A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust:

An Online Resource

 

Ann E. Barron and Roy Winkelman

In 1994, Florida became the first state to enact a law requiring instruction in the history of the Holocaust.1 Among those who championed the law was Steven Spielberg, the director of Schindler’s List. The law requires that all public schools teach:

the history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institution. (The Holocaust Education Bill, SB 660)

Although the law mandated Holocaust education, very few of Florida’s teachers were adequately prepared to teach this sensitive subject. To help meet the need for teacher preparation and curriculum resources, the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, along with the Instructional Technology program at the University of South Florida, created the online resource A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust (fcit.usf.edu/holocaust).2

The Teacher’s Guide is designed to provide an overview of the Holocaust through text, original source documents, graphics, photographs, art, movies, and music. The website allows teachers to view the Holocaust through three different “lenses”—Timeline, People, and the Arts. Additional resources are provided in the Student Activities and Teacher Resources sections.

Timeline

The Timeline section focuses on the history of the Holocaust, chronicling the years from 1918 to the present. Hitler’s rise to power was the initiation of a period that wrought great fear and destruction. Millions were forced to live in ghettos, only to be deported later to concentration camps. The tragic details remained obscure until the liberation of the death camps and the further revelations during the Nuremberg War Trials. The subsections of the Timeline section offer a simplified outline for examining the evolution of the Holocaust. However, it should be kept in mind that many of the following categories overlap.

As teachers explore each of the categories in the Timeline section, they have access to a wealth of information. For example, in the Ghettos section, there is a concise description of the events that took place between 1939 and 1941. Additionally, there are links to original photographs of life in the Warsaw ghetto and art works of ghetto artists; other relevant websites, such as the Janusz Korczak site; and lesson plans, discussion questions, term paper topics, and reproducible handouts related to teaching about the ghettos.

 

People

The People section investigates the human drama of the Holocaust. The participants are grouped according to their particular situations, whether forced or chosen. As in any other facet of life, the groups are not mutually exclusive.

Each category within the People section provides a different view of the Holocaust as presented through text, photographs, and links to related websites and original source documents. This section seeks to personalize the Holocaust by including links to numerous first-hand stories of survivors, liberators, rescuers, and so on.

 

The Arts

The 1920s were marked by a period of exploration and creativity in the arts. New possibilities and genres were being explored in painting, writing, and music. Then, on October 29, 1929 (Black Monday), the U.S. stock market crashed, causing a chain reaction of catastrophic events. Banks failed, businesses closed, and rampant unemployment left governments powerless to stop the worldwide economic collapse. In Germany, Adolf Hitler blamed the Jews not only for the economic crises, but also for the alleged degrading effects of contemporary art movements. The Jewish presence within Germany was declared a threat to the purity of the German State. When discussing the arts, Nazi leaders used the terms “Jewish” and “degenerate” interchangeably. The Arts section of A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust is divided into three categories.

In addition to the text and links to websites and teacher resources, the Arts section offers unique curricular materials for teachers. These include classic poems, such as “The Butterfly,” and the complete text and stage directions for original plays by Ronald Vierling and G. E. Farrell.

Student Activities

The Student Activities section provides materials for teachers to use as a framework for a Holocaust unit of study. This section has been divided into activities for elementary, middle, and high school. Nevertheless, teachers should carefully consider the appropriateness of any activity for their particular students.

Teachers are also encouraged to submit lesson plans for consideration for future editions of A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust. All lesson plans are edited and evaluated by experts in the field prior to being added to the Student Activities section.

 

Teacher Resources

The Teacher Resources section provides a treasure chest of reference materials. In particular, this section includes:

 

Response and Impact

The response to A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust has been overwhelming. During the month of February 2000, over 1,700,000 hits were registered on the site. E-mail messages related to the site arrive daily, and the site has earned numerous awards. Many visitors to the site send messages relaying their appreciation for the concise information, the hundreds of photographs, and the access to the source documents. The music sections and the virtual reality movies of the concentration camps are also features that teachers find especially useful.

Continuous updates and revisions are underway. In particular, the Student Activities section is being enhanced, a site-specific search feature is being implemented, and additional graphics are being added to the photo galleries. Holocaust educators and historians throughout the world continue to add to the resources and information in the Teacher’s Guide. Through the generosity and collaboration of these Holocaust experts, this site will continue to grow and offer a starting point for Holocaust education.

 

Notes

1. F.T. Brogan, “Commissioner Brogan Unveils New CD-ROM: A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust,” Press Release (November 13, 1997).

2. Florida Center for Instructional Technology, A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust (1999), online at fcit.usf.edu/holocaust.

 

Ann E. Barron [barron@usf.edu] and Roy Winkelman [winklema@typhoon.coedu.usf.edu], Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida, Tampa.