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January 27th was formally designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations General Assembly, on November 1, 2005. This date was chosen because on this day in 1945 the Russians troops liberated Auschwitz.
In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom HaShoah, The Catastrophe. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Since the early 1960’s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown and once again at 11:00 A.M. on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.”
In my opinion this is one of the saddest parts of our history, yet it needs to be studied and remembered by our children.
Here are some resources to help with your studies. *Please take the time to preview all of this material beforehand to determine if it is appropriate for your child(ren).
Holocaust Survivor Interviews
One Day in Auschwitz 2015 720p HD Auschwitz Holocaust Documentary – “Documentary that follows 89-year-old Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon’s poignant return to the former Nazi death camp where she was sent 70 years earlier, with her mother, at the age of 16. Making the journey with two teenage girls, Hart-Moxon recounts the ever-present threat of death, and the resilience, friendship and human strength that allowed her to survive one day at a time, against the odds.”
I Survived The Holocaust – WARNING: Video is graphic in nature.
Holocaust Survivor And Her Amazing Story – “Etta Katz is my step-grandma. She is a holocaust survivor. She persevered from two notorious concentration camps: Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. This feature covers her life pre, during and post-war. There’s an entire generation of survivors that will be extinct in the next decade or so. Before we know it, video interviews will be the only medium to watch, listen, learn and share this tragic, but inspiring story.”
Holocaust Survivors Tell the Stories of Their Childhood – “Six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Many of those who survived fled Europe, to rebuild their lives. Some of those survivors settled in California. Those that remain today, were children when Adolph Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in 1933.”
The History Place Holocaust Timeline – This timeline starts with January 30, 1933 when Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany and ends with August 14, 1961 and the trial of Adolf Eichmann. They have many links including suggested books.
Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida has a series of free lesson plans that presents the history of the Holocaust in a chronological format. They rely heavily on the materials provided in the Holocaust Memorial Center’s teaching trunks. Lesson plans also use diaries, letters, poems, songs, speeches, art works, and other primary sources to present history in the authentic voices of those who were there. These units are for middle and high school aged children.
FreeUnitStudies.com has Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl-A WWII Holocaust Unit Study
Utah Education Network offers The Holocaust – Nuremberg Laws . “A social studies unit in world civilizations where students are asked to discover and talk about the Nuremberg Laws and their effect on the Jewish people living during the Third Reich.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a lot to offer for your study.
One Candle by – “On the first night of Hanukkah, Grandma tells of her experience as a twelve-year-old in Buchenwald concentration camp including their Hanukkah experience.”
Star of Fear, Star of Hope by – “We watch Helen, a Gentile child, as she witnesses the persecution of her Jewish friend, Lydia. First Lydia must wear a yellow star. Eventually, Lydia disappears. We watch many people carrying suitcases as they march away.”
The Harmonica by – “Given a harmonica from his coal-miner father in Poland, the child learns to play it before he is taken from his family and sent to the camps. There he is ordered by the commandant to play Schubert. Even the beautiful music cannot hide or change the cruelty.”
Don’t Forget by – “An eight year old prepares to bake a cake for her mother and collects the ingredients from various storekeepers, all of whom are Holocaust survivors. The child observes the numbers tattooed on their arms.”
Nine Spoons: A Chanukah Story by – “A grandmother tells of a time in the camps when she wanted to make a menorah for the children. Deciding she could do so with nine spoons, she set about convincing others to take the risks necessary to provide them.”
I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 by – “As the subtitle states this is an anthology of the creations from the children at Terezin. Reading through it is to be brought face to face with the loss of life and the loss of innocence.”
Let the Celebrations Begin! by – “The war is over and one young woman survivor at Bergen Belsen tells how she and the other women used scraps to make celebration toys for the children survivors just before liberation.”
Erika’s Story by – “This picture book is based on the events in the author’s life when her mother threw her from the train heading to the camps. An infant at the time, she was found and raised by a village woman.”
Tunes for Bears to Dance To by – “Mourning the death of his brother, Henry becomes friendly with a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Levine. Unfortunately for the new friends, Mr. Hairston, a man who holds the power over Henry, demands that a model village Mr. Levine has built to commemorate his past be destroyed.”
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – “In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis. This is the story of ordinary people rising to heroic levels.”
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen – “The protagonist, Hannah, resents her family’s preoccupation with the past and the Holocaust some of them survived. When selected to be the one to open the door for the prophet Elijah at the Seder, Hannah steps into the world of 1940s Poland. The concentration camp awaits.”
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegeman – “Don’t let the comic book format fool you, this is not easy reading. It’s an allegory in which Jews are mice; the Germans are cats. These and other animals tell the story of Spiegelman’s father, a concentration camp survivor. The skill of the artist is such that the device of dehumanizing the characters does not create emotional distance. Because of its format, you can’t read it aloud.”
The Endless Steppe : A Girl in Exile by – “Because they are Jews, Esther and her family are considered enemies of the people and exiled to Siberia. The father is separated from them and sent to a slave labor camp. When they finally are allowed to return to Poland, they find that their extended family has been killed by the Nazis.”
Milkweed by – “Our hero in World War II Warsaw has many names: Stopthief, Jew, Filthy Son of Abraham. His real name is Misha. He might be a Jew, or is he a Gypsy? His new friend Uri gives him a story to tell about a Gypsy background in an attempt to help Misha survive. This is a powerful story of survival.”
After the War by – “This novel follows a fifteen-year-old girl, Ruth, after the release from the concentration camps. When she attempts to return to her home in Poland, she is chased away by its present inhabitants. Joining the underground, she helps children with forged documents to enter Palestine.”
Stones in Water by – “Roberto makes friends with Samele, a Jewish boy. The two boys are taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to a labor camp. Both boys plot their escape, but only Roberto does so. He becomes part of the partisan effort to sabotage the German/Italian war effort.”
Behind the Bedroom Wall by – “Korinna is a loyal German citizen. She adores the Fuhrer and listens raptly to his radio addresses. Her parents encourage her participation in the Jungmadel, the Nazi youth organization. Then Korinna discovers that the sounds she has been hearing in her bedroom wall are not caused by mice, but by a Jewish woman and her five-year-old daughter. Korinna’s duty is to turn them and her parents in to the Nazis.”
The Diary of a Young Girl by – “The Diary of a Young Girl is the record of two years in the life of a remarkable Jewish girl and one of the most moving and eloquent accounts of the Holocaust. Frank’s triumphant humanity in the face of unfathomable deprivation and fear has made the book one of the most enduring documents of our time. This edition reprints the Definitive edition authorized by the Frank estate, plus a new introduction, a bibliography, and a chronology of Anne Frank’s life and times.”
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)- “Through the lens of an eight-year-old boy largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness a forbidden friendship that forms between Bruno, the son of Nazi commandant, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in a concentration camp. Though the two are separated physically by a barbed wire fence, their lives become inescapably intertwined. The imagined story of Bruno and Shmuel sheds light on the brutality, senselessness and devastating consequences of war from an unusual point of view. Together, their tragic journey helps recall the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust.”
The Devil’s Arithmetic (1999) – “Hannah Stern, played by Kirsten Dunst, is a young Jewish girl living in the United States in the late 20th century. On Passover eve, she is bored with the Seder and at one point complains she’s tired of remembering. When she opens the door for the prophet Elijah, she finds herself in Poland in 1942. Deported to a concentration camp and in the face of near-impossible odds, Hannah calls on all her inner resources – including hope and friendship – to survive. Based on a novel by Jane Yolen.”
The Book Thief (2013)- ” A sanitized version of what happened during WWII. While the concentration camps are only discussed in this movie, one family puts themselves in danger when they agree to hide a young Jewish man. This film depicts the war from the perspective of a little German girl and may be an appropriate introduction to events for older children.”
Life is Beautiful (1998) – “This may be a better choice for older teens and adults. When Guido Orefice and his family are sent to a concentration camp, this loving father tries to shield his son from the reality of what is happening by telling him they have been chosen to play an elaborate game. Their goal is to get 1,000 points so they can win a real tank. Roberto Benigni who wrote, directed and starred in the movie has been criticized for using humor in this holocaust depiction. But the real point of the movie may be how love and our attitudes help us endure unimaginable challenges.”
Denial (2016) – “This British-American drama focuses on the amazing true story of the Irving v Penguin Books Ltd case. The film stars a superb Rachel Weisz playing Deborah E. Lipstadt, an American professor of Holocaust studies, who is harassed and later sued by David Irving, a scholar of Nazi Germany. Irving sues Lipstadt for libel, on the grounds that she called him a Holocaust denier. To win the case in court, the burden of proof fell on her: she had to prove her claims that Irving distorted facts to fit his view of history were indeed false and that the Holocaust was a fact, a burden of proof which took her on a journey through Shoah history.”
Son of Saul (2015) – “The Hungarian Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” tells the tragic story of Saul Auslander, a Jewish Auschwitz inmate forced to work in the Sonderkommando, burning the bodies of murdered fellow prisoners. The story is loosely based on real testimonies of Sonderkommando members. Auslander, played by New York City-based Hungarian poet Géza Röhrig, is gradually driven mad after being ordered to cremate the corpse of a boy he believes to be his son.”
Schindler’s List – “Based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Australian novelist, Thomas Keneally. The film relates a period in the life of Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German businessman, during which he saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.”