5 Ways to Research and Learn About the Holocaust
Addressing the necessity – and challenges – of meaningfully teaching about an emotionally-charged history
By Courtney Suciu
Why is learning about the Holocaust important for today’s students and researchers?
What should educators focus on when teaching about the Holocaust?
How can teachers engage students while effectively and meaningfully teaching about the Holocaust?
These are some of the issues addressed in the recent Recommendations for Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA is a global task force that specializes in education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust.
It’s a critical time for Holocaust studies as an ever-shrinking number of witnesses and survivors remain to tell us about this devastating chapter in world history. The IHRA recommendations are part of a focused effort to protect the historical record and promote education to abate Holocaust denial and ensure that future generations “never forget.”
In support of the IHRA recommendations, resources like testimonies, videos, scholarly articles, books and primary source materials can help educators engage students about the personal and historical impact of genocide while providing fact-based information that supports skills like critical thinking and media literacy.
Here are five examples of how various kinds of content can be used in teaching, learning and research across disciplines, to support a fuller, more complex awareness of the Holocaust:
- The Humanity of Holocaust Survivors
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enormous scope of the atrocity. Sometimes, to simplify teaching and learning about the Holocaust, we focus on numbers and the objective facts.
But by looking more closely at the story of one person, we can’t help but be touched by the ordinariness of their humanity. For example, in this blog post, we spotlight Holocaust survivor Ferdinand Tyroler who shared a moving memory of falling in love at Auschwitz.
From testimony experience, we get a bittersweet understanding of his inner being as well as a glimpse of what life was like in the concentration camps.
- News Coverage of the Holocaust
Delving into historical newspapers reveals what U.S. citizens knew about the Holocaust and how they reacted. Such insights not only foster deeper understanding of the past, but also the power that media has over the information available to us, and how it shapes our opinions.
Discover a public history project driven by Holocaust Memorial Museums and explore such questions as: What information about the persecution of European Jews was available to readers of U.S. newspapers? What impact did news coverage have on public perceptions of foreign and local events? How did different communities write about the events in Europe in light of such domestic issues as Jim Crow laws, the Great Depression and New Deal programs?
- Art and Cultural Genocide
During World War II, Nazi officials systematically looted about 600,000 paintings throughout Europe, many of them along with ceramics, books and religious treasures from the private collections of Jewish families. Today, approximately 100,000 plundered artworks remain missing and efforts are ongoing to locate these pieces and return them to their rightful owners.
Using current and historical news with rare primary sources, find out the motive behind the Nazi obsession with looting and collecting prestigious artworks. What efforts have been made to locate and return missing pieces? And what resources are available to researchers who want to learn more on this topic?
- Jewish Immigration to Latin America
In the 1940s and ‘50s, an influx of Holocaust survivors settled in Latin America, the greatest number of them – 10,000 – arriving in Argentina. What were the experiences of these European Jews as they sought to create a new home for themselves on another continent?
Video testimonies from these survivors shed light on such issues as xenophobia, otherness, cultural identity and citizenship. Read about research projects that used these interviews to gain awareness of the impact of the Holocaust on global populations and the Jewish diaspora in Latin America.
- Post-Traumatic Hope and Healing
After the Holocaust, survivor Ann Jaffe devoted decades of her life to philanthropic efforts, bringing joy to the elderly and educating children about genocide with the hope of promoting kindness and peace.
In their recorded testimonies, many survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides offered “messages to the future” that advocate for understanding, tolerance and the proactive prevention of crimes against humanity. This blog article focuses on this phenomenon known to psychologists as post-traumatic growth.
According to psychologist Ervin Staub, himself a Holocaust survivor, such acts of help, connection and kindness in the midst of a crisis (and in the aftermath) have a major impact on the post-traumatic growth of a victim, as well as their attitudes toward caring for and helping other people.
Learn more about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Recommendations on Teaching and Learning About the Holocaust.
Courtney Suciu is ProQuest’s lead blog writer. Her loves include libraries, literacy and researching extraordinary stories related to the arts and humanities. She has a Master’s Degree in English literature and a background in teaching, journalism and marketing. Follow her @QuirkySuciu
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