Characteristics of a quality Holocaust Education program
Whilst not an exhaustive list, 8 characteristics typically found in high quality Holocaust Education programs are described below.
Guidance and tips were developed with teachers who are currently teaching the Holocaust in Victoria and Holocaust Education experts from Victorian cultural organisations and universities. They were informed by advice and feedback from Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and privilege the voices of Melbourne-based Holocaust survivors.
1 Program is clearly and comprehensively aligned to the Victorian Curriculum: History
Elaboration: The Program aligns to the Level 9 and 10 History World War II content descriptor: 'Significant events, turning points of World War II and the nature of warfare, including the Holocaust and use of the atomic bomb ()'.
- Do enrich History teaching and learning by drawing on the content of other learning areas, particularly English and Civics and Citizenship.
- Avoid trying to cover every element of the Holocaust -- stick with what’s essential (refer to ).
2 Program is logically sequenced and thematically rich and explores the significance of the Holocaust
Elaboration: The Program is sequenced chronologically, from ‘Pre-war Jewish life’ to ‘Remembrance, legacy and life lessons’ — refer to . The Program also includes topics that support deep, thematic exploration. For example:
- hatred, racism and antisemitism
- democracy and respecting human rights
- human experiences and understanding the world through historical or cultural contexts
The Program encourages students to consider how they could apply lessons from the Holocaust in their current and future lives.
- Do be upfront about the themes to be explored and the importance of such themes to humankind in the past and today, drawing on the rationale for studying the Holocaust, above. Refer to and .
- Avoid teaching the Holocaust as an event that is only relevant to learning about World War II.
- Avoid teaching themes separately to or after the curriculum content — interweave and explore them together.
3 The Holocaust is taught with all essential components
Elaboration: Recommended minimum Program components are:
- Pre-war Jewish life
- The rise of Nazi Party (up to 1939)
- War, persecution and ghettoisation (1939-41)
- Murder, deportations and the camps (1941-45)
- Courage and resistance
- Liberation, survivors and the return to life
- Remembrance, legacy and life lessons
- Do teach the Holocaust in its historic context — both World War II and a long history of antisemitism.
- Do focus on the people of the Holocaust — victims/survivors, the righteous, the perpetrators, collaborators and bystanders.
- Do focus on Jewish voices, either in primary source material, multi-media texts or testimony.
- Avoid reducing the Holocaust to dates, locations and numbers.
- Avoid ‘dipping in and out’ of the Holocaust as you teach World War II.
- Avoid comparing the ‘severity’ of the Holocaust to other genocides, and comparing suffering.
- Avoid treating Jewish people as homogeneous (they are diverse), equating Jewish experience with their Holocaust experience, and depicting victims in the absence of their broader life stories.
- Avoid presenting Jewish people as passive victims of the Holocaust, and defining Jewish resistance in only physical terms.
- Avoid generalisations (for example, all camps were death camps, all Germans were collaborators) and portraying perpetrators as 'evil' or 'inhuman monsters' (a denial of personal and collective responsibility).
- Avoid focusing on Hitler — focus instead on the experiences of the people and communities who were victims of the Holocaust.
4 Program is factually accurate, rich in primary source material, and incorporates Victorian-specific content
Elaboration: The Program only draws on reputable sources of information. The Program also makes use of a range of primary sources — artefacts, written documents and testimonies — which bear witness to different Jewish experiences and perspectives. The Program is enriched by Victorian Holocaust sources.
- Do use reputable websites for identifying learning resources — for example, , the , the , the , and .
- Do prioritise learning through survivor testimony.
- Do be careful in your selection of learning resources: some may look worthy at first glance, but may be factually inaccurate or misleading; at their worst, some may deliberately seek to distort the Holocaust (excuse or minimise the impact of the Holocaust or its elements).
- Do pay particular attention to fictionalised accounts of the Holocaust (for example, novels, films) — continue to use them, if appropriate, but make sure inaccuracies are explicitly contextualised and addressed.
- Avoid encouraging students to seek out their own primary source material without first equipping them with key historical skills (for example, undertaking historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources). Refer to .
- Avoid using perpetrator sources unless such sources are firmly placed within their historical context and students are supported to critically read and analyse them.
- Avoid reliance on only a small number of primary source materials or primary source materials produced by only one person or institution — a broad range of materials will best reflect the diversity of human experiences during the Holocaust. refer to .
- Avoid being engaged by students, or supporting students to engage, in conspiracy theories about the Holocaust. Such content has no place in a quality Holocaust Education program.
5 Learning resources used are well designed and varied
Elaboration: Learning resources are multi-modal material (for example, textual, visual and interactive elements) and are easy to navigate/use. They appeal to a variety of learners.
- Do use art, music and literature, created during and after the Holocaust.
- Do use resources that provide an entry point for students — for example, resources that highlight experiences of people who are the same age as your students.
- Avoid using long feature films to do your ‘teaching’ (they position students passively in the learning).
- Avoid using very graphic materials that are likely to be confronting or traumatising for students. While such materials can be powerful teaching tools, students should be led ‘safely in and safely out’ of the experience. Refer to the Department’s policy.
6 Program has experiential components
Elaboration: The Program supports students to directly engage with artefacts, written documents and testimonies that enrich but may also challenge their understandings and beliefs about the Holocaust.
- Do prioritise in-person and virtual tours and workshops (for example, to museum, library or centre) and incursions; local institutions (for example, , ), authors, historians and survivors; incursions (for example, , ). Refer to Student experiential programs on the page in FUSE.
- Avoid role plays and simulations, where students are asked to take on the roles of Nazis, camp guards, prisoners or survivors.
7 Pedagogical choices enable deep learning, are sensitive to the particularities and complexities of the Holocaust and are inclusive of diverse learners
Elaboration: The Program should acknowledge and be responsive to the possibly traumatic nature of studying the Holocaust. It should also acknowledge and be responsive to the differing backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of students.
- Do design learning activities that promote high-order thinking, collaboration and reflection (for example, collaborative reflection on the learnings from a survivor recount, use of graphic organisers, supporting students to make connections across primary sources). Refer to , and .
- Do be precise with language (for example, not referring to all camps as 'concentration camps' — some were death camps or labour camps; Holocaust not holocaust; antisemitism not anti-semitism). Refer to .
- Do create a safe space for students to develop curiosity about the Holocaust and ask and explore their own questions. Refer to .
- Do provide opportunities for students to explore and be inspired by stories of courage and adversity, upstander behaviour and resilience. Refer to .
- Do provide support for students who may have had past experiences of trauma to safely engage with Holocaust-related content. Refer to .
- Do respond to student challenges if they arise (for example, a student who feels that the suffering of their own people or group has not been addressed). Consider: encouraging students to recount any personal experiences of exclusion, hatred and racism; initiating a broader discussion on the importance of human rights (as universal rights); incorporating a broader study of genocide into your Program. refer to Differentiated teaching.
- Do consider providing opportunities for parents/carers to support and engage in the learning. Refer to .
- Avoid using perpetrator euphemisms (for example, 'special treatment', 'final solution').
- Avoid presenting students with impossible choices (for example, what would you do if …?).
- Avoid learning activities that give credence or an audience to myths and misconceptions — emphasise the Holocaust as an historical event of ethical significance.
8 Assessment opportunities are appropriate, varied and engaging
Elaboration: Assessment design addresses the historical content, and themes and ideas; includes historical reasoning; responds sensitively to the particularities and complexities of the Holocaust.
- Do design assessments that include engagement with primary source material, particularly survivor testimonies. This could include developing personal or historical responses.
- Do design assessments that involve dialogue and reflection, and personal and collective meaning-making. Refer to .
- Do consider assessment that supports students to take action in their own lives and communities (i.e. upstander behaviour).
- Do involve students in supporting the learning of peers, building collective responsibility for quality outcomes. Refer to .
- Avoid assessment that focuses on recall of dates, numbers and locations.
- Avoid assessment that asks a student to 'imagine if …'.
- Avoid reductionist assessment and assessment that supports or encourages simple answers.
- Never allow assessment that positions, or supports students to position, the Holocaust as a contested area of history (contemporary antisemitism includes denying the Holocaust took place).
Reviewed 09 December 2020