A tour of the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center is a powerful experience that complements and enriches classroom learning. We recommend that a visit be made toward the end of the period in which students study the Holocaust.
The more done ahead of a visit, the more students will get out of their time at the museum. Suggested pre-visit activities:
- View at least one documentary film on the Holocaust in class and discuss it. The following films are good choices; all are available from the resource library of the HMLC.
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 1.5 million children who perished as well as young survivors. Photographs, texts, readings, questions, historical facts, as well as emotional outpourings, are included. 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.
- Review Holocaust chronology and terminology elsewhere in this website.
- Read at least one book prior to the visit. “Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, “Night” by Elie Wiesel, and “Fragments of Isabella” by Isabella Leitner are good choices.
- Discuss some of the questions listed below in class in conjunction with readings on the Holocaust:
- What were the consequences of the Depression and the Versailles Treaty on the world and European economies? What effect did they 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 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.
- Discuss the following questions with your students: What questions does a study of the Holocaust raise about:
- The world we live in today?
- Life in the United States?
- Other periods in human history?
- War, the making of enemies, and the ethics of warfare?
- The effects of prejudice and discrimination and the existence of hate groups?
- Human behavior and its impact on other human beings?
- Ask students to write about their questions and feelings about the visit. Please share essays to help us gauge the impact of a visit on students.
- Ask students put on a dramatic presentation or readings on the Holocaust or a related subject.
- Have students express their feelings about the visit through an art project.
- Ask students to write letters to the docents who guided their tour and the survivors or descendants expressing how the visit affected them. Please share the letters with us; we will forward them to the appropriate docent or speaker.