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.

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Holocaust Memorial Museum UK

When searching for Holocaust related placesIMG_4710.JPG to take students in the UK there are minimal options. Other than the collection of
memorabilia in London’s Imperial War Museum the largest, dedicated centre just to
the Holocaust can be found in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

The Holocaust Memorial and Museum http://www.nationalholocaustcentre.net is named Beth Shalom: The House of Peace. The team at the Centre organise a day package of activities suiting all ages for minimal cost.

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It is all about the number…

Over the years I have been extremely fortunate to take part in a number of events hosted by the Holocaust Educational Trust http://www.het.org.uk including a free CPD course on how to teach the Holocaust as well as visiting Auschwitz myself through the Lessons from Auschwitz scheme http://www.het.org.uk/lessons-from-auschwitz-programme. The one message that comes loud and clear through all of these courses is “teach about the individuals not about the number.” That ‘number’ being the death toll: six million Jews, over three million Soviet prisoners of war, 200,000 gypsies and about 70,000 men, women and children with mental and physical handicap to name a few.

This is why a few years ago I attempted something rather controversial in my classroom.

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Leaving a Lasting Impression

With the events of the Holocaust it is not just a matter of whether the students can recite answers to text book questions, it is about enabling your students to process the information in a more meaningful way. I believe it is important to allow your students the opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings on what they have learnt. There are many ways to achieve this from: poetry, story accounts and book reviews but another option is to create a class memorial – a physical object that remains within the classroom as a reminder to the students.

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Teaching the Holocaust

Learning about the Holocaust can be very difficult, so teaching about it can seem very daunting. I somehow avoided learning about the Holocaust throughout my school years – I never studied GCSE History, R.S focused on Jewish traditions and practises rather than the events that affected their faith, so I was blissfully unaware …until my PGCE.

I will always remember the boisterous year eight R.S class who I taught the Holocaust to in my first teaching placement. I don’t know what worried me more: the thought of standing in front of a class to teach about a topic area so emotionally delicate or the response the year eights would have to it. As I planned my lesson I prepared myself for the jokes, jibes and inappropriate comments and I envisaged worst case scenarios (a right of passage for any teacher.) How wrong could I have been!

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