Lesson Ideas for Teaching the Holocaust

There are three things I rely  upon when planning any lesson:

  • Book passages
  • Pictures
  • Quotes

There is an abundance of these sources available on the Holocaust. As far as books are concerned I tend to avoid the overly used but still very good ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ instead choosing passages from Elie Wiesel’s work.

For example:

“I am not so naïve as to believe that this slim volume will change the course of history or shake the conscience of the world. Books no longer have the power they once did. Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.”
( Preface of the New Translation p:8, Marion Wiesel, 2006)

From such a passage I would ask a very general question for the students to consider such as: what do you think this passage means? Depending on the depth of their answers I may probe further: why have books lost their power? or who kept silent yesterday and who is keeping silent today? (See post: Facilitating Discussions for further tips)

If you need an effective and easy to prepare activity I recommend finding a selection of Holocaust pictures (roughly 10 spanning the whole of the Nazi rise to power and the Holocaust), write on the back a short description of each picture and ask students in small groups to select only three pictures that they believe represents the events of the Holocaust.

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Another option is to select a variety of images and ask the students in small groups to write on a post it note: what is happening or who are the people in the pictures?  The class cannot look at the answers (which are on the back of each image) until after whole class discussion.

A final option using pictures (this takes a little longer to prepare) is an activity I call ‘Guilty’. This activity comprises of images of individuals involved in the Holocaust with a description of their actions on the back. The students, in groups, read about the individuals and order them from most to least guilty. This activity will give you surprising results. There is, of course, no right answer! Sit back and listen to the discussions that your students will have as they take on the roles of Judge, Jury and Executioners.

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