Holocaust Curriculum

In the summer of 2016, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill approved by the legislature to require Holocaust and Genocide education in Rhode Island’s secondary schools, both public and private, commencing with the school year September 2017.

It is the mission of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center (SBHEC) to provide schools throughout the state with historically accurate, quality resources and information.  In addition to textual resources and films, the Center’s most important source is witness testimony. While there are still survivors who are willing and able to travel to schools to share their experiences with Rhode Island’s school children, the Center also has an extensive video/DVD catalogue of witness testimony.

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Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo signing Holocaust and Genocide Education into law.

According to the legislation, “Given the importance of the issue of genocide to the political affairs of the United States, as well as the responsibility of the state to educate its citizens, it is a fundamental responsibility of the state of Rhode Island to ensure that the critical subject of genocide is included as part of the curriculum in all public school.” Furthermore: “It is the judgment of the Rhode Island general assembly that the board of education in the state shall include instruction on the subjects of holocaust and and genocide studies where appropriate in the curriculum, for all middle and high schools students.”

This Resource Page provides information to help educators enhance their instruction with this difficult but necessary subject. Resources for Instruction include: an Annotated Bibliography; Video Resources; Survivor Testimonies (Oral Histories); a Photo Gallery; Primary Documents; and Community Resources.  In addition the these resources, the web pages will also include exemplary programs of study written by some of the top Holocaust educators in the state, as well as links to other quality web sites such as the USC Shoah Foundation and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

It is the mission of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center (SBHEC) to provide schools throughout the state with historically accurate, quality resources and information.  In addition to textual resources and films, the Center’s most important source is witness testimony. While there are still survivors who are willing and able to travel to schools to share their experiences with Rhode Island’s school children, the Center also has an extensive video/DVD catalogue of witness testimony. SBHEC encourages educators to explore the web site.  All of the materials are here for you to use.  We also encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have, and to invite us into your classrooms.

Why Teach the Holocaust?

Teachers who are new to teaching about the Holocaust, and even veteran teachers, may be asked, “Why teach about the Holocaust?”  Sometimes that answer may be easy. “So it never happens again!” However, sometimes it may be a difficult question to answer.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), “Students in grades six and above demonstrate the ability to empathize with individual eyewitness accounts and to attempt to understand the complexities of Holocaust history, including the scope and scale of the events. While elementary age students are able to empathize with individual accounts, they often have difficulty placing them in a larger historical context.

Such developmental differences have traditionally shaped social studies curricula throughout the country. In most states, students are not introduced to European history and geography—the context of the Holocaust—before middle school. Elementary school can be an ideal place to begin discussing the value of diversity and the danger of bias and prejudice. These critical themes can be addressed through local and national historical events and can be reinforced during later study of the Holocaust.”

There is one very important aspect of teaching the Holocaust, or any genocide for that matter, that we would like you to keep in mind.  Always bring your students safely in with an activity that does not immediately thrust them into the worst aspects of the Holocaust.  Perhaps show them a video or Ted Talk.  Then always bring your students safely out of the Holocaust, as this subject matter can be very disturbing and traumatic for some students.  Have them watch a film about a rescuer (watch the documentary on Nicholas Winton (hyperlink), who rescued over 600 Czech Jewish children), or read a story of reunion of people who may have been separated during the Holocaust.  You may want to take your studies one step further by collaborating with other educators in your school and integrating art, music and other disciplines into your unit.

The celebration of life, the happiness of finding a loved one, the resilience of humanity, and our own connection to such joy will help students to appreciate their own lives and to understand that they play a significant role in a future world absent of genocide, hate, bigotry, and intolerance.