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Advice to help with Holocaust Memorial Day planning

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by gailrobinson, Jan 15, 2011.

  1. Hello,
    Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year and is a time to remember those who have been murdered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.
    We have experts from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and our own TES Resources RE advisor to offer advice and support on lesson planning and how to face the challenges of tackling this subject.
    Carly Whyborn, CEO at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and TES Resources RE advisor Chris Wheeler (aka Brummy Boy) will both be online from Monday 17 January through to Friday 21 January to answer any questions you post on our Holocaust Memorial Day forum.
  2. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    This is true. Another thing that makes me uneasy about 'Holocaust Memorial Day is that it is not something you can deal with in a day.

    I like to timetable our Holocaust work for year 9 and devote an entire term to it - only going on to look at other examples of genocide if and when I feel that the students have been able to connect with what happened to the Jews (Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, disabled ... etc under the policy that the Nazis established to 'purify the Aryan blood.'

    This holocaust is different from any other genocide (although obviously every situation is unique.) If you do want to look at other examples of genocide I would suggest you also include the Armenian massacres in Turkey around and shortly after the first world war - in which over a million men women and children were systematically put to death, thousands burned to death, thousands shipped out into the Mediterranean where their boats were sunk - in a way that reminds me of the holocaust as so many people must have known about it and co-operated to make it happen - and the 'rest of the world' would have known just what was happening - but chose to look the other way.

    Then there is the 'Man Made Famine' in India - which occurred because the British commandeered the rice crop to store in case the Japanese invaded India and they needed it to feed their troops. Between 4 and 6 MILLION Bengali's died as a result - on a par, in terms of numbers - with the Jewish losses during the holocaust. But because it was done by the British - to voiceless 'peasants' and out of sight of most people - it is not even mentioned in any text-books. I couldn't actually believe the scale of this when I first learned of it (being married to a Bengali) - since we did at least know about things like Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and the Holocaust. But a store manager at my place of work was in India during the war. When I asked him, his face turned grey. He said they had driven round with carts, pitchforking up the bodies in villages where the whole community had died - and the rice that was taken for the troops was not securely stored. It went rotten.

    There are so many horror stories around the world to remind us of what human beings are capable of doing if they choose to demoniise another group - or just steal from another community and ignore its needs because they have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and absolutely no concern for or interest in the welfare of the other group. But the Holocaust has a particular position in this catalogue of atrocities - and it should have this prominence - because it was such a conscious and deliberate effort to wipe out a People - not just from one district or one nation but from the face of the earth.

    The Holocaust was so well organised and documented in every detail that no-one who is interested in the truth can question the facts. But this is also one of the most important reasons for studying it thoroughly. Because thousands if not millions of people across Europe deny that the Holocaust took place at all - or consider the whole event 'blown up out of all proportion.' This is a level of blindness which also needs to be explored and challenged. I have a friend who worked in Austria for a year. She found that the normal and accepted view in Austria is that the Holocaust was only a small affair and it has been exaggerated for political reasons by Britain and America as they want to support Israel and claim moral superiority over Germany and Austria. This is also a common belief in organisations such as the National Front.

    I would not suggest that you look into the Israeli situation here as it is another can of worms completely - but without an understanding of the massive scale of horror that the Holocaust inflicted on the whole Jewish community - I think it is quite impossible to begin to understand what has happened and continues to happen in Israel since the end of the Second World War. And the situation in Israel continues to de-stabilise the whole world and fuel tension between Muslims and the West - including the events of 9 11 and the war we are fighting in Afghanistan - where as I write, our soldiers are killing innocent people and being killed.

    So... forgive my rant - if this is a rant .. but please, please give real time to a study of the Holocaust. I'm sure that you do. I have never worked in a school which does not cover it. But I have been in some where it is only given a 'cursory glance.'

    I'm sure that you use some of the many moving films and books written by or about those who were there. By all means use the Holocaust day to bring the event to the attention of all classes, all ages, all the school - with assemblies and perhaps a week of 'improving awareness about the holocaust - I would suggest using film or clips from films (the boy in striped pyjamas and Schindlers List come to mind)

    But when it is the right time for your school (History and RE may be able to work together) do give it enough time for the students to 'get under the surface and make an emotional connection' with those events - and to learn enough to appreciate that this is fact and not something that can be denied or swept under the carpet - and is too big and important to just include as 'one of many examples of genocide.'

    I have tried many methods of approaching the Holocaust and the way that I find works best is to start with some fairly dry historical background and then divide a class into groups with a fairly detailed 'remit' to research the subject using internet, books, video recorded from TV programmes on the subject etc. As the groups work through the questions on the remit they prepare either power point presentations or a combination of folder and posters. Then the groups report back to the class. We don't see the films (such as the two mentioned above) until near the end. The final lesson is an opportunity to record (and share if the group is cohesive enough to deal with such an intensely emotional subject in a mutually supportive and serious way).

    Without any prompting I find students often make personal commitments to work for a world where something like that can never happen again. It would be really great if other teachers can give an outline of ways that they have approached this subject and what they find works best.

    When I post here on this or any other subject, please do not think that I am telling anyone how to do things. I am frustrated because I can't get a job teaching RE and I refuse to turn my back on the subject which is my absolute passion. My aim in posting is to give you all what ever support and encouragement I can - and to share any inspiration I can from things which I have done in the past which have gone well.

    When it comes to teaching about the Holocaust, 'gone well' means giving them enough evidence to know what happened and that it did happen. It also means enabling them to make an emotional connection with the event, so it changes the way that they think as human beings and makes them more aware of the importance of working to make a world in which this kind of thing is less likely to happen again.
  3. Thanks for the correction of the original post.

  4. Thank you for
    this article. I would like to share this with you and ask a few questions:

    I'm 50 years old.
    I didn't study history as an option because I wanted to understand about World
    War Two first and it "wasn't considered old enough".

    My paternal
    grandfather (who had survived the Somme) died when I was ten years old. He
    didn't talk to his grand-children about his experiences. All I remember is that
    he drank and smoked more than he should - and was very tetchy if we played
    about with our food. His son's went to WWII in the army and navy. His
    son-in-law was at the liberation of Belsen. This uncle joined the army with the
    experience of a Prison Warder but returned a Mental Health Nurse.

    As a teenager, I was very moved by a travelling exhibition after
    seeing barbed wire with the hair from a young woman who had been shot in the
    back while running towards it. Later I had the opportunity to visit a British
    army base in Bergen, Germany and felt compelled to visit Belsen. To stand by the side of graves containing 30
    to 50 thousand people EACH just labelled "Czech", "Poles",
    "Russians" helped me to begin appreciating the scale of murder
    perpetrated against civilians. I agree, too, that this subject needs to be put
    in context of ALL atrocities around the world. I, for instance, have not been
    told about the 'Man Made Famine' in India.
    I wish to make the point to educators that, unless they put these facts
    in context, we cannot expect to prevent these events happening in the future. However, as parents of a ten year old boy, we
    are concerned about how these events are explained to primary age children and
    how we can support that education. More
    and more we see very graphic news reports that we weren’t exposed to as
    children. People complain about the
    level of violence induced by cartoon type war games but don’t deal with the
    de-sensitising of constantly bombarding our children with other types of violence
    on our news as they come home from school, or on holiday, etc. I don’t want my son to be ignorant of these
    events but, when you consider the levels of denial about bullying in schools, I’m
    sceptical about how we could establish a standard for delivering this subject.

    Later, I studied history
    A level (Medieval 1420-1660) and realised that the more prolonged a battle
    became, the more victims were caught up in the effects. As a modern day example, it is hard to
    justify dropping the nuclear bomb on Japan but they have on many counts. History has always put the case of the
    winners of wars over the losers. Part of
    the healing of nations is about accepting our collective guilt and using those
    experiences to prevent others copying the mistakes.

    Today, failing
    economies over Europe are causing many of us to experience these fears once
    again. Whether we will stand together
    and protect our young or divide amongst ourselves with a blame culture is yet
    to be discovered.

  5. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    There is such a lot in what you say here, KarenEssex. Just responding t what you say here about the blame culture really brings it back to where we are now. It's good to see that the police have recognised the part that stop and search had in inflaming the passions of many of those who took part in the riots last year, for example, - And the final conviction of some who killed Stephen Lawrence - but the recent survey showing general moral decline and increasing intolerance of those on benefits - at a time when unemployment is rising and there are simply too few jobs to go round - is worrying. I think that in RE we can do much to increase empathy and understanding and at least challenge the gross materialism and selfishness that our society, many politicians and media seem to propagate.
  6. A little late I know, but the HMD have issued materials on a "Speak up, speak out" theme. www.hmd.org.uk . Personally, make it your own sort of day (depending on your school) .
  7. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    For anyone still doing things related to Holocaust day - I'm going to copy the Memorial Service 'Order of Service' from the church which my Mother went to on the day. I would love to include any other good material which people used and make this a strong resource for any who are covering this topic for Holocaust Memorial Day or general work on the Holocaust in the future.

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