Cart 0

Teaching the Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Seminar Leader:
Al Filreis


This course is about how people tell stories about trauma and traumatic experience – and how survivors of genocide deal with the responsibility they feel to speak for those who died. Our approach to these large issues is through the Holocaust, and we will discuss the enormous difficulties faced by those who felt the urgent need to describe their own or others’ experiences during the genocide of the European Jews, 1933-1945. We will explore the complex options they have faced as narrators, witnesses, allegorists, memoirists, scholars, teachers, writers and image-makers. Some linguistically (or visually) face the difficulty head on; most evade, avoid, repress, stutter or go silent, and agonize. Part of the purpose of the course is for us to learn how to sympathize with the struggle of those in the latter group. This is not a history course, although the vicissitudes of historiography will be a frequent topic of conversation, enriching the Language Arts content.
We will read books by survivors, watch video-recorded testimony of survivors telling their compelling stories, and watch films seeking to represent the genocide. Some of the books we will read can be used by teachers in middle- and high-school classes, and some of the materials have been carefully and selectively adapted for elementary grades. How a curriculum unit can be developed around issues of genocide, racial hatred, survivor guilt, guilty bystanding, and the individual human response to trauma will be a focus of the course as well.

Unit TitleAuthor


You’re OK, I’m OK, It’s Good We Are Different

Elters, Pamela
Keywords: differences, literacy, similarities, tolerance

Using Lessons Learned Through a Study of the Holocaust to Teach Children to Become Upstanders

Joyce Arnosky
Keywords: bystander, elementary, English, Holocaust, Literature, upstander

Bearing Witness: Understanding Holocaust Testimony Within Urban High School Students’ Lives

Lynn Gourinski Fahr
Keywords: bystander, elementary, English, Holocaust, Literature, upstander

Students are Survivors Too: Bearing Witness to the Stories of Our Lives Through Holocaust Survivor Testimony

Eilis Hood
Keywords: European history, Holocaust, witness testimony, writing

Consider, is this a Man? Retaining Humanity in the Face of Dehumanizing Narratives

Benjamin Hover
Keywords: bearing witness, Common Core Standards, Concentration Camps, Death Fugue, Holocaust Literature, Holocaust Music, Literature, Middle Years Literacy, Resistance to Nazis, survivor testimony

One Story, Innumerable Losses: Themes in Genocide

Brynn Allison McGinn
Keywords: close reading, genocide, History, Holocaust, Literature, Rwanda, witness testimonies, writing

In their Shoes: Teaching the Holocaust through the Journey of a Chain of Witnesses, Survivors, and Rescuers

Stacia D. Parker
Keywords: advocacy, bearing witness, History, rescuers, survivors, testimony, world history

I, Too, Bear Witness: An Analysis of Dehumanization through Testimonies of the Holocaust

Margery Willis
Keywords: active listening, Auschwitz, bearing witness, close reading, dehumanization, memoirs, survivor testimony, The Holocaust, USC Shoah Foundation, video testimony

Bearing Witness through Narration

Karen J. Burrell
Keywords: Holocaust, literacy, Literature, narration, stories, writing

We All Have A Story to Tell…

Nicole Flores
Keywords: fiction, Holocaust, journals, nonfiction, religion, religious beliefs, writing

Getting Stuck in the Telling: The Dichotomous Nature of Urgent Tales Analyzing and Crafting Accounts that Bear Witness

Julie Mikolajewski
Keywords: consumption approach, History, Holocaust, literacy, Literature, storytelling

Teaching the Holocaust in Kindergarten Classrooms

Krista Spera
Keywords: 20th century, discrimination, Holocaust, Holocaust education, kindergarten

Heart to Heart: Adolescents Connect to Holocaust Survivors

Joan Taylor
Keywords: History, Holocaust, survivors, video transcripts