(1) Every public high school is encouraged to include in its curriculum instruction on the events of the period in modern world history known as the Holocaust, during which six million Jews and millions of non-Jews were exterminated. The instruction may also include other examples from both ancient and modern history where subcultures or large human populations have been eradicated by the acts of humankind. The studying of this material is a reaffirmation of the commitment of free peoples never again to permit such occurrences.
RCW 28A.300.115. Passed by the Washington State Legislature in 1992.
Initial Steps for Teaching about the Holocaust
1. Become acquainted with Holocaust history
2. Review "Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust"
3. Develop your goals
4. Decide on a time frame
5. Choose themes
6. Find resources
1. Holocaust History
Holocaust history is complex. You do not need to be an expert, but you do need to have a general understanding of the history, Nazi ideology, and timeline of events.
A few suggested places to go for an overview:
2. Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust
10 guidelines as suggested by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. For full descriptions of these guidelines, click here.
- Define the term Holocaust.
- The Holocaust was not an inevitable event.
- Avoid simple answers to complex history.
- Strive for precision of language.
- Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust.
- Avoid comparisons of pain.
- Do not romanticize history to engage students' interest.
- Contextualize the history you are teaching.
- Translate statistics into people.
- Make responsible methodological choices.
3. Develop Your Goals
In his book, Teaching and Studying the Holocaust, Samuel Totten, noted Holocaust Educator and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas, suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- Why is the Holocaust important to study?
- What do I perceive to be the most important lessons to be learned from the study of the Holocaust, and why?
- If I only have time to teach, for example, five different topics/aspects of the Holocaust, what would they be and why?
- What do I want my students to walk away with after a study of the Holocaust and why? If I can only plant one seed in the minds of my students – leaving it for them to ponder over the course of their lives - what would it be? Why?
Answering these questions is a great way to help narrow down which Holocaust related themes you may want to teach or study.
4. Decide on a Time Frame
The length of time available strongly influences which areas you will cover and which resources you will use.
Regardless of how much time you have or can use, we assure you that even a short lesson over a couple of days can impact students and increase awareness. The Center staff is more than willing to work with you on your needs and time frame.
5. Choose Themes
- Suggested topics to include as outlined by the Holocaust Center (pdf)
- The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has identified topic areas for teachers to consider when planning their lessons on the Holocaust - see their "Topics to Teach" as well as the Holocaust Encyclopedia.
The Holocaust Center staff is available to recommend the best books, videos/DVDs, websites, and lessons related to specific themes or topics.
6. Find Resources
In addition to the large collection of curricula at the Center, you will find literary and historical materials, posters and exhibits, videos and DVDs, artifacts, and primary source documents. Center staff is available for one-on-one consultation and can recommend materials that would be most appropriate for your group.
Almost all of the resources we suggest are available for loan from the Center at no cost to educators.
Some of the most effective and powerful resources we offer are the speakers on our Speakers Bureau. We are lucky enough to have eyewitnesses to the Holocaust who live in Washington State and volunteer their time to talk with students. We encourage you to follow the Speakers Bureau link to learn about the simple process of requesting a speaker to come to your class.