"Anyone can go to the Holocaust museum [in Washington DC] but not everyone gets this experience." ~A. Speitel (student, 17)
Why Teach Holocaust History?
The Holocaust was a watershed event, not only in the 20th century, but also in the entire history of humanity. The study of the Holocaust provides us with one of the most effective ways to work with students to examine the basic moral issues and value systems. We have an opportunity to teach students through the use of the primary sources in the museum to explore the fate of the Jewish people and other innocents in Nazi Germany and throughout Europe between the years 1933-1945.
Through a study of the Holocaust, students learn that:
- The Holocaust was no accident--it occurred because people made deliberate choices employing all of the apparatus in a fascist state to engage in the mass murder of over 6,000,000 Jews; because they were Jews.
- Millions of non-Jews were also murdered by the Nazis--political dissidents, intellectuals, homosexuals, labor union leaders, Roma and civilians--in each of the countries conquered by the German military.
- Prejudice, bigotry and fascism are social poisons that erode the fabric of a democracy.
- Democratic institutions need to be appreciated, nurtured and protected.
- One should not live one's life as a spectator--silence and indifference to the infringement of someone else's civil rights is a prelude to the infringement of your civil rights.
The study of the Holocaust incorporates thinking about issues such as:
- The consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping;
- Hate speech and hate crimes;
- The value of pluralism and the appreciation of diversity in a democratic society;
- Civil liberties;
- The use and abuse of power--danger signals in a society;
- Individual, collective and national responsibility;
- Courage--heroes and heroines;
- Law, justice, and equality.