It can often be difficult to teach effectively about the Holocaust and the Nazi treatment of Jewish people, especially to young adults at your JCC.
In 2016, Time Magazine estimated that there are only 100,000 Holocaust survivors living today. As these remarkable individuals continue to die out, it is up to us to preserve their memory and make sure the atrocities they endured never happen again.
To help you do your part, I have detailed the 4 most common mistakes that even the best educators make while teaching Holocaust history (followed by an easy way to combat them!):
1. Neglecting to use firsthand accounts from survivors.
Though their numbers are rapidly decreasing, there are still thousands of survivors telling their stories. Hearing the experiences of real people brings the history alive, especially for young adults that may not initially be interested in learning about the Holocaust.
An audio-visual aid also does much more to engage young people than a history textbook can, and seeing first hand accounts often helps to ground the lesson in empathy and connection.
2. Only teaching from 1939 to the liberation of the camps.
Ending a lesson with the liberation of the camps both sets up children to believe that survivors were free and happy for the rest of their lives, and also negates all of the challenges that Holocaust survivors endured after the concentration camps.
In fact, while most survivors tend to agree that the moment of liberation was filled with pure joy, they also acknowledge the sinking dread upon realizing they had no home to return to and likely no remaining family.
3. Ignoring the (mildly) bright side: Many survivors are instilled with an intense appreciation for every moment of life and retain a true sense of the human spirit.
Many survivors spend their lives (post tragedy and grieving) speaking of their experiences with the hope of making a better world for future generations. Because they have seen what it is like to live in complete fear and isolation, they retain an incredible outlook on life that is truly unique.
Survivors often help their communities in various ways because they know how horrific the world can be.
4. Placing little emphasis on the importance of memory and current parallels.
One of the main reasons we must continue to teach the history of the trauma inflicted upon innocent people during WWII is so that future generations can build a better world, steeped in kindness rather than hate. And yet, it seems that much of our lives today are still influenced by negativity rather than learning from the past.
Nobel Peace Price Winning author of Night and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said:
"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead and anyone who does not remember betrays them again."
If you are looking for a new way to easily and effectively combat these four common issues,
After Auschwitz is an amazing teaching tool to have under your belt that will remediate these common pitfalls of Holocaust education.
To watch the trailer, please click here.
To learn more about the inspiring film showcasing six extraordinary female Auschwitz survivors, please click the button below or give us a call at (732) 321-0711.
We would be happy to speak with you about additional resources, screenings, and suggested discussion topics to enhance your JCC event and education program.
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