A visit to the Holocaust Museum does not eliminate the need for classroom learning. It can compliment and extend it. We recommend that your visit be made toward the end of the period in which your students study the Holocaust.
The more that can be done ahead of your visit, the more your students will get out of their time at the museum. The following are some suggested pre-visit activities:
1.) View at least one documentary film on the Holocaust in class prior to the visit and discuss it. The following films are good choices; all are available from the resource library of our Center.
America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference
This provocative film deals with the painful and difficult story of America’s inadequate response to the murder of 6,000,000 Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. Among the subjects covered are anti-Semitism in the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s, isolationism, and the effect of these factors on United States government policies.
Anne Frank Remembered
Excellent documentary on the history of Anne Frank and her last days in Berger-Belsen, the concentration camp where she died.
Camera of My Family
This film explains, in a gentle but resolute tone, why German Jews did not leave Germany the moment Hitler became chancellor and why many German Jews offered a normal response to the rise of Hitler – to remain at home in the hopes that this too would pass. After all, they were German citizens.
From Dust and Ashes
This excellent documentary film was produced by Kent State University. It is a general history of the Holocaust supplemented by personal reflections by survivors and scholars.
Genocide (Produced by the BBC)
An excellent documentary film on the Holocaust produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation as part of the “World at War” series.
Genocide (Produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center)
Documentary film on the Holocaust using photographs and film. Narrated by Orson Wells and Elizabeth Taylor.
Kitty: Return to Auschwitz
An award winning British documentary detailing the visit of Kitty Hart, a Polish Jewish survivor, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her words addressed to the camera and to her son, who accompanied her on this pilgrimage, are more graphic than the horrors of newsreels. The reflections of Kitty give new insight into man’s most evil act of inhumanity. Her account is a tale of survival against the odds, of courage and freedom, and above all, of remembering.
Through Our Eyes: Children Witness the Holocaust (Elementary Grades only)
This package is devoted solely to the Holocaust as perceived by children, the experience of 1-1/2 million children who perished as well as young Holocaust victims who managed to survive. Photographs, texts, readings, questions, historical facts, as well as emotional outpourings. Highly functional in teacher/student interactive learning. Includes accompanying curriculum.
The film produced by Yad Vashem is an excellent overview of the subject utilizing the artwork of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
2.) Review the chronology of the Holocaust and the list of Holocaust Terminology in class.
3.) If you are a literature teacher, have students read at least one book prior to their visit. “Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, “Night” by Elie Wiesel, and “Fragments of Isabella” by Isabella Leitner are good choices.
4.) Discuss some of the questions listed below in class in conjunction with your readings on the Holocaust:
- What were the consequences of the Depression and the Versailles Treaty on the world and European economies? What effect did this have on the rise of the Nazi party?
- What was the relationship between the United States and Nazi Germany from 1933-39?
- What was U.S. foreign policy and immigration policy during 1933-39?
- What was the response of the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations to the unfolding events of the Holocaust?
- Why has the Holocaust been called “a war within a war?”
- How did the Holocaust affect Nazi military decisions?
- What is the relationship between war and genocide? Is genocide more likely to occur during a war than during peacetime?
- Compare and contrast the Weimar government in Germany with the system of government in the United States.
- What was the role of the Nazi bureaucracy in creating and implementing policies of murder?
- What does a discussion of Holocaust literature raise about human nature and human behavior?
- What is the meaning of the term “spiritual resistance” and how does it apply to the Holocaust?
- List and describe the various roles played by people during the Holocaust – victim, bystander, witness, perpetrator, rescuer, protector.
- Analyze the moral and ethical choices or absence of choices made by people during the Holocaust.
- Analyze the distortion and misuse of language by the Nazis, particularly their euphemisms for persecution, oppression, and murder of other human beings
Your visit will likely raise many questions among your students, as well as heighten and intensify their emotions. The following activities are designed to help you deal with their questions and concerns, and channel their energy into a meaningful learning experience.
1.) Discuss the following questions with your students: What questions does a study of the Holocaust raise about:
a) the world we live in today?
b) life in the United States?
c) other periods in human history?
d) war, the making of enemies, and the ethics of warfare?
e) the effects of prejudice and discrimination and the existence of hate groups?
f) human behavior and its impact on other human beings?
2.) Have students write an essay describing their questions and feelings after having visited the Holocaust Center. (The Center is very interested in having copies of essays, which illustrate the impact of a visit on students.)
3.) Have students put on a dramatic presentation or dramatic readings in class on the Holocaust or a related subject.
4.) Have students express their feelings about the visit through an art project.
5.) Have students write letters to the docents who led them through the exhibits and to the survivors who spoke to them expressing their personal feelings about how the visit affected them. The letters should be addressed to the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center, which will forward them to the appropriate party.
Holocaust Museum & Learning Center
12 Millstone Campus Drive
St. Louis, MO. 63146