Each of the students will have an opportunity to reflect on the history and definition of the Holocaust, ask questions, and organize photographs into a timeline or visual history of the Holocaust. Depending on the size of the class, the photographs may be distributed to individuals or groups.
Part I: Reinforcing the Definition of the Holocaust
If the lesson is to be used as an introdution, have students brainstorm about how they would define the Holocaust.
If the lesson is to be used for review purposes, lead discussion on the definition of the Holocaust. Example: “If you went home tonight and your best friend asked you what the Holocaust was, how would you answer him or her?”
Distribute the Holocaust definition sheet. Confirm that students understand all terms.
Distribute photographs to the class. (Teachers may either cut the captions from the student list without dates and glue each to the reverse side of each photo, or they may distribute the list without dates for students to refer to throughout the exercise. Do not distribute the list with dates to the students.)
Explain that these photographs are from the Museum’s collections. Each photograph is in the Museum or its collections because it uniquely tells a part of the story. It does not necessarily tell the whole story, but the photographs are really witnesses or evidence of part of Holocaust history.
Ask each student to write an answer to any of these questions:
- How does this photograph fit into the definition of the Holocaust?
- Why do you suppose the curators of the Museum included this particular image, or one like it, in the exhibition?
- What story does it tell about the Holocaust?
- If in 100 years, this photograph were one of the few pieces of evidence left about the Holocaust, what part of the story would it tell?
Give the students three to four minutes to work on this. Tell them that their answers should only be a sentence or two.
Optional Activities for Part I
- Photograph analysis: Teachers may choose to have the whole class look at one photograph first to develop a common approach and vocabulary. The image could be a historical one from the Holocaust or from any other period. A Museum worksheet is included for image analysis.
- Have students, individually or in groups, rewrite the definition in their own words.
- Discuss what “deliberate, calculated” means in this context. Later, ask which photographs help illustrate the systematic nature of this event.
Part II: Human Timeline
Introduce the next part of the lesson by explaining that by itself each photograph tells only part of the history, but all of the pictures taken together tell a more complete story. It is a visual story, and essentially that is what the creators of the Museum did when they developed the Permanent Exhibition. They used photographs, moving images, artifacts, and text to visualize the stated definition of the Holocaust.
Tell the students that they are next going to create their own picture or visual history of the Holocaust using all of the photographs. One approach would be to suggest to the class that in a few minutes several people who know very little about the Holocaust or who cannot read English will walk through the doors. The task is to create a history of the Holocaust using these photographs.
Have the students stand with their photographs. Begin to form a human timeline or pictorial history of the Holocaust using the pictures. Have the students determine the order, individually and through discussion.
If appropriate or necessary, assist the students with organizing by providing thematic groupings. For example, direct those students who have photographs that focus on life in Germany before the war to organize themselves in one area. Then, those with photographs that show life in the ghettos should organize themselves in a second area. Finally, ask those who have photographs that show life in the concentration camps and afterwards to move to a third area.
Some of the photographs have no specific date attached to them and thus can be placed in numerous spots. Help the students think about where such pictures work best in order to tell the history.
Once the photographs are arranged, have each student show his or hers, and then have every other student or so read out loud what he or she has written.
If there is time, ask the students questions about the images and what messages they reveal about the history.
Ask the group if the order of the photographs is correct.
Summarize what has just happened; relate that what the students just did is what historians and museums do when they create exhibitions and history books—using the facts and primary sources, they create a version or an account of the history.
Options for Part II
- Teachers have the option of using a smaller selection of the photos. However, careful thought should be given to what images are left out. An excellent lesson will include photographs that relate to key topics listed at Topics to Teach.
- Rearrange images to provoke discussion or clarification.
Provide brief accounts from survivor testimonies.
The Museum’s Memory Project is a convenient source of testimonies.
Have students discuss how each testimony fits into the definition of the Holocaust. Match the testimony with one or more photos from the timeline.