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Teaching about the Holocaust

This online workshop includes video segments from a workshop presented in Baltimore, Maryland. The guidelines and methodological suggestions in these video segments are at the core of every teacher workshop and conference presented by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They are offered here for teachers who are unable to attend a professional development program presented by the Museum. In addition to video of the actual workshop session, segments include historical and artifact photographs, text, and links to related sites within the Museum’s website.

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Welcome and Introduction

Warren Marcus

“Welcome to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Online Workshop. My name is Warren Marcus. As a member of the Education Division, I have presented workshops at the Museum in Washington, DC, and around the United States.

"Before I came to the Museum in 1994, I was a classroom teacher for 17 years in middle and high school. I began thinking about teaching the history of the Holocaust when my school decided to offer senior history electives.

"The Museum’s mandate is not to tell you exactly how to teach this difficult history, but to support you in this difficult endeavor, providing resources and guidance as well as help in finding additional resources in your area.

"Whether you have been teaching this history for a long time or if you have just begun to plan and do research, the teaching of the history of the Holocaust in middle school or high school is a daunting and difficult task. In order to teach others, we look for answers from publications, museums, colleagues, the World Wide Web, and other sources. Even though I have taught the history of the Holocaust to students and to teachers, the more I know, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. The complexity, the contradictions, and the surprises of the history continue to challenge me to this day. Given the difficulty of this task, how should one approach it? Where should one start?

"The first part of this online workshop, Before you start teaching, will ask you to consider your rationale for teaching the history of the Holocaust. Then, reflect on our Guidelines for Teaching about the Holocaust. A list of Topics to Teach for the study of the Holocaust follows the Guidelines. Next, two guest speakers continue the workshop: Nesse Godin, a Holocaust survivor from Lithuania, shares her memories, and Dr. William Meinecke discusses Nazi ideology and why the Nazis targeted the Jews and other groups. Finally, several sample lessons suggest ways to respond to frequently asked questions."


1. Welcome and Introduction

2. Before You Start Teaching

3. Guidelines for Teaching

    Define the term “Holocaust.”
    Do not teach or imply that the Holocaust was inevitable.
    Avoid simple answers to complex questions.
    Strive for precision of language.    
    Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust.
    Avoid comparisons of pain.
    Do not romanticize history.
    Contextualize the history.
    Translate statistics into people.
    Make responsible methodological choices.

4. Topics to Teach

5. Sample Lessons

6. Conclusion

Guest Lecture

Dr. William Meinecke Jr. discusses the topic "Nazi Ideology and Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution."

See Dr. Meinecke's lecture.

Personal Testimony

Nesse Godin, a survivor of the Siauliai ghetto in Lithuania, the Stuffhof concentration camp, four labor camps, and a death march, shares her memories.

See Nesse Godin's testimony.