That got your attention, didn’t it? One of the most powerful and disturbing pieces of animation that Disney has ever done, and one that I used to use with my middle and high school students every time I taught the Holocaust. ‘Education for Death’ really does illustrate the power we have over young minds. Now that I have your attention…

Our friend and colleague from USF, Dr. Michael Berson, reminds us that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is fast approaching and in Florida we have a state mandate related to teaching the Holocaust in grades K-12: FS 1003.42 Required Holocaust Education Mandate Public School Instruction.
Happily, Dr. Berson provides us with a number of resources that you might use with your students in the classroom to approach this important material.

First, let’s address the question of why we should teach about the Holocaust (outside of a state mandate). We all have our reasons, I suppose. As an American of Polish descent, with my family having been in this great country less than a century, I often think about how I might have responded as my own people contributed to the nightmare of our Jewish neighbors while ourselves a target of Nazi policies. This is, admittedly, a somewhat shallow take on the issue, but the United States Holocaust Museum provided some stronger reasons: 

By studying these topics, students come to realize that:

  • Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected.
  • Silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringement of civil rights in any society, can—however unintentionally—perpetuate these problems.
  • The Holocaust was not an accident in history; it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately mass murder to occur.
  • The Holocaust was a watershed event, not only in the 20th century but also in the entire course of human history.

Studying the Holocaust also helps students to:

  • Understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in any society.
  • Develop an awareness of the value of pluralism and an acceptance of diversity.
  • Explore the dangers of remaining silent, apathetic, and indifferent to the oppression of others.
  • Think about the use and abuse of power as well as the roles and responsibilities of individuals, organizations, and nations when confronted with civil rights violations and/or policies of genocide.
  • Understand how a modern nation can utilize its technological expertise and bureaucratic infrastructure to implement destructive policies ranging from social engineering to genocide.

The US Holocaust Museum also has some excellent additional materials from last year’s remembrance. 

Oh, and here is something awesome: If you are in the Tampa/St. Pete area, or anywhere near it, the Florida Holocaust Museum is hosting a commemoration at 6:30 on the 16th of April. It will be free and open to the public.

Some additional materials are below.

A Few Resources to Share with Students
Below are some helpful resources to give you background. Consider selecting a children’s book to share with your students in commemoration of this day. Great resources are suggested at:

USF also has a great new digital exhibit: Alicia ApplemanJurman: Her Story and Beyond.  I encourage you to check it out! In addition, they have an excellent video on Holocaust Survivors as Educators! Check it out below: