Methodological Considerations

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1 Methodological Considerations 10 Guidelines to evaluate materials to use when teaching about the Holocaust. Chadron Conference United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Rationale for Teaching the Holocaust Why should students learn this history? What are the most significant lessons students should learn from a study of the Holocaust? Why is a particular reading, image, document, or film an appropriate medium for conveying the topics that you wish to teach? 1

2 Your knowledge learning Students abilities Varied/ Sophomores Time 2 class periods RATIONALE What s vital to you and your students?. Nature of the course World History Standards Available resources Home library USHMM web site, etc. What s vital to you and your students? Consider content that speaks to your students provides them with a clearer understanding of a complex history. challenges them to comprehend the magnitude of the Holocaust RATIONALE The Holocaust was a watershed event, not only in the twentieth century but also in the entire course of human history. Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected; democracy is fragile. 2

3 #1 Define the term Holocaust The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and Jews were the primary victims six million were murdered; Gypsies, the handicapped and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethic or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah s Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny. #2 Do not teach or imply that the Holocaust was inevitable. Choices and decisions This boy forced to write Juden on his father s shop in Austria, March What were the choices of the Austrian citizens in the photo? 3

4 Nurses at Hadamar Institute T 4 Program What were the roles of the medical institutions and medical professionals? What were the choices made by these nurses? Choices and decisions Teachers Judges Wearing swastikas #3 Avoid Simple Answers to Complex Questions Many factors that lead to the events of the Holocaust. For example... Apathy Nationalistic fervor Propaganda & charisma of Hitler 4

5 #3 Avoid Simple Answers to Complex Questions How did Hitler come to power? Students ask. Why didn t the Jews just leave? Why didn t they fight back? How did the Nazis know someone was Jewish? Why was the perfect race blond and blue eyed, but Hitler had dark hair and eye? Lookat the many factors and events that made decision making difficult and contributed to the Holocaust Complex history often studied in simplistic terms #4 Strive for precision of language Beware of making generalizations while attempting to explain the history of the Holocaust. Dangerof generalizations ~ distort the facts Words that describe human behavior often have multiple meanings. What are examples of generalizations? All Germans were collaborators ~ collaborator vs. bystander German vs. Nazi 5

6 Ghetto Kovno ghetto Lodz Ghetto Warsaw ghetto Concentration Camp Novaky Labor Camp Auschwitz/Birkenau Death Camp Westerbork Transit Camp Resistance Armed Spiritual 6

7 Collaborator Lithuanians, Ponary Forest, June 1941 On the morning after Kristallnacht local residents watch as the Ober Ramstadt synagogue is destroyed by fire. The local fire department prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home, but did not try to limit the damage to the synagogue. [USHMM Photograph #04467] Hungary s Arrow Cross late 1944 Stereotypes Try to avoid stereotypical descriptions it distorts historical reality. Apology Letter From President Obama 7

8 #5 Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study. Portray all individuals as human beings, capable of moral judgment and independent decision making. Examine the actions, motives, and decisions of the participants involved as belonging to these categories: Victims Perpetrators Rescuers Bystanders Types of Sources Look at the origin and authorship of all materials Court Transcripts Would the defendants be expected to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Chief Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz presents his case at the Einsatzgruppen Trial in Types of Sources Military Reports Might the writer have changed the facts to please his superior? Image from the Stroop Report prepared for Heinrich Himmler to celebrate victory in the Warsaw ghetto uprising (May 1943). 8

9 Types of Sources Secret Archives How much of the bigger picture would ghetto residents have known? One of the milk cans that held the Ringelblum archives, a record of life in the Warsaw ghetto including descriptive reports, summaries of oral testimony, minutes of meetings, diary entries, newspaper articles, and German proclamations. Source and Context of Information To make careful distinctions about sources of information, ask these questions: Why was it written? Who wrote it? Who is the intended audience? (bias, gaps, omissions?) How has the information been used to interpret various events? In summary, investigate carefully the origin and authorship of all materials. 9

10 #6 Avoid comparison of pain Persecuted. Nomadic Roma (Gypsies). Czechoslovakia, 1939 Helene Gotthold, German Jehovah s Witness, and her children, 1936 The Blechner Family, Polish born German, Levels of suffering? Rwanda Trail of Tears American slavery Armenia 10

11 #7 Do not romanticize history. Over-emphasis= unbalanced and inaccurate history Fact: Less than 1% of the entire population aided in rescuing Jews Balanced perspective and accuracy of fact are a must! Oskar Shindler with a group of Jews he rescued #7 Do not romanticize history. #8 Contextualize history 11

12 Diversity of Jewish Life between the wars. Time Context Importance of placing event in historical context When did the event occur? National Boycott Kristallnacht Invasion of Poland Final Solution Soviet Troops Beginning of WII implementation liberate Majdanek Where did it take place? Netherlands? France? Germany? Poland? Italy? Lithuania? Romania? 12

13 Stories provide context Yona Dickmann fashioned this aluminum comb from airplane parts after the SS transferred her from Auschwitz to forced labor in an airplane factory in Freiburg, Germany, in November She used the comb as her hair, shaven in Auschwitz, began to grow back. #9 Translate statistics into people Ejszyszki Tower USHMM Show the person behind the statistics and the diversity of each personal experience. 13

14 #10 Make responsible methodological choices Nesse Godin workshop/personaltestimony/introduction 14

15 15

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