This activity is designed to help students think more deeply about what it means to be an outsider. Using quotations from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism series, students portray their thoughts and feelings about a quotation through photographs selected from the Museum’s Photo Archive database. Some preselected quotations are provided below, but students may choose their own from the episodes on this theme.
After selecting photos, students will write an essay explaining their selections. The essay can examine some of the following questions:
How does what this person discusses in the present relate back to the Holocaust?
- What about the photos you chose demonstrates this?
Do the photos that you chose represent abstract feelings, concrete events, or a combination of the two?
- If you are matching images with emotions evoked from some of the quotations, whose emotions are you using? Your own? The victims or perpetrators? What emotions do you think the interviewee feels?
Have you interpreted something in a way that another person may interpret differently?
- Is such interpretation subjective or objective? Explain your response.
- Is it difficult to put images to words, especially someone else’s words?
Students then create a PowerPoint presentation of the quotations and photos together. See an example of such a PowerPoint using Michael Chabon’s Voices on Antisemitism episode
“What totalitarian regimes do is to—and this is what makes them extremely devastating—is they look at you and say, “You are not.” Or, “You are something else.” Or, “This event didn’t exist.” This power, that is only God’s power. If a regime, or some people, think they are God, they can have the right to make you animals or human. They can create you or kill you. And this is unbearable.”
“And the first time I saw the pictures of these first victims... it was horrible. And the whole thing was a catastrophe. And this feeling of shame was always with us because you would think: For God’s sake, the whole world, the number of people who wouldn’t want this to happen are much more numerous than those who make it happen.”
“…after my father’s death, one of my big questions was, how Jews survived the aftermath of the Holocaust? How did they live? Because it was so difficult to live after that…You were so ashamed of being still alive that I thought, “How the Jews did it?””
“…people are scared. Many people are scared. And we are scared. But you do it because it’s always the same bargain. If you don’t do it, you are so ashamed that you are not comfortable living with yourself. Or living is not real living without the truth. So what is this life worth if you are not happy within yourself?”
“The denial of the Holocaust, to me, it’s not an innocent matter. It’s part of the same neo-Nazi culture. It’s a sort of ideological statement that is not only about the Holocaust, but it’s about the nature of this regime. And the fact that no intellectual, nobody said anything, we thought maybe we should do something.”
“There is always a feeling of shame when an injustice occurs somewhere, and you are passing by, and you cannot do anything. And I think one of the reasons that many Iranians have difficulty dealing with this is also this shame that they don’t know how to deal with it so it’s easier to forget and, you know, continue your life. But if there is no empathy for the previous crimes, there will be new crimes. And that is why I think it’s a good thing to face it.”
“Holocaust denial is a form of antisemitism. It is nothing but antisemitism. Because, if you think about it, the Holocaust has the dubious distinction of being the best-documented genocide in human history. So you have so much evidence from all sides, that you have to then ask, if all this evidence exists, why would these people deny? What is in it for them to deny? The only reason to deny the Holocaust is to inculcate and foster antisemitism.”
“The judge found that every one of the claims David Irving made about the Holocaust was false. He used words like “travesty,” “misleading,” “untrue,” “unfounded,” “unjustified.” It really was a devastating, devastating blow to Holocaust denial, demonstrating how there’s—this is not a matter of opinion, that this is not a matter of two sides, but a matter of people outright lying about the history.”
“I had had the privilege, on some level, of defending the history of people who had suffered mightily and sometimes ultimately—the ultimate suffering, of course, their death—at the hands of the Germans and their allies.”
“And, as David Irving had told the New York Times at one point, he had “taken me out of the line to be shot.” And, I said that if someone had to take on this task, I was gratified to have been the one.”
“People can always sit silently by and just say you know, this doesn’t have anything to do—my ox is not being gored, so I don’t have to respond. But, I think that in the face of evil such as this, there is no neutrality—that to claim to be neutral is to participate in the evil. So, if you want to go down on record as helping the perpetrator, then you can stand silently by. But if you want to go down on record as having made a difference, as having stood up to evil, then I think prejudice has to be fought, and amongst those prejudices antisemitism has to be fought.”
“The fear of the skinheads in people’s eyes, I loved that, you know, because from when I was 10 until 14, I feared everything. I feared school. I feared home. I feared if I was going to have enough food to eat. I feared everything. And now someone finally feared me, and I loved that feeling.”
“Violence was our camaraderie. Your camaraderie is to go out and cause harm to other individuals. And we hated anyone that wasn’t us. If you didn’t believe what we believed, you were our enemy. And anyone could be a victim. That was how we got our loyalty to each other. That’s how we felt stronger in our pack, is when we did horrible things to other human beings.”
“…When you live by your ego, and that’s what people that are haters do—they live by this ego and not self-esteem—so when the media and other people can feed into your ego, then that’s how it keeps growing. And once you become an ego-maniac with low self-esteem and it’s in a pack, you’re the most dangerous people in the world.”
“I was a racist thug, but God, science, and nature kept consistently proving my beliefs wrong to me. I had come to the conclusion that blacks and Asians and Latinos and whites—that okay, we all gel, I can admit that. But I’m still going to hate the Jews, because, I put it to this, people will hate what they don’t understand. It’s the quickest defense.”
“How can normal people or people who are trying to work against these beliefs help someone who might be getting into it, is first and foremost always, always treat the person with respect. The minute you try to make me feel dumb or make me feel that my beliefs are stupid…I’m going to lash out. Maybe not physically right at you right away, but you lost me. So we need to treat people with respect, and understand that them getting to know somebody is what’s going to work. You know they can’t always hate if they know that there’s a person who’s reached out to them in a loving and kind way.”
“…I had become fascinated by this local engineer, Fred Leuchter. He had become famous, infamous, however you want to describe it, as a designer of execution equipment. And then he was hired by a number of Holocaust deniers to go to Auschwitz to do supposedly an independent examination. And he went there, he chipped mortar and brick from the walls of the gas chambers, sent the samples to a reputable lab, issued a report known as the Leuchter Report, and concluded that poison gas had never been used at Auschwitz.”
“I was interested in...say Leuchter makes these claims can we independently just show these claims to be false? And guess what? We can. They are lacking any kind of merit whatsoever. He created a confusion about what he had done, and the nature of the samples, and what they possibly showed or didn’t show.”
“The Germans made enormous efforts to cover their tracks, to obliterate, to destroy the historical record. But the one thing that we know about architecture is that it’s premeditated. Buildings don’t come out of nowhere. People make buildings, people plan buildings, people design buildings, people retrofit buildings. And in the case of the crematoria and the gas chambers at Auschwitz, there was a paper trail, and the paper trail in itself tells a remarkably powerful story about the Holocaust.”
“And I find this guy… endlessly interesting. On some very obvious level, Fred Leuchter is an antisemite. How else would you describe somebody who puts out the Leuchter Report, who claims that poison gas wasn’t used at Auschwitz, who slips very easily into talking about the non-existence of other events connected with the Holocaust on the basis of no information whatsoever…. I found it interesting to try to ask the question: okay he’s an antisemite, but what do we mean by that? … what does it mean? What does it mean when we talk about the Germans as being antisemitic? Were they all the same? What were the differences?”
“I think Holocaust denial, oddly enough, has helped us to understand the Holocaust far more deeply. Yes, their goal is to discredit all of this historical scholarship that shows incontrovertibly that the Holocaust happened. But it forced us to ask all kinds of deep and pertinent questions, like why are they saying what they are saying? Why are they doing this?”
“Even decades after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, we still owe a certain dignity to victims’ memories. We must protect their memory and their dignity from lies.”
“It is a criminal offense in Germany to publicly deny or trivialize the Holocaust. In light of our history, we find it intolerable to allow others to spread lies about this terrible period in our past, and the inhumanity that prevailed during the so-called Third Reich.”
“Germans planned and perpetrated the Holocaust. We must confront this fact and accept our own guilt and the responsibility that results from it.”
“The so-called Auschwitz Lie is insulting to Holocaust survivors and other Jewish people alive, and it often comes along with incitement against them.”
“Of course we have people in Germany which try to deny the Holocaust. But in Germany we wanted to be very clear, and that’s why we put up this law and said in Germany it is not allowed to deny these things which are historically proved.”