Guidelines for Teaching
6. Just because it happened does not mean it was inevitable
The Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act.
Hessy Taft describes father's attempts to obtain visas for the family to emigrate from Nice, in the south of France [1990 interview].
Gerda Wilchfort describes the mood of passengers on the “St. Louis” after they were denied entry into Cuba [1989 interview].
Consider how you and your students might use these pictures and video testimonies, as well as the information obtained through the links below, to demonstrate events when decisions were pivotal in this historical period. Think of other examples of decisions by major historical figures or individuals not ingovernment or the military that had great impact.
- View the Holocaust Encyclopedia material on The United States and the Holocaust
- Voyage of the St.Louis.
Too often students have the simplistic impression that the Holocaust was inevitable. Just because a historical event took place, and it was documented in textbooks and on film, does not mean that it had to happen. This seemingly obvious concept is often overlooked by students and teachers alike. The Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act. By focusing on those decisions, you gain insight into history and human nature and can better help your students to become critical thinkers.
- Welcome and Introduction
- Before you start teaching
- 1. Define the term ‘Holocaust’
- 2. Contextualize the history you are teaching
- 3. Translate statistics into people
- 4. Strive for precision of language
- 5. Avoid simple answers to complex history
- 6. Just because it happened does not mean it was inevitable
- 7. Try to avoid stereotypical descriptions
- 8. Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust
- 9. Make careful distinctions about sources of information
- 10. Do not romanticize history to engage students’ interest
- 11. Be sensitive to appropriate written and audiovisual content
- 12. Select appropriate learning activities
- 13. Reinforce the objectives of your lesson plan
- 14. Avoid comparisons of pain
- Topics to Teach
- Sample Lessons
- Guest Lecture: Dr. William Meinecke Jr. discusses the topic "Nazi Ideology and Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution."