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People from around the world meet at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau for the March of the Living to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Photo credit: wjarek

People from around the world meet at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau for the March of the Living to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Photo credit: wjarek

January 24, 2023

Teaching About Holocaust Remembrance

New data suggests we need more Holocaust education in classrooms to raise student awareness and combat antisemitism in the United States.

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When did you first learn about the tragic events of the Holocaust? The curriculum in 21 states as of 2022 introduces most students to the Holocaust at the secondary level, but for others in the 29 states that don’t require the Holocaust to be taught, the only knowledge students have is through their families, friends or what they’re exposed to online–where dis- and misinformation about the Holocaust and the Jewish community is rife.

In a 2020 survey, 63 percent of all U.S. respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and 56 percent of U.S. millennials and Gen Zers have never heard of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

According to a 2023 study from the ADL, a leading organization that tracks and combats antisemitism and other forms of hate, the U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in antisemitic attitudes in America in recent years. Some of the topline findings include:

  • The prevalence of anti-Jewish tropes is at an all-time high. The percentage of Americans who believe at least one anti-Jewish trope has increased to 85 percent from 61 percent in 2019. 
  • Increased anti-Israel sentiment. Antisemitic conspiracy theories underpin anti-Israel sentiment among large sections of the population. Nearly 20 percent of respondents are uncomfortable spending time with someone who supports Israel.
  • Trope-focused and Israel-focused antisemitism appear to overlap significantly. The majority of people who believe anti-Jewish tropes also hold negative views of Israel.
  • Young adults have more anti-Israel sentiment than older generations. Young adults hold significantly more anti-Israel sentiment than older adults, with 21 percent and 11 percent, respectively, agreeing with five or more anti-Israel statements.
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The overlap between belief in Anti-Jewish tropes and anti-Iisrael sentiment by age

Photo credit: ADL

It's important to note that these findings are not to be taken as a representation of the entire American population, but rather a snapshot of a current trend in attitudes. The ADL’s mission is to combat and prevent antisemitism, and other forms of hate and discrimination, through education, advocacy and legislation.

This concerning lack of Holocaust knowledge and the significant rise in antisemitism highlight the need for educational resources and an open dialogue with communities that help support our collective memories and raise awareness of one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies.

Note

Criticism of the Israeli government and the existence of the state of Israel are not mutually exclusive.

Historical Memory and Holocaust Education

The importance of historical memory cannot be underestimated. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an important annual observance that honors the victims of the Holocaust and serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during one of history’s darkest periods.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/7 stating that Holocaust Remembrance Day is to be observed on Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp. However, the internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar (typically in April or May). These commemorations remember the 6 million Jews, and millions more victims, including Poles, Ukrainians, Roma, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the disabled, political dissidents and others who were murdered by the Nazi regime during World War II. The day serves as a reminder of the dangers of hatred, prejudice and discrimination, and is a call to action to combat antisemitism, fascism and genocide in all forms.

Share My Lesson works with partners and community members to create free lesson plans and resources for K-16 educators and families to open a dialogue with students about the Holocaust, its impact and its legacy. Take a moment and explore a selection of nine resources from our Holocaust Remembrance collection, and see how you can raise awareness in your classroom and community.

A holocaust survivor speaks during an interview.

Final Account: Teaching the Holocaust, Complicity, Propaganda and Responsibility

As heightened antisemitism and outright denial of facts concerning the Holocaust become more commonplace, this program opens up classrooms to new, vital questions about complicity, propaganda and responsibility. This webinar with the USC Shoah Foundation - Institute for Visual History, is available for one-hour of PD credit.

Access this resource here.
A Holocaust victim's passport

Visual Literacy: Personal Narratives of Holocaust Survivors

The lesson from user Anastasia Belyaeva introduces students to the personal story of a Holocaust survivor. Students learn about the visual elements as the impactful narrative devices used to convey the ideas and attitudes that underpinned the experience of persecuted Jews. In the course of the lesson, students explore how illustration and motion graphics reinforce the personal narratives of the Holocaust survivors.

Access this resource here.
Introduction to the Holocaust: Documentary Film and Classroom Materials

Introduction to the Holocaust: Documentary Film and Classroom Materials

By providing a concise overview of the Holocaust and what made it possible, this resource from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is intended to provoke reflection and discussion about the role of ordinary people, institutions, and nations between 1918 and 1945.

Access this resource here.
How To Teach About The Holocaust

How To Teach About The Holocaust

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides guidance to help educators increase their knowledge of Holocaust history and implement sound teaching strategies. With these resources, the Museum presents an overview of rationale, methodology, essential topics to teach, and where to find authoritative and appropriate content.

Access this resource here.
A United States flag with a swastika turned into a message of love.

Anti-Semitic Incidents: Being an Ally, Advocate and Activist

This lesson from ADL provides an opportunity for students to learn about and reflect on these current incidents, understand how people and groups can make a difference, and explore the various ways different people and groups can act as allies, advocates and activists in order to enact change.

Access this resource here.
Survivors of the Holocaust: Educator Guide

Survivors of the Holocaust: Educator Guide

Survivors of the Holocaust tells the true stories of six children who survived the Holocaust in a graphic non-fiction novel form. This educator guide from Sourcebooks provides questions and activities to help children read and understand the text.

Access this resource here.
A Conversation with Steven Spielberg: Using Schindler’s List in the Classroom

A Conversation with Steven Spielberg: Using Schindler’s List in the Classroom

How can we apply the lessons of the film Schindler's List toward standing up to hatred in our own communities? How do you engage students in conversations around racism, antisemitism and other forms of hatred?

Join AFT President Randi Weingarten, Laura Tavares with Facing History and Ourselves, and the National Council for the Social Studies for a conversation with Steven Spielberg, the Oscar-winning director of Schindler’s List. This webinar is available for one-hour of PD credit.

Access this resource here.
samuel project poster

The Samuel Project

Inspire your students to launch their own “Samuel Project” with these project-planning activity sheets from Young Minds Inspired designed to help middle school and high school art and language arts studentschronicle the stories of an older relative or friend in any medium, including drawing, cartooning, animation, photography, video, and music. 

Access this resource here.
Teaching About Kristallnacht: Night of Broken Glass

Teaching About Kristallnacht: Night of Broken Glass

This lesson from Echoes & Reflections provides primary source documents and visual history testimony about the Kristallnacht Pogrom, which is widely considered a key turning point in the Nazi agenda against the Jews. Students study several documents related to the event in order to compare and contrast source material and think critically about the significance of this pogromfor the Jewish people and in the context of Nazi Germany.

Access this resource here.

Honoring the Past

For our sense of humanity, we must honor and respect the experiences, struggles and tragedies of past generations, particularly those that have suffered from injustice and oppression. Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is crucial for understanding the past, making informed decisions in the present and future, and to provide context and explore causes of historical events, as well as their impact on today’s world. Without a proper understanding of history, it’s easy for society to repeat the same mistakes, creating dangerous and destructive cycles of hate, overlooking important lessons that we could easily forget. By remembering and learning from previous generations, we can work toward creating a more just and equitable society for all.
 

Free Holocaust Education Resources

Teaching about human suffering and horrific tragedies can be difficult, but the need for educators to fill troubling knowledge gaps is clear. Share My Lesson has collaborated with partners like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, ADL and more to bring you this collection of free Holocaust lesson plans and educational resources that provides the tools you need to raise awareness around “The Shoah” and analyze its impact on the world today.

Andy Kratochvil

Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community.He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from American University

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