Weekly Feature

holocaust days of remembrance
AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A projection at the entrance of the exhibit,
"State of Deception: The Power of Nazi
Propaganda," at the National Holocaust
museum in Washington, D.C.

Classroom Resources for Holocaust Days of Remembrance

April 21, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Though the subject can be a difficult one to teach in the classroom, the Holocaust provides a rich opportunity to explore the importance of empathy and positive action.

Days of Remembrance in April 2009

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The Days of Remembrance begin on the Sunday before Yom Hashoah, the official Holocaust Remembrance Day, and conclude the following Sunday. This year’s event takes place from April 19-26.

Activities are held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., considered “a permanent living memorial” to those who suffered, but the week-long remembrance is observed by many, including state and local governments, schools and religious institutions, according to the Museum’s Web site.

Broaching a Difficult Subject at School

Explaining the Holocaust to a classroom full of students can be a challenge for educators. In fact, the London Times reported in 2007 that teachers in the U.K. were dropping “controversial subjects” such as the Holocaust from history classes. Other “emotive and difficult subjects” like the Crusades were also avoided by some teachers, the article said.

But some educators and school districts are making concerted efforts to improve teaching of the Holocaust. For example, Rutgers University in New Jersey offers a two-year program at its Master Teacher Institute in Holocaust Education. The program “uses film, literature, photography, art and survivor testimonies” to help teachers “create educational programs for their schools and districts.”

And the Holocaust Educators Network, a national writing project in partnership with the Rural Sites Network, allows teachers an opportunity to become immersed in the subject, and “develop lesson plans designed to move students toward inquiry, empathy, and action.” The Network includes seminars and summer institutes in urban centers for teachers from rural areas.

Online Resources for Teachers

As more educators prepare to tackle the challenging subject of the Holocaust, more organizations have responded with quality educational resources, made available online.

The Holocaust Teacher Resource Center has lesson plans and curricula suited to students in kindergarten through college. Find lesson plans such as “Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust,” a lesson plan suitable for grades 5-8. Some lessons include documents that can be downloaded for classroom use.

Education World
has free online lesson plans and activities for students learning about the Holocaust. Various resources are utilized, such as timelines, poetry and letter-writing exercises, as well as lessons on Anne Frank and rescuers of the Holocaust.

Facing History and Ourselves
has PDF versions of lesson plans covering themes relevant to the Holocaust, such as anti-Semitism and genocide. The site also has online videos, books for downloading or purchasing, and news articles on the Holocaust that are followed up with pertinent classroom discussion questions. Facing History and Ourselves aims to instill in students the idea that “the choices of ordinary citizens shape our lives and the lives of those around us.”

Social Studies School Service
sells various classroom resources for teaching the Holocaust, including PowerPoint presentations, books and eBooks, DVDs and videos divided by grade level and specific topics. New editions to the catalog include “Jewish Studies” and “Prejudice/Tolerance,” among others.

The Museum of Tolerance online has a Glossary of the Holocaust that defines relevant people and places.

U.K.-based organization The Holocaust Educational Trust has tools for teachers in Britain, including free outreach programs that bring Holocaust survivors and educators into classrooms for in-depth exploration of Holocaust topics. The Trust also has teacher training and “Continuing Development Courses“ for teachers.
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