Candles honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Helping the Next Generation Remember the Holocaust

Jan. 14, 2020 • Studies Weekly

The systemic murder of an ethnic group or people does not begin overnight. It is a long process that relies on categorizing a group of people according to stereotypical traits, while other people remain silent.

The Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazi Party of Germany in the 1930s and 40s was carried out this way. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party targeted Jews because of their religion and culture, and too many people silently let it happen.

The Holocaust followed centuries of Jewish persecution in Europe. For example, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish government persecuted Jews and Muslims, confiscating their personal belongings and exiling them if they did not convert to Christianity. Because people, society, and governments continued to permit this type of outward dehumanization, it became an accepted social norm.

Holocaust Defined

Holocaust: The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

(Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Other Victims of the Nazis: The Nazis also persecuted Roma, the disabled, Poles, political opponents, Socialists, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet civilians, and blacks

(Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The Nazi Party

After German leaders made an unsuccessful attempt to gain land, economic, and political power in the first World War, the Treaty of Paris held Germany accountable for destroying the European economic system and countryside. As the German people tried to recover and move forward, a small faction of extremists rose in popularity. This group, the Nazi Party, blamed the nation’s problems on the Jewish people.

Oswiecim, Poland – March 28, 2016: Electrical fences of Auschwitz

Oswiecim, Poland – March 28, 2016: Electrical fences of Auschwitz – the largest German concentration camp built and operated by built and operated by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Over a period of multiple years, the Nazi Party incrementally removed civil liberties from the Jews with little protest from the non-Jewish population. Emboldened by this silence, the Nazi Party began a plan to annihilate Jews and murder others who were considered unfit, such as: the mentally and physically challenged, the LGBTQ community, Afro Germans, Romas, Russians, Serbs and other racial minorities. The Nazi Party also targeted those politically opposed to them.

The Nazi Party began an organized removal of these targeted groups in 1936, shuttling them to concentration camps, work camps, and death camps until 1945, and the Allied liberation of Europe. According to estimates, the Nazi Party murdered six million Jews and five million others.

The word “genocide” was not part of the English language until 1949, when it was used to describe what happened in Germany, when the Nazi Party systematically tried to annihilate the entire Jewish race. This particular genocide became known as the Holocaust, and out of respect, no other event should use this name.

Teaching the Holocaust

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Jan. 27, and can be a perfect time for lessons on tolerance, inclusion, anti-bullying, building communities, and service. (Please note that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does not recommend teaching the Holocaust before 6th grade.)

To view some guidelines and resources for teaching about the Holocaust with Studies Weekly, read our post, “Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust with Studies Weekly.”

We have a human responsibility not to forget what happened in Nazi Germany — to help each generation remember. Yad Vashem in Israel, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is a valuable source of Holocaust education, documentation, and research. In the United States, the Shoah Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum all provide quality resources for educators to use in classrooms. Many other organizations also educate against stereotyping, bigotry, discrimination and hate.

This year, the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission designated Jan. 27-31 as Holocaust Remembrance Week, and has encouraged schools across the state to incorporate grade-level instruction within their curriculum. Their site has many resources, guidelines and activities.

Ultimately, it is the choice of each individual to promote respect and acceptance — to challenge stereotypes, bigotry, racism, discrimination, and hate throughout the world.

Find grade-level resources for teaching the Holocaust, tolerance, and non-discrimination in Studies Weekly’s Social Studies curriculum by signing up for a free online trial.