Events Leading to the Holocaust
When you create a custom Holocaust teaching plan for students, an effective way to structure it is to focus on the chronology of important events. For example, you should start the first lesson with some background information on antisemitism in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries to give proper context to the events of the Holocaust. You should also cover some information on Nazi leaders and their rise to power and the rise of Nazi ideology in German politics during the 1930s. Your Holocaust teaching plan should highlight the slow but steady progression of events over time showing students how often major world events have their roots in the small year to year changes within a society that can often go unnoticed. The slow but steady progression of anti-Jewish sentiment eventually culminated in extreme violence, but the roots of this violence can be seen going back many years. This progression is best illuminated to students by highlighting certain key events. The Night of the Broken Glass, one such notable event involved the destruction of Jewish homes and places of business across Germany over the course of a single night. In retrospect this was a dark harbinger of things to come. Additionally, during this period Jewish citizens were forced to wear special markers of identification in public spaces singling them out as “other”. Students should fully understand the role of antisemitism in the events that led to the Holocaust and have a good understanding of the kinds of beliefs and behaviors that if left unchecked in a society can develop into violence and hatred.
Any effective Holocaust teaching plan should spend considerable time focusing on the Nazi concentration camps in Europe where many of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust took place. The German Nazis built dozens of prisons for holding millions of Jewish people in Poland and other neighboring countries. At first, the concentration camps were mainly used as labor facilities and detention centers, however, as Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” was implemented they quickly became centers of mass murder designed for the carrying out of genocide on an industrial scale. Holocaust educators should spend considerable time on this area focusing on firsthand witness accounts such as journals, memoirs and photos to create an intimate and personal dialogue between students and the voices of the past.
At the end of World War II, the camps were liberated by Allied forces of the Soviet Union and the United States. To bring the story into the modern era, educators should end the curriculum with information on Jewish refugees and survivors who found refuge outside of Europe where they formed vibrant and flourishing communities in places like Israel and the US.
Contact the Zachor Holocaust Curriculum at zachorlearn.org to find Holocaust teaching materials for your students today.