An Educator's Guide to Teaching the Holocaust

Teaching certain subject matter to students can sometimes seem overwhelming when the topic is vast. There are so many important aspects that you want to cover yet you only have so much time that you can devote to the particular topic. The key to handling subjects such as the Holocaust is excellent preparation and organization. The Holocaust has had a huge impact on the world historically as well as a personal impact on many people who were directly affected by it. You need to try to explore the different parts of the subject matter according to the age of your students. The students age and grade level determines what information you can discuss regarding the Holocaust because as the children age they are more capable of handling and analyzing more complex and graphic information. When students are older they are truly able to grasp the depth of the cruelties which occurred during the Holocaust and understand the ramifications from such atrocities.

Middle School Students 

Students who are in middle school are at an age where they are ready to examine and understand how harmful prejudices and their effects can be. Studying the Holocaust will help them to learn this and apply it to their world today. For example, children of this age have typically been around people of a minority race or are part of a minority themselves. Often they have already seen some instances of prejudice or have been a victim of prejudice themselves. By studying the topic of prejudice and its effects hopefully it will help to make the students more accepting of all the different types of people in the world. The Holocaust is a vast topic which includes important themes such as: confronting change and loss, courage, resourcefulness, fairness, humanity, and ethics. These are all great areas to explore with your students. A discussion of ethics should include things such as the differences between using power in an unethical manner and using it responsibly. Technology is also available for students of this age to use to explore the relationship between humans and the environment which is another part of the Holocaust.

High School Students

By the time a student reaches high school they will most likely have already learned something about the Holocaust and the topic of responsibility. At this point in their development the student should be better able to think beyond their particular life experiences. The topic of responsibility should include both discrimination and anti-Semitism. It should also include community dependability, group reliability and personal obligations. Ethics also need to be an integral part of the subject matter. High school students need to be able to figure out how to promote tolerance and be able to identify when power is unethical. Good questions to ask your students include: Can you belong to a group yet still keep your individuality? Do all people have a moral obligation to aid others who are in need? When moral wrongs are occurring, what makes people keep silent? What is courage exactly? and How does knowing about past wrongs affect our responsibilities morally? These are all important questions that are excellent for students to consider.

Post-Secondary Students

At this point in time, students are ready to really explore the entire subject of the Holocaust. They can typically handle material that is much more graphic and complicated. The lesson plans can be more in-depth for these students and can include an analysis of events, history and government. Racial prejudices and an analysis of anti-Semitism should be featured throughout the various lesson plans which can also include comparisons with other genocides. Students have typically become part of the adult community at this time in their lives and the Holocaust lesson plans need to help to make these students better informed. It is also extremely important to try to help these students to become more humane through the use of the lesson plans. What happened during the Holocaust should never, ever occur again. People of all ages can learn from the atrocities and help to make certain that they will never be repeated.

The Holocaust will always be remembered as a horrible and tragic event in history. No matter what age you are instructing it is important to be sensitive when dealing with the historical events of the Holocaust. The subject matter must be discussed in a very tactful manner. The best way to make certain that your information is conveyed properly is to research and organize the lesson plans thoroughly.