The Humanity of All
- Go beyond statistics to show the humanity of the 6,000,000-11,000,000 victims. How would the families of victims want them to be remembered? As bodies in piles or living humans? The destruction of human life cannot be adequately illustrated by numbers or objects (paper clips).
- Nazis were not monsters, but human beings who committed monstrous acts. Dehumanizing the perpetrators allows us to distance ourselves from the actions that result from human prejudices.
- Show photographs of perpetrators, onlookers, and victims with their families. Can you tell the difference among them from the photographs?
Agency and Choice
- “Bystander" is a misnomer. Bystanders didn’t do “nothing.” They made a choice to be onlookers.
- The Holocaust didn’t result from the actions of a single man (Hitler), but perpetrators and onlookers who made choices to participate.
- Rescuers made choices to protect targeted people. In addition to hiding them, doctors and nurses protected potential victims by feigning illness and surgeries.
Propaganda and Prejudice
- Prejudice is learned behavior. Some of the early efforts to boycott Jewish business failed because many Germans saw no reason to turn against their Jewish neighbors.
- Propaganda and education (indoctrination), not just force, are necessary to maintain totalitarian regimes.
- Propaganda takes different forms. Some Germans were turned off by the dehumanizing images in posters. Hitler’s writings and speeches were another form of propaganda that appealed more to some Germans.
- Victims were targets for different reasons. While there was a long history of antisemitism in Europe, Nazi hatred of Jews wasn’t the same as religious antisemitism. Jews were defined by their bloodline. Both the “Semitic” and “Aryan” labels were social constructions. Jehovah’s Witnesses were targeted because they refused to swear an oath of loyalty. Homosexual victims were often those perceived as gay, not necessarily those who identified as such.
Telling the Stories
- Survivors had different experiences. Some survived the camps; others were hidden by rescuers until liberation. Experiences varied by age, gender, etc.
- Strive for complexity, not simple answers.
- If you use historical fiction, such as the Boy in the Striped Pajamas (not recommended), be sure to do so with a critical eye and point out the differences between the story and reality.