Teaching the Holocaust

How and when should we teach students about the Holocaust? Here are some answers to these questions with links to helpful resources.

Fundamentals of Teaching the Holocaust includes many helpful resources produced by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. This excerpt is from the page Age Appropriateness.

“Students in grades six and above demonstrate the ability to empathize with individual eyewitness accounts and to attempt to understand the complexities of Holocaust history, including the scope and scale of the events. While elementary age students are able to empathize with individual accounts, they often have difficulty placing them in a larger historical context.”

Teaching Young Children About the Holocaust (PDF book chapter) addresses the question of when and includes some teaching suggestions.

“… we don’t advocate that you teach about the Holocaust directly until 5th or
6th grade at the earliest. And, even then, we hope you’ll make accommodations by
teaching kids in those grades about the Holocaust’s more redemptive aspects
only—rescue, resistance, and stories that soften the harder blows of this history. We
think that the earliest young people ought to be taught about the Holocaust in depth is when they are older, when as a group, they are mature enough to be appropriately
staggered by its enormity and developed enough to discuss its implications.”

The KidsKonnect article Teaching Kids About the Holocaust: Why You Should and How explains clearly and in some depth why “knowing about the Holocaust can make children more resilient, empathic, and give them the capacity to contribute, over time, to a healthier and safer society. This is because the Holocaust teaches us some valuable lessons.” Those lessons include:

  1. It illustrates the need for tolerance, inclusion, empathy, and respect.
  2. It perfectly captures the dangers of hate speech.
  3. It provides reassurance and makes children resilient.
  4. Remembering and learning from the Holocaust is a form of respect toward the victims.

In Why Teach the History of the Holocaust–And How?, the Montreal Holocaust Museum does a fine job explaining the reasons it is important to teach the history of the Holocaust .

This undergraduate honors thesis entitled How Can We Teach About the Holocaust to Seven to Ten Year Olds? examines the impact of psychological perspectives in relation to this question (among LOTS of other ideas). If you have time, this is a paper worth reading.

The publication Recommendations for Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust, prepared by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), addresses many issues about Holocaust teaching, including what we should teach about it.

“Teaching and learning about the Holocaust will vary depending on national and local contexts. These contexts will inform decisions regarding which questions are explored more deeply and which are addressed more concisely. The time allocated for teaching about the Holocaust must, however, be sufficient for learners to be able to answer the following questions in significant rather than superficial ways:

    • What were the historical conditions and key stages in the process of this
    • Why and how did people participate or become complicit in these crimes?
    • How did Jews respond to persecution and mass murder?
    • Why and how did some people resist these crimes?”

Facing History & Ourselves has a wealth of resources for teaching the Holocaust.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a number of helpful Holocaust education resources.