This lesson focuses on the history of antisemitism and its role in the Holocaust to better understand how prejudice and hate speech can contribute to violence, mass atrocity, and genocide. Learning about the origins of hatred and prejudice encourages students to think critically about antisemitism today.
By focusing on the history and meaning of the swastika, the lesson provides a model for teachers to use when examining the origins of symbols, terms, and ideology from Nazi Germany and Holocaust-era fascist movements that students are seeing in contemporary American culture, promoting critical historical thinking and analysis.
Holocaust Encyclopedia Articles
The following related articles contain critical learning questions that can be used when discussing article content with students.
Racism fueled Nazi ideology and politics. To critically analyze actions taken by Nazi Germany and its collaborators requires an understanding of the concept of racism in general and Nazi racial antisemitism in particular.
This lesson is a case study examining Nazi Germany and the United States during the 1930s, at a time when racism and eugenics were enshrined in law and practice. Students will examine the national and historical contexts in which racism manifested in the two countries, and explore how the pseudoscience of eugenics as well as concerns about "racial purity" found its way into the laws of the United States and Nazi Germany. Teachers can request physical printed Timeline Cards from the Museum.
Although different in many ways, antisemitism in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and anti-Black racism in Jim Crow-era America deeply affected communities in these countries. While individual experiences and context are unique and it is important to avoid comparisons of suffering, looking at these two places in the same historical period raises critical questions about the impact of antisemitism and racism in the past and present.
These guides are designed to facilitate student discussion and learning about fighting prejudice, responding to genocide, religion and identity, and other topics relevant today. The lessons use the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism podcast to illustrate the existence and broad impact of modern-day antisemitism.