europe to study about the Holocaust where the events actually took place. In reading the essays of prospective participants of the trip, I have been struck in recent years by the repeated mention of this book and film. Many middle school teachers are using it in their classrooms, and that raises a host of concerns for many different reasons. First and foremost, using fiction when there are actual accounts available is more than a little questionable. Granted, many fictional works are better written and more easily adapted to classroom use than many survivor memoirs. Many even have teachers’ guides attached with suggested activities and tests. Yet, fiction cannot compete with the stories that actually happened. Reading diaries and memoirs provides a much better and truer picture of the time and the facts from the perspective of the victim. There is more of an opportunity for empathy and more chance to discuss what options, if any, were available to the writer. With the strong emphasis on reading nonfiction material—a large part of all of the standards movements presently being adopted across the country—it seems that Holocaust testimonies, whether diary or memoir, are perfect materials to fulfill that requirement. This, however, does not even begin to touch upon my real objection to the book and the film. From a moral perspective, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas poses a dilemma of which many of its fans are probably not aware. In the story, a young boy, the son of the commandant of a Nazi labor/ concentration camp, befriends a young Jewish boy who is incarcerated there—hence the title referring to the boy in the striped pajamas. The two communicate through the fence of the camp. Both risk being at the fence; the commandant’s son is repeatedly warned to stay away from the camp, and the Jewish boy certainly risks physical punishment and more. Yet, they persist. Eventually the young German boy burrows under the fence and disappears when the camp’s inmates, including the Jewish boy, are taken to be killed. The author sets up the reader to feel that the situation in which the Jewish boy is imprisoned and bound to die is a given and somehow acceptable, while the demise of the German boy is the shocking and tear-jerking part of the story. Through skillful storytelling the perpetrator becomes the victim, and we as readers are made to mourn the boy whose father is in charge of the killing, and not the Jewish boy he dies alongside. In the movie, much screen time is given to the German boy’s mother as she realizes what has happened to her son. What of the Jewish boy who has already lost most of his family members before incarceration and his father in the camp? His story is merely a vehicle to get the other boy under the fence. Using this book with students is strikingly inappropriate. Bluntly stated, this particular story is harmful in its attempt to turn our attention and sympathy away from where it should rightly be. The moral of the story could be misinterpreted to suggest that if you help someone by befriending them, you might be hurt as a result. Or the moral might be that the Jews have once again succeeded in corrupting a German child and bringing about his death. This is exactly the opposite of what we hope for as a result of our teaching about the Holocaust. This “icon” deserves to be tossed.

Maus Survivors have important stories to tell, stories that illustrate the wide range of human reactions to dire situations. Children of survivors, those like myself, born after World War II, live in homes that are booby-trapped with memories, most of them horrifying. Yes, our parents survived, but at what cost? What does it mean to be the only one left of your family? How can one bear the guilt of having lived when others, some considered smarter, more beautiful, more deserving, did not survive?

The Use of Iconic Resources


How often can one revisit the stories and justify one’s actions or chastise oneself for not having done more? This is the life of the survivor and the milieu of the second generation. Into such a family Art Spiegelman was born, and the results are his creative masterpieces Maus and Maus II, which relate the story of his parents through the use of cartoon graphics. The book is extremely appealing to the young reader. The visuals are gripping: the characters are depicted as animals, chasing, trapping, and evading each other. The heroes are not entirely heroic— as is true in the real world—and the villains not entirely sinister. Spiegelman’s book was a revelation when it was published. A veteran cartoonist, he used an unlikely medium to tell his parents’ story. He used the convention of a speaker relating the story (Spiegelman’s father talking to his own son) to a listener, employing flashbacks and the present day as counternarratives. I found Maus to be extraordinary on many levels. The artwork is remarkable. The audacity of the artist to configure the story through cartoon characters is, in my opinion, breathtaking. Spiegelman’s insistence on showing the dark side of survivors’ behavior is also courageous. Up until this time survivors had been depicted as long-suffering angels who had never done anything to deserve their fates. In Spiegelman’s hands, survivors became fully realized as human, capable of dishonorable thoughts and actions, struggling as we all do to live another day. My parents refused to read Maus because the Jews were depicted as animals. I could not make them understand that there was much more to the book than that. In addition, they had heard that the book depicted a survivor’s suicide (Spiegelman’s mother Anja killed herself). This was a taboo not to be aired in public. That survivors might have mental problems as a result of their ordeals was a private issue that the rest of the world did not need to know. Perhaps the notion that survivors were superheroes was one that I was not alone in first believing as a child and then having to come to terms with as I matured. In addition, as the child of survivors, I struggled, as Spiegelman did, with guilt over having had a life marked by relative ease and plenty. I compared myself to my parents, admiring their fortitude, knowing that I never would have made it under similar circumstances. The concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had not been articulated at the time of the Holocaust. While the physical deprivations of the victims were readily visible and easily addressed, the mental and emotional repercussions of having survived were not. Survivors were grieving the loss of entire families; they had been witnesses to and victims of staggering cruelty; and they had no place to return to after the war ended. Survivors had no resources to call upon except the charity of relief organizations or possible help from long-lost, distant relatives whose lives had not been impacted as harshly by the Holocaust or the war. Some survivors had spent their formative years in concentration camps, in hiding, and so forth, and were not equipped to handle the problems of reshaping their own lives. They had missed out on education, on job training, on family as a source of tradition and culture, on the normal life passages that shape any young person. As a result, their attempts to remake their lives were not always successful. For many, the need to connect with others who had survived a similar fate brought about quick courtships and marriages and quick parenting responsibilities that they may not have been prepared to undertake. Spiegelman’s Maus is filled with his parents’ responses to trauma, both the trauma of the Holocaust years and the trauma of their post-Holocaust existence. I read the book with tears in my eyes, knowing that each heroic deed that saved a life or stalled the perpetrator came at great cost. Anyone who reads this book must be prepared to deal with the antisemitism of the Poles who betrayed and benefitted from those betrayals. This is a complicated issue wrought with potential pedagogical problems. We are used to portraying the Nazis as the force of evil, but Spiegelman’s family and many others, including mine, suffered at the hands of their neighbors, perhaps more painfully because they had known them for so many years and trusted them. Or perhaps—and sadly proven to be true—they expected that their neighbors, given the opportunity, would allow their antisemitism to surface. Such was the case in my father’s town, where the Poles and Ukrainians


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needed only the slightest provocation and license to pillage Jewish homes and businesses, to beat and humiliate Jewish boys and men, to dismantle the civic order of the town, and to put themselves into positions of power under the aegis of the Nazis, a short-lived authority that eventually became their own undoing. Any teacher who uses Maus in her classroom, either as a core text or as one of several memoirs, must be prepared to address issues that are moral in nature rather than historical. Some of these include: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

What is the role of the bystander/rescuer? What happens when saving yourself means endangering another person? How can one overcome the guilt of having survived? Why did some Jews assist the Nazis? How can social agencies help victims of horrific events like the Holocaust or other tragedies?

Other text-based questions might include: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

How does the use of the cartoon figures aid or impede the story? Should the Holocaust be told in terms of personal stories? Does using humor negate the serious nature of the story? How accurate are the elder Spiegelman’s historical references? Do these detract in any way from the story? Spiegelman says he created a “realistic fiction. The experiences my father went through are not exactly what he’s able to remember and articulate. Then there’s what I’m able to understand of what he articulated and what I’m able to put down on paper.” (Smith, 1987, p. 29). How does this impact the story with which the reader is ultimately confronted?

I know that Maus and Maus II appeal to adolescent readers, and with the upsurge in the availability of graphic novels these texts have become even more acceptable classroom fare. My only concern is that the medium not take away from the gravity of the story. This requires a good grounding in the history of the Holocaust and ample opportunity to debrief on how to read and understand the accounts of a survivor and the second generation in a historical context.

Photographs There are several Holocaust photos that one can find in many texts and that are readily available on the Internet. They can provide a skewed and perhaps false view of actual events. That they have become icons is not surprising, because they seem to convey, without words, the enormity of the crimes committed against the Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. Yet, caution in their use is advisable. One must be careful in regard to the age of potential viewers of some of these photos, but even more significantly, one must be sure to provide information about the photographs, which typically is not provided to the viewer, thus allowing an erroneous understanding of historical events.

The Little Boy The first of concern is the picture of the boy from the Warsaw ghetto who has his hands up (Figure 7.1). His face is tearful and we can only assume that he is awaiting a beating or capture at the hands of a cruel enemy. Ostensibly, he is a symbol of the entire Jewish people, afraid and doomed.

The Use of Iconic Resources



Little boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.

To see a child targeted in this way is heartbreaking. Yet, the historical accuracy, while not exactly diminishing the power of the image, will put it into perspective. Regarded as one of the most powerful images of the Holocaust, this photo does detail the fate of some Jews, but not in the way that most people believe. The photo has been revealed to be of a boy named Tzvi Nussbaum, who was caught, interrogated, and quickly released. There is even speculation that he was ordered to raise his arms by a photographer and not by any authority. He survived the war after being sent to Bergen-Belsen with his family. Jewish Holocaust historians who considered the photograph a sort of sacred document were not pleased by Nussbaum’s identification of himself in the photo many years after it had become an icon. They were sure that the power of the picture would be diminished if the boy had actually survived. Nussbaum himself was surprised by such concerns. “I never realized that everyone puts the entire weight of six million Jews on this photograph,” he said. “To me it looked like an incident in which I was involved, and that was it” (Margolick, 1982, pp. B1, B2). Several books have been written about this photo, including A Child at Gunpoint by Richard Raskin and The Boy, A Holocaust Story by Dan Porat. The question becomes how to use this photograph responsibly. Does merely displaying it with no explanation tell the story that we want it to tell, or does it lose its impact if we know that the boy survived? A teacher has to ask: what do I want from this photograph? If one is just showing the photo to symbolize the horror of an innocent child being caught by police, is that enough? How can we teach students to look at a photograph and interpret it in depth? This photo conveys many themes that deserve exploration in our classrooms: perpetrator versus victim, military versus civilian, adult versus child, armed versus unarmed, and so forth. Whether the boy posed for a photographer, as some have suggested, or whether he did in fact feel endangered, the image conveys the


Elaine Culbertson

plight of children during the Holocaust. In many cases, because of their small size, children became the providers for their families, smuggling food by squeezing through narrow openings in ghetto walls. We all believe that children should not be placed in a position where they are perceived as the enemy, as is evidently the case here. The photograph shows us that the world of this boy was not the idyllic childhood that we would hope for him. When children are the target, what does it say about the perpetrator? That is the lesson of this iconic photo. Use it, but use it wisely. Making use of information about it, rather than weakening its impact, can actually lead to a much more enlightening discussion.

The Transport Another image that has come to be associated with the supposed submissive nature of the Jews in regard to their capture is a photograph taken during the arrival of a transport from Hungary at Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944 (see Figure 7.2). The prisoners have been divided into two large groups, separating men and women. The trains are adjacent to the platform. Relatively few guards or other authorities seem to be present. Interestingly enough, the man on the right with his hand on his chest is Dr. Josef Mengele. A myth concerning the omnipresence of Dr. Mengele on the platform has existed since the first survivor accounts began to appear. He seems to have been on the platform for every selection—a seemingly impossible feat even for such a dedicated murderer. In one survivor account after another we read or hear that Mengele himself chose a particular survivor to live. That makes for a powerful story, but that is not what is most disconcerting. This picture, and many others, taken during the months that the Hungarian Jews arrived at


Arrival of transport at Auschwitz.

Note: Reprinted with permission from Yad Vashem.

The Use of Iconic Resources


Auschwitz-Birkenau, circulate widely as examples of how meekly the Jews went to their fate. There seems to be no resistance whatsoever to the agenda obviously planned for them. We know now that most of the Hungarian Jews brought to Birkenau went directly to the gas chambers and were cremated within hours of their arrival. The stench of the burning flesh and hair was everywhere, and the ashes coated everything in the camp. Why did these prisoners seem to accept their doom so meekly? Every photo is taken from a particular perspective, the eye of the photographer. Whether purposeful or random, we see what the photographer sees. This photograph clearly is taken with the perpetrator’s eye. The camera focuses on the relative inattention of the soldiers; they don’t need to work too hard to keep the Jews in line because the Jews (as the horrible old saw says) “go like sheep to the slaughter.” Any educator who uses this photo or others like it needs to understand the consciousness of the victim, what might possibly be going through the minds of those arriving on this platform. There are three very powerful concepts at work here. Historically, Jews were brought up to feel a collective responsibility for others in their community. To save oneself by endangering others is anathema. To strike out for oneself would be unacceptable, as the results could be catastrophic. The killers obviously had no mercy in mind. They would not have hesitated to retaliate en masse. If there was even the slightest hope that some might survive, the Jewish teachings would have dictated that individuals hold the community as more precious than themselves. Such information as this provides invaluable contextual material and helps students to deepen their understanding of the Holocaust. Another mitigating factor is the reality of the situation. While they had heard reports of killing centers in German-occupied Poland, most Hungarian Jews had felt relatively protected from the fate that was befalling their brothers and sisters in other lands. The fascist government in Hungary had made life difficult but not impossible for the Jews. When the transports began arriving at Birkenau, the rumors were confirmed: the place was in fact a killing factory, efficient to the point that a rail siding had been built inside the camp to deliver the Jews to a convenient spot for easy selection and murder. Where could anyone go? What resources were left after searches had stripped everyone of most of their belongings? What strength could anyone muster to resist after days in a railcar during the summer of 1944, without food or water or a place to defecate? These facts must be explained to students who cannot possibly fathom the inactivity of those pictured. And last, but most importantly, the concept—a particularly Jewish one—that one might survive another day and “overcome” or live through the horror, as Jews had done through thousands of years of persecution, was a force in the behavior of the crowd. If a teacher makes use of these iconic pictures, he/she needs to be sure to stress the contextual information set forth here. When one does so, the photographs tell an entirely different story—one that students need to understand and appreciate if they are to avoid a simplistic, and incorrect, understanding of key aspects of the Holocaust.

Tattoos A fact that most people do not know is that the only camp that used tattooing was AuschwitzBirkenau. Furthermore, during the influx of large transports of Hungarian Jews to Birkenau in 1944, many people were not tattooed because of the Nazis’ rush to select and subsequently murder those who were not selected to live. The tattoos themselves varied over time. While some of the numbers do indicate chronological order, there was a point at which the numbering changed. Series of numbers were assigned with a letter in front of the numbers; once the numbers reached 20,000, a new letter at the front of the number was assigned. Men were numbered differently from women. Some tattoos have a triangle under the number, probably to identify the prisoner quickly


Elaine Culbertson


Tattooing of victims.

as a Jew. While some people were tattooed on the inside of the arm, most tattoos were on the forearm. (See Figure 7.3). Early prisoners were tattooed on the chest. What students also need to realize is Jewish tradition prohibits tattoos. To be marked in such a way is not only invasive but religiously forbidden. I have looked at my mother’s tattoo for my entire life. When I was a small child I asked my mother why she had this ugly set of numbers on her arm. She told me, in an attempt to avoid the sad horror of the true story, that it was her phone number from a long time ago. I lived in fear that the phone company would come to our house and tattoo me with our phone number. At the age of 3 I could recite our phone number; I even remember that number today. Many years later my son asked what the numbers were on his grandmother’s arm. By this time I had told my mother how scared I had been of the tattoo. She answered differently this time, telling her first grandchild that the numbers were something that a bad man had done to her a long time ago. She gave me a knowing look as my son slipped off her lap and went on his way, not ready for more information. While time had not dimmed the tattoo or its memories, it had tempered her response. Some survivors had their tattoos removed; my mother never did and always answered truthfully when people asked about it. She always told me, “they [the Nazis] should be ashamed, not me.” Students need to understand that while the tattoos are iconic, they are only part of the dehumanization process that was so successfully instituted under the Nazis. Numbers not names, shaven heads, uniforms, strict regimentation, inhumane working conditions, lack of shelter from the elements, inability to maintain one’s personal hygiene, starvation, and lack of care for sick prisoners all contributed to the misery endured by the prisoners. For more personal testimonies about tattoos and the process of being initiated into the camps, teachers and students can use the resources of Shoah’s IWitness, the USHMM website (see the survivor testimony from Leo Schneiderman, Miso Vogel, Cecilie Klein-Pollack, Sam Itskowitz, Ruth Webber, and Irene Hizme), Yad Vashem, and other sources.

The Use of Iconic Resources


The Bodies There are still teachers today who use pictures of the piles of bodies of the Jewish victims that were taken when the Allies entered the various camps. These pictures—while “effective” in shocking students and upsetting parents who may find any mention of the Holocaust objectionable and particularly to such images—are inappropriate, but widely available. The photos treat human beings as garbage. In the documentary films that many of the photos were taken from, bodies are shown being bulldozed into mass graves, being flung like twigs onto pyres for burning, and stacked up in tidy mountains. Rather than shock students into concern about what the victims suffered, these pictures have the ability to desensitize students into feeling absolutely nothing about the victims, and that is due to a sense of distance from the “unhuman” look of the corpses. How can we care about these creatures? The questions, then, are: Why would anyone choose to show such photographs to students? What pedagogical purpose could they possibly serve? Yet, upon entering certain classrooms, one can find the pictures displayed, sometimes in student-created projects. Photos of living survivors taken directly after the liberation are problematic as well. Of course we want to detail the suffering, and everyone knows that a picture is very powerful in its ability to provide evidence. However, the starved and debilitated prisoners of the camps do not always evoke the respect and concern that we would hope displaying their pictures might. The same holds true for the photos of naked men and women being hurried to their deaths, either into the pits to be shot or into the gas chambers. Many of the people photographed were from orthodox Jewish families, and the sight of a naked body would have been extremely offensive to them. The idea that their nakedness might be on display, even after their deaths, is extremely disrespectful. Such photographs will not be included here, but most have seen them; the people are filled with the shame of being photographed unclothed and the horror of knowing that one’s death is probably imminent. There is no possible use for them in the classroom that can be justified.

Films Paper Clips Of all of the facts that Holocaust deniers care to dispute, the number of six million seems to be the biggest target. Yet, a project that was undertaken by well-meaning teachers and their students in a middle school in Whitwell, Tennessee, focused precisely on this iconic number. The resulting film, Paper Clips, made as a culmination of the success of the project, has become an icon for teachers to screen as a motivating tool for their classes. If they (the students of Whitwell) could do it, in a place where there are neither Jews nor any connection to the Holocaust, then you can certainly do it (meaning study, or care) seems to be the mantra. And yet, the focus on the numbers and the collection of paper clips to signify individual Jews who were killed is totally wrongheaded and disrespectful. What is this obsession with quantifying? Any murder is one too many; whether 6 million or 5.5 million were murdered does not lessen the tragedy or illuminate anything. Survivors who lost their entire families cannot begin to count the number of relatives who had been killed. Who among us knows the exact total of everyone in our family or our community? And who among us would like to have their family members represented as numbers or paper clips? When I first heard about the project years ago, I was stunned. I wrote a letter to the principal of the middle school asking that there be a rethinking and refocusing of the energies of the students. Perhaps an attempt to collect names of those murdered by the Nazis might have shown more


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respect for the dead. This is precisely what Yad Vashem, the official Holocaust memorial site and research center in Jerusalem, has attempted to do in its new exhibit at Auschwitz, using its resources to document individuals by name, not as faceless entities and certainly not as a boxcar filled with paper clips. I do not fault the students for their enthusiasm. It is much easier to collect and count things (inert, meaningless objects) than to think about real human beings. Eventually, the students put together a “museum” of the Holocaust on the site of the boxcar that was donated to hold the paper clips. There was some real learning, assuming that the history was accurately and sensitively portrayed. That deserves to be documented. But the paper clip project, as with all quantifications of disaster, is numbingly meaningless. Showing the film only fuels the fire that needs to be extinguished.

Schindler’s List To this day, some 20 years after it was initially produced, Schindler’s List remains a masterpiece of filmmaking and storytelling. It is riveting and heartbreaking. Although many Jews are saved, they are a mere handful in comparison to the millions who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. While one man’s actions did indeed save hundreds, there were not enough Schindlers for all the people who needed to be rescued. At the end of the film Oskar Schindler (portrayed by the actor Liam Neeson) chastises himself for not doing more, and we are moved by his realization of his own late awakening to the plight of the victims and the lost chance that there was much more he might have done. That is why the movie, though iconic, must be supported with classroom discussion and further research. Students need to understand how rescue might have been accomplished and what the penalties were for those who cared to help. What makes Schindler’s story so notable is the singularity of what he did against overwhelming odds. Schindler, an opportunist, is transformed into a humanitarian, perhaps a bit unbelievably so, even for this film. He uses position, bribery, and sheer chutzpah to make a fortune for himself and, subsequently, to save Jews from the Plaszow concentration camp. The real hero of the film might actually be the composite character Itzhak Stern played by Ben Kingsley, the accountant and manager who continues to press for more people to be saved. He serves as the conscience for the ruthless Schindler, and causes Schindler to view him not as a means for making money or as a Jew, but as a human being. One of the most remarkable scenes of this black and white movie is the camera focus and tracking of the little girl in the red coat wandering among the adults running madly from certain doom as the Krakow ghetto undergoes liquidation. The power of the scene where the viewer sees her red coat being tossed atop a heap of clothes taken from dead prisoners still produces a gasp each time the film is screened. What Spielberg has done here is to make us care about an individual, in particular a child, innocent of any crime except being born a Jew. More than Schindler’s reformation of character, this scene brings home the reality of the Holocaust to the viewer. Schindler’s List marked a turning point in Holocaust-themed movies. High production values, on-location filming at authentic sites and a world-renowned director working with a talented cast added up to a box office success as well as a new moral compass for American moviegoers. When the film was shown on television without commercials, a signal was being sent that this was no ordinary event, but that viewers were being urged to pay attention. At one point a copy of the film was sent to every high school in the United States. Having visited the factory where Schindler’s Jews worked in Krakow (now the Museum of Wartime Krakow), I was stunned by how little is mentioned of this “hero.” Perhaps the Krakovians have a more mature picture of Schindler than we Americans have. We like our heroes, especially

The Use of Iconic Resources


ones who are bad boys to begin with, and who undergo a metamorphosis while we watch. The point is: Schindler’s heroism has been blown out of proportion by the film. He did save lives, there is no question, but he is not the completely reformed and heroic figure he appears to have become at the end of the film. There are many other stories of rescue that deserve to be known. In the same country, Poland, during the same period, a woman, Irena Sendler, saved 2,500 Jewish children, and few know her story (see Life in a Jar, among other resources for Sendler’s story). A conscientious teacher will make a point of having students read about those who risked their lives to help, no matter the number saved, because Jews believe, as the Talmud states, that to save one life means to save the world entire. The points made in this chapter are ones that this author considers to be fundamental in teaching and learning about the Holocaust. Perhaps the author’s sensitivities are uniquely hers, but one can hope that those reading this chapter will be moved to think about their own standard practice in a more reflective manner.

Further Reading Berger, Joseph (2010). Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust. New York, NY: Washington Square Press. Berger, Naomi (2001). Second Generation Voices: Reflections by Children of Holocaust Survivors and Perpetrators. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Boyne, John (2006). The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York, NY: David Fickling Books. Doherty, Thomas (1996). “Art Speigelman’s Maus: Graphic Art and the Holocaust.” American Literature, 68(1), 69–84. Eisenstein, Bernice (2006). I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. New York, NY: Riverhead Books. Epstein, Helen (1988). Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors. New York, NY: Penguin. Frank, Anne (2010). The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Levine, Michael G. (2006). “Necessary Stains: The Bleeding of History in Spiegelman’s Maus.” In M. Levine (Ed.), The Beloved Witness: Literature, Testimony, and the Question of Holocaust Survival (pp. 16–61). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. Mayer, Jack (2011). Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project. Middlebury, VT: Long Trail Press. Mikics, David (2003). “Underground Comics and Survival Tales.” In Deborah R. Gels (Ed.), Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survival Tale” of the Holocaust (pp. 15–25). Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Mueller, Melissa (1998). Anne Frank: The Biography. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co. Reti, Irene (2005). The Keeper of Memory: A Memoir. Santa Cruz, CA: HerBooks. Spiegelman, Art (1991). Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. New York, NY: Pantheon. Spiegelman, Art. (1992). Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. New York, NY: Pantheon. Totten, Samuel (Ed.). (2001). Teaching Holocaust Literature. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Weiss, Helga (2013). Helga’s Diary. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Co. Young, James E. (1998). “The Holocaust as Vicarious Past: Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’ and the Afterimages of History.” Critical Inquiry, 24(3), 666–699.

References Appleman-Jurman, Alicia (1968). Alicia, My Story. New York, NY: Bantam. Birnbaum, Halina (1996). Hope Is the Last to Die. Oscwiecim, Poland: Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum. Bitton-Jackson, Livia (1997). I Have Lived a Thousand Years. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. Buergenthal, Thomas (2009). A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co. Gies, Miep (2009). Anne Frank Remembered. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


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Haas, Aaron (1990). In the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Second Generation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Klein, Gerda Weissman (1957). All But My Life. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Kopf, Hedda Rosner (1997). Understanding Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing. Levi, Primo (1959). Survival in Auschwitz or If This Is a Man. New York, NY: Orion Press. Margolick, David (1982). “Photo of Nazi Victim Sparks Debate.” Chicago Tribune, June 20, pp. B1, B2. Porat, Dan (2011). The Boy, A Holocaust Story. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Raskin, Richard (2004). A Child at Gunpoint. Oakville, CT: Aarhus University Press. Smith, Graham (1987). “Mickey to Maus: Recalling the Genocide Through Cartoon.” Oral History Journal, Spring, 26–34. Szpilman, Wladyslaw (1998). The Pianist. New York, NY: Picador. Versaci, Rocco (2001). “How Comic Books Can Change the Way Our Students See Literature: One Teacher’s Perspective.” The English Journal, 91(2), 60–67.


Literature addresses every aspect of human life: the glorious and the horrific, the courageous and the cowardly, the hopeful and the hopeless, the beautiful and the malevolent, the tentative and the bold, and much, much more. In light of that, it is no surprise that literature about the Holocaust, in all of its manifestations, is capable of providing unique and valuable insights into vastly different aspects of that horrific and tragic event. Likewise, literature, when used wisely, is an extraordinary means for teaching and learning about the Holocaust. Indeed, incorporating literature into a study of the Holocaust adds a profound and powerful dimension to the study. Literature is “capable of challenging students to examine their own lived lives and world” (Totten, 2001, p. 32). It also provides students with the opportunity to probe how individuals and groups acted, reacted, and interacted in a world that was turned upside down by the evil endeavors of the Nazis and their collaborators. That said, a cautionary note is called for here: teaching a book, a short story, a poem, or a play in isolation, without placing the work within a historical context, is problematic. Those who wish to incorporate literature into a study of the Holocaust must choose wisely when selecting such literature. It should be high-quality literature that is thought-provoking, germane to the history being taught, and highly engaging. It should not be something that is merely popular at the time or, if a novel, on the bestseller list. Works should be chosen that “enlighten students [and] encourage further study of the Holocaust, thus helping to ensure remembrance” (Totten quoting Shawn, 2001). In this chapter, we draw attention to various works of literature that are ideal for use in a study of the Holocaust. Various practices we have found effective in our own classrooms are described as well. When planning any Holocaust lesson or unit, we strongly encourage educators to consult the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM’s) Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust (http:// These guidelines offer sagacious advice that helps teachers develop pedagogically and historically sound lessons and units. In addition to the literary works, we suggest teachers explore the works of Lawrence Langer, Simone A. Schweber, Beth Aviv Greenbaum, Samuel Totten, and Stephen Feinberg to aid in determining a sound rationale and background for teaching this topic. When selecting works of literature to be used in the classroom, a good starting point is a close examination of Samuel Totten’s chapter, “Incorporating Fiction and Poetry into a Study of the Holocaust,” in his book, Teaching Holocaust Literature. His first point is that “the work should be historically accurate, and not convey misconceptions about the history of the people involved”


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(Totten, 2001, p. 29). Works that distort the history, such as John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, should be avoided. We are aware that such books as Boyne’s are entertaining and have literary qualities that can be discussed in the classroom, but when dealing with this history, it is imperative to utilize works that are historically accurate. Totten, for one, has discussed the importance of presenting literary works that represent “the broad events.” For example, when teaching a piece about resistance, like Lowry’s Number the Stars, teachers should help students explore the fact that rescue during the Holocaust was the exception rather than the rule. Given the profound and malevolent nature of this history, some teachers may be apt to use uplifting pieces, but not only is that pedagogically unsound, it is also teaching a falsity. This is not to say that teachers should shy away from teaching about resistance and rescue, but rather that they need to carefully balance the latter with insights/information that speak to the incredible difficulty and dangers that were faced by those who engaged in both resistance and rescue. Educators also need to emphasize the fact that resistance and rescue frequently resulted in death. Tellingly, this is an issue that arises when teaching The Diary of Anne Frank. As Elaine Culbertson (2001) has asserted: Anne Frank was noble in the face of adversity, and that is what we like about her. What many like even more is that the real adversity, the terror of the Nazis, is, for the most part, if not entirely, absent from the book . . . The book skirts the real issues of the Holocaust because the story takes place apart from them. (p. 64) Totten’s second point is that we need to “evaluate the readability of the piece” (Totten, 2001, p. 30). Because of disparities in reading ability, some students may find reading certain articles and books daunting or even demoralizing, if not impossible. “Ideally, articles, chapters and books selected for use in the classroom should be engaging and thought-provoking for the students” (Totten, 2001, p. 30). Along with Totten (2001), we firmly believe that “literary pieces that romanticize the history of the Holocaust should be avoided” and “that literary works should present ‘true-to-life’ characters, as opposed to caricatures or stereotypes” (p. 31). For example, Schindler’s List is a fine film, but one based on a novel by Thomas Keneally, which does take liberties with the facts of Schindler’s story. For example, when Schindler’s workers were sent to Auschwitz, he did not go to Auschwitz to personally retrieve them. Furthermore, Schindler himself was not responsible for hiring the Jews initially; it was Stern, his Jewish assistant, who had the idea and implemented it. When we are presented with realistic characters in fictional stories, such as Imre Kertész’s George in Fateless, the character is portrayed with conflicting feelings and complex thoughts and ideas that sometimes contradict what we deem as common sense. In other words, the character is lifelike, not some caricature or cartoonish presence in which everything is simple and/or copacetic. Again, works with complex characters—not those that are stereotypical, stock caricatures—are much more likely to lead the class to deeper and richer discussions. On a different note, the classroom should be a safe place, not one where students are bombarded by gory images. Likewise, when selecting a literary work, teachers need to consider what their students can handle; it is not only unconscionable but counterproductive to overwhelm them with feelings of fear or revulsion. In this regard, it is critical to gauge each class and each student and to be wary of works that are written simply to play on students’ emotions and/or to shock them. For those teachers with students in middle or junior high school, we highly recommend reading Karen Shawn’s “Choosing Holocaust Literature for Early Adolescents” in Totten and Feinberg’s (2001) Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers, 2009; originally

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


published by Allyn and Bacon in 2001). Shawn offers sound advice on the selection of such literature, and recommends many works that are likely to be appropriate for younger students. Literary works that “offer sufficient stimulus for readers to draw their own conclusions and avoid didactic sermonizing’” (Rudman and Rosenberg, 1991, quoted in Totten, 2002) are the sort of works teachers should strive to use in their classrooms. Literature with Holocaust-related themes should ultimately challenge students to examine their own lives and world. While this is a difficult challenge to educators, the works discussed here will, hopefully, resonate with students and enable them to understand how human beings are impacted by the actions of others. Finally, we recommend viewing the list of rationale statements for teaching the Holocaust in Chapter 1 in this volume. While a teacher certainly will not be able to incorporate all of the ideas inherent in the statements when teaching a single work, they should seriously consider those that are most important to their aims. One we find particularly relevant, for example, is “to explore concepts such as prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, racism, antisemitism, obedience to authority, the bystander syndrome, loyalty, conflict, conflict resolution, decision making, and justice” (Totten, 2001, p. 5). Many of the books we discuss here address most of the concerns raised in the aforementioned rationale statement.

Diaries Diaries are incredibly valuable primary sources. While histories and memoirs are written after events, diaries are written contemporaneously. Diaries that were not intended for publication frequently provide glimpses of life that were not always meant to be seen, making readers privy to the diarist’s most private and honest thoughts. Since many students today keep diaries or journals, they tend to relate to young writers who kept diaries during the Holocaust period. Teenagers understand the need to have a voice. Diaries kept during the Holocaust serve as an excellent example of a certain type of resistance, of maintaining a personal voice even when such action was forbidden. While students tend to see resistance as involving fighting, often involving weapons, diaries allow teenagers to contemplate how the writing of daily events can also be considered an act of resistance. In recording events during the Holocaust, diarists often reveal revelatory insights into what might appear at first blush to be humdrum incidents or events. Tellingly, diarists during the Holocaust wrote on any paper they could find, sometimes using the margins of old books, even newspapers. Writing gave people the opportunity to put their experiences into some sort of understandable perspective, a perspective that today helps inform our understanding of this history. For many years, The Diary of Anne Frank was the definitive Holocaust diary. In that regard, it was often the only piece of literature that teachers could access when teaching their students about the Holocaust. While there are certainly good reasons for having students read and study Anne Frank’s diary, there are also good reasons not to do so, particularly if one only has time to incorporate one major piece of literature into a class study of the Holocaust. Holocaust educator Elaine Culbertson (2001) has noted that students do not have the historical background “to piece together the events prior to [Anne’s family entering] the attic” (p. 63), and that “the book skirts the real issues of the Holocaust because the story takes place apart from them” (p. 64). In other words, Anne does not write about or comment on the roundups, the deportations, life and death in the ghettos, the slave labor camps, or the death camps. In recent years, other diaries have been published that cover a wider scope of topics about the Holocaust; these do not leave the reader with a sense that all was well in the world during this horrendously dark period of history. These diaries were written in the ghettos, in places of hiding, and even sometimes in the camps. The use of these diaries in the classroom presents a broader sense of the events of the Holocaust.


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Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust, compiled by Alexandra Zapruder, is a collection of 14 diaries kept by young people during the Holocaust. This extremely powerful book is an invaluable resource for any teacher approaching the Holocaust. Semester-long courses may have more time to explore the entire book, while those teaching shorter units of 1–2 weeks might focus on one or two diaries to emphasize a specific historical theme or incident. The varied experiences and fates of each diarist are clearly and succinctly explained by Zapruder in her introduction to each diary. Additionally, the introductions provide a host of information, including the historical context of each diary. Why did young Jews keep diaries during the Holocaust? Exploring this question, the issue of intentionality, is an excellent way to incorporate diaries into a study of the Holocaust. As the 14 diarists of Salvaged Pages document their lives through their writing, readers discern their reasons for maintaining a diary. Diarist Moshe Flinker explains his desire to account for what he thinks and does each day. Moshe was born in 1926 in The Hague in the Netherlands, and remained there with his family until 1942 when his parents received a deportation notice, which prompted his father to move the family to Brussels, Belgium, where they went in hiding. While readers of Moshe’s diary will learn that his religious faith played an extraordinarily important role in his life, the first entry in his diary on November 24, 1942, explains his motivation for maintaining a diary: “I have started this diary so that I can write in it every day what I do and think; in this manner I shall be able to account for all I have done each day” (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, p. 100). Peter Feigl began and kept a diary for a different reason. Feigl was born in Germany in 1929 to nonpracticing Jews, and was baptized in the hope that this would help him to avoid being subjected to persecution by the Nazis. After seeking refuge first in Austria and then Belgium, his family eventually settled in Auch, France. While Peter was at a Quaker summer camp during the summer of 1942, his parents were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. It was at this time that Peter began his diary. While Anne Frank addressed her diary as a friend, “Kitty,” Peter’s diary was an ongoing letter to his parents. (Unbeknownst to Peter at the time, his parents were murdered in AuschwitzBirkenau in September 1942.) Ultimately, using false identity papers, Peter was helped by Quakers who arranged for him to be hidden in the mountain village of Le Chambon sur Lignon. While hiding in Le Chambon, his diary was taken away from him for his own security by the adults in the town, but he later started a second diary. Eventually Peter fled to Switzerland and later immigrated to the United States in 1946. While students delving into Feigl’s diary will definitely encounter the theme of rescue, they will also learn about the role of collaborationists, resisters, and the actions of common people, like those at Le Chambon who helped save Jewish children from almost certain death. It should be noted that Zapruder’s collection is not comprised solely of rescue stories, and thus provides insights into a wide range of experiences—some of them, sadly, horrors—faced by the diarists. Eva Ginz, a young Czechoslovakian, when commenting on why she kept a diary, wrote on February 9, 1945: Today I’m really in the mood for writing. I’d like to have someone to whom I could tell everything, absolutely everything, someone to open my heart to. My Mummy is the only person to I could tell everything, but unfortunately I’m not with her, so I’ll have to confide in my diary. (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, p. 185) Eva’s older brother, Petr, was sent to the Terezin Ghetto in October of 1942; he was eventually deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was murdered in September 1944. Eva arrived in Terezin in May 1944 and miraculously survived the Holocaust.

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


Miriam Korber, a young Romanian Jew, wrote the following entry dated July 15, 1942, to explain why she maintained a diary: I know that all my writing is meaningless. Nobody will read my journal and, as for me, should I escape alive from here, I will throw into the fire everything that will remind me of the damned time spent in Djurin. And still, I write. (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, p. 266) Miriam’s diary provides an important historical perspective, in that Romanian Jews were not murdered by the Nazis but rather were persecuted and murdered by their own government, led by Nazi collaborator Ion Antonescu. Miriam was born in 1923 in a small village in Romania. She and her family were adversely impacted by the 1940 Romanian anti-Jewish measures. After the invasion of the USSR by Germany and other Axis countries, the Korbers were deported to Transnistria, where Miriam began writing her daily accounts of the physical hardships that plagued her family. Sharing a single room with 13 other people, and making wry observations on the conditions in which she was forced to live (“You can tell the degree of civilization by the status of the toilets”), Miriam’s diary introduces the story of the death of thousands of Romanian Jews to students who often solely think the crimes of the Germans, while overlooking their collaborators’ equally deadly actions. Diarists Yitskhok Rudashevski and Alice Ehrmann wrote for public purposes, as testimony to the tragic events that surrounded their experiences. Rudashevski, who was 15 years old when he began writing his diary in the Vilna Ghetto, focuses on the intellectual and cultural life of youth in the ghetto as well as the desperation and humiliation experienced by the Jews incarcerated there. In part, his diary allows the reader to discover the emotional complications of a teenager who was forced to grow up within the walls of a ghetto, surrounded not only by hostile Germans but also by collaborationist Lithuanians. His intention to write for public purposes is clear from an entry written on November 5, 1942: “I consider that everything should be recorded and noted down, even the most gory, because everything will be taken into account” (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, p. 212). Alice Ehrmann, having lived in the Terezin Ghetto, also writes her diary as a record for the future. Alice, like Petr and Eva Ginz, was sent to Terezin because she was mischlinge (of both Aryan and Jewish ancestry). Her diary opens in October 1944, amid the Nazi deportations from Terezin to Auschwitz. Alice records in full detail the horrific scenes of the deportees, thus fulfilling her quest to record her experience for the future. On November 1, 1944, she wrote: I will try to bear written witness as best I can so that it will survive me. That is what occupies my thoughts—not to have the world take notice of me—not to say: there was one who was beautiful and smart and open to the world, and she was seventeen and was snuffed out before her life could even start. No, to say to the world . . . what was accomplished here. (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, p. 406) Diaries provide students and teachers with the experience of reading about various aspects of the Holocaust in a way that no textbook, or any other secondary source, can ever approximate. The voice of the diarists is raw, and what they write about is not something they studied but rather something they lived. Something they felt. Something that impacted their view of the world and their own lives. Something that they experienced with their five senses. Something personal and close to home. For instance, Otto Wolf and his family were hidden for three long years in Trsice, Czechoslovakia, cut off from communication with the outside world. In over a thousand entries, Otto writes of the extreme fortitude it took to survive in hiding. Otto Wolf ’s diary


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documents daily life, as opposed to historical documentation of the events occurring in the world. Although Otto does not explicitly specify his intent, the reader can infer from his style that the recording of every detail, regardless of its mundane nature, was very important to him. His intent can also be inferred from the fact that he writes an entry every single day he is in hiding, regardless of the repetitive nature of the details. Salvaged Pages also provides unique opportunities for teachers to align historical themes with the diarists’ writings. The diary of Klaus Langer, a German boy who began his diary in 1937, provides a vivid description of Kristallnacht. It is actually the longest entry in his diary. On November 11, 1938, his diary takes a shift from longing to escape the Nazi onslaught via immigration to detailing the events of Kristallnacht. What follows is an excerpt from this entry: On November 7 a German ligation member was assassinated in Paris. He died two days later. The day following, on November 10, came the consequences. At three o’clock the synagogue and the Jewish youth center were put on fire. Then they began to destroy Jewish businesses. During the morning, private homes also were being demolished. Fires were started at single homes belonging to Jews. (quoted in Zapruder, 2004, pp. 19–20) In this entry, Klaus clearly describes what we know today as the rationale for Kristallnacht. Ernst vom Rath, a Nazi bureaucrat who worked in the German embassy in Paris, was assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew. German authorities had expelled from Germany thousands of Jews with Polish citizenship; Grynszpan had received news that his parents, residents in Germany since 1911, were among them. In reading this entry students will ideally connect their prior knowledge of the history to this personal account. Further reading in Langer’s diary allows students to view a historical event from the perspective of a member of the persecuted group, thereby translating the statistics associated with Kristallnacht into the consequences for German Jews. Moving beyond Salvaged Pages, an incredibly powerful work is The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. A sorrowful report on life and death in the Lodz Ghetto in German-occupied Poland, the book includes maps and photographs of the ghetto that illustrate the horrific conditions there. Sierakowiak was a teenager who died of tuberculosis in the ghetto in 1943. He left behind several notebooks, five of which constitute the published book. At least two of his notebooks are known to have been burnt to help keep him and his family warm during the winter. Sierakowiak begins his diary in 1939 by reporting on the happenings in the ghetto. Many students have not heard about the ghettos of the Holocaust, and Sierakowiak’s diary is an excellent primary resource to teach them about ghettos in German-occupied Poland. It is also a good complement to the “Anonymous Girl of the Lodz Ghetto” in Zapruder’s Salvaged Pages. Teachers should select passages from Sierakowiak’s diary to illustrate or underscore specific themes associated with their lessons. As the diary covers 3 years of the history of the Lodz Ghetto, it is a valuable source for examining the changing nature of the conditions faced by Jews within a specific ghetto.

Memoirs The need to tell our story to “the rest,” to make “the rest” participate in it, had taken on for us, before our liberation and after, the character of an immediate and violent impulse, to the point of competing with our other elementary needs. This book has been written to satisfy this need: first and foremost, therefore, as an interior liberation. (Levi, 1996, p. 9)

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


Scores of Holocaust memoirs have been published in the past 20 years. Again, it is essential to place memoirs and the information they contain into their historical contexts to maximize their educational potential. One way to accomplish this is to construct a time line when teaching a memoir. Have the students delineate key historic events on the time line and ask them to add events that take place in the course of the survivor’s life. Making time line cards for Wiesel’s Night, for example, will help reiterate the point that the Hungarians were the last group to be sent to Auschwitz. One survivor memoir that we have found to be especially effective in the classroom is Gerda Weissman Klein’s All But My Life. Gerda’s story begins in 1939 at the start of World War II when she is fifteen years old. It ends when she is 21 and liberated in Czechoslovakia by the man she will eventually marry. Klein’s experience is compelling to read, and many students relate both to her family life and the feelings she experienced as a teenage girl. Klein honestly portrays the thoughts and experiences she had at the time. For example, she discusses the jealousy she feels when an old family friend, Nyania, is able to stay in her home because she is Christian, while Gerda’s family must move to the small ghetto because they are Jewish. Another strength of this work is that Gerda was imprisoned in small labor camps that most readers are not familiar with, which helps to deepen students’ understanding of the Holocaust. Gerda’s friendships also resonate with students. Her friends are all she had in the camps, and teenage readers understand these close connections (that is, close friends are often more like siblings than anything else). Another beautifully written memoir is Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, which he wrote shortly after his liberation. Levi begins the book with a poem that challenges readers to “consider if this is a man,” and he continues to pose that question throughout the book, making readers ponder what constitutes a man, particularly under conditions of extreme duress. In the chapter titled “A Good Day,” for example, it is a good day because the sun is shining, bringing smiles to the prisoners’ faces. But even better, they are able to procure some extra soup. Yet as they “furiously” eat the soup, they are told that they are eating like animals. Even a good day makes the prisoners question their worth. As Levi (1996) discusses the necessity of theft in the camp, he leaves readers with the question, “How much of our ordinary moral world could survive on this side of the barbed wire?” (p. 86). It isn’t until the last chapter, “The Story of Ten Days,” that the prisoners of the Nazis become men again. After they have been liberated, nobody is helping them, so they help each other, taking care of the sick, sharing food and warmth. They are displaying their humanity, despite the fact that they have been subjected to inhuman and inhumane conditions for years on end. Klein’s and Levi’s books are nice complements to books like Elie Wiesel’s Night. Klein’s can be compared to Wiesel’s, in that both are teenagers when they are deported to the Nazi camps; Gerda is in Poland and Elie is in Hungary. Each is deported to a different camp, and while Gerda is separated from her entire family, Elie is at least able to remain with his father. Levi’s and Wiesel’s books have interesting parallels, too. Both were deported to Auschwitz and then forced to work in Buna. But Wiesel is forced on the death march when Auschwitz is about to be liberated, whereas Levi remains there, so readers are able to gain insights to vastly different experiences. Language arts teachers can not only engage their students in a study of the story, but also in an examination of the different styles of writing, different tones of voice, and even the authors’ uses of literary devices. History teachers, on the other hand, may focus more on the countries each author is from and how the unfolding of the Holocaust in each area affected the lives of the authors/ survivors. Lyn Smith’s Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust (2005) provides teachers with an unusual source of survivor testimony. The book is ordered chronologically, beginning with life before the


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Holocaust before moving into actual years of the Holocaust (such as 1933–1936), and provides brief excerpts of survivor testimony taken from interviews in the archives of both the Imperial War Museum and the USHMM. Most of the excerpts are no longer than a few paragraphs; each provides a narrative voice from someone who witnessed the events of the Holocaust. Smith does an excellent job of including people from a vast array of persecuted groups and from a variety of European countries. Beginning with the publication of Maus (a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman) in 1986, another trend in Holocaust literature emerged: the second generation, or children of survivors, writing about their parents’ experiences. In Volumes One and Two of Maus, students learn of Spiegelman’s parents and their experiences in German-occupied Poland during the Holocaust. Vladek and Anja Spiegelman were married and had a son when World War II began. We see Art, in the present, interviewing his father, and telling his father’s story using animals: the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, and Poles as pigs. The beauty of the Maus books is that students feel as if they are looking in on a family’s life. They see Art struggling with his father’s idiosyncrasies, yet are spellbound by the story that opens in front of them. Most of the major topics of the Holocaust are addressed in the two books: life before the Holocaust; the beginning of World War II; the forced deportation to the ghettos; attempts to locate hiding places or escape routes; the camps; liberation; and attempts by individuals and families to put the pieces back together in the post-Holocaust world. We witness Art in the present, attempting to figure out how best to portray his family’s story. Ultimately, he is brutally honest in relating his upbringing, including his mother’s suicide and his own mental breakdown. Indeed, Spiegelman does not shy away from any sensitive issues in his or his parents’ lives, and even depicts the confusion he feels—not only over the delineation of the story, but about the history itself. In Volume Two, Art is bombarded by offers to sell his story and merchandise it to the hilt. Readers see him physically shrinking as the press hits him with a bevy of highly intrusive questions: “Could you tell our audience if drawing Maus was cathartic? And do you feel better now?” to which a tiny Art replies, “Wah!” (Spiegelman, 1991, p. 42). Another memoir teachers may wish to consider using in class is Adventurers Against Their Will by Joanie Holzer Schirm. Schirm had had some information about her father’s experiences in World War II but had not realized the extent of what he experienced until after both of her parents died and she discovered several letters containing revelatory information. She based her book on letters from family and friends to her father. She learned that her father had worked as a doctor in the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai. “Why didn’t the Jews leave Germany?” is answered in several of the letters, where we read how some of Dr. Holzer’s friends tried to relocate to other countries and were unable to do so because of governmental restrictions and/ or financial issues. Sponsors were necessary for entry to the United States, and no matter where the Jews tried to move it was often incredibly expensive to do so. For example, a friend of Dr. Holzer writes on March 6, 1939, asking for an introduction to a cousin of Valdik Holzer who lives in the United States, hoping that this cousin will vouch for him and provide him with an “affidavit of support.” Another friend writes him on March 2, 1940, stating that “the visas they [the US] are issuing now are for people who registered at the beginning of May,” and that it will take about two years before they “are called.” Students who are studying the Holocaust know that those two years will see the implementation of the Nazis’ plan to murder the Jews of Europe. By reading such letters, students will also learn of the optimism, the pessimism, and the frustration felt by Jews as governments made decisions that impacted their lives in the most profound ways possible.

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


Fiction While fiction is capable of impacting both the cognitive and affective domains, some teachers are hesitant to use fiction when teaching the Holocaust. They feel that that the truth of the Holocaust is more powerful than any fiction could possibly be. Although it is not possible to teach historical facts of the Holocaust by using fiction, as Samuel Totten notes, fiction is capable of getting at different and profound truths—truths of the heart, truths vis-à-vis the complexity of dealing with what Lawrence Langer refers to as “choiceless choices,” truths that no hard facts of history can get at in regard to how individuals, the so-called “common” people, dealt with the words, actions and silence of others as the Holocaust unfolded and engulfed them in its maw. (personal correspondence, May 2014)

Short Stories A Scrap of Time by Ida Fink This collection of short stories contains some incredibly powerful and thought-provoking stories. Written by a Holocaust survivor, many of the stories examine oppression—how people act in situations where they are not in control and may need to make what Lawrence Langer (1982) in Versions of Survival has referred to as “choiceless choices” (p. 72). In “Crazy,” for example, the speaker talks to his doctor, presumably a therapist, about the choice he made to allow his children to be rounded up and taken away by the Nazis while he hid in sight of their capture. He then explains how corrosive and all-consuming his guilt is: “It’s my heart that’s sick, not my head, and there’s no cure for that” (Fink, 1995, p. 107). The story is only three pages long, but that is all it takes for the father to tell his story. Classroom discussion generated by this story can be nothing short of astonishing. Students can be quick to judge the father for allowing his children to be taken while he hides, but as the discussion progresses, they may come to a clearer understanding of the concept of choiceless choices. Another extremely thought-provoking story by Fink deals with the fear induced by the constant threat that the Nazis posed to Jews, the effects of the Holocaust on children, and again, choiceless choices. It is titled “The Key Game.” In this story, a child is being taught what to do when “authorities” come to deport his father. The 3-year-old learns the game, but as it nears the end, at the 2-minute mark, he can never answer the all-important question—“Where is your father?”—for he must answer that his father is dead. The confusion and fear are apparent; his father is in front of him, alive and well, and the little boy does not want to think of him any other way. Fink’s book is especially useful during a unit on the ghettos (since many of the stories takes place in a ghetto). It would also be useful during a study of hiding, the impact of the Holocaust on children, and the fear instilled by the Gestapo. Most of the pieces can be used to complement a diary or memoir that one might use in a unit.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski Tadeusz Borowski was a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau who, in the post-Holocaust period, wrote this series of stories based on his experiences. As students read the title piece, “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen,” many are surprised to learn that the narrator (whose job was unloading trains upon their arrival to the death camp) is not Jewish. Because of this, he is accorded special


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treatment in the camp, such as being allowed to receive packages from home and working on a job where he can have sufficient food. Be that as it may, the stories Borowski has crafted based on his experiences in the death camp are both striking and thought provoking, if not revelatory. Students may, at first, perceive the narrator as an unsavory character—particularly, for example, as he eats food, including bacon and bread, right in front of other victims, Jews, who are literally starving; students soon see that there is, as Primo Levi has stated, a “grey zone,” an area where there is no true black or white. This can confuse some students who want simple answers to complex situations and are prone to seeing good or bad in absolute terms. Borowski portrays human nature at its ugliest, yet readers cannot help but feel pity for the narrator.

Novels Something Remains by Inge Barth-Grozinger The short novel Something Remains is an excellent work to use when dealing with the rise of the Nazis and how it impacted the lives of a Jewish family in one small town. In portraying the Levi family and their small German town, Ellwangen, Barth-Grozinger examines how individuals made moral or immoral choices within a society that purposely blurred the distinction between right and wrong. The main character, Erich Levi, experiences firsthand unfair treatment at his school because he is Jewish. Erich is picked on by students and teachers alike, yet he has a few friends and community members who stand by him and his family. The novel deals with difficult personal choices many had to make during that time. Fannie, a young girl who has worked for the Levis for several years, must decide whether to stay with the family or to leave and work for a Christian family. Once she leaves, she has further choices to make regarding any future communication with the Levis. Ellwangen had no Jewish inhabitants after 1938, which many students find particularly intriguing. Readers witness only a few years of the family’s experiences but learn much about the horrors of the early years of the Holocaust. While the story is fictional, it is based upon events that actually took place in Ellwangen. To provide students with an opportunity to maximize their understanding about the history of the Holocaust while reading and studying this novel, it is useful to use a time line of the Holocaust. The USHMM has created a time line for teachers ( As students follow the events of Hitler’s rise to power, they can place the events in the novel within a historical context.

Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter Friedrich is an excellent short novel that can be used with middle school students, as well as with high school students who may be struggling readers. Richter was born in 1926 in Cologne, Germany, and served in World War II. First published in 1961, Friedrich is set in Germany in the 1930s and follows the rise of Nazism through the eyes of two young teenage boys, one Christian (the narrator) and one Jewish (Friedrich). The author is consistent and accurate in bringing the historical narrative forward while developing the identity of the boys and their families. Richter carefully creates parallels in the lives of these boys (and, actually, their families), both of whom are 4 years old in 1929, and 17 in 1942 when the novel ends. Each of the 31 short chapters highlights the progressive incursion of the poisonous Nazi ideology into the fabric of German society and develops a historically accurate chronological understanding of a complex period in history. Issues of prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


conformity are examined through the interplay of the two adolescent boys. Careful attention is paid to the economic, social, and political restrictions placed upon Jews. While the non-Jewish narrator’s father joins the Nazi party and the non-Jewish narrator joins the Hitler Youth and takes part in Kristallnacht, the Schneiders, the Jewish neighbors, begin to understand the implication of Nazi policy on their friendship. As the story progresses, different characters are faced with different personal dilemmas, such as “How much should they conform or conceal their identities?” and “Should they follow the Nazis, thereby betraying their friends, or find a path to survival?”

Fateless by Imre Kertesz Fateless, written, a Hungarian author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, is an incredibly powerful semi-autobiographical novel based on many of his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Told from a child’s point of view, the young narrator, 14-year-old George, looks up to those in charge—whether it be a Nazi or a guard. From his perspective, authority is to be respected. Before he is deported from Hungary, George thinks, “I also figured that I’d get to travel and see a bit of the world” (Kertész, 1992, p. 48). Interestingly, the novel has been variously compared to Catcher in the Rye and works by Kafka, but situated in Auschwitz. Upon George’s arrival at Auschwitz, he is put through the same routine as others, but, as he does not feel Jewish, he views the entire arrival experience as an outsider. George speaks neither Hebrew nor Yiddish. He does not feel Hungarian, and agrees with others who look down on that nationality. This is why, when seeing German soldiers upon arrival, he is “somewhat relieved on seeing them because they seemed well-cared-for, clean, and neat, and in this chaos they alone seemed to exude solidity and calm” (Kertész, 1992, p. 59). At the same time, he cannot see himself as a prisoner as he has done nothing wrong. It is this distancing of himself that actually helps him survive. He is so naïve and optimistic at times that it is nearly unbelievable, yet we know how our minds can trick us, so much so that George is able to eventually say, “I too very soon developed a liking for Buchenwald” (p. 94). George’s attitude is both complex and simplistic at the same time. This contradiction makes for rich discussion in the classroom. Fateless is a powerful companion piece to a survivor memoir or nonfiction work, especially Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.

Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn Emil and Karl was written in Yiddish in 1940—early in World War II. Jeffrey Shandler, a Yiddish scholar and historian, discovered the novel and translated it into English in 2009, thus bringing this important literary work to English-speaking audiences. Two young boys—one Jewish, the other Christian—find themselves without homes in Vienna near the start of World War II. Many young readers naturally reflect upon the plight of children during wartime and how that predicament can play out in relationships among friends. Glatshteyn writes about events such as Jews being forced to scrub sidewalks in Vienna—which later becomes an iconic event in history—and offsets that with the altruistic behavior of non-Jews woven together in the relationship between Emil and Karl.

Nightfather by Carl Friedman Nightfather is a remarkably thought-provoking fictionalized memoir by the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. This short novel consists of a series of extremely brief scenes related by a young Dutch


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girl in the 1950s. The first chapter, “Camp,” is extremely poignant. The children understand having measles and chickenpox, “but we’ve never had camp [as described by their father] as ‘a condition’ ” (Friedman, 1994, p. 2). Nightfather can result in deep discussions on the intricacies and nuances of life as a prisoner in a death camp, as well as our inability to completely understand what the victims faced and suffered. It also speaks to the dilemmas and confusions that the children of Holocaust survivors may face and have to deal with throughout their lives. The father’s stories about the camps become rather bizarre fables for his children. On the surface, there are two levels of the tale told: how a traumatic event affects the survivor, and how that experience trickles down to the next generation. In the afterword, the author reports the following: “My father remained a victim of that hatred all his life. And indirectly, his children were its victims as well” (Friedman, 1994, p. 136). Various chapters of the book can be used when teaching other topics. For example, “Eichmann” is a good section to use when discussing the Eichmann trial. In this chapter, the narrator watches the televised Eichmann trial with her father, amazed at how “normal” Eichmann looks. Her father says, “He looks like the mailman or the baker. The mailman delivers letters and the baker bakes bread and Eichmann sent masses of people to the gas chamber. He just did his job as others do theirs. It makes you sick.” “Then why are you watching?” “Because I want to understand. But I understand it less now than I did then.” (Friedman, 1994, p. 23) This section supports the truth that the Nazis, including top leaders like Eichmann, were people, not monsters. Yes, they committed monstrous crimes, but they were people, and this aids in teaching the concept that the capacity for evil resides in every human being. It is often easier for students to believe that the Nazis were monsters, for that seemingly explains their cruelty and ruthlessness. But people make choices every day, good and bad, and must be responsible for those choices. “Eichmann” also addresses the indifference to the Holocaust at the time it happened, and this is especially evident when the father questions all the letters in the newspaper that decry Eichmann’s actions. He ponders, “Now that he’s defenseless, now that anyone can crush him under the toe of an old slipper . . . Where were those heroes when we needed them?” (p. 24). When studying the Holocaust, students may begin thinking and reading about other genocides and atrocities committed worldwide, and begin to make connections to events in our own nation’s recent past. For example, students might see photographs of park benches in Nazi Germany marked “For Aryans only” and think of the Jim Crow South where benches, bathrooms, swimming pools, movie theaters and even schools were designated as “Whites only” or “Colored only.”

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada Every Man Dies Alone can be used as a powerful example of resistance. Based on a true story, Fallada, a German writer, weaves a narrative of a German couple, the Quangels, who have lost their son to the war. Disgruntled with the Nazi government, they plot to resist by leaving anonymous (and poorly written) postcards in public places. As the husband thinks it through, he decides to leave the cards in stairwells: “Leave them to their fate, without any control over who picked them up, where they might be trampled underfoot, torn up” (p. 131). Readers might question how effective this plan can be, as does Mrs. Quangel: “She wanted to be active, to do something with results she could see!” (p. 131). The entire question of what constitutes

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


resistance arises when we see how something as simple as withholding information can be a form of resistance. Ultimately the couple is caught, and discover that their campaign really achieved nothing, for most of the Germans who saw the postcards turned them in to the authorities. When Quangel is told this, he despairs, “So I’ve accomplished nothing?” (p. 376). And that is where the discussion begins. Besides looking at different kinds of resistance, a teacher could posit a series of questions, including: “In the end, what purpose does resistance serve?” and “ Is resistance still worthwhile if it achieves absolutely nothing?” This is what Quangel must face when he is in jail, when his cellmate asks, “Would you rather live for an unjust cause than die for a just one?” (p. 430). These are important questions for students to ponder when thinking about resistance, which they often romanticize.

Drama The use of drama in the Holocaust classroom is a natural fit. It is a chance for students to read aloud in the classroom, and for the teacher to lead a thorough discussion as the students read, raising key questions and adding historical insights. Such an approach also provides an opportunity for breaks, for stopping the reading and doing a quick-write to reflect upon what students have read.

No Way Out by Susan Prinz Shear No Way Out was created after she discovered over 500 letters and documents about her family’s attempts to flee Nazi Germany. These primary sources helped the author to understand the complexity of life in Nazi Germany and the will of her family to escape. No Way Out utilizes a Reader’s Theater approach, which allows the reader’s involvement in the story. Through the use of visuals, including historical clarifying text, family photos, and documents, students navigate through the story in a multisensory and multidisciplinary manner. Oral reading, visual recognition, and auditory processing are all engaging avenues for internalizing content. Utilizing 50 of the aforementioned family letters, Shear created a narrative that focuses on the “legal” process that confounded her family, both in their ability to make decisions about emigration and their confusion about the world’s response to the Nazis’ policies and actions. Shear’s grandfather is the narrator, who relates the harrowing story of trying to save his daughter in the midst of Nazi laws and events that made the process so incredibly difficult. At the high school level, No Way Out is ideal for helping students to wrestle with a common question many high school students ask: “Why didn’t the Jews just leave?” In doing so, it is helpful to utilize the following document published by the USHMM that explicitly defines the immigration process to the United States during the Holocaust years: “Documents Required to Obtain a Visa” ( Incorporating this resource into a lesson alongside No Way Out provides deeper contextualization of the history.

Resort 76 by Shimon Wincelberg Robert Skloot’s book, The Theatre of the Holocaust (1982), contains four plays, all of which are ideal for use in the high school classroom. One in particular, Resort 76 is especially pertinent to a study of the ghettos. The play takes place in the Lodz Ghetto where the inhabitants are worried about food, work, deportations, and bringing a child into a world of suffering. To complicate matters, Krause, a German man who has recently found out he has Jewish heritage, is forced to move into a tiny and already overcrowded apartment. As this outsider tries to separate himself from


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the others, he becomes immersed in their problems, especially when a woman tells Blaustain, the director of a factory, about a cat she has found in the ghetto. A cat may seem commonplace to us, but in the ghetto it is a rarity, and they have heard that those in charge of the food storage may offer extra food and maybe even a job in the warehouse in exchange for a cat to kill the rats that keep eating the grain. This play brings to the fore a series of deep moral questions asked within “a world turned upside down”: should Blaustain and his wife abort their child? Choosing to do so could make their lives easier, but in order to get the procedure done, they would have to trade the cat. Another character, Schnur, teaches a young boy how to be a kosher butcher in a world without food! When the boy is caught with Schnur’s books, he tells the police patrol everything, including Schnur’s name and address—as a result, near the end of the play their capture is imminent. Many of the inhabitants of the apartment ponder if they should kill the cat for food, and suggest that the boy and Schnur could do it as humanely as possible. But it is with a sigh of relief and a smile on the young boy’s face when they decide to set the cat free. Although we know the fate of those in the ghettos (the vast majority were sent to the death camps), the play ends on an optimistic note, depicting the happiness actual choices could bring. As Skloot (1982) writes in the introduction of his book, “the audience departs the theatre appreciative of the small—if temporary—victory of the forces which affirm life over the horrors of meaningless death” (p. 26).

Poetry Many teachers find the use of poetry to be a good way to induce students to think more deeply about issues related to the Holocaust. Here we highlight some of the poems that we have found to be most thought-provoking.

“Kindergarten, the Bronx” by Blu Greenberg In this poem, Blu Greenberg portrays a normal first day of kindergarten for an American child. But when the other children talk about their “aunts,” this child has no concept of such a term, for as a third-generation survivor her family sadly has none. “ ‘Mom,’ says the little voice/ With a milk moustache/And pink-ribboned ponytails/‘What does ant mean?’ ” As the mother discusses the word “ant,” the daughter clarifies, “ ‘No, Aunt is a lady/Tammy has Aunt Judy/ And Michael . . . and Lauren . . ./Do I have an Aunt?’ ” Heartbreakingly, the mother must deal with the truth: “Three aunts/And/The beginning/Of the end/Of innocence” (Greenberg, 1994, pp. 57–58). Many of our students have grown up surrounded by family—aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents—and cannot fathom a life without them. Using a poem like this only takes minutes of a lesson, but can add to the concept of just how much survivors lost, and how that changes families forever.

“Yellow Star” by Jennifer Roy Author Jennifer Roy set out to write a book about her aunt’s survival of the Lodz Ghetto. Using narrative verse, Roy tells the story in young Syvia’s voice. Students respond well to Roy’s verse; it is easy and relatively quick to read and tells a compelling story. Moving in chronological order, readers perceive Syvia’s confusion of the events unfolding in Poland in 1939, beginning with the required yellow stars and the establishment of ghettos. Because it is in the voice of such a young child (Syvia is not quite 5 in the first section), students sympathize with her experience and may

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


smile at her naïveté. When she hears all the Jews will be moving into a ghetto, she wonders how so many will fit into one small area. Roy works in many facts and statistics about the Lodz Ghetto (via the family’s voices), including the issue of labor in the ghetto. For example, in “Women’s Work,” Syvia’s 12-year-old sister, Dora, must lie about her age in order to work. Dora claims to be 14 so she can work nights in a factory and then babysit Syvia during the day, when their parents are at work. Even at the tender age of 5, Syvia realizes the value of work in the ghetto, where having a job equals life. Food, of course, was a constant topic of discussion in the ghettos. As a result of terrible shortages, people were constantly hungry, if not literally starving to death. In a section titled “Food,” we see Syvia’s father saving the flour that coats his apron at work (but only after dividing it among the other workers), and bringing it home so that his wife can make a few noodles. This section resonates with students on many levels. First, they may have heard of the food shortages in the ghettos and may have seen images of starving ghetto inhabitants, and yet still not fully realized just how bad the situation really was. Furthermore, this part of the narrative exemplifies the incredible resourcefulness of the inhabitants, and highlights the nature of sharing even under such horrific conditions. Additionally, students come to appreciate the dire situation regarding ration cards that the imprisoned inhabitants faced; that is, even if one had a ration coupon for bread, the store may have been out of bread by the time one got there, and thus one’s family was simply out of luck and left with nothing to eat. Like the “Anonymous Girl” diary in Zapruder’s Salvaged Pages, Syvia constantly has food on her mind. Roy begins each section with a short history that explains what was happening at the time in Lodz, wisely placing Syvia’s story into historical context. This is extremely helpful to both teachers and students. Roy concludes the book with the family’s liberation, after hiding in a basement and in a shallow grave in the cemetery. Syvia was one of 12 children to survive the Lodz Ghetto. Another vehicle for connecting poetry to the historical narrative is to utilize poetry written by survivors. For example, Anneliese Katz (later known as Anne Ranasinghe), a young adult who is mentioned in the Klaus Langer diary in Salvaged Pages, offers poetry that is engaging, expressive, and thought-provoking. Ranasinghe was born on October 5, 1925, in Essen, Germany. She was involved with Langer in Essen as they were young adults seeking to find a way out of Germany through their Zionist youth movements. Ultimately, she escaped from Nazi Germany, fleeing to England. In her postwar life she became largely known for her poetry, although she also published some short stories and essays. The poem “Holocaust 1944” by Ranasinghe (in Schiff, 1995) allows the reader to contend with the trauma of survival. This particular poem provides various insights into the many emotions felt by young adults as they struggled with the postwar guilt of having fled from the Nazi terror (many, of course, were not only encouraged to leave by their parents but actually placed on the Kindertransports), while leaving behind their families to face the Nazis on their own. It can be utilized alone or in conjunction with Klaus Langer’s diary, in which he depicts the difficulties involved in the immigration process as well as the natural tensions created by teenagers who sought to leave their country in a time of extreme conflict. “To my mother” speaks to what many experienced in the aftermath of war, including the impact that seeking freedom and safety had on these marginalized teenagers.

Conclusion While it is absolutely critical, obviously, that teachers present the history—the facts, statistics, issues, and events of the Holocaust—the wise use of literary works can help students to more fully comprehend such a horrific event. In many cases literature can deepen the students understanding of


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the history, as well as the impact it had on individuals, families, and communities. In doing so, they are likely to come to the realization that there are no simple answers to this, or any other, complex history. Students will have much to contemplate as they read, study and discuss various poems, stories, novels, and/or plays. Many might find that one or more of those pieces may well remain with them for the rest of their lives.

References Barth-Grozinger, Inge (2006). Something Remains: A Novel. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. Borowski, Tadeusz (1976). This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. New York, NY: Penguin. Boyne, John (2006). The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York, NY: David Fickling Books. Culbertson, Elaine. (2001). “The Diary of Anne Frank: Why I Don’t Teach It.” In Samuel Totten (Ed.) Teaching Holocaust Literature. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, p. 63–69. Fallada, Hans (2009). Every Man Dies Alone. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. Fink, Ida (1995). A Scrap of Time and Other Stories. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Friedman, Carl (1994). Nightfather. New York, NY: Persea Books. Glatshteyn, Yankev (2006). Emil and Karl (Jeffrey Shandler, Trans.). New Milford, CT: Roaring Books. Greenberg, Blu (1994). Black Bread: Poems, After the Holocaust. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House. Kertész, Imre (1992). Fateless. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Klein, Gerda Weissmann (1999). All But My Life: A Memoir. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Langer, Lawrence (1982). Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit. Albany: State University of New York Press. Levi, Primo (1996). Survival in Auschwitz. New York, NY: Touchstone. Lowry, Lois (1989). Number the Stars. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Rudman, Masha Kabakow, and Rosenberg, Susan P. (1991). “Confronting History: Holocaust Books for Children.” New Advocate, 4(3), 163–176. Schiff, Hilda (Ed.). (1995). Holocaust Poetry. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. Schirm, Joanie Holzer (2013). Adventurers Against Their Will: Extraordinary World War II Stories of Survival, Escape, and Connection-Unlike Any Others. Sarasota, FL: Peli Press. Shawn, Karen (1994). “What Should They Read and When Should They Read It?: A Selective Review of Holocaust Literature for Students in Grades Two Through Twelve.” Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, 8(2), 23–35. Shear, Susan Prinz (1999). No Way Out: Letter and Lessons of the Holocaust. Longmont, CO: Silicon Valley Seminars. Skloot, Robert (Ed.). (1982). The Theatre of the Holocaust (Volume I). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Smith, Lyn (2005). Remembering:Voices of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf. Spiegelman, Art (1986). Maus I: My Father Bleeds History. New York, NY: Pantheon. Spiegelman, Art (1991). Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began. New York, NY: Pantheon. Totten, Samuel (Ed.). (2001). Teaching Holocaust Literature. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Totten, Samuel (2002). Holocaust Education: Issues and Approaches. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Totten, Samuel, and Feinberg, Stephen (Eds.). (2001). Teaching and Studying the Holocaust. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Wiesel, Elie (2006). Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Zapruder, Alexandra (2004). Salvaged Pages: Young Writer’s Diaries of the Holocaust. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Annotated Bibliography Shawn, Karen (2014). “What Books Shall We Choose for Our Children?” PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, Spring, 6, 120–127. Shawn, along with educators in her Holocaust Educators’ Consortium, has carefully crafted an annotated bibliography of literary works for grades 4–8, providing sound pedagogical rationale for inclusion or exclusion of these works in classroom teaching.

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


Diaries Adelson, Alan (Ed.). (1996). The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks From the Lodz Ghetto. London: Bloomsbury. 271 pp. The remarkable diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a Jewish teenager, who relates the relentless horror of everyday life in the Lodz Ghetto. Complete with photographs, maps, and detailed information about this particular ghetto, the diary provides a victim’s unique and incredibly powerful and detailed perspective of atrocities that took place in Lodz. Zapruder, Alexandra (2004). Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 504 pp. This collection of 15 edited diaries, some never before published in English, were all written by young people during the Holocaust. With varied backgrounds and experiences, this book is an excellent resource for presenting the perspective of young victims of the Holocaust.

Memoirs Chiger, Krystyna, and Paisner, Daniel (2008). The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust’s Shadow. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. 304 pp. For 14 months, Chiger and her family survived capture by living in the putrid and foul-smelling sewers of Lvov, with the help of a former thief, Leopold Socha. Socha risked his life to save Chiger’s family by bringing them food and medicine. This is a story of both survival and redemption. Klein, Gerda Weissman (1995). All But My Life. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. 260 pp. Klein’s remarkable Holocaust memoir begins in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, and ends in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her experiences included living in a small ghetto, surviving four labor camps, and outlasting a death march. Ultimately, she was liberated in Czechoslovakia by an American man whom she later married. Hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers have used this memoir in their classrooms. Levi, Primo (1996). Survival in Auschwitz. New York, NY: Touchstone. 87 pp. While his ultimate goal is to relate his own personal story so that the memory of the Holocaust live on, Levi’s account of life in Auschwitz allows readers to see the Nazis’ systematic method of murder and forced labor that stripped people of their humanity and sense of self. His honesty about himself and others has been called brutal, making this work an essential resource for a study of the Holocaust. Meed, Vladka (1993). On Both Sides of the Wall. Washington, DC: Holocaust Library. 276 pp. Meed, whose real name was Feigele Peltel, was a young Jewish girl in Warsaw when the Nazis invaded Poland. She managed to live as a Christian outside the Warsaw Ghetto using false identification papers. This memoir recounts her heroic experiences as she smuggled items (information, money, human beings) into and out of the ghetto.

Novels Barth-Grozinger, Inge (2006). Something Remains. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. 390 pp. This novel, based on the true story of the Levi family, traces their persecution in a small German town during the Nazi era. Placing the focus on the teenage son, Erich, the novel tries to answer the question: how could the Holocaust have happened? Fallada, Hans (2009). Every Man Dies Alone. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. 539 pp. Fallada wrote this novel shortly after World War II. Based on a true story, the novel explores the story of a German couple who, in an attempt to get vengeance for their son’s death in the war, began to drop postcards containing anti-Nazi sentiments around Berlin. The book forces readers to think about the effectiveness of passive resistance. Friedman, Carl (1994). Nightfather. New York, NY: Persea Books. 136 pp. Passing on the legacy of the Holocaust through the stories she tells, this remarkable novel is a moving account of three children’s psychological battle to understand their father, a Holocaust survivor. Kertész, Imre (1992). Fateless. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. 191 pp.


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Based on Kertész’s experience in the Holocaust, this novel presents a young Jewish Hungarian man’s harrowing experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This novel chronicles how the man copes with the madness of the universe created by the Nazis. Spiegelman, Art (1986 and 1991). Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began. New York, NY: Pantheon. 159 and 136 pp., respectively. These graphic novels tell the story of Spiegelman’s parents, both survivors of Auschwitz. Spiegelman portrays the Nazis as cats and Jews as mice. A Pulitzer Prize winner. Spinelli, Jerry (2003). Milkweed. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. 208 pp. The narrator of this novel is a young boy in Warsaw who has no clear identity at a time when one’s identity meant the difference between life or death. This young adult novel recounts the protagonist’s many experiences as he searches for an identity of his own.

Short Stories Borowski, Tadeusz (1976). This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. New York, NY: Penguin, 180 pp. Based on his own experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau, these stories by a non-Jewish prisoner describe the atrocious world of concentration camps in stark and brutal prose. Considered by many to be a masterpiece of Holocaust literature, this work portrays the bleak and cruel reality of the concentration camp universe. Fink, Ida (1995). A Scrap of Time and Other Stories. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. 165 pp. Describing the lives of ordinary people during and after the Holocaust, Fink’s collection includes some incredibly powerful stories that deal with some of the many “choiceless choices” faced by the Jewish victims of Nazi crimes against humanity. Two short stories in particular, which are extremely short but extremely powerful, are ideal for use in the classroom: “Crazy” and “The Key Game.” Shawn, Karen, and Goldfrad, Keren (Eds.). (2008). The Call of Memory: Learning About the Holocaust through Narrative: An Anthology. Teaneck, NJ: Ben Yehuda Press. 275 pp. This collection of short stories by Holocaust survivors (e.g., Ida Fink, Bernard Gotfryd, Elie Wiesel, Aharon Appelfeld) and contemporary writers such as Cynthia Ozick is organized both chronologically and thematically. A 550+ page teacher’s guide, which includes a literary analysis of each story and master teachers’ accounts of teaching each narrative, is also available.

Poetry Fishman, Charles Ades (Ed.). (2007). Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust. St. Louis, MO: Time Being Books. A solid source in which to locate many powerful poems on the Holocaust for use in the classroom. Greenberg, Blu (1994). Black Bread: Poems, After the Holocaust. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House. 120 pp. These poems, by an American-born Jew who was psychologically changed by knowledge of the Holocaust, deal with the interaction between ordinary daily living and awareness of an incomprehensible event in human history. Herz, Stephen (2014). Marked: Poems of the Holocaust. New York, NY: NYQ Books. Herz’s collection of poems, which makes unique use of actual documents from the Holocaust, has been hailed as remarkably powerful, ideal for use in the classroom, and memorable. The poems essentially present a history of the events of the Holocaust in a most unusual but powerful manner. Schiff, Hilda (Ed.). (1995). Holocaust Poetry. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin. 234 pp. These poems constitute a collection written by both survivors of the Holocaust and others. Arranged by theme and chronological order, the poems addresses such issues as “Alienation,” “Persecution,” and “Rescuers, Bystanders, and Perpetrators,” among others.

Drama Merkin, Ros (2013). “Suitcase.” PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, Spring, 5, 78–90. This play reenacts the arrival of a group of Jewish child refugees at London’s Liverpool Street Station. The play was written to be performed in the station by 12 children and nine adults, and includes the reactions of the people who came to help the children of the Kindertransport.

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


Skloot, Robert (Ed.). (1982). The Theatre of the Holocaust, Volume I. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 333 pp. The four plays in this volume (“Resort 76,” “Throne of Straw,” “The Cannibals,” and “Who Will Carry the Word?”) each address profound questions involving the Holocaust. Exploring life in concentration camps, ghettos, and other places in the Nazi universe, these plays have the potential to create meaningful classroom dialogues.

Pedagogy Cohen, Laurie Warshal (2001). “Voices of the Holocaust: A New Course.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, May, 28(4), 356–364. While this article is about teaching the Holocaust at the community college level, high school teachers will also find it useful as it centers on using survivor testimony in both memoirs and oral presentations. Culbertson, Elaine (2001). “The Diary of Anne Frank: Why I Don’t Teach It.” In Samuel Totten (Ed.), Teaching Holocaust Literature (pp. 63–69). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Culbertson, a highly respected educator of the Holocaust, argues for not teaching Anne Frank’s work because the diary does not exemplify typical Holocaust experiences, is limited in scope and perspective, and, if not put into context, presents an extremely skewed point of view of the Holocaust. She argues that there are many other diaries or memoirs that can replace this unit, which are widely used in Holocaust units in the language arts. Drew, Margaret A. (1995). “Incorporating Literature into a Study of Holocaust: Some Advice, Some Cautions.” Social Education, October, 59(6), 354–356. The author, a staff member of Facing History and Ourselves, emphasizes that historical literature about any topic needs to be evaluated as both history and literature. Drew claims that no single book can convey the full horror of a particular historical period. She provides other sage advice and issues some cautions for teachers who wish to incorporate literature into their study of the Holocaust. Gubar, Susan (2004). “Poetry and Holocaust Remembrance.” In Marianne and Irene Kacandes (Eds.), Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (pp. 165–179). New York, NY: The Modern Language Association of America. Gubar suggests many poems and anthologies to use in the teaching of Holocaust poetry, and also includes some of the challenges and difficulties associated with the topic and how to overcome them. Kersell, Nancy D. (2011). “A Literary Search for Truth: Teaching the Holocaust Memoir to the Generations After the Holocaust.” PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, Spring, 3, 129–132. Kersell examines the use of survivor memoirs and offers an analysis of how to evaluate the use of memoirs in terms of authenticity, authority, and interpretation. Kersell offers a useful rubric for literary analysis of survivor memoirs. Kroll, Daniel (2010). “Hans Peter Richter’s Friedrich: Trying to Understand German Inaction During the Holocaust.” PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, Spring, 1(2), 78–82. Kroll discusses how Friedrich is ideal for engaging students in a conversation regarding the role of bystanders. Rogowski, Christian (2004). “Teaching the Drama of the Holocaust.” In Marianne Hirsch and Irene Kacandes (Eds.), Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (pp. 234–239). New York, NY: The Modern Language Association of America. Rogowski outlines reasons why drama is an effective vehicle for teaching about the Holocaust, and includes suggestions of plays that work well. He also argues that controversial works make the best studies, but addresses challenges one might face when choosing such works. Totten, Samuel (1998). “Examining the Holocaust Through the Lives and Literary Works of Victims and Survivors: An Ideal Unit of Study for the English Classroom.” In Robert Hauptman and Susan Hubbs Motin (Eds.), The Holocaust: Memories, Research Reference (pp. 165–188). New York, NY: The Haworth Press. Describes a project that immerses students in the world of Nazi-occupied Europe. Students study the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors in order to ascertain how their experiences influenced their works’ style, plot, and themes. Totten, Samuel (1998). “Using Reader-Response Theory to Study Poetry About the Holocaust with High School Students.” Social Studies, January–February, 89(1), 30–34. Totten discusses how the use of the reader response theory helps students make deeper connections to their study of Holocaust literature. An annotated bibliography of Holocaust poetry is a valuable extension to the article.


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Zeitlin, Froma I. (2004). “Teaching About Perpetrators.” In Marianne Hirsch and Irene Kacandes (Eds.), Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (pp. 68–85). New York, NY: The Modern Language Association of America. Zeitlin argues the importance of teaching about the perpetrators. She organizes this article by discussing approaches to the lessons, such as focusing on groups of perpetrators (e.g., the Einsatzgruppen), individual perpetrators, and the use of official documents and film to teach such lessons.

Research Hernandez, Alexander Anthony (2004). Voices of Witness, Messages of Hope: Moral Development Theory and Transactional Response in a Literature-Based Holocaust Studies Curriculum. Dissertation, Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Theory and Practice, Ohio State University. The abstract of this dissertation reads as follows: “The professional literature of the Holocaust is replete with research, references, and recommendations that a study of the Holocaust, particularly for middle and high school students, is most effective when combined with an extensive use of Holocaust literature. Scholars and educators alike advocate the use of first-person testimony whenever and wherever possible in order to personalize the Holocaust lessons for the student. This study explores students’ responses to firstperson Holocaust narratives through the lens of reader response theory in order to determine if prolonged engagement with the literature enhances affective learning. This study also explores the students’ sense of personal ethics and their perceptions on moral decision-making.” Juzwik, Mary M. (2013). “Extending the Conversation: The Ethics of Teaching Disturbing Pasts: Reader Response, Historical Contextualization, and Rhetorical (Con)Textualization of the Holocaust.” English Education, 45(3), April, 284–308. The abstract to this article states: “A set of especially complicated ethical relationships becomes visible in literary study when the unspeakable atrocity of state-sponsored genocide is part of the story, as it is in many wartime texts taught in secondary English classrooms. What then is the nature of an English teacher’s obligation to the detailed particularity of the past and to those who endured that past when encouraging students’ individual and collaborative responses to texts in the present (or in the future)? I explore the broad ethical question by discussing specific difficulties presented by the case of Holocaust pedagogy. The guiding purpose of the discussion is to explore a set of more general questions about the ethical dimensions of literary engagement in English—and specifically engagement with texts about disturbing pasts.” Schmidt, R. (2009). “Finding Our Way With Teachers and Families: Reading and Responding to the Holocaust.” In K. M. Leander, D. W. Rowe, D. K. Dickinson, M. K. Hundley, R. T. Jimenez, and V. J. Risko (Eds.), 58th Yearbook of the National Reading (pp. 248–260). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference, Inc. Using a qualitative study, Schmidt looks at how teachers and parents make decisions about the use of sensitive materials when discussing the Holocaust. She concludes that while it is not typically considered appropriate to teach the subject before seventh grade, many fifth-grade teachers are required to teach a lesson on it, and shares concerns that such lessons must be well prepared and allow time for reflection. Spector, Karen (2007). “God on the Gallows: Reading the Holocaust Through Narratives of Redemption.” Research in the Teaching of English, August, 42(1), 7–55. Using Night as a basis for her study, Spector discusses how to deal with the “Where is God?” question that often arises when studying the Holocaust. In doing so, she explores how religious narratives are utilized in teaching the Holocaust and how students react to these types of questions. Spector discusses the complexity she discovered in dealing with student responses to religious narratives in pluralistic classrooms. She includes suggestions for classroom teachers on how to address the topic and how to get students to dig deeper to find their own answers to the question.

Literary Criticism Hirsch, Marianne and Kacandes, Irene (Eds.). (2004). Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America. 512 pp.

Incorporating Literature Into a Study


The contributors to this volume, which includes essays by 38 scholars from a variety of disciplines (history, psychology, literary criticism, and film studies), examine the many ways in which the story of the Holocaust is told. Specific literary works and memoirs are explored to deepen an understanding of how this history is portrayed. Roskies, David G., and Diamant, Naomi (2012). Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press. 368 pp. A historical survey of Holocaust literature in all genres, countries, and major languages, this is an essential reference work. In addition to asking fundamental questions (e.g., What is Holocaust literature? Does Holocaust literature have an essential core?), this book examines the vast literature produced during the Holocaust in ghettos, places of hiding, and camps, as well as works produced after the end of the war.

Adjunct Resources Dean-Ruzcika, Rachel (2014). “Representing ‘The Devouring’: Romani Characters in Young Adult Holocaust Literature.” Children’s Literature in Education, September, 45(3), 211–224. Using Spinelli’s Milkweed, Hackl’s Farewell Sidonia, and Romati’s And the Violins Stopped Playing, DeanRuzcika discusses how each author addresses the topic of the Sinti and Roma (or Gypsies) in the Holocaust. She asserts that Romati’s is the only work of the three that presents a solid portrayal of the Sinti and Roma in the Holocaust and their culture. Erskine, Robb (2006). Literature of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. 334 pp. An outstanding collection of insightful essays into various facets of Holocaust literature by some of the most noted scholars in the field today. Among some of the many chapters in this book are “The Holocaust in the Stories of Elie Wiesel” by Thomas A. Idinopulos; “The Problematics of Holocaust Literature” by Alvin H. Rosenfeld; “Tragedy and the Holocaust” by Robert Skloot; “Holocaust Documentary Fiction: Novelist as Eyewitness” by James E. Young; “Primo Levi and the Language of Witness” by Michael Tager; “The Literature of Auschwitz” by Lawrence L. Langer; and “Two Holocaust Voices: Cynthia Ozick and Art Spiegelman” by Lawrence L. Langer. Horowitz, Sara R. (2004). “Gender and Holocaust Representation.” In Marianne Hirsch and Irene Kacandes (Eds.), Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (pp. 110–122). New York, NY: The Modern Language Association of America. Making use of various works on Holocaust literature (such as Maus and Survival in Auschwitz), Horowitz contrasts women’s experiences in the Holocaust to men’s, discussing approaches to analyzing gender roles in such works. Kersell, Nancy D. (2011). “A Literary Search for Truth: Teaching the Holocaust Memoir to the Generations After the Holocaust.” PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, Spring, 3, 129–132. Kersell examines the use of survivor memoirs and offers suggestions for evaluating the use of memoirs in terms of authenticity, authority, and interpretation. Kremer, S. Lillian (2013). “The Holocaust in English-Language Literatures.” In Alan Rosen (Ed.), Literature of the Holocaust (pp. 131–149). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Kremer organizes her article by topic (e.g., Kindertransport, antisemitism, the Nazis, resistance) in relation to their appearance in fiction, poetry, short stories, and memoirs. The article is helpful for teachers looking for works to aid them in teaching particular Holocaust subjects. Matthaus, Jurgen (2013). Jewish Responses to Persecution: Volume 3, 1941–42. Lanham, MD: Alta Mira Press in association with the USHMM. 584 pp. The third volume in a five-volume set, this volume constitutes a collection of primary source materials that details how Jews responded to persecution during the years of 1941–1942, the period when the mass murder of Jews began. It includes testimonies, diaries, letters, and photographs as well as newspaper articles and transcripts of speeches. An indispensable curriculum reference. Rosen, Allen (Ed.). (2013). Literature of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 321 pp. A highly acclaimed collection of essays about a wide array of subjects and issues in relation to the rich body of Holocaust literature. Among the many chapters in the book are “Wartime Victim Writing in Eastern Europe,” “Wartime Victim Writing in Western Europe,” “The Holocaust in English Language Literatures,” “Oral Memoir and the Shoah,” and “Anthologizing the Holocaust.”


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Spiegelman, Art (2011). Metamaus. New York, NY: Pantheon. 299 pp. Written to complement the two volumes of Maus by the author, this is not a sequel, but includes interviews with Spiegelman and his family, as well as transcripts of his interviews with his father, and a CD-ROM with supplemental materials, including audio of his father’s interviews. This is a valuable resource for those who teach the Maus books.


Introduction While teaching about the Holocaust usually entails tracing its stages and exploring the broader questions it raises through lectures, the examination of primary and secondary sources, and class discussion, it is important not to ignore the pedagogical potential of motion pictures when they are appropriately contextualized and rigorously analyzed. Newsreels, propaganda movies, and feature films produced and shown during Hitler’s rule provide a wealth of evidence in regard to how the Nazis and the Allies perceived the Nazis’ words, threats, and actions against the Jews. Concomitantly, postwar documentaries and cinematic dramatizations reveal how interpretations and representations of the Shoah vary depending on when and where and by whom they were produced. They enable students to gain a semblance of what those who lived through the Holocaust felt and thought when Germany and its collaborators marginalized and murdered the Jews in their midst. Comparing and contrasting films with the sources on which they are based can be a valuable learning exercise. Used with sensitivity and pedagogical sagacity, the cinematic record and representations of the Holocaust can illuminate the subject rather than overshadow it.

Overview of Holocaust Cinema Before the Nazi regime restricted the stories that newsreels could cover, audiences outside of Germany saw storm troopers posting signs that warned German gentiles not to buy from Jewishowned stores and tossing books deemed politically and racially subversive onto bonfires. Early Nazi feature films with English subtitles like S.A.-Mann Brand (1933) and Hitler Youth Quex (1933) can be streamed from YouTube. They glorify the struggle of the Hitler Youth and Nazi storm troopers against the Communists, Jews, and the Weimar Republic. Triumph of the Will (1935) intercuts spectacular shots of mass formations with the speeches of Hitler and his minions from the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi party rally to highlight how he and his movement articulated the aspirations and fulfilled the destiny of the Germany people. A clip of Hitler’s infamous Reichstag address delivered on January 30, 1939, records him threatening to destroy the Jews of Europe should a new world war break out. German propaganda documentaries like Victims of the Past (1937) and The Eternal Jew (1940) supply the respective rationales for sterilizing and euthanizing the severely disabled and for exterminating the Jews. Nazi dramas like Jew Süss (1940) and I Accuse (1941),


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respectively, imply that such drastic measures might be necessary to deal with the “racial” threat Jews posed to the Aryans and the economic and emotional drain of keeping the mentally and physically handicapped alive. To counter rumors about the terrible conditions in concentration camps, Theresienstadt: The Führer Gives a City to the Jews (1944) depicts the Czech transit ghetto as a benign facility where Jews received vocational training and showcased their artistic talents. A sampling of the films produced at the time by Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and various relief agencies reveals what they all knew about Hitler’s anti-Jewish policies and how much the governments of those countries were willing to do to stop the Nazis. The American newsreel series The March of Time combined documentary and staged footage in its episode “Inside Nazi Germany” (1938) to condemn the Nazis’ repression of Christian clergy and Jews. In Bound for Nowhere (1939), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee futilely pled for Cuba and the United States to give sanctuary to Jewish refugees fleeing Germany on the ill-fated ocean liner St. Louis. After Germany invaded in 1941, the USSR issued An Appeal to the Jews of the World (1941) to help save their brethren from the scourge of Nazism. “Prelude to War” (1942), the first episode of the American Why We Fight series, denounced the dictatorial regimes of Germany, Italy, and Japan and their military belligerence and racism, but did not specifically mention Germany’s anti-Jewish policies. A slew of Allied wartime feature films subsumed the Jewish ordeal as one part of Germany’s ruthless occupation policies. The Great Dictator (1940), Address Unknown (1944), and None Shall Escape (1944) constitute exceptions, in that they made a point of foregrounding the virulence of Nazi antisemitism. The shocking footage shot by Allied troops (from the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain) when they entered the concentration and death camps testified to the systematic slaughter of European Jewry. Empty cattle cars (once crammed with innocent people), crematorium chimneys, electrified barbed wire fences, emaciated survivors in striped uniforms, gas chambers disguised as showers, mounds of skeletal corpses, numbers tattooed on arms, piles of confiscated belongings and sheared hair, and smoldering bones in ovens evoke the Holocaust even 70 years after the systematic slaughter of the Jews has ceased. While teachers should not traumatize students with graphic atrocity footage, it is important to screen some segments of these first images of the carnage and cruelty to give students an idea of why the Allies were so shocked by them (Michalczyk, 2014). Films like Death Mills (1945), The Liberation of Auschwitz (1945), Majdanek Concentration Camp aka Majdanek: Victims and Perpetrators (1986), Memory of the Camps (1985), Nazi Concentration Camps (1945), and That Justice Be Done (1945) can be streamed directly from the Internet. Also available online are The Nuremberg Trials (1947), the Soviet account of the trials of Nazi war criminals, and Nuremberg (1950), the American documentary about the proceedings. Archival documents; atrocity footage; newsreels; photographs; postwar interviews of Allied, Axis, and neutral leaders; scholarly research; and videotaped testimony of bystanders, rescuers, resisters, soldiers, and survivors have all featured in the myriad of documentaries produced since 1945. The sheer size of this corpus makes it impossible to survey it adequately in this chapter. There are, however, some key works that teachers should consider showing in part, if not in their entirety, to their classes. Although never mentioning the word Jew throughout the film, Night and Fog (1955) is a short and exceedingly graphic account of Hitler’s genocidal legacy. Be aware that it follows the initial convention of filmmakers in Allied countries to enumerate the identities of the victims according to nationality rather than religious origins. Running under an hour, the episode “Genocide” from The World at War (1974) concisely chronicles the genesis and evolution of the “Final Solution.” Shoah (1985), over nine hours in length, eschews archival footage and narration in favor of probing interviews of Germans involved in the Holocaust, Poles who witnessed it, and Jewish survivors of the ghettos and death camps. Raul Hilberg, a noted historian of the Holocaust, is also interviewed concerning significant facets of the manmade tragedy.

Incorporating Film Into a Study


What began as a trickle of feature films and television dramas about the Holocaust between 1945 and 1960 has increased exponentially each decade ever since. These motion pictures variously attempt to convey: • •

How Germans and non-Jews in countries allied with or occupied by Germany condoned, ignored, participated in, or resisted the exclusion and attempted extermination of the Jews; How Jews and other groups targeted by the Third Reich—the Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), prisoners of war, Communists, and gay men—endured, evaded, perished from, or resisted their persecution; What actions the Allies, neutral countries, and institutions like the Catholic Church took or failed to take to alleviate the suffering of those interned or slated for liquidation by Hitler’s henchmen.

Feature films set in the postwar period generally deal with the hunt for Nazi war criminals; their trials by national or international courts; the immigration of Jews away from the sites of persecution to countries like the United States or the Jewish state of Israel; the psychological wounds that haunt survivors and affect their relationships with their children and spouses; the political process of coming to terms with how one’s country was implicated in the “Final Solution”; and the continuing cultural, political, and theological relevance of the Holocaust. In selecting different types of films, there is a host of issues that teachers should consider. For example, documentaries provide students with visual evidence of Germany’s discrimination and destruction of the Jews, either framed and interpreted by contemporary Allied or Nazi filmmakers, or by directors chronologically or geographically removed from the events. Nazi propaganda films stereotype and vilify the Jews who appear in them and conversely idealize the Germans and their antisemitic motives for isolating and oppressing them. Consequently, Jews are objectified as cunning and rapacious creatures whose forced labor and segregation were deserved. Allied liberation films dwell on the images of corpses and dazed survivors. They document the culmination of Nazi racial policies rather than the protracted processes of disenfranchisement, registration, ghettoization, local collaboration, roundups, and deportations that occurred before Jews died or eked out a precarious existence in the camps. Postwar documentaries attempt to provide personal explanations for why bystanders, perpetrators, rescuers, resisters, and victims behaved as they did. Since students naturally empathize with those who resisted the Nazi onslaught rather than those who did not, firsthand testimonies help them comprehend why resistance was not a viable option for most people. Intimidated by the threat of reprisals, unaware that discrimination and deportation were precursors to mass murder, or worried about being betrayed by informers, those who did not resist believed they could prolong their survival by providing labor the Germans demanded, and obtaining extra food from smugglers and clandestine soup kitchens. Throughout, they continued to participate in archiving evidence of their suffering for posterity, and participating in forbidden cultural activities. Some of the best and worst films that have depicted these subjects are discussed in this chapter.

Pedagogical Issues When Selecting and Using Films in the Classroom The issue of which clips or films a teacher uses in class is contingent on a number of factors: the focus/theme of the unit one is teaching; whether the unit is part of a world history or US history course, a civics course, or an English or literature course; the students’ grade level; whether the film is readily available for purchase, rental, or streaming; the amount of time allotted; whether there are relevant print or Internet resources about the clip or film that one can assign prior to viewing the film, and so forth. While the degree of authenticity is absolutely key in history courses, teachers of


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English or literature courses have a bit more leeway in this regard to focus on creativity, plot, and style, and thus might be inclined to show a feature film in its entirety. Civics courses might rely more on clips and films that trigger discussions of topical issues. Since many Holocaust documentaries and feature films contain disturbing images and touch on controversial issues, a teacher should ascertain whether parental permission for students to view potentially offensive material is needed. No matter what, gory images, nudity, and racist dialogue should be kept to a minimum. It is also important for teachers to keep in mind that the appalling footage of contorted corpses and gaunt survivors the Allies found in the abandoned camps documents the end stage of the dehumanization and liquidation process, but divests the victims of their individuality. Before they were reduced to rotting flesh or stupefied specters, they possessed distinctive personalities, had normal appearances, and wore regular clothing. Dwelling on the images of Nazi atrocities transforms their victims into the visual equivalent of casualty statistics, often numbing the students’ capacity to empathize with those who were murdered on such a massive scale (Slovic, 2007, pp. 79–95). It is absolutely imperative for teachers to preview what they plan to screen in class in order to identify the lessons they want students to extract from it. Teachers need to acquaint themselves with the recurring character types, events, personages, images, narrative explanations, plotlines, and themes employed in movies about the Nazi genocide of the Jews. By doing so they will be more prepared to respond to student questions and/or to elaborate on and add key comments/insights in regard to what the students are viewing. It might be wise to prepare for showing such films by reading a standard work on film studies like Corrigan and White (2012), Monaco (2009), or Nichols (2010), and/or a survey of Holocaust cinema like Avisar (1988), Baron (2005), Doneson (2002), Insdorf (2003), or Kerner (2011). Films should not be shown until students are already familiar with its subject matter through assigned readings, lectures, and if possible, classroom visits by local eyewitnesses, such as Germans who lived through Hitler’s reign, Jews who survived the Holocaust, and/or US Army veterans who liberated or saw the camps shortly after Germany surrendered. Before a clip or film is shown, students should be provided with questions and suggestions to direct their focus on certain images and issues. Students should learn who produced the film and for what purpose. If clips are used, one needs to explain how they fit within the remainder of the motion picture from which they were excerpted. Never assume that a film speaks for itself. Students will learn more from a motion picture if they know what it is about beforehand and have a discussion or writing assignment related to it afterward. Most feature films take two or more 50-minute periods to screen. Clips have the advantage of focusing on a single issue or theme and can be viewed a second time either in class or streamed by students at home. Feature films, however, situate their actual and fictional scenarios within the broader contexts of local ethnic relations, national politics, and World War II. It is wise for teachers to factor in additional time to stop movies for discussion after significant scenes. Narrative films metaphorically or realistically replicate the past in dramatic, ethical, psychological, satirical, and suspenseful terms that are meaningful to contemporary audiences. To be commercially successful, motion pictures variously resort to altering the factual record, combining several historical figures into a composite character, compressing time lines, depicting violence in palatable ways, imposing redemptive endings, implying comparisons with current human rights abuses, and simplifying causation. Directors of documentaries and feature films edit their works to accentuate the messages they seek to convey. Background music, camera angles, the camera’s point of view, coloration, the composition of scenes, how they segue from one to another, the impression left by the acting performances, and verbal references to other films and works of literature reinforce these messages. Teachers need to take these issues into consideration when selecting films for

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use in their students’ study of the Holocaust and when engaging their students in a discussion of films. A useful discussion of the pitfalls of using feature films in high-school courses can be found in Marcus, Metzger, Paxton, and Stoddard (2010, pp. 17–26). Despite these shortcomings, feature films possess the capacity to endow the dilemmas confronting characters swept up in the Holocaust, the emotions they felt, and the sights and sounds they saw and heard, with a relevance and tangibility that primary sources and scholarly studies do not typically evoke. The challenge of teaching with film is to equip students with the critical skills to recognize the distortions the medium is prone to while simultaneously enabling them to empathize with the catastrophic plight of people from another era with radically different upbringings, outlooks, and experiences. Disentangling the factual record from the cinematic fictions employed to represent it is a rewarding analytical exercise for students. When primary sources or reliable secondary ones are available, students can compare and contrast how a documentary or feature film alters or emphasizes particular characters, historical forces, and images associated with the event it portrays. In this regard, students should be helped to understand and appreciate that it is not only the action and dialogue that leaves an impression on them, but also the visual aspects of how characters and events are filmed, and the background music playing when these appear on screen, that affects their emotions and thoughts. On a different front, the dreamlike state film induces, its sensory appeal, and its verisimilitude evoke sympathy for rescuers, resisters, and victims and antipathy for accomplices, bystanders, and perpetrators. These illusions of sharing their experiences, what Weismann (2004) dubs “fantasies of witnessing” (pp. 1–27), are problematic since they are sometimes apt to mislead students to facilely conflate their own experiences of deprivation, injustice, and marginalization with the extreme manifestations of such phenomena during the Holocaust (Rider, 2013, pp. 43–53). With well-designed assignments, however, teachers can harness the affective quality of film to assist students to cognitively and empathically project themselves into the minds of those who committed, condoned, resisted, or succumbed to the Holocaust. Landsberg (2004) describes this pedagogical capacity of film as “prosthetic memory” (p. 24), which—if properly taught—enables students “to inhabit other people’s memories as other people’s memories” while “respecting and recognizing difference” (p. 24). Swing Kids (1993), for example, evokes emotional identification with characters who were of high school age. (Students can read about the “Swing Kids” who defied the Nazi ban on listening to American jazz and swing dancing at: third-reich/swing-kids-behind-barbed-wire/.) Teachers could supplement such background information with a short overview of the Hitler Youth program and the Nazi concept of “degenerate music.” Students can be asked to account for the decisions and motives of the protagonists. Then the teacher could ask them to extrapolate how similar group dynamics and thought processes might influence their peers and themselves to ignore, join, or oppose the bullying and ostracism of someone whose disability, ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation is considered threatening to their own identities (Marcus et al., 2010, pp. 50–67). The dialogue in certain feature films frequently spells out the issues they address in lucid ways that serve as a “springboard” (Russell, 2012, pp. 161–162) to facilitate student debates and discussions. For example, courtroom dramas like Nuremberg (2000) capsulize the salient arguments presented for the defense and prosecution of war criminals. Furthermore, students can articulate and extrapolate the arguments of one or more of the central characters from movies that revolve around controversial topics. For example, they could debate the pros and cons of (1) admitting refugees fleeing Hitler into the United States during the Depression, as portrayed in Voyage of the Damned (1976); (2) whether Pope Pius XII should have directly condemned the slaughter of European Jewry, as dramatized in Amen (2002); or (3) whether Jews should have tried to mollify the Nazis by cooperating rather than resisting them, as depicted in a film like Korczak (1990).


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Finally, it is worth noting that in Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood, Toplin (2002) employs several case studies to demonstrate how to assess whether a film remains sufficiently faithful to its historical sources to merit inclusion in a history class or disqualifies itself by falsifying them beyond recognition (pp. 58–138). These could serve as a valuable source for teachers in developing learning activities for their students.

Selecting Video Resources for Use in a Holocaust Unit What follows are the author’s suggestions in regard to those films that illustrate facets of the Holocaust particularly well, and thus are ideal for use in a high school classroom. That said, ultimately, the film for inclusion in a unit of study is the one that complements the unit’s learning objectives, and that, of course, is a decision that each instructor must make for him/herself. (See the annotated filmography at the end of this essay for recommendations of films that correlate well with particular topics.) DVD versions or streaming video of the list of films that follow can be purchased or rented from the sources indicated at the end of each entry (abbreviations or website addresses are duly noted): AM = Amazon,; EM = Ergo Media,; MF = Moriah Films,; NF = Netflix,; NCJF = National Center for Jewish Film,; PBS = Public Broadcasting Service,; SSSS = Social Studies School Service,; and USHMM = US Holocaust Memorial Museum, It should be noted that the same abbreviations are used in the annotated filmography at the conclusion of this chapter.

America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference (1994). AM, NF, PBS Since the Holocaust is taught in many American history courses, a solid documentary like America and the Holocaust, which examines the bureaucratic, diplomatic, military, and political factors that restrained the Roosevelt administration from liberalizing American immigration policies or mounting timely rescue operations, is invaluable. The film switches between the frustrated attempts of one German-Jewish family to obtain an American visa and prewar political and wartime priorities that relegated the saving of Jews to a secondary concern. Teachers should familiarize themselves with the conflicting interpretations of the American response to the Holocaust by various historians (Breitman and Lichtman, 2013; Rosen, 2006; Wyman, 1968, 1984). Based on contemporary documents available in Abzug (1999) or online (, and on Kurt Klein’s efforts to get permission for his parents to immigrate to the United States as portrayed in the film, teachers may wish to consider requiring students to role-play a hearing where Klein pleads his case to a State Department official, President Roosevelt, and an American nativist. The failure of the United States to adequately respond to the Holocaust can lead to further debate over current American asylum and immigration policies and how the United States should react to egregious human rights abuses or emerging genocides in foreign countries. The PBS website offers a teacher’s guide on America and the Holocaust at: holocaust/tguide/index.html.

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State (2005). AM, NF This six-part documentary traces how Auschwitz evolved into a notorious death camp. Through a combination of computer-generated images, documentary footage, dramatic reenactments, interviews, and narration, it traces the trial-and-error process that resulted in the construction

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and expansion of Auschwitz into the largest Nazi extermination and industrial complex, where attrition from disease, exhaustion, reprisal shootings, starvation, torture, and asphyxiation in gas chambers killed over one million Jews. While the documentary’s length prohibits showing the whole series, its chronological structure around the various strands of Nazi policy that coalesced into Auschwitz’s homicidal mission and slave labor system lends itself to excerpting scenes to isolate significant stages in the development of the “Final Solution” and how it was operationalized there (Dwork and van Pelt, 1996; Rees, 2005). See the PBS guide at: learning/guides/episode_1.html.

Conspiracy (2010). AM, NF, SSSS Conspiracy (2001), a docudrama, reenacts the Wannsee Conference convened by the Chief of the Reich Main Security Office Reinhold Heydrich on January 20, 1942 (Roseman, 2002). At this meeting, he briefed cabinet chiefs, occupation officials, and SS officers deployed in the conquered zones of the USSR about Hitler’s decision to deport European Jewry to concentration and death camps in German-occupied Poland. He then bullied and cajoled them to cooperate in the implementation of this policy, which most of them heartily approved. Prior to viewing this film, teachers and students should read the stenographic summary of the meeting that renders the proceedings into innocuous bureaucratic terminology (see http://, along with other relevant documents like Adolf Eichmann’s more explicit testimony about the conference ( eichmanns-testimony.pdf). Students should become familiar with the major interpretations of what motivated the planners of genocide as postulated by Arendt (1963), Browning (2004), and Cesarani (2006). Comparing and contrasting primary sources with the contents of the movie allows students to identify the liberties the director takes with the historical record and to speculate how these changes might distort what transpired at the conference. Students should describe their reaction to the business-as-usual tone of the conference that set the “Final Solution” in motion, and during which no one questioned the policy itself (Gigliotti, 2007, pp. 119–133; Steinweis, 2002). For study questions, see: Conspiracy-Movie-Study-Guide-80571.

The Courage to Care (1985). This half-hour documentary features interviews with two rescued Jews and three gentile rescuers of Jews from France, Holland, and the Netherlands. Although some Holocaust scholars believe too much attention is paid to rescuers for the purpose of rendering the history of the Holocaust more uplifting and less dismal (Rosenfeld, 2011, pp. 78–91), individuals who shielded Jews from impending arrest, deportation, and death prove there was a viable moral alternative to compliance with antisemitic laws and indifference toward their intended victims. While rescuers constituted only a fraction of the people living under the control of Germany and its vassal states, over 25,000 of them have been honored as “Righteous Gentiles” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s main Holocaust memorial center ( While rescuers tend to be modest to the point of being silent about their deeds, students can delve further into the biographies of the interviewed rescuers—Irene Opdyke, Marion Pritchard, and Magda Trocmé—to explain what prompted their decisions and the circumstances under which they reached them (Hallie, 1979; Opdyke and Armstrong, 1999; Scrase, 2004). For a study guide on teaching this film, see: http://


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The Eternal Jew (1940). This infamous Nazi propaganda film presents the cultural, historical, political, and racial reasons why Hitler perceived Jews as a mortal threat to Germany. Produced early in World War II, the movie aimed at conditioning audiences to justify Nazi antisemitic policies as defensive measures. Before viewing it, students need to have studied about the diversity of European Jewry, modern racism, World War I, and the Weimar Republic; otherwise, they will lack the knowledge to discredit antisemitic canards leveled in the film. Based on prior research into these calumnies, each student should be able to discern how the narration and images distort the truth. The site describes the exhibition on which the film was based; it also features a biography of its director and a pamphlet by Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels previewing the film. Ideally, teachers should require students to identify the propaganda techniques the film employs and cite contemporary instances of propaganda. To prepare them for doing so, students should be assigned to carefully read/study the list of propaganda techniques compiled at: AGRI183/propoaganda.html.

Fateless (2005). AM, NF Fateless (2005) chronicles the arrest, internment, and liberation of György, an ordinary Jewish Hungarian teenager. The film follows his gradual transformation from an adolescent apprehended by Hungarian police into a calloused concentration camp veteran inured to its debilitating regimen of hard labor, malnutrition, and punishment. His nonlinear impressions of his captivity range from moments of agony and brutality to serenity, and solidarity with other prisoners. When he loses his will to live, the camera duplicates how the surrounding world appears to someone no longer capable of interacting with it. Upon liberation, he cannot come to terms with the torment he has endured and feels alienated from surviving friends and family who cannot understand his experiences. He paradoxically looks back to his internment with nostalgia, yearning for the fraternal bonds forged by mutual adversity (Marx, 2005; Portuges, 2011, pp. 186–194). Fateless provides a sharp contrast to Elie Wiesel’s Night (2006). Like Wiesel, Imre Kertész is a concentration camp survivor. He authored the novel (2004) upon which the screenplay is based. The novel and the movie are more emotionally detached, lyrical and positive than Wiesel’s book. Unlike Wiesel (and this is true even taking into account that Wiesel’s faith was shaken by his ordeal), György is sustained neither by having to keep his father alive in the camp nor by his Jewish faith. Reading Night and watching Fateless in tandem should spark intense discussions about the coping mechanisms for surviving massive trauma and the psychological scars they leave on their victims (Rider, 2013, pp. 47–59). In preparation for a class discussion of the survival strategies György learned from fellow inmates, see the following online article on social bonding among concentration camp prisoners:

The Pianist (2002). AM, NF Based on the memoir of Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist ranks as one of the most impressive portrayals of what it was like to have been confined in the Warsaw Ghetto; subjected to the loss of family, freedom, and sustenance and subsequently hidden with the constant possibility of being betrayed or detected, the Jewish characters run the gamut from privileged Jewish elites who police the ghetto for the Nazis and/or profit from its black market to those who organize to resist the Nazis. The majority merely try to bide their time behind the ghetto walls without succumbing to despair. The Pianist’s depictions of the divisions among Jews within the ghetto and the diversity of

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Polish attitudes toward them—along with the puzzling motivations of the SS officer who helped Szpilman—provide launching points for discussions of German, Jewish, and Polish responses to the Holocaust.

Schindler’s List (1993). AM, NF Many Holocaust scholars derided Schindler’s List for idealizing a nominal Nazi. Above all, they felt that Steven Spielberg, the director, deliberately left audiences with a satisfying feeling that goodness had triumphed rather than with moral outrage that the Jews saved by Schindler were lucky exceptions to the rule of dehumanization and death endured by most Jews (Loshitzky, 1997; Rosenfeld, 2011). Yet the horrors of the Holocaust serve as the context for how unusual Schindler’s conversion from an exploiter of Jewish laborers to a protector of them was. Students can evaluate the film’s characterization of Schindler themselves by comparing and contrasting it to Thomas Keneally’s 1982 novel, Schindler’s List, from which the film was adapted; the documentary Schindler: The Real Story (1983); and/or David Crowe’s biography of Schindler (2004). They should speculate on what prompted Schindler’s moral metamorphosis and analyze/discuss how he resembles and differs from Amon Goeth, the SS commandant of the Plaszow labor camp. Though the film has drawn criticism for its lack of Jewish agency, the influence Stern (a Jewish accountant who worked for Schindler) exerts on Schindler merits student analysis as well.

Shoah (1985). AM, NF, Despite its length, silent tracking shots, and wearisome translations from several languages, Shoah remains the landmark documentary of how German, Jewish, and Polish eyewitnesses recall how the Holocaust was implemented by the Germans, experienced by Jews, and witnessed by Polish onlookers living near the death camps. Teachers can watch the entire film either on DVD, stream it from, or sample clips posted on the Internet to determine which excerpts to show in class. The following are some of the most thought-provoking interviews featured in Shoah: • • • • • • • • • •

Holocaust survivor Simon Srebnik standing alongside Chelmno’s residents as they express their stereotypes about Jews; Abraham Bomba, a Jewish barber and Holocaust survivor, painfully remembering when he sheared off his wife’s hair before she entered a gas chamber; Railroad switchman Jan Piwonski recalling trains packed with Jews being sent to Treblinka; Rudolf Vrba recounting the disembarking of Jews and their subsequent liquidation at Auschwitz; Franz Suchomel describing the gassing procedure at Treblinka and the technical difficulties of disposing of so many bodies; Felip Müller reviewing his grisly tasks in the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau; Historian Raul Hilberg analyzing the bureaucratic machinery for sequentially defining, disenfranchising, isolating, deporting, and killing Jews; Walter Stier of the Reich Railway Department claiming he was unaware that the Jews he booked for group excursion rates on German trains were bound for extinction; Polish underground courier Jan Karski recapitulating what he saw when reconnoitering the Warsaw Ghetto and how Allied leaders did not believe his account; and, Simha Rotem retracing his involvement in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Nazis’ suppression of it.


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Films of Questionable Value for Use in the Classroom The films I designate as of questionable value are often compelling and entertaining movies, but they either depict highly implausible situations and/or foster misconceptions about the Holocaust.

The Book Thief (2013) Based on the bestselling novel of the same title, this movie relates the story of a German girl orphaned as the result of the arrest of her Communist mother. She is adopted by a German couple, thus encouraging the audience to identify primarily with them. The thread of the story about hiding the son of Jewish friends in their basement gets dropped when he leaves after the town’s Jews are deported. The remainder of the story is primarily about the suffering of German civilians from Allied bombing raids.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) Many teachers consider this a favorite film to show. Bruno, the empathic and naïve German son of a concentration camp commandant befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy interned in the camp. Disguising himself as one of the Jewish prisoners, Bruno sneaks into the camp to share Shmuel’s experiences. The masquerade spins out of control as both end up being herded into a gas chamber with other Jews and killed in an off-screen scene that invites viewers to imagine what it would be like to die as a result of mistaken identity. If audiences focus on Bruno’s death, which is very likely, they may miss the point that the greater travesty of justice involves the extermination of the Jews in general. Moreover, the whole premise of the movie—namely, that Bruno and Shmuel could converse and play with each other across the camp’s barbed wire fence without being noticed by guards—is historically untenable. While the novel (Boyne, 2006) labels itself a fable, the movie never indicates that its plot is anything other than true.

Downfall (2004) Downfall deserved the accolades it received for Bruno Ganz’s masterful performance as a frail but fulminating Hitler in his last days in the bunker. That said, the movie shifts the blame for Germany’s policy primarily to his fanaticism and implicitly exonerates the German civilians and even some high-ranking Nazis from any responsibility for such disastrous policies. The German people are redeemed as the victims of Hitler’s ideological obsessions.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Quentin Tarantino’s revenge fantasy appeals to audiences on many different levels. It is a brilliant homage to classic war movies, Weimar and Nazi cinema, and westerns. Christopher Waltz as the Jew-hunting Hans Landa and Brad Pitt as the redneck terrorizer of Germans give bravado performances. Inglourious Basterds constantly reminds audiences that it is a fabrication. It casts the Jews as ruthless killers who scalp their German victims and assassinate Hitler and his entourage in a theatre set ablaze by a Jewish woman avenging Landa’s murder of her family. Unless a teacher takes the time and effort to teach his/her students how to deconstruct its counterfactual scenario, they should avoid showing this film during the study of the Holocaust. Simply stated, its premise is ludicrous and ahistorical.

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Paper Clips (2004) Students from a rural Tennessee middle school collected six million paper clips to enshrine in a German cattle car as a memorial to the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. This documentary traces how this project evolved, but fails to explain much about the Holocaust itself (Magilow and Silverman, 2015, pp. 143–151). Ultimately, one has to ask: what is the point of this film?

Conclusion In the comedy Bad Teacher (2011), the film’s titular character fends off criticism that she shows too many films to her class by remarking, “But you know, in a lot of ways, I think that movies are the new books.” Although she blatantly misuses motion pictures in lieu of preparing lessons, she isn’t entirely wrong about their educational potential. But movies aren’t books! They are an aural and visual medium. Documentaries impose a coherent structure on a mix of narration, contemporary photographs or footage, and interviews with eyewitnesses and experts. Feature films create fictional situations that have a symbolic relationship to the past and/or dramatically reenact actual events. They combine ambient noise, background and source music, characterizations, cinematography, dialogue, editing, imagery, plot, and settings into stories that animate and personalize history. Drawing on students’ affinity for films enhances how they picture and relate to the Holocaust, as imperfect as the historical event may be portrayed on screen. That said, with careful preparation by their teacher, students can hone their analytical and verbal skills by ascertaining the historical authenticity of a film and articulating the interpretation of events that it advances. In doing so, they need to consider how the authorship, place, and time of production affect a film’s perspective on the Holocaust. Since they are constantly bombarded with moving images, they need to develop visual literacy to decipher how casting, acting, camera angles, dialogue, editing, lighting, music, and sound color their perceptions of what is happening on the screen. Films elicit historical empathy for their characters, thus enabling students to comprehend the choices, feelings, and values of individuals portrayed as living under unimaginable conditions. Though often decried as poor history, movies function as an alternate portal to the past that engage both the minds and senses of their audiences.

References Abzug, R. (1999). America Views the Holocaust, 1933–1945: A Brief Documentary History. Boston, MA: Bedford/ St. Martin’s. Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York, NY: Viking Press. Avisar, I. (1988). Screening the Holocaust: Cinema’s Images of the Unimaginable. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Bachrach, S. (2009). State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Baron, L. (2005). Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Boyne, J. (2006). The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable. Oxford: David Fickling Books. Breitman, R., and Lichtman, A. (2013). FDR and the Jews. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Browning, C. (1992). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Browning, C. (2004). The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939– March 1942. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Carroll, J. (2001). Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


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Cesarani, D. (2006). Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a “Desk Murderer.” Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. Colombat, A. (1993). The Holocaust in French Film. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. Corrigan, T., and White, P. (2012). The Film Experience: An Introduction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Crowe, D. (2004). Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of his Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Desbois, P. (2008). The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Doneson, J. (2002). The Holocaust in American Film (2nd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Dwork, D., and van Pelt, R. (1996). Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present. New York, NY: Norton. Gigliotti, S. (2007). “Commissioning Mass Murder: Conspiracy and History at the Wannsee Conference.” In Michael Paris (Ed.), Repicturing the Second World War: Representations in Film and Television (pp. 119–133). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Goldhagen, D. (1996). Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York, NY: Knopf. Hallie, Philip (1979). Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. Harmondsworth Middlesex, England: Michael Joseph Ltd. Heger, H., and Fernbach, D. (1994). The Men in the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Alyson Books. Insdorf, A. (2003). Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Keneally, T. (1982). Schindler’s List. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. Kerner, A. (2011). Film and the Holocaust: New Perspectives on Dramas, Documentaries, and Experimental Films. New York, NY: Continuum. Kertész, I., and Wilkinson, T. (2004). Fatelessness: A Novel. New York, NY: Vintage International. Landsberg, A. (2004). Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Lanzmann, C. (1985). Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust: The Complete Text of the Film. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. Liebster, S. (2000). Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe. New Orleans, LA: Grammaton Press. Loshitzky, Y. (Ed.). (1997). Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Magilow, D., and Silverman, L. (2015). Holocaust Representations in History: An Introduction. New York, NY: Bloomsbury. Marcus, A., Metzger, A., Paxton R., and Stoddard, J. (2010). Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies. New York, NY: Routledge. Marx, Jozsef (2005). Fateless: A Book of the Film. Budapest, Hungary: Vince Klado. Michalczyk, J. (2014). Filming the End of the Holocaust: Allied Documentaries, Nuremberg and the Liberation of the Concentration Camps. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic. Monaco, J. (2009). How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, and Beyond: Art, Technology, Language, History, Theory (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Nichols, B. (2010). Engaging Cinema: An Introduction to Film Studies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co. Opdyke, I., and Armstrong, J. (1999). In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer. New York, NY: Knopf. Plant, R. (1986). The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt. Portuges, C. (2011). “A Hungarian Holocaust Saga: Fateless.” In L. Baron (Ed.), The Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema (pp. 186–194). Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press. Rees, L. (2005). Auschwitz: A New History. New York, NY: Public Affairs. Rider, N. (2013). “The Perils of Empathy: Holocaust Narratives, Cognitive Studies and the Politics of Sentiment.” Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, 19(3), 43–72. Roseman, M. (2002). The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books. Rosen, R. (2006). Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust. New York, NY: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Rosenfeld, A. (2011). The End of the Holocaust. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Russell III, W. (2012). “The Art of Teaching Social Studies with Film.” The Clearing House, 85, 157–164. Scrase, D. (2004). Making a Difference: Rescue and Assistance during the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Marion Pritchard. Burlington: Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont. Slovic, P. (2007). “‘If I look at the mass, I will never act’: Psychic Numbing and Genocide.” Judgment and Decision Making, 2(2), 79–95.

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Steinweis, A. (2002). “Review of Conspiracy.” Faculty Publications, Department of History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Paper 89. Retrieved from Szpilman, W., and Hosenfeld, W. (1999). The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939–45. New York, NY: Picador USA. Toplin, R. (2002). Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Weissman, G. (2004). Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Wiesel, E, (2006). Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Wyman, D. (1968). Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938–1941. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Wyman, D. (1984). The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941–1945. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Select Filmography Organized by Topic Note: The following filmography is organized by topic. To avoid duplication, those films discussed in the earlier narrative are not included here.

Jewish Life in Europe Before Hitler The Story of the Jews (2013). AM, NF, PBS. Historian Simon Schama surveys the cultural and regional diversity of the Jewish experience. Episode 3, “A Leap of Faith,” focuses on how Jews modernized their religion and adapted to their host countries in Western and Central Europe. The first half of episode 4, “Over the Rainbow,” chronicles the persecution of the Jews in Eastern Europe and their political and religious responses to it as a prelude to their mass immigration to the United States after 1881.

Antisemitism Constantine’s Sword (2007). AM, NF. Retrieved from Based on his book of the same title (Carroll, 2001), James Carroll narrates this survey of Christian antisemitism, particularly that of the Catholic Church. Teachers need to be careful in excerpting clips from it because Carroll jumps from the history of antisemitism to the contemporary scandal about the prevalence of Christian antisemitism at the US Air Force Academy. The Longest Hatred: The History of Anti-Semitism (2000). AM, NF. The first part of this series, “From the Cross to the Swastika,” provides a concise overview of antisemitism. That said, it is more detailed on Christian anti-Judaism and the conspiracy theories, policies, and stereotypes it inspired than the development of modern political and racist antisemitism. It can be streamed at:

The Rise and Reign of the Nazis Chronicle of the Third Reich (2010). AM, NF. PBS. This documentary traces the radicalization of Nazi aggression and repression to the jockeying of Hitler’s subordinates for his approval and the maintenance of popular support in Germany through intimidation, propaganda, the plundering of foreign countries, and the purging of the Jews. It features interviews with historians Gӧtz Aly, Brigitte Hamann, and Ian Kershaw.

The Holocaust “Genocide,” Episode 20, The World at War (1973). AM, NF. Retrieved from video/x125kqg_the-world-at-war-ep20-genocide_shortfilms


Lawrence Baron

This 50-minute documentary summarizes the major events in the development of the Holocaust from the initial laws barring German Jews from government jobs in 1933 to the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps in 1945. It contains many telling interviews that are ideal to use as clips in one’s course. Hitler’s Hidden Holocaust (2009). Retrieved from This documentary is based on the forensic work of Patrick Desbois who has been excavating the burial sites of Einsatzgruppen executions in the former Soviet Union and interviewing eyewitnesses and historians about these systematic massacres (Desbois, 2008). In preparation for a student debate about what motivated the members of the Einsatzgruppen squads to carry out their horrific work, teachers could assign readings from the conflicting interpretations of historians Christopher Browning (1992) and Daniel Goldhagen (1996). The Path to Nazi Genocide (n.d.). Retrieved from path-to-nazi-genocide The US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) produced this 38-minute overview of Hitler’s rise to power and the snowballing of his prewar antisemitic policies into genocide. It is available for streaming at the USHMM website and can also be purchased as a DVD from the USHMM.

Other Victims of Nazi Persecution: The Disabled, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma and Sinti In the Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine (1997). AM, NF. Retrieved from nazimedicinedvd.html The first individuals to be killed in mass numbers by the Nazis were German civilians suffering from mental and physical handicaps. Initially, German doctors sterilized mentally and physically handicapped individuals, and, then, after October 1939, moved on to “euthanize” them. The Nazis also performed spurious medical experiments on concentration camp inmates. This film also exposes the links between German doctors and the eugenics and “euthanasia” movement in the United States. Paragraph 175 (2000). AM, NF. Passed in 1871 in Germany, Paragraph 175 criminalized homosexual relations between men. Some Nazi ideologues saw homosexuality as constituting social deviance, while others believed it was a genetic trait that required sterilization so it could not be inherited. Under Hitler the penalties for male homosexuality were raised and the grounds for prosecution eased. While no order was given to kill all homosexuals, tens of thousands were incarcerated. Those sent to concentration camps sustained a high mortality rate (Heger and Fernbach, 1994; Plant, 1986). Porrajmos: Europe’s Gypsies in the Holocaust (2001). Retrieved from images/brochures/jewish_studies.pdf The Roma and Sinti, commonly referred to by the pejorative term Gypsies, migrated to Europe in the Middle Ages, but their dark complexions, itinerant lifestyle, reputation for petty crime, and syncretistic Christianity made them pariahs. Nazi racial science categorized them as degenerate Aryans. Nazi Germany interned and eventually executed them with a ferocity that was second only to that reserved for the Jews. The Roma and Sinti refer to this crusade to eradicate them as “the Porrajmos,” which means “the devouring.” This film documents their ordeal as well as their postwar attempts to compel Germany to acknowledge their horrific mistreatment and to indemnify them. The Schoolgirl, the Nazis, and the Purple Triangles (2013). AM, USHMM. Retrieved from https://www.; Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to give the Nazi salute, say “Heil Hitler,” or serve in the Wehrmacht were imprisoned. This short film tells the story of schoolgirl Simone Liebster who refused to give the Nazi salute and how her whole family was affected. Purple triangle patches were used to designate Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps (Liebster, 2000).

Collaboration Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) (1987). AM, NF. Retrieved from films/549-au-revoir-les-enfants

Incorporating Film Into a Study


Based on the director’s childhood experiences, this movie revolves around the nascent friendship between a Catholic boarding school student and a new Jewish pupil enrolled under an assumed identity. The blame for the eventual arrest of the latter and other hidden Jewish students is shifted onto French collaborators like the fired employee from the school’s kitchen who discloses their presence to the Gestapo. La Rafle aka The Round Up (2010). AM, NF. Retrieved from The darkest days for Jews residing in wartime Paris were July 16th and 17th of 1942, when 13,000 Jews were arrested and temporarily interned under terrible conditions in a cycling stadium before being deported to death camps in German-occupied Poland. Although Germany pressured France to deport its Jews, the roundup was conducted by French gendarmes. This movie reenacts that shameful episode in French history. Nazi Collaborators (2010). AM. This TV series focuses on the following individuals: Chaim Rumkowski, Jewish leader of the Lodz Ghetto; Pierre Laval, an official with the French Vichy Government; The Arajs Kommandos (the mass murders of Jews in Latvia); A Belgian Collaborator—Degrelle and his SS; A Croation Collaborator—Sakic’s Concentration Camps; Vidkun Quisling, the notorious Norwegian politician who served the Nazis; Haj Amin al Husseini, The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem; Jews in Germany who Fought For Hitler and Supported Him; Anton Mussert, the Shadow Fuehrer in The Netherlands; and The Greek Collaborator—Rallis and His Puppet Government. The Sorrow and the Pity (1969). AM, NF. Retrieved from For many years after the end of the war, the French celebrated their resistance to Nazism and minimized the extent of French collaboration with Germany. This documentary exposes Vichy complicity and places the resistance of a minority of French citizens in perspective.

Ghettos A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip to Hell (1991). Retrieved from https://www.academicvideostore. com/filmakers A German soldier snuck into the Warsaw Ghetto on his birthday in 1941 and snapped photos of what he saw. In this film, those pictures are matched with quotations from the diaries of Jews confined in the ghetto. The latter enables the film to capture what it was like to eke out an existence in a ghetto where people died daily from disease, shootings, and starvation. A Film Unfinished (2010). AM, NF. Retrieved from This is a Nazi produced documentary about Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto. A Film Unfinished reclaims footage from a recently discovered reel of that propaganda film and shows it to survivors of the ghetto in order to solicit their reactions. The teaching guide for this film can be found at: http://www.oscilloscope. net/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/2FilmUnfinishedGuide-FormatRevised_pat_11_16_nb-1.pdf Korczak (1990). AM, NF. Janusz Korczak was a Jewish doctor and educator beloved by both Poles and Jews. In the Warsaw Ghetto he ran a boarding school for Jewish orphans. He spent most of his days procuring food and other supplies from the Jewish Council and Jews involved in the black market. Though offered false identity papers to escape, he chose to remain with his children when they were deported to Treblinka where they were murdered. The webpage features links of reading about Korczak. Lodz Ghetto (1988). AM, NF. The Lodz Ghetto was the second largest in Poland. The Jewish leader Chaim Rumkowski believed that if “his” ghetto could become economically indispensable to Germany, many of its Jews could survive as slave laborers. He delivered the least productive elements of the ghetto population—the young, the elderly, and the sick—to the Nazis for deportation to the death camps in order to spare the able-bodied. Ultimately, though, the 75,000 Jews who remained there were deported in 1944 to Auschwitz-Birkenau. See the entry on the USHMM website: search-the-collections/bibliography/lodz-ghetto


Lawrence Baron

Concentration and Death Camps Escape from Sobibor (1987). AM, NF. Unlike Auschwitz—which was the site of separate camps for killing, industrial production, and the incarceration of political prisoners—Sobibor existed for the sole purpose of killing the Jews and Soviet Prisoners of War sent there. By 1943 a token force of prisoners who were spared to work at the camp staged an elaborately planned escape. This feature film’s ending is overly heroic, in that only 10% of the escapees actually survived the escape attempt. One Survivor Remembers (1996). AM, NF. HB0-GO. In this Oscar winning short documentary, Gerda Weissmann Klein remembers the ghettoization of her family in Poland, her internment in a series of concentration and labor camps, and the death march she endured at the end of the war. A film and study guide is available at one-survivor-remembers. Out of the Ashes (2003). AM, NF. Gisella Perl survived Auschwitz by serving as a doctor for the inmates. She performed late term abortions on pregnant prisoners since both infants and their mothers were immediately sent to the gas chambers if the births were detected by the SS. After the war she faced a trial for colluding with the Germans. To prepare one’s class to see excerpts from the film, students should be required to read the following online article: or excerpts from her memoir.

Rescue The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). AM, NF. While often faulted for focusing on Anne’s adolescent issues and unflagging optimism, the original film about the years Anne Frank and her family hid in an attic still conveys the anxieties and personal tensions arising from their precarious clandestine confinement. There are newer films about her like the excellent documentary Anne Frank Remembered (1995) and Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001) that present a less idealized view of her and depict her suffering and death in Bergen-Belsen. There are also a multitude of guides for teaching about Anne’s diary. Europa Europa (1990). AM, NF. Solomon Perel survived World War II by pretending he was an avid Communist when captured by the Soviets and an ardent Nazi when he fell into German hands. The movie demonstrates how he disguised his Jewish identity and his constant fear of exposure. In Darkness (2012). AM, NF. This harrowing feature film presents what it was like for Jews to hide in the sewers of Lvov, from both their perspectives and that of their Polish rescuer, in German-occupied Poland. Their rescuer is an ambiguous figure who initially saves Jews for money, but eventually realizes that it is the moral thing to do. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000). AM, NF. An Academy Award winning documentary feature film about the British rescue operation, known as the Kindertransport, which saved the lives of over 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia by transporting them via train to England. These children, or kinder, were taken into foster homes and hostels in Britain, expecting eventually to be reunited with their parents. The majority of them never saw their families again. Weapons of the Spirit (1985). Retrieved from Director Pierre Savage returns to the French village of Le Chambon where he was hidden during World War II. Through interviews he explores how this Protestant enclave of 5,000 inhabitants rescued 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust, ascribing their response to the history and theology of the French Huguenots and the moral leadership of Le Chambon’s head pastor. Teachers should see the online excerpt by Colombat (1993) to prepare themselves and their students to discuss this inspiring film: http://www. An abridged classroom version can be purchased at: https://

Incorporating Film Into a Study


Resistance Defiance (2008), AM, NF. Based on the true story of the Bielski partisans, Defiance (2008) portrays, albeit in Hollywood fashion, a notable episode of Jewish resistance. The Bielski brothers cobbled together a Jewish community of 1,200 Jews in the Belarusian forests. They managed to survive, despite the efforts of local collaborators with the Nazis, bitter winters, and shortages of food and weapons. The movie weighs the arguments for armed resistance versus survival. See the study guide at: Guide.pdf Partisans of Vilna (2006). AM, NF. Retrieved from This excellent documentary consists of interviews, photos, and rare footage about the resistance movement that formed in the Vilna Ghetto. It shows how difficult and dangerous it was to openly confront the much better armed German military. A study guide is included with the DVD if purchased from the website. Sophie Scholl: The White Rose (2005). AM, NF. The White Rose was a group of German university students who printed and distributed leaflets decrying the German military campaign in Eastern Europe and the slaughter of the Jews. They were arrested by the Gestapo and executed for treason. Given their ages, they are appealing personages to high school students and illustrate the dangers and rewards of resisting oppression. See the study guide at: http://antidotefilms. Uprising (2001). AM, NF. Set in the Warsaw Ghetto, this miniseries traces the evolution of the Jewish resistance movement and the rebellion it mounted in 1943, after most of the Jews there had been deported. It features debates between the leader of the Jewish Council who advocated cooperation to avert mass reprisals and prolong the existence of the ghetto versus those of the resistance who championed subversion and armed struggle even though it was against impossible odds. See the study guide at: Uprising.pdf

Allied and Neutral Responses to the Holocaust Amen (2002). AM, NF. Outraged by the gassing of his sister-in-law in the “euthanasia” program, Kurt Gerstein joined the SS to monitor its killing operations. After witnessing Jews being gassed, he appealed to Pope Pius XII to condemn the extermination of the Jews on a Vatican radio broadcast. Fearing that Germany would occupy the Vatican and punish Catholics under its control, the Pope issued a generic condemnation of war crimes. Amen portrays the debate over the Vatican response to the Holocaust. Students could be required to read the balanced synopsis of this debate posted on the Yad Vashem website: odot_pdf/microsoft%20word%20-%20684.pdf The Ninth Day (2004). AM. The Ninth Day is based on the true story of a priest released from Dachau to persuade his superior (a bishop) to declare there is no conflict between Catholic doctrine and German antisemitic policies. Clips of the discussions between the priest, the bishop, and an SS officer provide the arguments for and against Church intervention on behalf of the Jews. See the discussion on how the film differs from the historical story at: htm

War Crimes Trials American Experience: The Nuremberg Trials (2005). AM, NF. Retrieved from; https:// Although this documentary focuses on the case against Hermann Goering, it is a clear and concise introduction to the issues raised at the first series of Nuremberg Trials. PBS offers an online study guide at:


Lawrence Baron

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann (2013). NCJF. This documentary covers the Eichmann Trial, beginning with Israel’s daring kidnapping of him from Argentina to its televised proceedings of survivor testimony, and, ultimately, his execution. Eichmann claimed that he was a bureaucrat merely following orders to deport Jews and not directly involved in their murder. One can download historian Deborah Lipstadt’s study guide at: studyguide-the-eichmann-trial/ Verdict on Auschwitz (1993). AM, NF. Retrieved from West Germany placed Auschwitz guards on trial between 1963 and 1965. Clips of opposing testimony and lawyers cases should provide one’s students with ideas for debating whether the guards were culpable for their actions. See the overview of the trials on the Yad Vashem website: en/education/newsletter/10/auschwitz_trials.asp

Annotated Bibliography Articles Metzger, S. (2012). “The Borders of Empathy: Students Encounter the Holocaust Through Film.” Journal of Social Studies Research, 36(4), 387–410. This is a case study of how a teacher used The Pianist in a Holocaust unit. The author emphasizes helping students to distinguish between their acute empathy for the protagonist and the reality of actually having survived the Holocaust.

Chapters in Books Carr, S. (2008). “Staying for Time: The Holocaust and Atrocity Footage in American Public Memory.” In C. Lee (Ed.). Violating Time: History, Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema (pp. 57–69). New York, NY: Continuum. Carr describes how audiences’ perceptions of the first atrocity films of the liberated camps reflected public attitudes immediately after the defeat of Germany. Doneson, J. (2001). “For Better or Worse: Using Film in a Study of the Holocaust.” In S. Totten and S. Feinberg (Eds.). Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (pp. 194–202). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Doneson “decodes” the strengths and weaknesses of three nonfiction Holocaust-related films (Anne Frank Remembered [1995], Daniel’s Story [1993], and Survivors of the Holocaust [1996]) frequently screened in classes, and warns again using Daniel’s Story because it creates a composite character based on the stories of many children who endured the Holocaust. Michalczyk, J. (2006). “In the Eye of the Storm: Controversies and Americanization of Holocaust Film.” In S. Leventman (Ed.). American Popular Culture: Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives (pp. 12–21). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press. The author discusses the controversies surrounding several films when they premiered (such as Chaplin’s The Great Dictator [1940]) and the television miniseries Holocaust (1978). Michalczyk, J., and Cohen, S. (2001). “Expressing the Inexpressible Through Film.” In S. Totten and S. Feinberg (Eds.). Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (pp. 203–222). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. This essay presents key themes to raise when using films to teach about the Holocaust, and appropriate films to use in courses. Michalczyk, J., and Michalczyk, S. (2009) “The Psychology of the Bystander and ‘The Other’ in Holocaust Film”. In J. Friedman (Ed.). Performing Difference: Representations of The Other in Film and Theatre (pp. 57–69). Lanham, MD: University Press of America. The authors analyze how the bystander’s refusal to help persecuted Jews is portrayed in a number of Holocaust feature films.

Books Avisar, I. (1988). Screening the Holocaust: Cinema’s Images of the Unimaginable. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Incorporating Film Into a Study


This is a pioneering survey of Holocaust cinema. It is critical of American films for universalizing the Jewish tragedy and more favorable toward European productions. Baron, L. (2005). Projecting the Holocaust Into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. This study traces the changes in the themes and genres of Holocaust films over time and countries where they were produced, with an emphasis on films released between 1990 and 2003. Doneson, J. (2002). The Holocaust in American Film (2nd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. This is the pioneering study of how Hollywood films depicted the Holocaust in ways that were relevant to American audiences. Eaglestone, R., and Langford, R. (Eds.). (2008). Teaching Holocaust Literature and Film. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. This useful volume discusses many issues that arise in teaching Holocaust film and literature and how to approach them in the classroom. Frodon, J. (Ed.). (2010). Cinema and the Shoah: An Art Confronts the Tragedy of the Twentieth Century. Albany: State University of New York Press. This collection features useful essays on major documentaries and American and Israeli Holocaust films, and contains an excellent filmography. Haggith, T., and Newman, J. (Eds.). (2005). Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television Since 1933. London: Wallflower. This collection of essays deals with Holocaust documentaries, Nazi propaganda films, and significant feature films. Hirsch, J. (2004). Afterimage: Film, Trauma, and the Holocaust. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Hirsch examines how filmmakers have attempted to portray the traumatic impact of the Holocaust on survivors. Hirsch, M., and Kacandes, I. (Eds.). (2004). Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America. Although intended for university instructors, these essays on issues, texts, and themes in teaching Holocaust cinema and literature provide guidance to high school teachers as well. Insdorf, A. (2003). Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This is the standard survey of Holocaust cinema, which groups films from different countries by common themes. The third edition covers films released through 2002 and earlier movies that have previously been neglected. Kerner, A. (2011). Film and the Holocaust: New Perspectives on Dramas, Documentaries, and Experimental Films. New York, NY: Continuum. Kerner classifies significant films on the Holocaust according to their themes and genres. Lanzmann, C. (1985). Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust: The Complete Text of the Film. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. This contains the transcripts of the interviews featured in Shoah. Liebman, S. (Ed.). (2007). Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah: Key Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. This anthology contains interviews of Lanzmann and essays about Shoah that teachers will find useful in preparing their students to watch it. Loshitzky, Y. (Ed.). (1997). Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. A spectrum of scholars from different disciplines critique Schindler’s List and assess its reception in Germany, France, Italy, and the United States. Michalczyk, J. (2014). Filming the End of the Holocaust: Allied Documentaries, Nuremberg and the Liberation of the Concentration Camps. London: Bloomsbury Academic. The author examines the production of films about Nazi atrocities entered as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials and how they differed according to which Allied nation made them. Mintz, A. (2001). Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Mintz traces the emergence of the Holocaust in American collective memory and its depiction in Judgment at Nuremberg, The Pawnbroker, and Schindler’s List. He devotes a cogent chapter to the debate over the particularization versus universalization of the Holocaust.


Lawrence Baron

Picart, C. (Ed.). (2004). The Holocaust Film Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Praeger. This is an extensive filmography of Holocaust documentaries and feature films, divided into a first volume on feature films and a second one on documentaries and propaganda films. Reimer, R., and Reimer, C. (2012). Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. This reference work consists of concise overviews of important Holocaust films, and a useful introduction to the subject of Holocaust cinema. Its bibliography is excellent. Shandler, J. (1999). While America Watches Televising the Holocaust. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Shandler traces the evolution of American television portrayals of the Holocaust.

10 A RADICAL INNOVATION Examining the Holocaust Through the Prism of Story Karen Shawn

As Holocaust historian Doris L. Bergen (2009) notes, in light of the fact that “the Holocaust was an event of global proportions. . . . [a]ny effort to grasp it in its entirety must begin with recognition of that massive scope” (p. vii). Simply put, the entire story of the Holocaust cannot fit between two covers; it cannot be taught in the time it takes to teach a novel or view a film; it cannot be taught in its totality, even in a semester-long course. What, then, are teachers to do within 90 minutes—the average time, according to a researcher at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), that US high school teachers devote to the study of the Holocaust? After many years of studying Holocaust history and then trying to teach as much content as I could in the little time allotted for such study—only to provide my eighth-graders with a superficial overview that left them either confused or overwhelmed and uninterested in learning more—I realized that the only way I could even begin to teach the vast content of Holocaust history was to organize it into a chronological narrative. Even then, I found that I had to limit the content I taught in middle school, focusing only on the first 6 years in Nazi Germany, 1933–1938. In doing so, I introduced the subject and grounded my students in the facts and testimonies detailing those years, providing the background that they would need in order to understand, in later units of study in high school, how the Holocaust progressed and how the Jews responded to each successive stage. Ultimately, I saw that when I taught much less content in much more depth, my students left my class with a solid foundation, eager to build on it and learn more. Segmenting this multilayered history into its narrative elements—including plot and settings; protagonists and antagonists, major and minor; key artifacts or objects on which a plot might turn; themes; and types of and reasons for conflicts—not only made my teaching more effective but also led me to the four conclusions that form the cornerstone of this chapter: 1. 2.

No one teacher, in one unit of study, should attempt or be expected to teach the definitive course on this subject; it is simply not possible. Teachers in different grades should not cover the same content and time frame in similar survey courses each year. This unsystematic overexposure has led to a generation of students who end up knowing little or virtually nothing about the Holocaust (see watch?v=4V4bmm6yJMw) and who often express boredom and annoyance when the topic is reviewed every year.




Karen Shawn

Without a clear understanding of the progression of events in Germany during the first stage of the Holocaust, neither the actions of the Jews there nor the events in Poland and the other countries overtaken by the Germans and their collaborators can be understood. (“I don’t get it,” students across the country say. “Why didn’t the Jews just leave?” “Why didn’t they fight back?” After finishing an entire semester of studying the Holocaust, a student shrugged and said, “I still don’t know why y’all let yourselves be gassed like that” (quoted in Schweber, 2006, p. 51).) The major aspects of the Holocaust narrative should be apportioned across subjects and, ideally, throughout the middle and high school grades in which this subject is taught. An interdisciplinary team of teachers of language arts and history (and, where applicable, humanities) would be responsible for mastering and teaching only 1–3 years of this history and related literature. These segments would be chronological, allowing learners to progress slowly and thoughtfully through this complex history, uncovering its many layers only as they mature.

In short, I urge a reconsideration of the depth and breadth of what we teach about the Holocaust, along with the pace and focus of the content we cram into the limited time allotted for this study. As University of Wisconsin–Madison scholar of curriculum and instruction Fred Newmann (1988) has noted about survey courses in general: We are addicted to coverage. This addiction seems endemic in high schools—where it runs rampant, especially in history—but it affects all levels of the curriculum. . . . We expose students to broad surveys. . . . The academic agenda incorporates a wide variety of topics; to cover them all, we give students time to develop only the most superficial understandings. (p. 346) As a result, I believe we are teaching neither wisely nor well, because it is not possible to do so within the repetitive, broad, superficial survey structure of typical Holocaust courses. To illustrate the immense scope of the Holocaust narrative, I first delineate its components through a literary lens. Then, to offer one possible solution to the problem of “how to make the material new, interesting, intellectually engaging, and emotionally affecting, how to build on what students have previously learned rather than reiterating that which they already know” (Schweber, 2006, p. 50), I propose dividing this vast amount of material throughout the middle and high school years.

The Holocaust as Narrative: The Plot What we might call the plot may be summarized as a definition: the Holocaust was the planned, systematic, state-sponsored attempt by the Germans and their active supporters to annihilate every Jewish man, woman, and child in the world. In nearly every country the Germans occupied during World War II (1939–1945), Jews were rounded up, isolated from the native population, persecuted, forced into ghettos, starved, tormented, and ultimately deported to labor and death camps. While others, including the Sinti and Roma and the mentally and physically handicapped, were swept up into the Third Reich’s net of mass murder, the Germans focused on destroying the Jews, not because they were a political or an economic threat, but simply and solely because they were Jews. An estimated 60–70% of all the Jews in Europe were killed, and countless Jewish communities were destroyed. The Holocaust significantly changed the course of modern Jewish and world history.

A Radical Innovation


The Setting: When and Where The Holocaust spanned the years from 1933–1945—some 144 months, or 624 weeks, or 4,380 days. Each moment of those 12 years was a time when Jews were plagued by dilemmas and forced by the conditions they faced to make untenable decisions, often those that Lawrence L. Langer (1995) has referred to as “choiceless choices” (p. 46). Some teachers, bowing to time restrictions, start their units in 1938 with Kristallnacht, thereby ignoring 6 years of foundational history, literature, and testimony. While Kristallnacht was certainly the “beginning of the end,” as Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum (2013) has said, it was equally “the end of the beginning” (p. 1), a fact that cannot be ignored if students are to understand the Holocaust. More worrisome, some teachers begin their study with the outbreak of World War II, thus leading some students to believe that “Holocaust” is a synonym for that war. Their students are never taught that the Holocaust was indeed a war, but not one among armies, as was World War II; rather, it was, as Lucy Dawidowicz (1986) titled her seminal text, “a war against the Jews.” Beginning with the correct “when” and illustrating the early years with individual narratives and testimonies are absolutely essential if learners are to understand not only how the Nazi decrees and legislation against the Jews caused their increasing humiliation, ostracism, deprivation, and persecution, but also how the Jews responded to these decrees and events as they unfolded. Clearly, the entire period from 1933–1938, including the Evian Conference—which is rarely taught—is the necessary foundation on which any understanding of Kristallnacht as “the end of the beginning,” and of the subsequent stages of the Holocaust, must rest.

World War II: Still More Settings Once World War II made further emigration impossible, the Jews who were trapped in Germany faced new and ever more dangerous problems. Meanwhile, Jews in almost every country that the Germans invaded were ghettoized and terrorized, conditions demanding a new set of responses from them, each depending upon, among other things, the circumstances of the ghetto, its leadership, its geography, and the policies the Germans and their sympathizers put into place. A continued consideration of settings, then, requires familiarity with the conditions in at least some of the more than 21 countries and territories invaded by the Germans. Within each country, still other settings must be examined if students are to begin to comprehend the progression and full scope of the Holocaust. In countries in which Jews were forced into ghettos—some 1,150 of them—conditions differed widely. Some held a few hundred people; others, many thousands. Some were open, others were closed and sealed. Conditions in each deteriorated as hunger and disease spread, more Jews were forced to enter, and the leadership changed and then changed again. In a chronological, interdisciplinary approach adopted by an entire middle and high school community, more of these settings could be examined in a good amount of detail, rather than the same few now taught year after year. Each teacher would review, build upon, and enrich—not simply repeat—the knowledge learned in earlier grades. For example, instead of all teachers across the grades teaching about the Warsaw Ghetto, each grade’s interdisciplinary team might choose to examine one to three countries, reflecting the path and chronology of German occupation. In doing so, teachers and students could focus on the geographical, social, and political situations in each nation through a study of key personages, testimonies, images of artifacts, and literature. Thus, after students are introduced to the early stage of the Holocaust in Germany in grade 6, for instance, they might review Germany and study Austria and Czechoslovakia in grade 7. In grade 8, after a brief review of ideas and concepts taught earlier, they could be introduced to


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conditions in Warsaw in the first months of World War II. In high school, ninth graders could thoroughly research German-occupied western Poland and its main ghettos, with different ones assigned to different students; 10th graders could focus on Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland; 11th graders on France, Russia, Greece; and 12th graders on Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Italy, and Hungary. Other settings that make up the entire Holocaust narrative include the 30,000 slave labor camps, the 980 concentration camps, and the death camps, each with thousands of different stories of Nazi brutalities, the Jewish responses, and the bystanders. Obviously, it is neither possible nor necessary to teach about all of this in high school, but that these places and people existed must be acknowledged. As students pursue their study from middle school through high school, they are likely to come to understand and appreciate the fact that this subject, to be understood deeply and fully, requires a lifetime of consideration.

What Did They Carry? The Holocaust has bequeathed to us a vast array of artifacts: a typewriter used to produce antiGerman flyers or underground newspapers, illustrating polemic resistance; a tallit (prayer shawl) and a siddur (prayer book), each representing a Jew’s determination to maintain his faith and belief; a wooden axe and a Molotov cocktail, the limited weapons of the Jewish fighters; a child’s dress and a teddy bear, representations of parents’ attempts to continue to care for their children; a harmonica and a violin, representative of symbolic resistance. These artifacts are now available to view on a variety of websites, including friends-of-the-library/friends-of-the-library-programs/2014–2015- programs/artifactsdrawings-exhibit/artifacts-drawings-lesson-plans; artifacts/museum.asp; and footprints.shtml. Each artifact, contextualized, tells a story that adds to our understanding; each helps us to see how the Jews conducted daily life in extremis. Yet artifacts are rarely examined in any grade because the plethora of facts more often than not precludes such study. However, if each teacher-team in each grade chose one or two images of such artifacts that reflect and illustrate only the limited time and place about which they are teaching, artifact study could serve a thought-provoking and distinctive role, both in class and as engaging topics for differentiated research.

Themes No story is complete without an examination of themes. The Holocaust demands that we consider the nature of good and evil, prejudice, racism, and racial antisemitism; the dislike of the unlike; the continuum of hate; the nature of the bystander; and the possibilities and power of spiritual and religious resistance. It calls us to ponder how ordinary people became perpetrators of heinous crimes while equally ordinary people risked their and their families’ lives to help strangers; how the moral universe became inverted with such apparent ease; why antisemitism persists today; and what role faith played in survival. It insists that we examine the reasons that good people frequently stand idly by in the face of dreadful acts, and that people can survive and find meaning in life even after losing everything. It confronts us with the knowledge that the media have a role in halting genocide, and that despite instantaneous international communication, the slaughter of innocents has not yet decreased across the globe. Each of these themes can serve as a prism through which the chronology of the Holocaust is taught.

A Radical Innovation


Protagonists: Who Were the People Involved? A study of the protagonists is crucial in any story. Who were the Jews of Europe? (This is not a simple question; the Jews of Europe were hardly a homogeneous group, and who they were, what they believed, and where they lived all influenced their reactions to the Nazi threat and actions.) What was their history? What was their culture (the orthodox and the assimilated, those in Eastern and in Western Europe)? What were their expectations, understandings, and realities? How did their gender and differing status in life—as a spouse, parent, child, rabbi, teacher, doctor, businessman, or civil servant—affect their destiny? How did their countries of origin play a role in their lot? Who were, and what motivated, individual perpetrators, collaborators, and bystanders? What motivated resisters and rescuers? Readily available archives and online sources include treasured narratives of the latter that offer pinpoints of light, helping students make their way through the otherwise unremitting blackness of despair that is the Holocaust. Again, no one unit of study can address these questions or introduce all these people meaningfully. As a result, teachers too often simply ignore them, discussing perhaps only Hitler, Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Oskar Schindler, and Raoul Wallenberg. Yet, if interdisciplinary teams in grades 6–12 identified, in addition to the historical figures commonly studied, two people they agreed were of interest and direct relevance to the time and place each grade was learning about, and had their students study those two people in depth, then by the end of high school, each student would be thoroughly familiar with the thinking and actions of 28 men and women whose stories are among those crucial to understanding the varied responses to the dire situation that confronted Jewish communities throughout Europe. Such people might include Armin Wegner and Robert Weltsch in 1933 Germany for sixth graders; the Quaker teacher Elizabeth Abegg and pastor Martin Neimöller for seventh graders; Hans and Sophie Scholl with the White Rose Resistance Movement and rabbi Leo Baeck for eighth graders; Polish Jewish couriers Vladka Meed and Tova Altman for ninth graders; the Danish rabbi Marcus Melchior and the rescuer Erling Kiaer for 10th graders; rescuer Varian Fry and the Greek Olympic boxer Salamo Aroush for 11th graders; and the Russian partisan Alexander Perchersky and Italian writer Primo Levi for 12th graders.

Students’ Cognitive and Affective Development: A Constructivist Approach Just as infants sit before they stand and babies walk before they run, so too do school children learn, both cognitively and psychosocially, according to their individual readiness. This is yet another rationale for the chronological, incremental approach delineated in this chapter, one that allows teachers, collectively, to establish and build upon a solid foundation that each year contributes to deepening student understanding of Holocaust history. Knowledge of the necessity of providing a foundation for learning to help students comprehend new concepts is decades old and has been fully integrated into virtually every instructional strategy—except, strangely, that of teaching the Holocaust. Building on the seminal findings of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner, pioneers in the field of constructivism, later researchers (Graves and Cooke, 1980; Graves, Cooke, and LaBerge, 1983; and Graves and Palmer, 1981; cited in Beck, 1989) have found that enriching students’ background knowledge may result in improved comprehension of new concepts. Such connections provide the cognitive structures— the ideational scaffolding—necessary for learning. The term scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, and Ross, 1976) refers to the process of a teacher or tutor helping students master a concept that they would not be able to grasp without assistance. Teachers identify and present ideas and concepts that are just beyond the students’ current capabilities


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to comprehend, and through discussions, coaching, and feedback move students toward understanding. Because pupils must be able to relate new learning to previous learning, they must have in place some foundational knowledge on which new learning can be built. With such existing structures, new information can be organized and incorporated. For learning to be meaningful, therefore, teachers must introduce students to new material that is either somewhat familiar or able to be related to what the student already knows. Because the history and the implications of the Holocaust are complex and the events well outside of the experience of students, a background for learning must be provided. George E. Hein (1991) reminds us that “learning is contextual: We do not learn isolated facts and theories in some abstract ethereal land of the mind separate from the rest of our lives: We learn in relationship to what else we know” (n.p.). He adds, “One needs knowledge to learn; it is not possible to assimilate new knowledge without having some structure developed from previous knowledge to build on” (n.p.). In teaching about the Holocaust, this learning set, or cognitive structure, is provided by establishing the historical groundwork in a way that affords extensive points of connection between the student and the event. As Bruner (1971) wrote, “Rarely is everything learned about anything in one encounter. Yet we seem to be so impelled to cover, to get through the Elizabethan Period, and on through such-and-such period that we forget [this] obvious point” (p. 103). “Revisiting,” he goes on to say, “means an opportunity of connecting what we have learned now with what else we know,” and, he wonders, “Why is such an obvious point so often ignored?” (pp. 103, 104, italics mine). “The more we know,” Hein (1991) agrees, “the more we can learn. Therefore, any effort to teach . . . must provide a path into the subject for the learner based on that learner’s previous knowledge” (n.p.). Teaching students about the initial stages of the Holocaust in Germany in middle and junior high school, and then guiding them to the study of the complexities of the later stages in high school, offers the ideal learning situation because it represents what Vygotsky (1978) has called “the zone of proximal development” (p. 86), an “ ‘optimal discrepancy,’ something that almost, but not quite, matches the learner’s present cognitive structure” (quoted in Smith, 1978, p. 70). Such learning “ ‘exercise[s]’ the students’ cognitive abilities at the present level and prepare[s] the foundation for moving on when they are ready” (Vygotsky, 1978, quoted in Smith, 1978 p. 71).

A Paradigm Shift in Curriculum Design The new curricular design delineated here acknowledges students’ cognitive and emotional needs and abilities as well as teachers’ limitations, both of time and in their lack of familiarity with the detailed history of this major tragedy. It suggests one way to address the ongoing problem described by Simone Schweber (2006): “The sense that ‘this particular event is being taught to death’ ” and “kids are sick of it, sick of the Holocaust” (p. 50)—a situation caused by the fact that virtually the same information is now taught to students every year, in some schools, as she notes, from grade 3 through high school. A chronological, interdisciplinary approach establishes reasonable and workable parameters visà-vis the overwhelming scope of the history and eliminates unnecessary and tiresome repetition in each grade. The Holocaust was, after all, gradual; events and actions against the Jews evolved slowly, at least in the beginning in Germany. Through related survivor testimony and other forms of narrative and film, teachers can focus on one or two persons, settings, themes, artifacts, and events of the earliest years, enriching students’ understanding and presenting information from which they can make meaning because they can connect it to their current understanding.

A Radical Innovation


Addressing Teachers’ Concerns Many teachers acknowledge that they have not been formally taught this subject and thus feel poorly equipped to teach it. The pedagogical approach suggested here seeks to alleviate and address this unease; it offers teachers the opportunity to learn fully only one limited though significant segment of history, thus allowing them to feel secure in providing an accurate and solid foundation crucial for learners to make sense of subsequent events. Teachers of literature may reject this chronological approach, favoring instead a thematic one that examines events through the age-appropriate lens of, for example, friendship, heroism, or taking a stand. Yet the very books that illustrate these themes, such as Lois Lowry’s fine Number the Stars (2011), can mislead beginning learners, who may wonder, for example, whether every Jewish family had help from Christian neighbors to find haven, and may come to misunderstand the Holocaust as a tale of good overcoming evil. Such stories, as beautifully crafted as they are, may plunge the “unsuspecting reader into complex, disturbing worlds with neither the context nor comprehension to make sense of how the stories’ protagonists came to find themselves in the situations they confront, [such as] the Danish Jews’ desperate need for rescue” (Shawn, in press). Narratives that deal with the later years of the Holocaust can be read at any time by any interested student outside of class, of course, with all questions addressed as they are raised. However, themes and texts chosen for classroom reading should, according to this chronological approach, reflect only the situations that existed during the time period the students are studying. The radical but commonsense suggestion that teachers in each grade agree to teach only a year or two of the Holocaust and no more may be unacceptable to those who worry that no one else can or will teach the entire history. Others may insist on teaching the most graphic details to even the youngest students because, they say, “They already know about the Holocaust when they come to me. They see so much worse on the Internet; they can handle it!” Students may, indeed, know the event broadly but not in any meaningful way; and it is precisely because of the spate of brutality and coarseness that has become our students’ norm that we need to highlight, especially for our younger students, the lives and humanity of the Jews of the Holocaust before we focus on their tragic end. I believe that if teachers undertake the chronological, grade-by-grade approach discussed in these pages, students will learn the entire Holocaust narrative, including, eventually, the facts of the death camps. By gradually uncovering the story with them as they mature, we are far more likely to engage a generation that will seek to examine and understand the history of the Holocaust and how the Jews and the rest of the world responded during its dreadful and eventually inexorable progression.

References Beck, I. (1989). “Improving Practice through Understanding Reading.” In L. B. Resnick and L. B. Klopfer (Eds.). Toward the Thinking Curriculum: Current Cognitive Research: 1989 Yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (pp. 40–58). Washington, DC: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Berenbaum, M. (November 3, 2013). “75 Years after Kristallnacht: The Reich Pogroms of November 1938: The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the End.” Presented to the 25th annual conference for the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants (WFJCSHD), pp. 1–3. Retrieved from Bergen, D. L. (2009). War & Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.


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Bruner, J. S. (1971). “Needed: A Theory of Instruction.” In R. R. Leeper (Ed.). Curricular Concerns in a Revolutionary Era (pp. 97–104). Washington, DC: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Dawidowicz, L. S. (1986). The War Against the Jews: 1933–1945. New York, NY: Bantam. Graves, M. E., and Cooke, C. L. (1980). “Effects of Previewing Difficult Short Stories for High School Students.” Research on Reading in Secondary Schools, 6, 38–54. Graves, M. E., Cooke, C. L., and LaBerge, M. J. (1983). “Effects of Previewing Difficult Short Stories on Low Ability Junior High School Students’ Comprehension, Recall, and Attitudes.” Reading Research Quarterly, 18, 262–276. Graves, M. E., and Palmer, R. J. (1981). “Validating Previewing as a Method of Improving Fifth- and SixthGrade Students’ Comprehension of Short Stories.” Mulligan Reading Journal, 15, 1–3. Hein, G. E. (1991). “Constructivist Learning Theory.” Presentation at The Museum and the Needs of People CECA (International Committee of Museum Educators) Conference Jerusalem, Israel, October 15–22, 1991. Retrieved from Langer, L. L. (1995). Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Lowry, L. (2011). Number the Stars. New York, NY: HMH Books for Young Readers. Newmann, Fred M. (1988). “Can Depth Replace Coverage in the High School Curriculum?” Phi Delta Kappan, January, 69(5), 345–348. Schweber, S. (2006). “Holocaust fatigue”: Teaching It Today. Social Education, January–February, 70(1), 48–55. Shawn, K. (In press). Rethinking and Restructuring Holocaust Education. The Azrieli Papers. New York, NY: Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Yeshiva University. Smith, M. D. (1978). Educational Psychology and its Classroom Applications (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., and Ross, G. (1976). “The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 89–100.

11 WHAT ABOUT “OTHER” GENOCIDES? An Educator’s Dilemma or an Educator’s Opportunity? Samuel Totten

Introduction “Never Again!” According to Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, the first use of the admonition of “Never Again” was in April 1945, when inmates at Buchenwald displayed handmade signs trumpeting that clarion call as they were being liberated by the Allies. It wasn’t long before the phrase was adopted by the international community. To this day, it is an admonition that Holocaust survivors, national leaders, educators, authors, and others use in speeches, memorial observations, classrooms, and publications. Not only has the once powerful admonition become a cliché, but scholars, educators, and others have debated what the phrase actually means. For example, some have asked, “Does the phrase ‘Never Again’ primarily, if not solely, refer to the extermination of Jews? And if so, does that essentially equate to: ‘Never again can we allow Jews to be the victims of another Holocaust?’ ” Continuing, they have asked, “Or does it mean, ‘Never again shall the world allow genocide to take place anywhere against any group?’ ” Ultimately, it depends on who is uttering the phrase and the context in which it is used. That said, most educators and politicians use the term to refer to the latter case.1 Since “Never Again” has become such a cliché and is used in the most perfunctory of ways by so many speakers, politicians and authors—even as one genocide after another is perpetrated in front of their very eyes—perhaps no one but those who are truly serious about preventing another Holocaust of the Jews should use the phrase. Then, and only then, it seems, will it possibly regain the gravitas it once had. The use of such a phrase in such a cavalier fashion—one that is quick off the tongue and mindlessly uttered—largely mirrors the way in which the international community acts in the face of each new genocide. It is no wonder that some have cynically asked and then commented, “Never Again? Actually, it’s more like Again and Again and Again.” While most responsible world leaders decry the act of genocide, generally they do so after the fact—that is, after an act of genocide has been committed and members of the targeted group are lying dead in the tens and hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Indeed, during those periods when genocide is actually being carried out, it almost seems as if world leaders—including those


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at the United Nations—are time and again playing out a deadly and scurrilous game of “see no evil, hear no evil.” That brings us to the focus of this chapter: how should teachers handle the fact that genocide has been perpetrated again and again and again since the end of World War II, in such places as Indonesia (1965–1966), Bangladesh (1971), East Timor (1975–mid-1990s), Cambodia (1975–1979), Guatemala (early to mid-1980s), Iraq (1988), the Nuba Mountains of Sudan (1989–1995), Rwanda (1994), Srebrenica (1995), and Darfur in Sudan (2004–2009)?2

The Null Curriculum In regard to the null curriculum, Elliot Eisner (1979), Professor of Education at Stanford University, states the following: It is my thesis that what schools do not teach may be as important as what they do teach. I argue this position because ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problem. The absences of a set of considerations or perspectives or the inability to use certain processes for appraising a context biases the evidence one is able to take into account. A parochial perspective or simplistic analysis is the inevitable progeny of ignorance. (1979, p. 97) As far as I am concerned, this is one of the most profound statements in the field of curricular studies. If nothing else, it is a statement that should prod all teachers at all levels to think long and hard about both what they do teach and why, and the key events, issues, and problems they neglect to teach about, and why. As I have stated elsewhere, in light of how many genocides have been perpetrated in the postHolocaust period, it is more than a little problematic when students are solely introduced to the Holocaust to the exclusion of all other genocides: Ignoring “other genocides,” either by not including them in the curriculum or by simply mentioning them in passing sends an implicit message that such historical events (and their victims) are not as important as the Holocaust. Likewise, ignoring the issues of the intervention and prevention of genocide suggests that such concerns are not all that important either; that young people have little or no interest in them; and/or, that they are too complex to tackle. (Totten, 2001, p. 309) And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Among some of the many other key issues the “null curriculum” raises in regard to the study (or lack of a study) of genocide are: • •

If students do not become aware of other genocides, they may be inclined to think that the Holocaust was an aberration of history. Students may assume that genocide is simply something that happened in the past and have no idea at all that genocides have haunted contemporary society over and over again, up to this very day. Some students who find the Holocaust “unbelievable” (not in the sense of denying it, but in the sense that it was so outrageous that it is hard to believe anything like that could have been

What About “Other” Genocides?

• •


perpetrated against one group of people by another) may automatically assume that “nothing like that could happen today!” Students “may not become conversant with current efforts to detect and prevent genocide or the barriers that militate against intervention and prevention” (Totten, 2001, p. 310). Students may not learn about the role the international community has played (and continues to play) in regard to “allowing” genocide to take place (e.g., in Rwanda)—or, conversely, how it has stanched incipient actions that had a better than even chance of erupting into genocide (e.g., in East Timor in 1999, in Kosovo in 1999, and in the region of Mt. Sinjar in Iraq in 2014). Students “may not learn that various human rights organizations, whose membership is composed of ‘ordinary’ citizens, work to ameliorate human right violations that have the potential to explode into genocide” (Totten, 2001, p. 310). Students may be unaware of the fact that genocide is not inevitable, and that what often impedes the intervention and prevention of genocide is realpolitik and the lack of political will by member states of the United Nations.

So Many Genocides, So Little Time: Goals and Depth Over Coverage A question that many teachers wrestle with is: “If I can squeeze in at least one other genocide to teach about (in addition to the Holocaust), how do I make that choice when there are many cases that would likely interest students, and many that impacted the US in one way or another?” This is, of course, where statements of rationale come into play. (See Chapter 1 in this volume, in which Totten and Feinberg address, in great detail, the issue of rationale statements.) One way to decide is to limit the cases of genocide to those in which the United States, in one way or another, had some sort of connection (e.g., attempted to prevent a genocide, purposely looked away as a genocide was being perpetrated, supported another government intent on “wiping out” a certain group). What follows are examples of how the United States was, in fact, tied to and/or impacted specific genocides: Ottoman Turk genocide of the Armenians: The US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, spoke out against the Turks’ slaughter of the Armenians; met with Ottoman Turk officials about his concerns; helped establish the Committee on Armenian Atrocities (later adopting the name, the Near East Relief), which raised over $100 million in aid for the Armenians; and helped to ensure that the New York Times provided ongoing coverage of the atrocities perpetrated against the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. Ultimately, he resigned his ambassadorship in 1916, stating that Turkey had, for him, been a place of horror. I had reached the end of my resources. I found intolerable my further daily association with men, however gracious and accommodating . . . who were still reeking with the blood of nearly a million human beings (quoted in Oren, 2007, p. 337). In 1918, he published Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, in which he discussed in great detail the Armenian genocide and his efforts to help the Armenians. Scores of US citizens who had served as Christian missionaries in Armenia prior to the genocide, during which they had established hospitals, orphanages, schools, and colleges, remained in the region during the period of the genocide. As scholar Rouben Adalian (2000) has noted:


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Missionaries were the first foreign eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide. . . . On account of US neutrality during the first three years of World War I, the missionaries were allowed to stay in the Ottoman Empire. . . . The missionaries made heroic attempts to provide for the care and feeding of the destitute, especially orphans, only to face hardships of their own at the hands of Turkish officials. Attempts to provide refuge proved futile and only provoked the ire of the government, which came to look upon them with increasing suspicion. Next to the US consuls, the American missionaries collectively became the second most important group of witnesses to the Armenian Genocide. Virtually every mission sent reports, which together with the official consular communiqués, came to constitute the body of English-language eyewitness and documentary evidence about the Ottoman policy of extermination filed with the American Embassy in Constantinople and forwarded to the US Department of State in Washington. Many of these reports were compiled by Arnold Toynbee, then a young historian, and were published in Lord (James) Bryce’s The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and presented to the British Parliament in 1916 as proof of “the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.” While the [US] Department of State classified the cables from the Embassy in Constantinople as confidential, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was able to release the contents of the reports it received and alerted the US media and the American public. Formal US reaction to the deportations and massacres did not go beyond verbal protests to the Ottoman government. Strong public sympathy generated by the atrocity reports, however, helped in subsequent relief efforts. (n.p., italics added) Finally—and this is extremely significant—to this day the US government refuses to acknowledge the Armenian tragedy as a genocide, out of fear of alienating Turkey, a nation it depends on for security and military purposes. The sorrow that this has caused both Armenian survivors and their children and grandchildren is incalculable. Soviet man-made famine in Ukraine: The main connection between this genocidal tragedy and the US was the propaganda-like articles that New York Times journalist Walter Duranty wrote for inclusion in that newspaper. Instead of spelling out how Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was intent on breaking the Ukrainians’ nationalistic tendencies by imposing an artificial (man-made) famine, which primarily engulfed ethnic Ukrainian areas in the Northern Caucasus in 1932–1933 and resulted in over three million deaths (it is estimated that by June 1933—the height of the famine—some 30,000 Ukrainians were perishing a day from starvation), Duranty essentially turned a blind eye to the causes of the famine and outright denied that that there was a famine. At one point, he wrote the following in the New York Times: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” The fact that Duranty had been the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on the Soviet Union in 1932, was a high profile journalist with the New York Times, and was the New York Times “man” in Russia, contributed to the “big lie” being accepted as gospel at least for a time. In 2002, the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine (2002) reported that the American government had ample and timely information about the Famine but failed to take any steps which might have ameliorated the situation. Instead, the Administration extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in November 1933, immediately after the Famine.

What About “Other” Genocides?


Guatemala: In 1954, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) oversaw a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of leftist Jacobo Arbenz. A military regime was installed in its place, which essentially continued the military’s longtime support of the wealthy landowners, who basically treated their workers as peons and paid them wages that kept them in perpetual destitution. As the largely landless indigenous peasants became increasingly disenfranchised and unhappy with their position in society (forced labor, low wages that one could hardly exist on, lifelong destitution), social discontent rose, culminating in ever-increasing membership in the armed leftist movement that was intent on attaining basic human rights for its people. In retaliation, the Guatemalan government struck back by carrying out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. During the course of the counterinsurgency it is estimated that tens of thousands of Mayan civilians (women, children, infants, and the elderly) residing in the Guatemalan Highlands “disappeared” at the hands of the military and their allied militia. Ultimately, the genocide that the Guatemalan government carried out in the early 1980s during the regime of President Efrain Rios Montt resulted in some 200,000 dead. During the period of genocide of the Mayan population, the United States provided both military training and military assistance to the Guatemalan government and its military. Some of the training was provided by both Green Berets and CIA officers in Guatemala, while other training was held at the US School of the Americas, where Guatemalan military officers learned counterinsurgency methods. Throughout the period of this assistance, US officials—from those in the State Department all the way up to President Reagan— were fully informed and aware of the types of crimes (abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, “disappearances,” rapes, drownings) that Guatemalan troops were perpetrating against their own citizens. This is well documented in a host of declassified US government documents, all of which are readily available online. Bangladesh: As the mass murder and mass rape of Bangladeshis by Pakistani troops was in full tilt in 1971, US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, purposely downplayed the killings and continued to support the government of Pakistan, in a classic case of realpolitik. Infuriated at the silence of the US government, Archer Blood, the US consul general in Dacca, sent a five-page memo to Nixon spelling out in painful detail the extent of the massacres. Still, Nixon and Kissinger ignored what would result in the deaths of some three million and the rape of 200,000–400,000 Bangladeshi girls and women in what has become commonly known as a campaign of genocidal rape. Kissinger was the main culprit, it seems, as he time and again minimized the facts of the killing and rapes in his reports to Nixon. Rwanda: The Clinton administration did just about everything it could to avoid calling the mass killings of the Tutsi and moderate Hutu by extremist Hutus “genocide.” Purportedly it did so out of fear that if it did call the killings “genocide” then the United States would be responsible to attempt to stanch them. Officials in the US State Department were even ordered not to use the term “genocide” when speaking to the press. Finally, the Clinton White House did all it could to prevent the international community from sending in UN troops to stop the genocide. For an eye-opening discussion of these and other critical issues, see General Romeo Dallaire’s powerful firsthand account of the genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. There is also a host of eye-opening declassified US government documents on the Internet that address the aforementioned issues. Darfur, Sudan: In early 2004–2006, tens of thousands—then hundreds of thousands—of US citizens called on the United States government to do everything in its power to halt the


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Government of Sudan’s (GoS) genocidal scorched-earth aerial and ground attacks against the black African civilians of Darfur. During the summer of 2004, the US government sponsored an investigation (the Atrocities Documentation Project) into what had taken place in Darfur between 2000 and 2004, for the express purpose of attempting to ascertain whether genocide had, in fact, been perpetrated by the GoS or not. On September 9, 2014, US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, based on the analysis of the data collected by the Atrocities Documentation Project in interviews with refugees in camps along the Chad/Darfur border, it had been established that the GoS had perpetrated genocide against the black Africans of Darfur, and was possibly still doing so. Ultimately, the US referred the matter to the United Nations, an action that was perfectly legal under the UN Charter. While the US provided the black Africans of Darfur with massive amounts of aid, it did little to nothing to arrest the killing in Darfur from 2004 through today, despite the fact that it described the situation in Darfur as genocide.3 See Samuel Totten’s An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide for a host of primary documents and first-person testimony. No matter which case(s) of genocide teachers decide to teach their students, there are numerous options for doing so, even when faced with an overpacked curriculum and incredibly tight schedule. Delineated here are five different approaches: (1) address a different genocide each semester; (2) post-holing; (3) conducting a comparative study of two or more genocides; (4) student projects; and (5) extension-like extra credit. Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate genocide into the curriculum is to simply teach about at least two genocides a year. This is easily done by teaching about a different genocide each semester. This way, even those teachers who are set on teaching about the Holocaust each year can still incorporate another case of genocide into their curriculum fairly easily, thus deepening students’ knowledge about genocide and the fact that genocide is an ongoing phenomenon that continues to plague humanity. Post-holing is a method some teachers use to provide students with a more in-depth study and understanding of a topic or issue during a survey course of history. Post-holing can be approached in a number of different ways, three of which shall be highlighted here. First, during a US history course, teachers may decide to periodically go in depth in regard to what they perceive as particularly important issues, topics, or events. While many issues during a course in US history may be “covered” fairly quickly, some teachers choose to “post-hole” around two different topics, per semester, for a total of four during the course of the academic year. For example, during the first semester, a teacher could post-hole the American Revolution and the Civil War, and during the second semester World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam War. An alternative approach to post-holing is as follows: instead of a teacher going into depth into such broad topics as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam War, during the students’ study of those events or movements a teacher could post-hole around a specific event or series of events germane to the overarching topic. Thus, for example, during the study of the American Revolution, the teacher may decide to posthole around only one topic (the adoption of the Declaration of Independence or the colonial victory over British troops at the Battle of Saratoga) or possibly two topics (the Passage of the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Battle of Saratoga) or possibly three, at the most (the Passage of the Stamp Act, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and the Battle of Saratoga). The same would be true during a study of the Civil War, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam War. A third approach could entail post-holing a single issue (e.g., genocide) throughout the academic year. Thus, for example,

What About “Other” Genocides?


a teacher could post-hole four different genocides during the course of a year’s study of American history: the genocide of the Native Americans (during a study of the Westward Expansion); the American response to the Holocaust (during a study of World War II); the US government’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Case of Genocide (during a study of the Cold War); and the US government’s response to the 1994 genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by extremist Hutu in Rwanda. Again, the topics, issues, or events that are post-holed are solely up to the teacher and/or the class. A comparative study of genocide is the analysis of two or more cases of genocide in order to ascertain similarities and differences in regard to the causes, perpetration, and ramifications of genocide. The major purpose of carrying out a comparative study of genocide is to attempt to ascertain whether or not there are distinct patterns of genocide—that is, to discern whether there are distinct patterns in regard to the causes of the genocide; the motivations of the perpetrators and collaborators; the ways in which the victim population was targeted and treated leading up to the genocide (e.g., disparagement, ostracism, isolation, roundup, deportation); the process of carrying out the genocide; the international community’s reaction to a genocide as it occurs, and so forth. A comparative study helps students to begin to understand the variations in genocides (different types of genocide; different causes of genocide; the different ways genocide has been carried out; the motivation of the perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, and, if there were any, rescuers; etc.). Generally, during a comparative study two sets of genocides are compared and contrasted. To date, the two genocides that are most commonly used by instructors of genocide during a comparative study are (1) the Ottoman Turk genocide of the Armenians and the Holocaust, and (2) the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda of the Tutsi and moderate Hutu by extremist Hutus. The following schemata, developed by genocide scholar Henry Huttenbach (2004), is extremely useful in carrying out a comparative study of genocide: The Anatomy of Genocide


Pregenocide: 1. General Background (economic, cultural, political) 2. Specific Antecedents (massacres, propaganda) 3. Immediate Circumstances (emerging crisis) II. The Event 1. Dramatis Personae i. The Genocidaires and Collaborators ii. The Victims iii. Rescuers and Resistance iv. The Bystanders and Neutrals 2. The Blueprint of Genocide i. The Plan ii. The Means iii. The Results III. Postgenocide 1. The Survivors and Restitution 2. Trials, Tribunals, and Punishment 3. Social Reconstruction and Reconciliation 4. Denial 5. Long-range Repercussions. (p. 241)


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As Huttenbach (2004) notes: Essentially, this schemata is basically chronological: it breaks genocide into three major sequential parts: before, during, and after. Each of these is broken into subtopics. Obviously, additional topics can be appended; nevertheless, the fundamental anatomy remains the same, affording a workable way of selecting central aspects of genocide to be compared, thereby insuring a symmetrical approach to comparison. This, in turn, will permit systematic grouping for each instance of genocide, alongside those with which it shares common features, that is, a typology of genocide. (p. 241) Student projects are an ideal way to include various issues or topics into a curriculum that is already overpacked. Such an approach accomplishes several important goals: 1. 2. 3. 4.

It provides students with the opportunity to pursue a topic in depth versus the often superficial coverage that is typically found in social studies and history courses. It extends the school day without taking precious time from class, as students do the work on their own time away from school. It allows students to work at their own pace. If the teacher provides the students with a well-thought-out set of guidelines, the final report should require: a. ample reading and writing; b. careful attention to the history, including an accurate historical presentation of the topic under study; c. the analysis of primary documents (including both first-person accounts and declassified governmental documents pertinent to the genocide); d. the incorporation of geographical facts germane to the genocide; e. the delineation of an accurate chronology dealing with the topic of study; f. a statement of the importance and varied ramifications of the topic under study, in general, and specific groups, in particular; g. a statement about the most important insights gleaned by the student vis-à-vis the topic under study and how they broadened and deepened his/her understanding of genocide.

As Fred Newmann, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin– Madison has noted, student projects such as the one described provide individual students with an opportunity to study a topic/issue in depth, and in the process to become “experts” on their selected topic of study.4 Extra credit is yet another avenue for engaging students in a study of genocide. What was delineated above in regard to student projects is equally applicable to extra credit projects, with the main difference being that it is not required of each student in class. Even though it is extra credit, students should be held to a high standard; thus, it is always a good idea for teachers to delineate what they expect a student to accomplish and submit. Only in this way will the extra credit be worthy of receiving a grade.

Availability of a Wealth of Resources for Teaching About Genocide As seasoned teachers know, not all pedagogical resources, curricula, or even historical accounts of an event are of equal quality or worth. This is imperative to keep in mind when searching for and

What About “Other” Genocides?


ultimately making use of resources. For over 15 years, there has been a veritable explosion of materials produced for teaching about various facets and cases of genocide—and, unfortunately, along with sterling and valuable materials, a good deal of shoddy, historically inaccurate, and pedagogically unsound materials have made it onto the Internet and into the marketplace. Outstanding resources are readily available, as many major publishers regularly publish works on various facets of genocide, including but not limited to: Yale University Press, Rutgers University Press, Cornell University Press, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Macmillan, Routledge, Transaction, Rowman & Littlefield, and Berghahn. They range from theoretical studies, histories, case studies of individual genocides, discussions concerning the prevention and intervention of genocide, first-person accounts, and dictionaries and encyclopedias of genocide. Periodically, it is worthwhile checking out the websites of these and other publishers in order to keep abreast of the latest publications vis-à-vis various facets of genocide. Currently, there are three major journals dedicated to the issue of genocide: the Journal of Genocide Research, Genocide Studies International, and Genocide Studies and Prevention. All three are ideal for obtaining solid articles about an array of topics germane to genocide. Another journal, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which is published by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), is largely dedicated to research articles on all facets of the Holocaust, but periodically includes articles about other genocides. There is a massive amount of information on the Internet about genocide, including articles about various cases of genocide, videos on YouTube regarding various genocides, including interviews with survivors of genocide, among others. A great deal of it, though, has been produced by individuals who have their hearts in the right place (meaning, they care about the fate of those facing potential or actual genocide), but have little to no solid knowledge about the complexities of genocide. As a result, there is a lot on the Internet that presents inaccurate and simplistic information about genocide. While a lot of the aforementioned information may appear impressive (neatly formatted, with photographs and language that sounds intelligent), teachers and students would be wise to avoid such information, and instead search for and use information that has been produced by noted scholars and reputable organizations—for example, the USHMM (Washington, DC); the Armenian National Institute (Washington, DC); the Armenian Genocide Museum of America (Washington, DC); the Holodomor [Soviet Man-made Famine in Ukraine, 1933] Research and Education Consortium (University of Alberta); the Genocide Archive of Rwanda (Aegis Foundation, England); Center for Advanced Genocide Studies (University of Southern California, Los Angeles); the Yale University Genocide Studies Program; and the Cambodian Genocide Program (Yale University). If one is careful and seeks out the most authoritative works (written, audio, and video) by scholars with impeccable credentials, there is no doubt that such resources will greatly enhance one’s pedagogical efforts and deepen students’ understanding of the complexity of genocide. It is also highly advised that both teachers and their students avoid the information available on Wikipedia. Many of the articles on genocide are not written by experts but by anyone who has even the slightest hint of interest in issues related to genocide. As a result, there is a better than even chance that a good number, if not most, of the articles are either inaccurate or present a very simplistic explanation of what is usually a relatively complex issue. As a result, making use of Wikipedia is a shortcut that is often not as productive as one might hope. Taking the time to locate and make use of the most authoritative, accurate, and thought-provoking information pays huge dividends. In that regard, I highly advise teachers not to refer students to anything on Wikipedia and to inform their students that they cannot cite Wikipedia as a source in their research papers or oral presentations. (See the annotated bibliography accompanying this chapter for a listing of outstanding historical works, first-person accounts, and books and articles on teaching about genocide.)


Samuel Totten

YouTube: Making Use of Unique, Informative, and Highly Thought-Provoking Videos on Various Aspects of Genocide There is a wide array of unique, highly informative, and extremely powerful videos on various aspects of genocide (including documentaries on various cases of genocide, talks by experts about different facets of genocide, and interviews with survivors and even perpetrators of different genocides). It is impossible to even list, let alone briefly discuss, the riches available on YouTube about genocide, and thus a select number of videos shall be commented on here, all of which I have used in my courses and workshops on genocide. During my lectures on the Darfur genocide I always use a relatively short documentary on the Janjaweed (the Arab militia), which fought alongside Government of Sudan troops and helped carry out the genocide perpetrated against the black Africans (the Fur, Zagawha, and Massliet) of Darfur. It is titled Darfur Destroyed: Sudan’s Perpetrators Break Silence, and includes interviews with four former Janjaweed leaders who relate, in a good amount of detail, the atrocities that the Janjaweed carried out in Darfur. Additionally, they attest to the fact that they were not only following the orders of the Government of Sudan (GoS), but were recruited by the GoS, outfitted by the GoS (i.e., they were provided weapons and horses and camels), and paid by the GoS. This documentary is invaluable in that it contests the validity of the statements by the GoS that it (1) had no control over the Janjaweed, and (2) it neither intended to nor did it commit genocide against the black Africans of Darfur. Another particularly powerful documentary I often use in my courses is Ghosts of Rwanda. It is a scathing indictment of the Clinton administration’s reaction to the genocide in Rwanda, along with the horrors that engulfed the country in 1994. Among some of the many other documentaries (all of which are available on YouTube) I’ve drawn from for use in the classroom are: “Herero Genocide—BBC”; “1915 AGHET—The Armenian Genocide”; “Harvest of Despair—The 1932–33 Man-made Famine in Ukraine”; “War Crime: Bangladesh—A Documentary on Genocide [Perpetrated] by Pakistan [in] 1971”; “Cambodian Genocide: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge”; “Genocide Campaign on Kurds in Southern Kurdistan”; and “On Our Watch: A Documentary About Genocide in Darfur.” When selecting something on YouTube for use in class, it is absolutely imperative that teachers review in full each documentary or video prior to deciding whether to show it to his/her students. This is key for numerous reasons, including (1) to make sure that the documentary/interview accurately portrays the issues/events, and (2) to be absolutely sure that the documentary/interview is not a product of deniers. Also, and as might be expected, many of the images in various films are horrific, but it is counterproductive to bombard one’s students with image after image of one atrocity after another, and thus teachers should avoid using videos that are solely composed of such images. In some cases, a teacher may decide that a film is too gruesome to show and must search for another more appropriate one. An alternative approach is for the teacher to only show a short segment of a film, thus avoiding the bombardment of students with a score or more of horrific images.

Conclusion Many educators who are ardent about teaching their students about the Holocaust are not equally ardent about teaching so-called other genocides. A large number of these other genocides, which left entire populations bereft in just about every way possible, are well documented. Not to educate young people (in grades 7 through 12) about other genocides is more than a missed opportunity. Again, as Eisner (1979) cogently argued: what schools do not teach may be as important as what they do teach; . . . ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider,

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the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problems . . . A parochial perspective or simplistic analysis is the inevitable progeny of ignorance. (p. 107) By teaching about various genocides, including the Holocaust and those cases of genocide perpetrated in the years after the Holocaust, a teacher just might plant seeds of concern in their students that last a lifetime. That, I believe, is a legacy that any educator would be proud to claim.

Notes 1. Even something as ostensibly clear as the following statement on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website raises questions: “After the Holocaust, the world united behind two simple words: Never Again. These words represent a promise to past and future generations that we will do everything we can to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated.” Is the USHMM solely referring to the Holocaust, which it defines, in part, as follows: “the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators”? Or, is the USHMM’s use of “Never Again” meant to apply to all genocides, anywhere, against any group? 2. There were also, of course, numerous genocides perpetrated in the 20th century prior to the Holocaust, including but not limited to the following: the German genocide of the Herero in Southwest Africa (1904); the Ottoman Turk genocide of the Armenians (1915–1921); and the Soviet Manmade Famine in Ukraine (1933). 3. There are other cases of genocide as well in which the United States had one connection or another: the Indonesian genocide of Communists and suspected Communists (1965–1966); the Indonesian genocide of East Timorese (1975–1990s); the Khmer Rouge genocide of Cambodians (1975–1979); and the genocide of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica by Serbs (1995). 4. I developed the following requirements for student presentations in an undergraduate course on genocide at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Each student selected a case that we were not examining in class. Something similar could be crafted by a secondary level teacher, either as a required project or as an extra credit assignment. . Major Assignment: Pairs of students will select a case of genocide (other than those listed here), and will develop a 30-minute class presentation. At a minimum, each presentation must include the following: • • • • • • • • • •

A comprehensive chronology of events Map(s) of the region A solid discussion of the antecedents of the genocide A solid discussion of the key actors (perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, and victims) The inclusion of at least one primary document germane to the case At least three excerpts of videos of first-person accounts of the genocide A thorough discussion of the killing process A detailed and exact explanation why the case constitutes genocide A thorough discussion of the debates, disagreements, and controversies surrounding the case A thorough discussion of the reaction of the international community to the genocide (i.e., focusing particularly on issues of prevention and intervention) • Excerpt of a video or YouTube segment in regard to a significant aspect of the genocide under study • A discussion of the key issues at work in the postgenocide period. . Do not select any of the following genocides, all of which shall be analyzed in detail with the guidance of the professor in class: the Holocaust, the genocide of the Maya in Guatemala, the 1994 Rwandan genocide; genocide by attrition in the Nuba Mountains, or Darfur.

References Adalian, Rouben Paul (2000). “Armenian Genocide, Missionaries.” In Israel W. Charny, Rouben Paul Adalian, Eric Markusen, and Samuel Totten (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Genocide (pp. 101–102.) Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio Press.


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Dallaire, Romeo, with Brent Beardsley (2004). Shake Hands with the Devil: A Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press. Eisner, Elliot (1979). The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs. New York, NY: Macmillan. Huttenbach, Henry (2004). “Conducting a Comparative Study of Genocide: Rationale and Methodology.” In Samuel Totten (Ed.). Teaching About Genocide: Issues, Approaches, and Resources (pp. 239–247). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers. Oren, Michael (2007). Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton. Totten, Samuel (2001). “Addressing the ‘Null Curriculum’: Teaching About Genocides Other than the Holocaust.” Social Education, September, 65(5), 309–313. Totten, Samuel (2010). An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide. Two Volumes. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International Press.

Annotated Bibliography Encyclopedias and Dictionaries of Genocide Charny, Israel W., Adalian, Rouben, Markusen, Eric, and Totten, Samuel (Eds.). (2000). Encyclopedia of Genocide (2 vols.). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio Press. This work covers a wide array of topics germane to the theory of genocide, the history of genocide, cases of genocide, and issues of prevention and intervention. Shelton, Dinah (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (3 vols.). New York, NY: Macmillan. This encyclopedia is outstanding and much more comprehensive and authoritative than the Encyclopedia of Genocide edited by Charny et al. The Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity contains approximately 350 entries by more than 300 contributors from around the world. Articles span the fields of history, political science, psychology, law, and literature. What is particularly notable is that it clearly distinguishes between those atrocities that constitute genocide and those that constitute crimes against humanity. Totten, Samuel, and Bartrop, Paul (2007). Dictionary of Genocide (2 vols.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishers. “The first in its class, this dictionary offers a comprehensive overview of the field of genocide studies. In over 600 entries, the dictionary provides information on the definition, theories, history, prevention, intervention, and denial of genocide. Covering everything from the UN’s definition of the term to the mechanisms employed when genocide occurs, the book traces the history of genocide and offers detailed information on genocide from around the globe. The events covered range from the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century to the most recent genocides in Rwanda, Srebrenica (Bosnia), and those currently taking place in Darfur. . . . well written and easy to follow. . . . Recommended for all public and academic libraries.” (From a review in Library Journal.)

Historical Overviews of Various Cases of Genocide Kiernan, Ben (2007). Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination From Sparta to Darfur. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kiernan, a professor of history at Yale University and an expert on the Cambodian genocide, presents an analysis of mass violence “from the classical era to the present, focusing on worldwide colonial exterminations and twentieth-century case studies including the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Stalin’s mass murders, and the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides. He identifies connections, patterns, and features that in nearly every case gave early warning of the catastrophe to come: racism or religious prejudice, territorial expansionism, and cults of antiquity and agrarianism.” Totten, Samuel (2010). An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide (2 vols.). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International Press.

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Volume 1 of this set is comprised of major government and intergovernmental documents about the Darfur genocide. Volume 2 is comprised of first-person accounts/interviews with survivors of the Darfur genocide, which were conducted by Totten in both refugee camps along the Chad/Darfur, Sudan border, and in an internally displaced camp in Sudan. Totten, Samuel, and Parsons, William (2012). Centuries of Genocide: Essays and Eyewitness Accounts. New York, NY: Routledge. Centuries of Genocide is comprised of critical essays on 15 different genocides perpetrated in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (each of which is accompanied by roughly 20 pages of powerful first-person testimony). Each essay is written by an expert on the particular genocide he/she writes about. Among the genocides addressed herein are the genocide of the Native Americans; the genocide of the Australian Aboriginals; the genocide of the Herero of Southwest Africa (1904); the Ottoman Turk genocide of the Armenians (1915–1921); the Soviet Manmade Famine of the Ukrainians (1933); the Holocaust; the Indonesian genocide of Communists and suspected Communists (1965–1966); the Pakistani genocide of Bangladeshis (1971); the Khmer Rouge genocide of its fellow Cambodians (1975–1979); the Guatemalan government’s genocide of the Mayans (early to mid 1980s); the Iraqi genocide of the Kurds in northern Iraq (1988); the genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by extremist Hutu in Rwanda (1994); the genocide by attrition of the Nuba Mountains people by the government of Sudan (late 1980s to mid-1990s); the Serb-perpetrated genocide of Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica (1995); and the government of Sudan’s genocide of the black Africans of Darfur (2004–2009).

Oral Histories of Individual Genocides Totten, Samuel (2015). Genocide by Attrition: Nuba Mountains, Sudan (2nd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. This book is comprised of a host of powerful oral histories with survivors of the genocide by attrition of the Nuba Mountains people in Sudan, who were virtually starved to death by the government of Sudan in the late 1980s to mid-1990s. Totten, Samuel, and Ubaldo, Rafiki (2011). We Cannot Forget: Interviews With Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. A powerful collection of first-person accounts by survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Concerning the value of this book, one reviewer wrote: “Without doubt, this is a valuable resource for scholars [and educators] who want direct access to the genocide as it happened on the ground.”

Education About Genocide: General Bigelow, William (1992). “Once Upon a Genocide: Christopher Columbus in Children’s Literature.” Language Arts, February, 69(2), 112–120. The author, a well-known and highly respected teacher in Oregon and critical theorist, presents a review of several biographies of Columbus for young people, and calls into question how Columbus is portrayed. Essentially, Bigelow strongly encourages educators to be more critical (and to take a critical stance) when having elementary school students read about Columbus. Keller, Bess, and Manzo, Kathleen Kennedy (2007). “Genocide Claiming a Larger Place in Middle and High School Lessons.” Education Week, October 15, 27(9), 1. The authors, in part, discuss how the topic of genocide is increasingly included in secondary level school programs. Levene, Mark (2000). “Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?” Journal of World History, Fall, 2(2), 305–336. By a well-known historian based in England, the author “relates the phenomenon of genocide to broader processes that have created and shaped modern international society. Argues that the emergence of a western-led international system of national states has caused many states to attempt shortcuts to development or to become empowered by distinguishing themselves from the dominant states.” (From ERIC). Totten, Samuel (2005). “Does History Matter? Ask the Armenians.” Social Education, October, 69(6), 238–239.


Samuel Totten

Totten describes and reflects on his experience in attending a 2-day memorial commemoration in the desert of Syria for the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. In doing so, he touches on the history of the Armenian genocide and how the Armenians to this day cannot and will not forget the tragedy that befell their ancestors at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1921.

Curricular and Instructional Issues Articles Fitchett, Paul G., and Good, Amy J. (2012). “Teaching Genocide Through GIS: A Transformative Approach.” Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85(3), 87–92. In their abstract, the authors state the following: “The utilization of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and geobrowsers (Google Earth) have become increasingly prevalent in the study of genocide. These applications offer teachers and students the opportunity to analyze historical and contemporary genocidal acts from a critical geographic perspective in which the confluence of historical background, sociocultural perspective, and geospatial context further understanding. We provide three examples of Web-based tools and applications for exploring genocide through geography in a secondary social studies classroom. We then examine these tools through an instructional scaffold of transformative geography. In this practice piece, we propose that teachers and students move beyond the static, pejorative representations of geography to enact dynamic instruction that encourages discourse and social action.” Totten, Samuel (2001). “Addressing the ‘Null Curriculum’: Teaching About Genocides Other Than the Holocaust.” Social Education, September, 65(5), 309–313. Totten discusses the concept of the null curriculum in the context of teaching about genocide. In doing so, he discusses various reasons why secondary level educators teach about the Holocaust but not other genocides, and why and how this is more than a little problematic. He also presents ideas for how teachers can address and ameliorate this oversight.

Book Totten, Samuel (Ed.). (2004). Teaching About Genocide: Issues, Approaches and Resources. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers. This book includes the following chapters: “Issues of Rationale: Teaching About Genocide” by Samuel Totten; “The History of Genocide: An Overview” by Paul R. Bartrop and Samuel Totten; “Wrestling With the Definition of Genocide: A Critical Task” by Samuel Totten; “Defining Genocide: Issues and Resolutions” by Henry R. Huttenbach; “The Armenian Genocide” by Richard G. Hovannisian; “The Soviet Manmade Famine in Ukraine” by James Mace; “The Holocaust” by Michael Berenbaum; “The Indonesian Genocide of 1965–1966” by Robert Cribb; “The Cambodian Genocide” by Craig Etcheson; “Instructional Strategies and Learning Activities: Teaching About Genocide” by Samuel Totten; “Conducting a Comparative Study of Genocide: Rationale and Methodology” by Henry R. Huttenbach; “Human Rights, Genocide, and Social Responsibility” by William R. Fernekes and Samuel Totten; and “The Intervention and Prevention of Genocide: Where There Is the Political Will, There Is a Way” by Samuel Totten.

Research: Teaching About Genocide Bruce, Maxwell (2008). “Justifying Educational Acquaintance With the Moral Horrors of History on Psycho-Social Grounds: ‘Facing History and Ourselves’ in Critical Perspective.” Ethics and Education, March, 3(1), 75–85. According to the abstract of this article, “This paper challenges a pervasive curricular justification for educationally acquainting young people with stories of genocide and other moral horrors from history. According to this justification, doing so favors the development of psychosocial soft skills connected with interpersonal awareness and the establishment and maintenance of positive relationships. It is argued that this justification renders the specific historical content incidental to the development of these skills. The educational intention of promoting such psycho-social soft skills by way of studying moral horrors in history constitutes an ethically problematic instrumentalization of the historical material itself.”

HOLOCAUST CHRONOLOGY 1933–1946 From Power to Punishment

1933 January 30 February 3 February 27 February 28

March 5 March 13 March 22 March 24 April 1 April 1 April 7 April 21 April 26 May 2 May 10

July 14 July 14 July 20

Hitler appointed, not elected, Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg Hitler addresses leaders of the German armed forces in a secret meeting, outlining the aims of the new Germany Reichstag fire “The Emergency Decree for the Protection of People and State” passed; leads to the suspension of civil rights, a ban on the left wing press, and the rounding up and arrest of Communist and socialist leaders Elections for the Reichstag; Nazis win 44% of the vote Joseph Goebbels designated Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda First concentration camp opens at Dachau, Germany “Enabling Law” passed by Reichstag establishes Nazi dictatorship Nationwide Nazi-sponsored boycott of Jewish-owned businesses Religious literature printed by Jehovah’s Witnesses banned from circulation in Germany “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service”; Jews barred from holding any civil service, university, or state positions Jewish ritual slaughtering of meat banned in Germany Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei [Secret State Police]) begins functioning as a state-sanctioned organization Dissolution of free trade unions in Germany Books written by Jews, opponents of Nazis, and other literature perceived to be aberrant (i.e., works by Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, H. G. Wells, Helen Keller, and others) publicly burned Nazi party (NSDAP) declared the only political party in Germany “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring” (Sterilization Law) passed Concordat between the Vatican and the Third Reich signed in Rome


Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

September 17 October 14 December 1

“Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden” (“Reich Representation of German Jewry”) created Germany quits the League of Nations and disarmament talks Legal unity of the German state and the Nazi Party declared

1934 January 26 January 30 March 21 April 20 April 22 June 30 July 1 July 20 August 2

September 3–10

Germany signs a 10-year nonaggression pact with Poland “Law for the Reorganization of the Reich” deprives German states of their sovereignty Hitler initiates the “Arbeitsschlacht” (“Battle for Work”), stressing the necessity of employing jobless citizens Himmler appointed head of the Gestapo Reinhard Heydrich becomes head of the Gestapo central office “Night of the Long Knives”; SA is purged Ernst Rohm, head of the SA, is murdered SS established as an organization independent from the SA Death of President von Hindenburg; Hitler declares himself Führer (Leader) of the German state; armed forces are required to take a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler Nuremberg Party Days; filming of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will

1935 March 16 April 1 April 30 May 31 July 16 September 15 September 15 October 1 November 26

December 13

Introduction of compulsory military conscription in direct violation of Treaty of Versailles; no response from European powers Jehovah’s Witnesses banned from civil service jobs; many arrested throughout Germany Nazi decree forbids Jews from exhibiting the German flag German Jews barred from serving in the German armed forces Reich Interior Minister Frick instructs registrars not to solemnize any more “mixed marriages” Swastika becomes part of official flag of the Third Reich Nuremberg Laws announced at Nuremberg Party Days; Jews deprived of citizenship and racial laws promulgated German Propaganda Ministry, to avoid offending Arabs, explains that Nazism is anti-Jewish rather than antisemitic Prohibition of racially mixed marriages (“Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor”) applied to “Gypsies” (Roma) and persons of African heritage “Lebensborn” (“Spring of Life”) organization founded by the SS

1936 March 3 March 7 March 26

Jewish doctors no longer permitted to practice in government institutions in Germany Nazi army enters Rhineland in direct violation of Treaty of Versailles; no response from European powers Jews no longer permitted to run or lease a pharmacy

Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

June 6 June 17 June 26 July 12 July 12 August 1–16 August 28 October 25 October 26 November 25


Central Office to “Combat the Gypsy Nuisance” opens in Munich; serves as a national police databank on German Sinti and Roma Himmler appointed chief of German police (Reichsführer-SS und Chef der Deutschen Polizei) Himmler merges the Gestapo and the Criminal Police into the Security Police under Reinhard Heydrich First arrest of German Roma; sent to Dachau Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens Olympic Games in Berlin; antisemitic signs temporarily removed Mass arrest of Jehovah’s Witnesses Rome–Berlin Axis agreement signed SS opens Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortions Political and military pact signed by Germany and Japan (“Anti-Comintern Pact”)

1937 March 14 Spring July 15 August 19 September 7 December 29

Publication of the papal encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” (“With Burning Sorrow”) denouncing Nazi persecution of the church and clergymen Sterilization of the “Rhineland Bastards” begins Establishment of Buchenwald concentration camp Jews in Germany may only shop in Jewish-owned bookstores and owners are forbidden to sell works by Aryan authors Hitler declares end of Treaty of Versailles Antisemitic legislation passed in Romania

1938 March 13 May 3 July 6–15 July 25 August 3 August 8 August 17 August 20 Sept. 26–Oct. 8 September 29 October 5 November 7 November 9–10

Germany annexes Austria; “Anschluss” First transports of prisoners arrive at Flossenberg concentration camp in Germany Thirty-two countries at Evian Conference discuss refugee policies; most countries refuse to let in Jewish refugees Jewish doctors in Germany can only treat Jewish patients Italy enacts sweeping antisemitic laws Mauthausen concentration camp opens in Austria All Jewish men in Germany required to add “Israel” to their names; all Jewish women required to add “Sarah” Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigration Seventeen thousand Jews with Polish citizenship are expelled from the German Reich and transported to the Polish border Munich Agreement is signed Following request by Swiss authorities, all Jewish passports must be marked with a large letter “J” to restrict Jews from immigrating to Switzerland Shooting of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, whose family had been forcibly deported from Germany “Kristallnacht,” a nationwide pogrom; thirty thousand Jews sent to concentration camps (10,000 to Buchenwald)


Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

November 11 November 12 November 12 November 15 December 2–3 December 12

Italy adopts antisemitic racial laws Fine of 1 billion Reichsmarks levied on Jews of Germany Decree forcing all Jews to transfer retail businesses to Aryan hands All Jewish children expelled from German public schools Roma in Germany required to register with police Neuengamme concentration camp in Germany opens

1939 January 24 January 30 March 15 May 13 May 15 June 6 August 23 August 25 September 1 September 2 September 3 September 21 September 28 October October 8 October 26 November 8 November 9 November 23 December 2

Herman Göring instructs Wilhelm Frick to establish a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration; Reinhard Heydrich appointed director of this office Hitler, in a speech in the Reichstag, threatens that another war will mean the “extermination of the Jewish race in Europe” Germans invade Czechoslovakia; no immediate response from European powers The St. Louis sails from Hamburg, Germany, toward Cuba; upon arrival, Jewish refugees denied entry to both Cuba and the United States Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women established The St. Louis sails back to Europe Hitler–Stalin Pact signed Polish–British treaty signed Germany invades Poland; World War II begins Stutthof concentration camp, first camp outside of Germany, established in Poland Britain and France declare war on Germany Reinhard Heydrich (SS) issues directives to establish ghettos in Germanoccupied Poland Partition of Poland between Germany and USSR Hitler authorizes “euthanasia” program (T-4) in Germany; doctors to kill institutionalized mentally and physically handicapped First Polish ghetto established in Piotrokow Trybunalski The “Generalgouvernement” established in Poland Failure of the attempt of Johann Georg Elser to assassinate Hitler in Munich Lodz, Poland, is incorporated into the German Reich Jews in German-occupied Poland forced to wear an armband or yellow star Germans initiate use of gas vans to murder mental patients at T-4 locations

1940 February 8 April 9 April 30 April–May May 10 May 15 May 20 June 10

Establishment of Lodz Ghetto ordered Germans invade and conquer Denmark; Danes continue to govern Lodz Ghetto, first enclosed ghetto, is sealed Twenty-five hundred Sinti and Roma deported from Germany to Poland Germans conquer France Germans conquer Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland Concentration camp established at Auschwitz I (Oswiecim) Germans conquer Norway

Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

August 8 September 27 October 3 November 16


Antisemitic racial laws enacted in Romania Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis is established Collaborationist Vichy government in France pass anti-Jewish laws Warsaw Ghetto is sealed

1941 January 10 January 21 March 1 March 3 March 22 March 22 March 24 April 6 April 24 April 30 May 21 June 22 June 23 June 28 July 20 July 24 July 31 August 1 August 3 August 24

September 3 September 3–6 September 19 September 28–29 October October 7 October 23 November 1 November 24

Dutch Jews required to register with police Antisemitic riots in Romania Construction of camp at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) Krakow Ghetto established Roma and Afro-German children are expelled from German public schools Adolf Eichmann appointed head of the department for Jewish affairs of the Reich Security Main Office, Section IV B 4 Germans invade North Africa Germans invade Yugoslavia and Greece Lublin Ghetto is sealed Lodz Ghetto is sealed Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp opens in France Germany invades the USSR in Operation “Barbarossa” Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) begin mass murder of Jews, Roma, and Communist leaders in the USSR Romanian soldiers kill at least 13,266 Romanian Jews in Iasi pogrom Minsk Ghetto established Kishinev Ghetto established Hermann Göring gives Reinhard Heydrich the authority to prepare a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish question” in Europe Bialystok Ghetto established Catholic Bishop Clements August Graf von Galen delivers a sermon attacking the murder of the mentally ill “Euthanasia” program (T-4) in Germany officially halted, but unofficially continues; between 70,000 and 93,000 people were murdered during the course of this program First gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz I; the SS tests Zyklon B gas by killing 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 other ill or weak prisoners Ghettos established at Vilna German Jews required to wear yellow badge in public At Babi Yar, outside of Kiev in the Soviet Union, 33,771 Jews murdered by Germans Start of the mass deportation of Jews from the Reich to ghettos in Kovno, Lodz, Minsk, and Riga First Soviet prisoners of war brought to newly constructed Majdanek-Lublin camp in occupied Poland Massacre of 34,000 Jews in Odessa by Romanian troops Construction of Belzec extermination camp begins Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp established in Czechoslovakia


Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

December 7 December 8 December 8 December 11

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor Rumbula Forest massacre of Jews near Riga, Latvia, by German SS and Latvian auxiliaries Gassing operations begin at Chelmno extermination camp; vans are used Germany and Italy declare war on the United States; United States declares war on Germany

1942 January January 16 January 20 March 1 March 17 March 27 April 29 April 30 May 1 May 27 June 10 July 15–16 July 22 July 22–Sept. 12 July 23 July 28 September October 26 November 24

Deportations from Theresienstadt (Terezin) to ghettos (Riga, Warsaw, Lodz, Minsk, and Bialystok) in the East begin First Jews from Lodz Ghetto sent to Chelmno to be murdered by gassing in mobile vans Wannsee Conference; planning for the coordination of the “Final Solution” Construction of Sobibor extermination camp begins Killings begin at Belzec extermination camp First Jews from France sent to Auschwitz Dutch Jews ordered to wear yellow badge Pinsk Ghetto established First mass murders in Sobibor killing center Reinhard Heydrich assassinated in Prague Village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, destroyed in retribution for assassination of Heydrich First transports of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz Treblinka extermination camp completed; by August 1943, 870,000 Jews murdered at Treblinka Mass deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka Suicide of Adam Czerniakow, head of the Warsaw Judenrat Jewish fighting organization set up in Warsaw Ghetto Completion of Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the I. G. Farben “Buna” synthetic oil and rubber factory Deportations of Jews from Theresienstadt (Terezin) to Auschwitz and Treblinka begin Knowledge of the extermination of the Jews of Europe publicly announced in the United States by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise

1943 January 18–22 February 2 February 25 February 26 April 19–May 16 May 30 June 21 July 25

Jewish Fighting Organization offers armed resistance to deportation of 5,000 Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka Germans defeated at Battle of Stalingrad First transport of Greek Jews from Salonika to Auschwitz First transport of Roma reaches Auschwitz; Gypsy Camp established Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; Jews resist Germans’ effort to deport them to death camps Josef Mengele becomes camp doctor at Auschwitz Himmler orders the complete and final liquidation of all ghettos in the east Mussolini deposed as leader of Italy

Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

August 2 August 16 September 23 October 2 October 14 October 18 October 20 November 3


Prisoner uprising at Treblinka extermination camp Revolt in Bialystok Ghetto Vilna Ghetto liquidated Germans attempt roundup of Danish Jews; Danish people use boats to smuggle most Danish Jews (7,200) to neutral Sweden Inmate armed revolt at Sobibor extermination camp Jews of Rome deported to Auschwitz United Nations War Crimes Commission established “Erntefest” (“Harvest Festival”) operation launched at Majdanek; 40,000 Jews shot in one day

1944 March 19 April 7

May 2

June 6 July 20 July 23 July 24 July 24 August 2 October 1 October 7 November 8 November 25

Germans invade and occupy former ally Hungary Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba escape from Auschwitz with detailed information about the murder of the Jews; their report reaches the free world in June First transport of Hungarian Jews reaches Auschwitz; by July 9, over 437,000 Hungarian Jews are sent to Auschwitz; most of them are gassed immediately upon arrival Allied invasion of Normandy Unsuccessful attempt by members of the German military to assassinate Hitler International Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt (Terezin) Soviet army liberates Majdanek killing camp Greek Jews from Rhodes and Kos deported to Auschwitz Gypsy camp at Auschwitz destroyed by Germans; 3,000 Roma gassed Medical experiments are performed on homosexual prisoners at Buchenwald Prisoners blow up Crematorium 4 at Auschwitz-Birkenau Start of death march of approximately 40,000 Hungarian Jews from Budapest to Austria Germans stop gassing operations at Auschwitz

1945 January 17 January 27 April 11 April 15 April 22 April 23 April 28 April 29 April 30 April 30 May 2 May 3 May 5 May 7

Germans forcibly evacuate prisoners of Auschwitz on “death marches” Soviet army liberates Auschwitz Buchenwald “self-liberated” and liberated by the American army British army liberates Bergen-Belsen concentration camp Liberation of Sachsenhausen concentration camp Liberation of Flossenberg concentration camp Mussolini executed by Italian partisans American army liberates Dachau concentration camp Ravensbrueck concentration camp liberated Hitler commits suicide in Berlin Soviet troops capture Berlin Germans hand over Theresienstadt (Terezin) to the International Red Cross American army liberates Mauthausen concentration camp Nazi Germany surrenders; end of World War II in Europe


Holocaust Chronology 1933–1946

May 8 August 14 November 20

Theresienstadt (Terezin) liberated by Soviet troops Japan surrenders; end of World War II First major Nuremberg War Crimes Trials begin

1946 October 1

October 16

Conclusion of first major Nuremberg Trials; 12 leading Nazis sentenced to be executed (Martin Bormann [in absentia], Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Hermann Göring, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Saukel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher); three sentenced to life imprisonment (Walther Funk, Rudolf Hess, Erich Raeder); four received various prison terms (Karl Donitz, Konstantin von Neurath, Baldur von Schirach, Albert Speer); and three were acquitted (Hans Fritzsche, Franz von Papen, Hjalmar Schacht). Execution of Nazi war criminals Compiled by Stephen Feinberg


Editors Samuel Totten is a genocide scholar based at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He teaches

a course in the Department of Political Science titled “Genocide in the 20th and 21st Centuries.” He earned his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he studied with such luminaries as Maxine Greene, Lawrence Cremin, Dwayne Huebner, and Ann Lieberman. Between 1988 and 2005, he served as an educational consultant to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Along with William S. Parsons (then head of the USHMM’S education department) and Sybil Milton (then senior historian at the USHMM), Totten co-authored the museum’s Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. In July and August of 2004, Totten served as one of 24 investigators on the US State Department’s Darfur Atrocities Documentation Project, whose express purpose was to conduct interviews with refugees from Darfur in refugee camps along the Chad/Darfur border in order to collect data about what those who fled the region had experienced and witnessed. Based upon the data collected by the team of investigators, US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared, on September 9, 2004, that genocide had been perpetrated in Darfur, Sudan, by Government of Sudan troops and the Janjaweed. For the past 7 years, Totten has conducted research into the Darfur genocide (2003 to present) and the genocide by attrition of the Nuba Mountains people (late 1980s into the 1990s) in refugee camps along the Chad/Darfur border and in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. From 2012 to the present Totten has carried out solo humanitarian missions into the wartorn Nuba Mountains, delivering food to civilians who, due to the daily bombings by the Government of Sudan, have fled their villages and farms and are now suffering the whole gamut of hunger: from persistent daily gnawing hunger to malnutrition to severe malnutrition to starvation. Between 2003 and 2012, Totten served as the managing editor of the series Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers). Among some of the more notable volumes in the series are: Fate and Plight of Women During and Following Genocide (2009); The Genocide of Indigenous Peoples (with Robert Hitchcock) (2011); Impediments to the Prevention and Intervention of Genocide (2012); and The Plight and Fate of Children During and Following Genocide (2013).


About the Contributors

Between 2005 and 2012, Totten served as founding co-editor of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, the official journal of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (University of Toronto Press). In 2008 he served as a Fulbright Scholar at the Centre for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda. Among the books he has co-authored and co-edited on genocide are: Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains, Sudan, 2nd ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2015); Conflict in the Nuba Mountains: From Genocide by Attrition to the Contemporary Conflict in Sudan (New York, NY: Routledge, 2016); Centuries of Genocide, 4th ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012); We Cannot Forget: Interviews with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011); An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2010); Genocide in Darfur: Investigating Atrocities in the Sudan (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006); and Dictionary of Genocide (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishers, 2008). Among the books he has written, edited and co-edited on the Holocaust are: Holocaust Education: Issues and Approaches (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2002); Teaching Holocaust Literature (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2001); and with Stephen Feinberg, Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2001). Totten’s articles on Holocaust education have appeared in Theory and Research in Social Education, Social Education, The Social Studies, the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, the Canadian Social Studies Journal, and the British Journal of Holocaust Education. Stephen Feinberg was the Special Assistant for Education Programs in the National Institute for Holocaust Education (NIHE) at the USHMM in Washington, DC, from 2009 to 2011. In that capacity, he coordinated NIHE’s International Educational Activities and directed the USHMM’s teacher education programs in California, Florida, and Illinois. As Director of the National Outreach program at the USHMM from 2000 to 2009, he was responsible for the creation, design, and implementation of the museum’s entire national educational outreach program. From 1996 to 2000, he was the individual responsible for the development and implementation of the Museum Teacher Fellowship Program. Feinberg was a member of the United States delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) from 1999 to 2011, working extensively with the IHRA Educational Working Group. In addition to conducting teacher training programs across the United States, he has also coordinated or participated in programs internationally in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. He joined the USHMM staff in Washington in 1996, after having been an educational consultant for the museum since 1990. He is the co-editor, with Samuel Totten, of Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000). Prior to his work at the USHMM, he was a social studies teacher in public and private schools in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Paris, France. He received his undergraduate degree in history from UCLA and his masters’ degree from Harvard University.

Authors Lawrence Baron, Professor Emeritus, held the Abraham Nasatir Chair of Modern Jewish History at

San Diego State University from 1988 until 2012 and directed its Jewish Studies Program until 2006. He received his Ph.D. in modern European cultural and intellectual history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He taught at St. Lawrence University from 1975 until 1988. He has authored and edited four books, including The Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2011) and Projecting the Holocaust Into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary

About the Contributors


Holocaust Cinema (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005). He served as the historian and as an interviewer for Samuel and Pearl Oliner’s The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe (1988). Doris L. Bergen is the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on issues of religion, gender, and ethnicity in the Holocaust and World War II and comparatively in other cases of extreme violence. Her books include Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (1996); War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (2003); The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the TwentyFirst Centuries (edited, 2004); and Lessons and Legacies VIII (edited, 2008). She has held grants and fellowships from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the USHMM, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has taught at the Universities of Warsaw, Pristina, Tuzla, Notre Dame, and Vermont. Her current projects include a book on Germany military chaplains in the Nazi era and a study of definitions of Germanness as revealed in the Volksdeutschen/ethnic Germans of Eastern Europe during World War II and the Holocaust. Bergen is a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM in Washington, DC. Elaine Culbertson has served as the director of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’

Program since 2007. Conceived and established in 1985 by Warsaw ghetto heroine Vladka Meed, the program has taken more than 1,000 teachers to Europe and Israel to study about the Holocaust. Culbertson also serves as the executive director of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. Elaine’s 37-year career as a public school educator includes teaching high school English and serving as a high school principal in inner-city Philadelphia, and as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction of a suburban school district. She has also taught methods courses for English teachers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, she has published and lectured on using diaries and memoirs as teaching tools, weaving her parents’ experiences into her presentations. She is the chair of the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council and a founding member of the Consortium of Holocaust Educators of Philadelphia. Wolf Kaiser is the Deputy Director of the House of the Wannsee Conference (Berlin, Germany),

and Head of its Educational Department. He has worked at this memorial and educational site since its inauguration in 1992. Kaiser studied history and German literature at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg i. Br. and at the Free University Berlin, obtaining the first and second degree for teaching at German high schools and a Ph.D. in German literature. He taught German literature, history, and civics at Bröndby School in Berlin. Kaiser is the editor of a book on the Nazis’ war of destruction in Eastern Europe, Täter im Vernichtungskrieg. Der Überfall auf die Sowjetunion und der Völkermord an den Juden [Perpetrators in the war of extermination. The attack on the Soviet Union and the genocide of the Jews] (Berlin: Propyläen, 2002). Among his numerous papers and contributions to resource books on Holocaust education is “Teaching About Perpetrators of the Holocaust in Germany,” which was published in Holocaust Education in a Global Context (Paris: UNESCO, 2014). He is also co-author of an online module titled Holocaust and Fundamental Rights, launched in 2015 ( Online-Lernen/Online-Module/all).


About the Contributors

Since 2001, Kaiser has been a member of the German delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and he is member of the board of advisors to the International Centre for Education About Auschwitz and the Holocaust in Oświęcim. Kimberly Klett is an educator at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona, where she teaches Holo-

caust literature and A.P. English literature. She is a Mandel Fellow and Regional Educator with the USHMM, and a Carl Wilkens Fellow. She is also involved in the anti-genocide movement in the Phoenix area, and has helped bring many speakers to the area to raise awareness about mass atrocities across the globe. David Klevan received his B.A. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and

Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A founding member of the education division at the USHMM, Klevan’s contributions helped shape the museum’s approach to educational outreach. He played a critical role in developing and managing the museum’s partnership with Washington, DC area schools, as well as the Law Enforcement and Society program. Recognizing the impact that Internet technologies would have on teaching and learning, Klevan pioneered the USHMM’s early digital learning projects, including “The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students” and “Witnessing History: Kristallnacht, The November 1938 Pogroms” (a Second Life exhibition). Subsequently, he developed and supervised the USHMM’s use of social media, collections databases, and mobile technologies for educational outreach, interactive learning, and collaborative “citizen history” research. Klevan is a contributing author to Twitter for Museums: Strategies and Tactics for Success (Museums Etc., 2010), and his work has been featured in Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration (Pfeiffer, 2010). Margaret “Gigi” Lincoln is District Librarian and National Honor Society Advisor at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, Michigan. She earned a Ph.D. in Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas in 2006. Lincoln is an American Memory Fellow with the Library of Congress and a Teacher Fellow with the USHMM. Lincoln has contributed articles to professional journals and has presented at a variety of conferences, including the International Conference on Holocaust Education. She is a co-author of Designing Online Learning: A Primer for Librarians (Libraries Unlimited, 2012) and contributed a chapter, “E-Learning and Holocaust Education in a School Library,” to E-Learning in Libraries: Best Practices (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). With her co-author Miriam Brysk, Lincoln wrote The Stones Weep: Teaching the Holocaust Through A Survivor’s Art (East Stroudsburg, PA: Gihon River Press, 2013). In 2008, Gigi was one of 10 librarians nationwide selected as a recipient of the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award. In 2013, Lakeview High School Library received a Citation of Excellence in the State Librarian’s Excellence Award for Michigan libraries. William F. Meinecke Jr. received his B.A. in history and German from the University of Mary-

land Baltimore County and his M.A. and Ph.D. in modern European history from the University of Maryland at College Park. In 1992 he joined the staff of the Wexner Learning Center of the USHMM in Washington, DC, and in June 2000 he joined the staff of the Museum’s Education Division. He is currently working in the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the USHMM on Holocaust education for adult professionals.

About the Contributors


He is the author of the Historical Atlas of the Holocaust (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishers, 1996); Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust (Washington, DC: USHMM, 2007); and Law, Justice, and the Holocaust (Washington, DC: USHMM, 2009). John K. Roth is the Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and the Founding Director

of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights (now the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights) at Claremont McKenna College. Roth has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 50 books, including The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Encountering the Stranger: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012); Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide (Paragon House, 2012); and The Failures of Ethics: Confronting the Holocaust, Genocide, and Other Mass Atrocities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Two other volumes are nearing completion: Losing Trust in the World: Holocaust Scholars Encounter Torture and Teaching about Rape in War and Genocide. With David Patterson, he edits the Stephen S. Weinstein Series in Post-Holocaust Studies, which is published by the University of Washington Press. Roth has been Visiting Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel, and his Holocaust-related research appointments include a Koerner Visiting Fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in England as well as an appointment as the Ina Levine Invitational Scholar at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM. Roth was named the 1988 US National Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He has also received the Holocaust Educational Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Holocaust Studies and Research. Paul Salmons is Programme Director at the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, University College London, the first institution to combine large-scale research into teaching and learning about the Holocaust with educational initiatives designed to address classroom needs. In 1998 he was recruited by the Imperial War Museum (IWM) to help create the UK’s national Holocaust exhibition, establish its learning program, and create its educational resources for teaching and learning about the Holocaust. A consultant on numerous international projects, including the pedagogical development for programs at the Mauthausen Memorial and the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s research into Human Rights Education at Holocaust-related sites, Salmons was invited by the United Nations to create educational materials for its International Holocaust Remembrance Day; appointed Scholar in Residence at the USHMM; and was the first overseas educator to address Yad Vashem’s national conference for Israeli teachers. Currently he serves on the Steering Committee of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body of more than 30 member states. He is the author of the IWM’s Reflections and Torn Apart; co-author of Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools (2009); and an occasional guest editor of the journal Teaching History. His scholarly articles have appeared in a variety of publications. Karen Shawn is Visiting Associate Professor of Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli

Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration in New York City, where she teaches educational practice, including Holocaust pedagogy. She is the founding editor of the Azrieli Graduate School publication PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, a scholarly, peer-reviewed annual produced for high school, college, and university educators and their students. With a print circulation of 2,500, it has readers in 35 countries and in all US states. A recipient of the coveted Covenant Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewish Education (2000), she is a former middle school English teacher and assistant principal. She taught for a


About the Contributors

decade at the Yad Vashem Summer Institute for Educators from Abroad in Jerusalem, and served as the educational consultant for the American Friends of the Ghetto Fighters’ House for an additional 10 years. The founder of the Holocaust Educators’ Consortium, an international, interreligious community of practice, now in its 20th year, she has lectured extensively on Holocaust education to educators in universities and museums across the United States, Canada, Israel, Serbia, and Poland. She has also worked closely with survivors and members of the second generation to help them craft their oral and written testimonies and reflections, resulting in a book titled In the Aftermath of the Holocaust: Three Generations Speak. The author of the widely used text The End of Innocence: Anne Frank and the Holocaust (New York, NY: ADL, 1992), she is co-editor (with Keren Goldrad) of an anthology of Holocaust narratives and an accompanying teacher’s guide titled The Call of Memory: Learning About the Holocaust Through Narrative (Teaneck, NJ: Ben Yehuda Press, 2008). A monograph titled “Rethinking and Restructuring Holocaust Education” is in press for The Azrieli Papers, a series of scholarly essays published by Yeshiva University Press. Colleen Tambuscio currently teaches at New Milford High School, New Milford, New Jersey.

She has an M.A. in Jewish-Christian studies from Seton Hall University and is an educational consultant with the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. In 1998, she was named as a USHMM Mandel Fellow and continues to serve as a Regional Museum Educator for the Northeast region. Tambuscio is the founder and president of the Council of Holocaust Educators.


Abegg, Elizabeth 193 age appropriate instruction 14, 195 Aktion 1005, 99 All But My Life (memoir) 89, 90, 92, 135, 153, 162 Altman, Tova 193 America’s response to the Holocaust, documentary 174 Anne Frank House, The 79, 83, 84, 97, 98 Anschluss 106, 213 Anti-Defamation League 1, 81, 84 antisemitism: Anne Frank and 133; as cause of Holocaust, myth 33, 34–6, 43; Christian (religious) 4, 49, 68, 181; as core of Nazi ideology 18, 23; films depicting 170, 181; Hitler’s 36, 37, 107, 108, 11, 115; institutionalization of 18; in other parts of Europe 49; of Poles 137; political 68; as pre-condition of Holocaust 17; racial 5, 7, 68, 192; role of historical 49 Appleman-Jurman, Alicia 135, 145 Arbenz, Jacobo 201 Armenian genocide: clusters and 57, 58; missionaries and 200; Morgenthau, Henry and 199; resources for 208, 210; USHMM and 205; YouTube and 206 Aroush, Salamo 193 “Aryan” race: Concordat and 20; enemy of Jews 24, 170; expansion of 23–4, 25; Hitler’s Political Testament and 108; Nazi ideology and 22, 43, 51, 119; other genocides and 158; resources about 30, 45, 46, 182 Auschwitz: bombing of 42, 43, 73 Auschwitz-Birkenau: arrival of Hungarian Jews at 140, 141; books about 153, 155, 157, 153; “choiceless choice” at 62; deportation to 39, 40; diaries and 150; documentary on 174–5; establishment of 21; films about 148, 170, 177, 186; gassing at 37; Memorial and Museum 83; Sephardic Jews at 49; tattoos at 141; uprising

at 42; Yad Vashem exhibit at 144; Zalman Gradowski at 100, 101 Austria: Centropa 79; early concentration camps in 52; Kindertransport and 184; Mauthausen in 62; Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) and 20, 50; NSDAP program and 106 Avalon Project 80, 96 Babi Yar 72, 100, 215 Barth-Grozinger, Inge 156, 162, 163 Bauer, Yehuda 71 Belgium 20, 40, 150, 192, 214 Belzec: construction of 215; end of operation 118; killings begin at 216 Berenbaum, Michael 50, 64, 72, 191, 195 Bergin, Doris 45, 50, 189 Birnbaum, Halina 135, 145 Blaskovitz, Johannes, Colonel-General 24 Bloch, Eduard Dr. 37 blood libel 4, 34 Borowski, Tadeusz 73, 155–6, 164 Boycott of Jewish businesses 19 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 136, 148, 178 Browning, Christopher 31, 41, 45, 123, 175, 182 Bryce, James Lord 200 Brysk, Miriam Dr., 90, 222 Buergenthal, Thomas 135, 145 Bulgaria 21, 115 bystanders: motivation of 203; regions and 9, 52; role of 3, 8, 27, 170, 171, 173, 192, 193; theme of 90 Cambodian genocide: clusters 57, 58; documentary on 206; program at Yale 205; resources on 208, 210 camps, Nazi: all the same, myth 39–40; concentration camps 2, 20, 51, 62, 117, 134, 192; death camps 1, 3, 21, 50, 74, 100, 129, 131, 190, 195; expansion of 62–3; in films 170, 171,



172, 177, 182, 184, 186; labor camps 39; in literature 153, 154, 158, 160; mapping camps 60; testimonies about 142 Caporino, Grace 64 Catholic Church 31, 45, 171, 181 Chelmno: Greiser, Arthur, and 113; location of 51; Lodz Jews and 123, 216; mass graves at 100; operations begin at 216 children: Coming of Age During the Holocaust, Coming of Age Now 81; death of 6, 21, 22, 100, 123; Holocaust education and 14, 56, 131; lesson on 92, 93; Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust 88, 90; in literature 155, 157, 160, 161; The Little Boy, photograph 138–40; sheltered 27, 150 “choiceless choices” 30, 61–6, 72, 155, 164, 191 Chronology of Holocaust 17, 22, 45, 50, 60, 192, 204, 211–18 churches 34, 45, 64 Ciardelli, Jennifer 71 collaborators: in film 169, 183, 185; in literature 147, 151; rationales and 3, 6, 7; role of 5, 8, 21, 25, 40, 43, 52, 144, 203, 207 communists 18, 36, 39, 40, 169, 171, 207, 209 concentration camps see camps, Nazi Concordat 20, 211 Conspiracy (film) 80, 95, 175, 181 content: controversies, historical 45, 186; evaluation of online 77; issues of 48–50; online resources for 79–81; overemphasis on 189–90; scholarly 82 crimes against humanity: Blaskowitz accused of 24; open-ended questions and 67; resources on 14, 164, 208; teaching about the Holocaust and 9 Czechoslovakia: destruction of Lidice in 216; expansion of concentration camps into 62; Germans invade 214; resources on 37, 163, 184; Theresienstadt (Terezin) established in 215 Czerniakow, Adam 22, 216 Dachau: Americans liberate 217; first concentration camp 18, 221; resources on 164, 185; Roma sent to 213 Dallaire, Romeo 201, 208 Daniel’s Story (film) 186 Darfur 198, 201, 202, 206, 207, 208, 209 death camps see camps, Nazi debriefing with students 60, 138 Defiance 6, 82, 95, 185 denial of the Holocaust see Holocaust denial Diary of Anne Frank, The: (the book) 71, 132, 133–5, 145, 148, 149, 165; (film) 184 documentaries see films Dreyfus affair 35 Duranty, Walter 200 Durham, Scott 200 Eichmann, Adolf 45, 83, 110, 111, 113, 114, 158, 175, 180, 186, 213, 215 Einsatzgruppen 8, 21, 24, 41, 44, 50, 51, 52, 63, 166, 182, 215 Eisner, Elliot 4, 12, 198, 206, 208

Emil and Karl (novel) 157 ethics 122, 166 eugenics 182 euphemisms 74 “euthanasia” 21, 22, 23, 30, 31, 182 Every Man Dies Alone (novel) 158–9 Facing History and Ourselves 71, 82, 97, 165, 210 Fallada, Hans 158, 16, 163 Fateless (novel) 148, 157, 162, 176, 180 Feigl, Peter 150 Feinberg, Stephen 15, 47, 61, 72, 147, 199, 211–18 Fictional accounts of the Holocaust see Holocaust literature films: allied 170; America and the Holocaust 174; annotated bibliography of 186–8; Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State 174–5; The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 136; Conspiracy 80, 175; The Courage to Care 175; Defiance 82, 95; documentaries 143, 170; early Nazi 169; The Eternal Jew 176; Fateless 176; feature 70, 169, 170, 172, 173, 179; filmography 181–6; historical empathy and 70; inappropriate 178–9; issues of using 56, 68, 132, 171; limitation of 56, 135; about myths 47; overview of Holocaust 169–71; Paper Clips 143; pedagogical issues and 171–4; The Pianist 70, 176–7; propaganda 171; Schindler’s List 144, 148, 177; selecting video resources 174; Shoah 129, 177; source of 79 Final Solution 7, 29, 31, 44, 46, 50, 51, 64, 79, 83, 115, 170, 171, 175, 215, 216 Fink, Ida 5, 155, 164 first-person accounts 63, 64, 204, 205, 207, 209 Fortunoff Video Archive 81, 97 France: cost of German occupation of 41; declares war on Germany 214; deportation of Jews from 38; Drancy transit camp in 40; Dreyfus Affair in 35; as German client state 21; German massacre of black French soldiers in 24; Jews sent to Auschwitz by 216; Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp opens in 215; rescuers in 175; resources on 30, 183; volunteers for Waffen-SS in 38 Frank, Anne 20, 25, 49, 79, 81 freemasons 19 Friedlander, Henry 13, 29, 31 Friedman, Carl 157, 158, 162 Friedrich (novel) 156 Fry, Varian 193 functionalist 49, 113 Gamber, Cayo 73, 92, 93, 94 gas chambers 8, 17, 40, 43, 109, 118, 141, 143, 170, 175, 184 gas vans 8, 113, 114, 214 Genocide: annotated bibliography about 208–10; Armenian Genocide 57, 58, 199, 200, 203, 205, 206, 207; comparative study of 71, 202–3; depth of coverage about 199; of Herero and Nama 24, 206, 207, 209; Holocaust and 111, 114, 116;


media and 74, 192; Nazi justification for 46, 126; Nazis and 109, 123, 172; “Never again” 197; null curriculum 198–9; other genocides 2, 158, 199–202; pedagogical issues 50, 67; rationales 3, 9; resources for teaching about 204–6; Rwanda 58; teaching about 202–3; United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 57; United States 177, 199, 202; using YouTube 206; World War II 25, 33 Germans: ordinary 18, 33, 36–8, 40, 45, 46, 180 Gestapo 37, 110, 155, 183, 185, 211, 212, 213 ghetto: deportation to 117; film overview 183; first 21; food 161; Lodz 92, 93, 111, 113, 123–5, 152, 159, 160, 161, 183; Oneg Shabbat archive 78; resistance 41, 42, 52; Riga 84, 98; Shanghai 154; system 63; Terezin 150, 151, 170; Vilna 151, 185; Warsaw 100, 126, 138, 140, 176, 85 Gies, Miep 134 Ginz, Eva 150 Glatshteyn, Yankev 157, 162 goals see rationales Goebbels 20, 23, 24, 35, 176, 211 Gradowski, Zalman 100, 101, 103, 128 Greenberg, Blu 160 Greiser, Arthur 110, 111, 13, 129 Gross, Jan 27 Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust 3, 12, 15, 69, 72, 73, 147 Gypsies see Roma and Sinti handicapped, murder of see T4 program Heydrich, Reinhard 38, 111, 113, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216 Hilberg, Raul 17, 64, 128, 170, 177, 197 Himmler, Heinrich 41, 79, 99, 113, 120 Hirschfeld, Magnus 19 Hitler, Adolf: antisemitism of 18, 35–6, 37; appointed chancellor 5, 18; “Blueprint for Genocide” 107–9; decision making and 109–15; Jews as distinct “race” 34; mercy killings and 21; NSDAP program and 104–6; political testimony 108–9; solving “Jewish Question” and 20 Höfle, Hermann, SS Major 117, 118 Holocaust: blaming Hitler for 5, 36, 37, 38; chronology of 211–18; establishing basic understanding of history of 64; global impact of 25; historiographical debate about 49; misconceptions and myths about 33–47 Holocaust denial 6–7, 47, 76, 78, 84, 98 Holocaust literature: diaries 149–52; drama 159–60; memoirs 30, 31, 131, 134, 138, 152–4; novels 156–9; poetry 160–1; short stories 155–6 homosexuality see victims, Nazi Persecution Höppner, Rolf-Heinz SS-Sturmbannfuhrer 110, 111, 113, 114, 115, 119, 129 Hungary: deportation to Auschwitz 43; as German client state 21; Germany invades former ally of 217; as part of global event 21; use of railroads and deportations from 39


images see pedagogical strategies instructional issues/strategies see pedagogical strategies intentionalists 49, 111, 112, 113 Internet see online resources interviews: Atrocities Documentation Project 202; Centropa 79; Fortunoff Video Archive 81; Imperial War Museum 154; in Shoah 177; Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive 17; student conducted 85–7; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 154 Israel 13, 63, 79, 87, 171, 175, 186 Italy: declares war on U.S., 216; enacts antisemitic laws 213, 214; as German client state 21; Mussolini deposed as leader of 216; as part of global event 25 Janjaweed 206 Jehovah Witnesses see victims, Nazi Persecution Jewish: question 110, 113, 114, 123; refugees 26, 31, 128, 170; resistance 33, 41–2, 53, 74, 82, 185; Sonderkommando 100 Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation 82, 97 Jews: Ashkenazi 49; in different types of film 171; killed by collaborators 38; killed in Holocaust 23; in Nazi ideology 18–20, 107; non-Jews and 22–3; not a race 33; origins of 34; portrayal in Maus 137; portrayal in photographs 139–41; primary victims 49; provoked Holocaust, myth 40–1; Sephardic 49; those who helped 63; variety of 12, 49, 181 journals: as alternative to final evaluation 67; reflective 62, 65 Judenrat (Jewish Councils) 22, 183, 185, 216 Kern, Honey 88, 89, 92 Kertész, Imre 148, 157, 163–4, 176 Kindergarten, the Bronx (poetry) 160 Kindertransport 161, 164, 167, 184 Kissinger, Henry 201 Klein, Gerda Weissman 89, 95, 135, 153, 163, 184 Klemperer, Victor 18, 19, 22, 30 Kopf, Hedda Rosner 134 Korber, Miriam 151 Korczak, Janusz 173, 183 Kristallnacht 7, 20, 46, 50, 106, 152, 157, 191, 213 Langer, Klaus 152, 161 Langer, Lawrence 61–2, 147, 155, 191 Law for the Protection of German Blood 50, 212 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service 19, 106, 211 League of Nations 20, 212 learning activities see pedagogical strategies Lebensraum 49 Levi, Primo 30, 135, 153, 156, 157, 193 liberation: Bergen-Belsen and 85; films about 170, 171, 176; of Flossenberg 217; and memoirs 153, 154, 161; photographs of survivors at 143; resources on 74, 182, 187; of Sachsenhausen 217



liberators 85, 87 Lipstadt, Deborah 11, 47, 186 Listservs see online resources literature: blogs and teaching 88; co-teaching and 53; Jewish 32; memoir 30, 131, 134, 152; rationales and 5; for secondary level students 70; see also Holocaust literature Lodz Ghetto 92, 93, 98, 123, 125, 152, 159, 160, 161, 183, 214, 215, 216 Luther, Martin 4 Majdanek: camp 51, 75, 117, 118, 170, 215, 217; State Museum 84, 98 Maus (graphic novel) 32, 136–8, 154, 167, 168 Mauthausen: camp 62, 217; Memorial 83, 97 Meed, Vladka 163, 193, 221 Mengele, Josef 140, 216 methods of murder by Nazis: death marches 25, 31, 217; Einsatzgruppen 8, 21, 24, 41, 44, 50, 51, 52, 63, 166, 182, 215; gas chambers 8, 17, 40, 43, 109, 118, 141, 143, 170, 175, 184; gas vans 8, 113, 114, 214; starve to death 21, 39, 142, 175, 183 Moodle 90, 91, 95, 98 moral dilemmas 62, 125, 126, 191 Morgenthau, Henry 199 Mosse, George 20, 35 movies see films Muller, Melissa 134 National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP): only legal party in Germany 211; program of 104–6 Nazi ideology 15, 18–20, 22, 23, 33, 108, 109, 112, 119, 122 Neighbors 27, 32 Netherlands: Anne Frank’s family moves to 20; Germans conquer 214; Nazi Collaborators (film) in 183; rescuers in 27, 175; Westerbork transit camp in 40 Neuengamme: camp 214; Memorial 84, 97 “Never Again” 197, 207 Newmann, Fred: depth vs. coverage 4, 53, 190, 204 Night 71, 88, 89, 135, 153, 166, 176 Nightfather 157, 158 Nixon, Richard 201 Nobel prizes 35 No Way Out (drama) 159 null curriculum 4, 198, 208, 210 Nuremberg Laws 7, 8, 34, 37, 42, 50, 61, 106, 212 online resources: case studies 85–94; confronting Holocaust denial 84; evaluating and evaluation criteria 77–8; historical overview 79; historical sites 82–4; Internet 77, 94, 106, 138, 170, 171, 177, 195, 201, 205; lesson plans and curricula 81–2; optimizing 77–8; primary sources 79–80; professional development 82; scholarly content and research support 82; selected webography 96–8; social media 84; survivor and eyewitness accounts 80–1 Operation Barbarossa 50, 215

oral history 28, 81, 85, 96, 97 overviews: antisemitism 181; Auschwitz trials 186; cinema 169, 188; genocide studies 208; historical 50, 79, 96, 103; Hitler’s rise to power 182 Paper Clips 143–4, 179 Parsons, William 3, 9, 15, 55, 209 pedagogical strategies: alternative evaluation 67; authentic instruction 54, 55, 74; “Choiceless Choices” 61–2; chronologies, importance of 48, 51, 52, 60, 61; clusters/mind-maps, use of 56–9; comparing/contrasting sources 103, 169, 177; content issues 48–50; depth over coverage 53, 199; developing solid teaching strategies 54–5; discussion versus recitation 54, 55; forming generalizations 55; images, use of 27, 56, 90, 126, 131, 139, 143, 148, 170, 172; importance of geography 51, 60; issue of time, the 52–4; learning activities (closing activities) 66; concentration camps in Germany 62; developing a working definition of the Holocaust 59–60; documentary evidence: the Einsatzgruppen 63; establishing a basic understanding of Holocaust history 64; expansion of concentration camps outside Germany 62–3; the ghetto system of the Nazis 63; preparation for class discussions/short lectures 65; The Righteous Among the Nations 64; teaching strategies to avoid 67–8; those who helped Jews 63–64; Reader Response Theory 65–6; reflective journals 65; student questions and discussion 51; teaching Holocaust literature 72; use of primary documents (see primary documents) Perchersky, Alexander 193 perpetrators: actions of 63, 74; attempts to destroy evidence by 100; historical empathy and 119, 120; humanity of 28; motivation of 4; rationale and 9; resources on 12, 31, 166; ridding themselves of moral and ethical scruples 122 photographs: electronic information 56, 63; as primary sources 79; rationale and 6; as resources 6; source of 29, 46, 47, 64, 73, 74, 79, 80, 83, 84, 85, 87, 138–41, 143, 152, 205; strategies for teaching 56, 102, 118, 158 The Pianist 70, 135, 176–7, 186 poetry 160–1 Poland: brutality of invasion 20, 24; Germanoccupied 12, 21, 38, 40, 62, 99, 14, 152; Jewish life in 79; partition of 214; teaching of the Holocaust in 15 primary documents: chronological understanding and 103–7; explaining the bureaucratic process 115–19; including in classrooms 73; interpreting 74, 101–3; Nazi antisemitism and 107–9; Nazi “morality” and 119–23; perspective of Jewish victims 123–6; rationale for using 99–101; understanding Nazi decision-making process 109–15; value of using 126–8 PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators 16, 82, 97, 162, 164, 165, 167


propaganda: and films 169, 171, 171, 176, 181, 183, 187, 188; Nazi 80, 96; and rationale statements 5 Protocols of the Elders of Zion 35 questions: and closing activities 66–7; on Internet usage 76; of rationale 2, 3, 7; for students to consider 5, 9–10, 13, 51; for teachers to posit 52; when examining primary documents 101, 102, 103 rationales: developing 7–8; examples of 8–9; factors influencing 4, 6; to guide teaching (pedagogy) 6, 10, 11; revisiting 5, 10; statements, importance of 2–7; student involvement in creating 9–10; use of in planning and teaching about the Holocaust 3, 4, 10, 11 refugees: admitting to U.S. 173; and Atrocities Documentation Project 202; and Evian Conference 213; Jewish 26, 31, 128, 164, 170, 214 Reichstag fire 19, 106, 211 rescue(r)s: films about 174, 184; rationale and 6; “Righteous” database 63; Schindler’s List 144–5; Testimonies 81 resistance: diaries as 149; in Every Man Dies Alone 158–9; in films 185; Jewish 32, 42, 74, 100; myths about 41; in Number the Stars 148; rationale 6, 52; spiritual 88, 126 Resort 76 (drama) 159–60 Richter, Hans Peter 156–7, 165 Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum 84 Righteous Among the Nations 63–4 Ringelblum, Emanuel 32 Rio Montt, Efrain 201 Roma see victims, Nazi Persecution Romania: allied to Germany 21; antisemitic legislation 213, 215; Jews 151, 215; Miriam Korber 151 Roy, Jennifer 160–1 Rozell, Matt 85–6, 87, 88, 92, 94 Rudashevski, Yitskhok 151 Rwanda: comparative study 203; genocide (1994) 57, 58, 198, 201, 207, 208, 209; Genocide Archive 205; Ghosts of Rwanda 206; international community and 199; post-holing activity and 203 Sachsenhausen: camp 98, 213, 217; Memorial and Museum 84 St. Louis, The 170, 214 Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust 150, 152, 161, 163 “Schindler’s List”: film 6, 76, 144, 148, 177; novel 180; Yad Vashem lessons on 81 Scholl, Hans and Sophie 185, 193 Schweber, Simone 70, 72, 74, 147, 190, 194 A Scrap of Time (short stories) 155 Sereny, Gitta 28, 31 Shear, Susan Prinz 159 Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive 17, 29 Sierakowiak, David 30, 123, 126, 127, 128, 152, 163


Sinti see victims, Nazi Persecution Skloot, Robert 159, 160, 165 Sobibor: attempt to hide traces of 100; Escape from Sobibor (film) 184; nature of 12, 21, 23; Stangl and 28, 31; uprising at 42, 217; valuables taken at 41 Something Remains (Novel) 156 Soviet prisoners of war see victims, Nazi Persecution Soviet Union: Aktion 1005 in 100; attack on 24, 39; Babi Yar murders in 215; Einsatzgruppen in 41, 50, 182; resources on 30, 31, 32; systematic murder of Jews in 110 Spiegelman, Art 32, 137, 138, 154, 164, 168 Spielberg, Steven 6, 132, 144, 177 “stab in the back” 5, 7, 24, 40 Stangl, Franz 28, 31 survivors: case study and 85; eyewitness accounts and 80–1; First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors 80; Holocaust education and 15, 71; interviewed by Centropa 79; Maus and 136–8; “never again and” 197; poetry by 161; traumatic impact on 187 T4 program 50, 51, 185, 214, 215 Third Reich 38, 40, 51, 181, 190, 211, 212 This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (short stories) 155–6 Topography of Terror Foundation 84, 98 Totten, Samuel 14, 15, 46, 47, 54, 61, 66, 68, 71, 72, 133, 147, 148, 155, 165, 198, 202, 207, 208, 209 trains: bureaucrats and 118, 119; deportation trains impact on war 39; Shoah (film) and 177; timetables for 37 transit camps 39, 40 Treblinka: attempt to hide traces of 100; deportation from Skopje 115–17; nature of 21, 23; orphans sent to 22; staff at 39; Stangl and 28, 31; uprising at 42, 217; valuables taken at 41 trials: in films 170, 171, 185; Nuremberg 96, 218; resources on 73, 130, 187 Tyler, Ralph 3 Ukraine: Einsatzguppen in 21, 52; resources on 31; Soviet man-made famine in 200, 205, 206, 207 UNESCO 71 United States and the Holocaust: activities with films 173, 174; in education 13, 14, 15, 42, 70; Germany’s extermination policy condemned 42; lesson on immigration process 139; in popular culture 186; the press and 75; question of bombing Auschwitz 73 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Children of the Lodz Ghetto (exhibit) 92, 93, 98; First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors (program) 80, 96; Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust 3, 12, 52, 72, 147; Holocaust and Genocide Studies (journal) 205; Holocaust Encyclopedia 63, 79, 96; Holocaust Survivor and Victims Database 82, 97; Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust (exhibit) 88, 90; The Path to Nazi Genocide (film) 182; State of Deception:



The Power of Nazi Propaganda (exhibit) 46; timeline at 156; website 29 Vatican: Amen (film) 185; Concordat with Nazi Germany 20, 211 Versailles, Treaty of: German grievances over 7, 46, 51, 61, 106; mentioned in Nazi party program 104; violation of 212, 213 victims, Jews: Arthur Greiser and 113; Ashkenzi 49; assault on 20; avoiding educational traps about 6; “choiceless choices” and 164; diverse nature of 49; fleeing Germany 20; in films 181; German 18, 35; as a global event 25–7; killed by non-Germans 38; killed on Kristallnacht 50; murdered at Babi Yar 215; murdered at Treblinka 216; murdered by Einsatzgruppen 50; murdered in Jedwabne 27; murder of Jews in NSDAP program 103; myth of Jews as a race 33–4; myth of Jews provoking the Holocaust 40–1; peak year of killing 21–2; primary victims of the Holocaust 17, 33, 49; racial hatred of 4; rationale statements and 7; seeking refuge 25; steps toward murder of Jews 110; using pictures of piles of bodies 143; Word War II and 23–5 victims, Nazi Persecution: Afro-Germans 22, 43; black French soldiers 22, 24, 32; homosexuals 32, 39, 43, 182; Jehovah’s Witnesses 18, 19, 22, 39, 43, 182, 211, 212, 213; mentally and physically disabled/handicapped 21, 22, 28, 31, 43, 45, 50, 51, 169, 170, 182, 190; Polish elites 20, 22, 29; political prisoners 18, 184; Roma and Sinti 22, 23, 38, 39, 43, 52, 113, 171, 182, 190, 213, 214, 215, 216; Soviet prisoners of war 22, 43 von Galen, Clemens August 23, 215 von Reichenau, Walter 24–5

Wannsee: Conference 7, 50, 80, 83, 97, 114, 123, 175, 216; Protocol 115, 129 Warsaw Ghetto: A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip to Hell (film) 183; deportations from 41, 216; A Film Unfinished (film) 183; and Jan Karski 177; Korczak (film) 183; and Oneg Shabbat Archive 32, 78, 95, 100; sealing of ghetto 215; and Vladka Meed 163; and Wladyslaw Szpilman and The Pianist 176 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: and Anielewicz, Mordecai 126; photograph of “Little Boy” 138; Uprising (film) 183 webography (websites) 96–8 Wegner, Armin 193 Wehrmacht 5, 24, 52 Weinberg, Gerhard 23 Wincelberg, Shimon 159 Wise, Stephen Rabbi 42 work camps 52 World War I 5, 18, 22, 24, 35, 40, 51, 60, 127, 200 World War II 1, 17, 20, 23, 33, 36, 38, 49, 85, 190, 191, 214, 217 Yad Vashem, World Center for Holocaust Research (Jerusalem, Israel): collection 1, 79, 80; exhibit at Auschwitz 144; lesson plans and curricula 81; “pages of testimony”: database 118; professional development 82; web site address 29 Yellow Star (poetry) 160–1 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research 79, 96 YouTube 80, 84, 94, 98, 169, 181, 185, 189, 205, 206, 207 Zapruder, Alexandra 150, 152, 161, 163 Zyklon B 215