Traditionally, middle school students are introduced to the Holocaust when they read The Diary of Anne Frank. While some teachers may have their students read this book in isolation, simply for its literary value, they should consider also introducing some level of historical and cultural context to their teaching of Anne Frank in relation to the Holocaust. For instance,
- Using the USC Shoah Foundation web teaching tool, IWitness, and having students explore the meaning of anti-Semitism and how the Nazis were able to carry out their reign of terror using the IWitness Activity “A Thing of the Past? Anti-Semitism Past and Present.”
- Accessing IWitness further, teach about how the role of Jewish cultural activities gave meaning to people in the camps and ghettos, and also gave them the hope and strength to survive. This activity is entitled “Cultural Acts as Resilience During the Holocaust.”
- Anne Frank is considered a child in hiding. There were many other children who wrote about their own unique experiences during this time–children in the ghettos and even children on the run. In her book, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust, Alexandra Zapruder provides us with a collection of these voices that step right off the page and into our lives, as these children share their immediate experiences of their day to day existence during this harrowing time.
- Read the poetry and examine the art of children in the Terezin (Teresienstadt) Concentration Camp by reading I Never Saw Another Butterfly, as well as a companion text Fireflies in the Dark, by Susan Goldman Rubin, which is the backstory of how I Never Saw Another Butterfly was created. Have your students write their own poetry, exploring their own feelings as they study the Holocaust, and read the words of these children.
- Use film as a mean of teaching. There are a few good films that are not overly violent, and help children to understand the fear, pain and suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler is one such film. Not only does this film discuss the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, it also allows students to see that there were people who were not willing to be bystanders, and became rescuers of the Jews. Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, saved hundreds of children from being deported from the ghetto, and being killed.
These are just a few ideas we can offer to educators. There are so many ways you can build your own curriculum or unit based on the extensive resources available to you on our web site, as well as the web sites we recommend that you access.