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Teaching the Holocaust

The Holocaust is a watershed event in history — a frightening reminder of the consequences of prejudice and intolerance. It raises questions of fairness, justice, individual identity, peer pressure, conformity, and obedience. For these reasons, the topic is both timely and teachable.

Stories for your classroom

The Wisconsin Holocaust survivors' oral histories contain many powerful concepts to teach about the Holocaust. You may find it easiest to start with excerpts from our Oral Histories Wisconsin Holocaust Survivors collection and integrate them with the activity ideas listed below.

Elementary level
Cyla Stundel with her daughter and grandaughter.
Cyla Stundel with her daughter and grandaughter. WHI 57248
Secondary level
Rosa Katz with her husband and son.
Rosa Katz and family. WHI 56773


Integrate these activities with topics from the Wisconsin Holocaust survivor excerpts.

Activity Examples
  • Discussion groups
    Because the stories are emotionally moving, sharing in groups will help students process their feelings as well as provoke discussion. Have small groups answer specific questions and adopt positions. Use a pyramid: discuss in pairs, then small groups, then larger groups.

  • Debate an issue
    Ask students to take sides on an issue. Choose groups of 2 or 3 to brainstorm, then have them present their positions in front of the class.

  • Before and after self-assessment
    At the start of a class, have students write what they think about a topic. At the end of the class, have them explain how their thinking changed.

  • Role playing and dramatization
    Each student assumes the persona of a survivor. They tell a story from the survivor's point-of-view and answer questions about what they would do in such a situation, and why.

  • Oral reports
    Have individuals or groups write or report to be presented orally on a survivor's story in response to questions such as these:
    • explain how...
    • explain why...
    • how are... and... similar?
    • how does... connect with what we have already learned from... ?
    • restate in your own words...
    • what do you think causes... Why?
    • what is another example of... ?
    • what is another way to look at... ?
    • what are some differences between... and... ?
    • why do you think that... ?
    • why is... important?

Learn More

Book Cover: Voices of the Past: Remembering the Holocaust.

This book contains 14 interviews of Holocaust survivors who later settled in Wisconsin. With words and photographs, they describe the richness of prewar life in Europe; the advent of proscriptive laws, arrests, and deportation; the horrors of Nazi camps; and ultimately, liberation and postwar experiences.