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Welcome to Week 2

Ruth Anne-Lenga welcomes you to Week 2 of the course.

Welcome to Week 2

So far, we have explored the Holocaust through a historical lens and followed the testimony of Leon Greenman. We have examined the events, their prehistory, and their aftermath. Armed with this knowledge, we can turn our attention this week to consider some of the many challenges we face when teaching this history to young people of high school age. By being aware of what these challenges are, we can reflect on our current practise with greater insight, and make more informed and considered choices when teaching and creating learning programmes and materials. This we hope can facilitate more effective learning which can enable students to grapple with the important, complex and often excruciatingly difficult questions that are such an important a part of this history.

Our research

In order to help get us to this point, we will introduce you to key findings from the research studies conducted by UCL Centre for Holocaust Education. One of these examined teaching practices among over 2,000 teachers in England. The other involved 8,000 young people and sought to find out what they know and understand about the Holocaust and the challenges they encounter.

As we dip into this research, we’ll be hearing from teachers, students, and members of the UCL team. They will enlighten us on what the research findings tell us and will discover that there are critically important aspects of the history that students find hard to grasp and misunderstandings that persist. We will give particular attention to the preconceived ideas many young people appear to have when they come to class about the victims of the Holocaust and of those who perpetrated it, what choices individuals had available to them to act as the Holocaust unfolded and who should ultimately bear responsibility. Issues and problems with understanding discussed here in no way suggest any sort of failing of students or their teachers. This is an important thing to stress. Misconceptions and misrepresentations about the Holocaust circulate many spheres well beyond the classroom space. We see through our work some outstanding Holocaust education in schools in England and elsewhere in spite of the multitude of pressures teachers have to deal with in schools. What is important for us educators is to be acutely aware of these misconceptions and not to let them go unchallenged.

Our approach

At UCL we look to help teachers recognise misconceptions, offering strategies to address them when they create units of work on the Holocaust for their students. During this week, we consider all of this and how textbooks and certain types of images can help or hinder understanding. And finally, following on from our earlier encounter with Leon Greenman, we will also turn our thoughts to what will be lost to education when Holocaust survivors are no longer here to bear witness.

As we reflect on teaching about the Holocaust, it is important to be clear about its definition. The Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) offer the following definition:

‘The terms “Holocaust” and “Shoah” refer to a specific genocidal event in twentieth-century history: the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and murder of Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. The height of the persecution and murders occurred during the context of the Second World War. This genocide occurred in the context of Nazi-led persecution and murder that targeted additional groups as well, including the genocide of the Roma and Sinti.’

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Teaching the Holocaust: Innovative Approaches to the Challenges We Face

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