Corey Soper

Corey Soper

Lecturer at UCL Centre for Holocaust Education.

Location London, UK


  • It should now be fixed Agnes.

  • Hi Torben - have a look at the UCL Resource "Being Human" in Week 3 - you may find it useful for that objective.

  • There have been some issues with reproducibility of Milgram's studies (not to mention the considerable ethical questions!) so I would not be so quick to rely on them as an explanation for Holocaust perpetration.

    Chapter Four of the Centre's free book Holocaust Education: Contemporary Challenges and Controversies explores the relationship between Milgram's...

  • Ruth-Anne has an interesting story about a school visit with Leon Greenman. Leon was discussing his experiences on a death march, and mentioned losing some of his toes to frostbite. Immediately, a student asked "Can I see?" and Ruth-Anne felt the need to interject - before she had started talking about this question being inappropriate, Leon had already taken...

  • @PeterTyson Hi Peter - by 'denial' I mean the stated desire of some to not publicise or research links between these country houses and the slave trade, or between prominent figures (notably Cecil Rhodes, Winston Churchill and Edward Colston) and the actions of the empire. Perhaps it was a poor choice of words. To me, more history - more lenses and bodies of...

  • @SaraKohn-Rosenberg Thank for you sharing this Sara. It sounds extremely difficult. Could your father make some kind of record of his experiences and try to process them that way - consciously?

  • This link should now be fixed.

  • In Ordinary Men Browning devotes considerable time to describing the drinking of the PB 101 men. A 2016 article by Edward Westermann described alcohol as a 'facilitator of atrocity' - men either drank before killing actions to 'steel' themselves or afterwards to dull their emotional distress. "Special rations" of spirits were supplied for this purpose....

  • Good to see we're on the same page Michael :)

  • That's great Jacki. I find students are often eager to see these images - and don't want to feel 'patronised' by not seeing them - but that we as teachers are often better judges of what is good for our students than they are.

    I'm looking forward to hearing about your approach!

  • Hi Jo - good to see you here! - I'm really interested in how you'll discuss the very sensitive issues of Nazi policies towards what we would call disabled people or people with special educational needs with pupils who have those needs themselves. Do you have any ideas for how to structure that?

  • Are there any questions your students still struggle with from the survey even after you've taught your scheme of learning? I'm interested to know which of the misconceptions is hardest to address.

  • That sounds like a fascinating approach Howard. I find students often want to see so-called 'Race Science' and Eugenics as a Nazi aberration when of course they were mainstream ideas in huge parts of the world.

    How did your students respond to this learning about eugenics and the Australian state's policies towards the indigenous Australians?

  • MIranda - you may be interested in attending this online event from UCL Centre for Holocaust Education in the role of Britain:

  • Interesting, in briefing #2 on Jewish victims there is some evidence that in the absence of being taught about antisemitism, students may draw on antisemitic tropes to try to make sense of the Holocaust.

  • How did you support students when showing these difficult images? What kind of preparation did you do?

  • @EvaF. I can't comment on how to build resilience in children - that's a very complex field in and of itself - but I think exploring those experiences with students is a key part of this history. How did people continue to live comparatively ordinary lives despite their trauma? How did their trauma effect them? What are the epigenetic effects?

    Texts like...

  • @PeterTyson Hi Peter - take for example the reaction around Corinne Fowler's "Colonial Countryside" project with the National Trust.

    Here's a piece in the Guardian about it:

  • How do you find using quite challenging texts like Levi's If This is a Man in the classroom? How do the students respond to some of the very complex ideas in his work?

  • @JackiTossol Hi Jacki - I'm sorry to say I'm not aware of any such study on Australian textbooks.

  • @TorbenDannhauer Thanks for sharing that Torben. It reminds me a lot of the similar reactions in Britain to discussing Britain's colonial violence and Britain's role in the TransAtlantic trade trade - there is a current very acrimonious debate about it and what it means for national identity and memory, and a great deal of denial.

  • @RickMeschino Hi Rick - there have been some studies in the USA with different methodologies to Foster et al, such as this from 2009:

    Lindquist's work exposes similar weaknesses in textbooks used by teachers in the United States.

  • This should now be fixed.

  • Hi Tanja - I'm glad you've made use of those brilliant Yad Vashem resources. How does the process of changing the textbooks work in Croatia, with such strict oversight from the Ministry of Education?

  • That's an interesting analysis of your textbook Kirsten - and contains similar problems to many textbooks used in the United Kingdom.

    We do have the UCL textbook available to purchase - it deliberately targets misconceptions in each unit and relies on testimony:...

  • I agree Daniela - there is a tendency among students to believe Hitler and the Nazis invented antisemitism in 1933, when in fact their radical eliminationist ideas found fertile soil in a Europe with a long history of antisemitism and where so-called 'Race Science' and eugenics were popular scientific movements on both the Left and the Right.

  • For teachers reading this, you can access the USC Shoah Foundation's incredible archive freely if you have an academic email address and confirm you are a teacher - a great resource for anyone in the global classroom with literally thousands of testimonies.

  • @SUSANDAVID One of the incredible things about Leon is he continued to do this well into his twilight years. In his 90s he was still travelling around England to various schools to deliver talks - often refusing the offer of a taxi in favour of walking miles from a station!

    I think the Covid pandemic has given us something of a taste of that absence, as it...

  • What a profound poem Mary. Thank you for sharing these powerful words from Maya Angelou.

  • Absolutely - a Hitler-centric view of the Holocaust completely omits the many enthusiastic perpetrators and collaborators in many European countries, many of whom killed local Jews without any coercion or direction from Berlin.

  • @JohnCope Absolutely we cannot claim that Hitler was in some way incidental to the Holocaust - he was the most powerful figure in German-occupied Europe and a voracious antisemite for much of his life.. But students should comprehend that the scale of the genocide was impossible with mass participation, and that the radicalisation of violence into genocide...

  • I completely agree about the power of such visits Michele. They're obviously very difficult in the present circumstances but they are powerfully effecting. I have had students tell me that they didn't truly comprehend the Holocaust was real until they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and were present in that space.

  • Certainly, we must contextualise this in the circumstances of a totalitarian dictatorship rife with antisemitic propaganda. This is not to imply that refusing these orders would be easy - those who refuse the order explicitly in Browning's Ordinary Men face social ostracism and immense shame. But some perpetrators relied on the claim that they would have been...

  • It is still far too common in the UK as well to believe in the myth of the clean Wehrmacht. Historians like Waitman Wade Beorn are pushing back strongly on this misconception. How did ordinary Germans react to this exhibition, Torben?

  • It would be interesting to do a 'before and after' here Stuart - in my experience this misconception is particularly resistant to change.

  • That's a powerful image Jeff. How often did your father speak about these experiences?

  • @SUSANDAVID WIlliam Langer used the term 'choiceless choices' to describe those decisions made by Jews during the era of the Holocaust - where some, for example, cooperated with Nazi demands in the hope of saving other individuals (like Chaim Rumkowski in Łódź). The point being that we are not in a position to judge those choices - that those choices happened...

  • @ClaudiaLindaReese Oh I will definitely be attending when you come to London! It sounds like quite an experience.

    @PaulTennent Quite! I've played through Call of Duty: World at War and its depiction of (for eg) the Japanese in the Asian theatre is borderline racist. Glad you're doing this sensitively.

  • @JohnCope @MaryR There are some issues with Goldhagen's work that were picked up by historians at the time - this article is a good summary of the controversy: but the book definitely bought into fresh perspective the mass participation in the Holocaust. It is interesting how...

  • Hi Mary - how does that change your understanding of the Holocaust?

  • @PASQUALINAPAMELASTRANIERI How do you teach the history of Judaism in your school Pasqualina?

  • Do you find that your students do look at these sorts of images outside the classroom context? DO they ever speak about them in their work in the classroom?

  • Thank for you sharing this experience and your passion Arie.

  • Thank you so much for your kind words Evelyn.

  • I agree such experiences are hugely powerful. As a young boy my next door neighbour had flown for the RAF in the Second World War and I can vividly remember him talking about it even now.

  • Thank you for sharing this Susan. Lots of those close to the tragedy find it difficult to discuss.

  • @TorbenDannhauer I have to echo John's surprise. Was action taken as a result of this to improve teaching?

  • @VerenaWiniwarter I've often found Verena that it can be very powerful with students to be open about your own emotional responses, and model how we can respond emotionally to challenging knowledge - this is a key life skill for our students to develop.

  • @EMMANOTMAN I completely agree! Knowing your students well is a huge part of the teacher's craft - especially with emotionally challenging histories like this one.

  • Hi Jess - what resources did you find useful in working out your program?

  • @HelenaVieira Hi Helena - I think Shoah is certainly a more sensitive term, and one that originated from a victim group. Holocaust is problematic as you say - with the etymology referencing burnt offerings in ancient Greek (holokauston) although the term has been used in English to mean widescale destruction of people for some time (the first citation for this...

  • I can't say for sure. Browning's work was of course written in 1992 after the archives of the former USSR could be explored - giving more of an insight into this history in the West - I think it has taken a very long time for the general public to 'catch up' with the changes in scholarship. However, the trials of PB 101 were in the 1960s, so much of this was...

  • I'm glad you found the resources useful Megan!

  • Our Centre does this work in England, and our 2020 research demonstrates a huge impact in quality of teaching based on training and CPD with us :

    But of course, teachers need time to access this training (which is difficult) and our funding comes mainly from the...

  • I agree Verena - I think antisemitism is more complex, conceptually, than most other forms of racism, and arguably has a longer history. There is a lot for student to understands.

    There are steps on the course, introduced this year, which seek to discuss the contemporary reach and damage of entirely modern antisemitism. I'd love to hear your thoughts on those!

  • I completely agree Emilie - you may find 'Being Human' in Week 3 a good way of showing students the huge extent of participation in the Holocaust from 'ordinary' people - driving trains, buying victim's property at auction, working for the census. If we can't express the mass participation in genocide to our students, their understanding of genocide more...

  • @StuartWatkin I agree that this is one of the most troubling misconceptions as it sets up young people to have a simplistic conception of responsibility - it becomes impossible to have a real conversation about collaboration and perpetration if you believe Hitler was solely responsible, and it absolves less powerful perpetrators of their crimes.

    You may...

  • If you type @ Corey Soper (without the spaces) in your comment, it should notify me and I'll be able to come and answer more easily.

  • HI Catherine - what kind of professional development did you use to improve your teaching and what impacts did it have?

  • This is a difficulty for us sometimes in our work at the Centre! Whilst there's an academic meaning of the Holocaust referring to the genocide of the Jews, the term 'Holocaust' has become a metonym for all Nazi atrocities in popular culture. This can be a difficult thing to challenge in the classroom, but its hugely important that there's a shared sense of the...

  • There's a very interesting chapter in The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz which explores the role of teachers, and the strategy of the regime to ensure the correct ideological lessons were taught and embraced by teachers - including special conferences and training for them at state expense. Clearly teachers (and other educators) are in a powerful place in...

  • @ElenaGodunova I agree - It's good practice to frame these photos in their proper context. The photos you mentioned were of course powerful active resistance - do we not owe it to these resisters to discuss and work with these photographs that they took at such great risk?

  • I completely agree John. Sometimes our mental image of the Holocaust - informed by the photography we've seen - is black and white and muted - but of course the Holocaust occurred in real life in full colour.

    I've used Leon's story in the classroom before and it is so impactful in humanising the Holocaust.

  • HI Elena - it's great to hear from you in Siberia. How did your students respond to these local connections and stories in their research?

  • This is an undeniably powerful experience and the hard work of Paul and his team to produce something so lifelike has to be commended.

    But I have to admit I feel some discomfort at the artifice of the process. When we look at a photo we don't imagine ourselves into the situation, whereas this invites the viewer to imagine themselves as actively part of the...

  • My education about the Holocaust in school was very limited. We watched Schindler's List at the end of a term and worked through a double-page spread in the textbook - I can vividly remember the photo that dominated the textbook spread of a prisoner next to a crematoria in Dachau. We didn't explore it, and having completed tasks 1-5 in the textbook we moved on...

  • Corey Soper made a comment

    Hi - I'm Corey and I lecture at UCL Centre for Holocaust Education. I'm completing the course to reflect on t into how I use photographs in my own work and to see how other institutions in the field approach these issues. I'm really looking forward to it!

  • Thanks Sam - we've changed our website recently so it must have broken the link. I've fixed it now.

  • Hi John - there aren't exact analogues to the Centre's 2016 study, but there have been attempts to measure knowledge in different countries among different age groups such as this work from the Claims Conference which covered the United States, Austria, Canada and France:

    It's difficult to be comparative of course as...

  • Hi Sam - I'm curious - how much time do you spend teaching this subject and how do you decide what to include?

  • Good to see you Jo!

  • Thank you so much for producing these lesson plans and materials. Have a look at someone else’s work and comment below.

    What principles or ideas we have covered in the course can you see distilled in the lesson plans?
    What ideas has this given you for your own future work?
    How would you develop your work and thinking in the light of looking at other...