Washington Holocaust Museum - Teaching Guidelines:
1. Define what you mean by "Holocaust".
Holocaust = the systematic persecution and annihilation of six million Jews as well as gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war and political dissidents, by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, between 1933 and 1945.
2. Avoid comparisons of pain.
Avoid generalizations which suggest exclusivity, such as "the victims of the Holocaust suffered the most cruelty in the history of humanity". One cannot presume that the horrors experienced by the victims of the Nazis were any greater than those experienced by victims of other genocides.
3. Avoid simple answers to complex history.
Do not reduce Holocaust history to one or two catalysts - such as racism. Many factors contributed to the Holocaust - such as Germany's defeat in WWI and its national humiliation following the Treaty of Versailles, worldwide economic hard times, centuries-old bigotry, the political charisma and manipulative propaganda of Hitler's Nazi regime etc.
4. The Holocaust was not "inevitable".
It took place because individuals, groups and nations made decisions to act or not to act.
5. Strive for precision of language.
Do not generalize. Distinguish between prejudice and discrimination, collaborators and bystanders, direct orders and assumed orders, guilt and responsibility etc.
6. Make careful distinctions about sources of information.
Distinguish between fact and opinion, between primary and secondary sources of information, between types of evidence - such as court testimonies, oral histories etc. Try to detect any biases.
7. Avoid stereotypical descriptions.
Not all Germans were Nazis. And although all Jews were targeted for destruction by the Nazis, the experiences of all Jews were not the same.
8. Do not romanticize history to engage students' interest.
Accuracy is vital.
9. Contextualize the history.
Place facts in a historical context by for example, considering when and where an act took place; the immediate consequences of assisting victims; the degree of control Nazis had on a local population; the cultural attitudes of native populations towards different victim groups etc. The very same people were not always "bystanders", "perpetrators" or "collaborators". Balance the perception of Jews as victims by studying their vibrant culture and history in Europe prior to the Nazi era.
10. Translate statistics into people.
Make the historical events and statistics of the Holocaust more immediate. Use first-person accounts.
11. Be sensitive to appropriate written and audio-visual content.
Use graphic materials in a judicious and appropriate manner in order to achieve the objective of the lesson. Only images and texts which do not exploit either the victims' memories or the students' emotional vulnerabilities should be used in Holocaust curricula.
12. Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust.
Focus on the victims and the aggressors. Evaluate how governments can abuse their power and manipulate their citizens; how propaganda works; how victims respond differently etc.
13. Select appropriate learning activities.
Gimmicks, such as crossword puzzles, will discourage critical analysis. Simulation of Holocaust-like conditions is virtually impossible and educationally unsound. Instead, use primary sources, discussions, writing assignments etc.
14. Reinforce the objectives of your lesson plan.
Encourage the students to reflect upon the lessons which they have learned and to synthesize and integrate these lessons.
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