Teaching about the Holocaust and Genocides
It is common for educators to be overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching the Holocaust in the classroom. The THGC is committed to helping teachers become comfortable with teaching this event through workshops and other programs. The Commission also recognizes that there are guidelines and standards already in place that help establish a framework for educators to approach teaching of the Holocaust and other genocides, including the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and commonly-accepted best practices.
In 2010, the Texas Education Agency adopted new TEKS standards related to the Holocaust, genocide, and mass murder based on recommendations made by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. Though now included as part of the curriculum of Texas public schools, information related to these topics is often missing in piece, or entirely, from textbooks used in the state.
The THGC’s textbook subcommittee, consisting of Commissioner Martin Fein and dozens of volunteers across Texas, has worked tirelessly to review all pertinent textbooks used in the state, analyze the content, generate findings, and offer recommendations. The results of this ongoing process will be to provide teachers with insights about how to better teach about the Holocaust and genocide and which resources they may want to use to teach these topics. The THGC has also developed and made freely available resources to assist educators in teaching necessary content.
Holocaust and Genocide-related TEKS
In 2010, the State Board of Education adopted the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Social Studies, among other subjects. These revised TEKS included the following items that are relevant to Holocaust and genocide education:
World Geography Studies:
(18) Culture. The student understands the ways in which cultures change and maintain continuity. The student is expected to:
(B) assess causes, effects, and perceptions of conflicts between groups of people, including modern genocides and terrorism;
World History Studies:
(12) History. The student understands the causes and impact of World War II. The student is expected to:
(A) describe the emergence and characteristics of totalitarianism;
(B) explain the roles of various world leaders, including Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill, prior to and during World War II; and
(C) explain the major causes and events of World War II, including the German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, Japanese imperialism, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Normandy landings, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.
(22) Citizenship. The student understands the historical development of significant legal and political concepts related to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The student is expected to:
(C) identify examples of politically motivated mass murders in Cambodia, China, Latin America, the Soviet Union, and Armenia;
(D) identify examples of genocide, including the Holocaust and genocide in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Darfur;
(F) assess the degree to which American ideals have advanced human rights and democratic ideas throughout the world.
United States History Studies Since 1877:
(7) History. The student understands the domestic and international impact of U.S. participation in World War II. The student is expected to:
(A) identify reasons for U.S. involvement in World War II, including Italian, German, and Japanese dictatorships and their aggression, especially the attack on Pearl Harbor;
(D) analyze major issues of World War II, including the Holocaust; the internment of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans and Executive Order 9066; and the development of conventional and atomic weapons;
(E) analyze major military events of World War II, including the Battle of Midway, the U.S. military advancement through the Pacific Islands, the Bataan Death March, the invasion of Normandy, fighting the war on multiple fronts, and the liberation of concentration camps;
(11) History. The student understands the emerging political, economic, and social issues of the United States from the 1990s into the 21st century. The student is expected to:
(A) describe U.S. involvement in world affairs, including the end of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, the Balkans Crisis, 9/11, and the global War on Terror;
Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust
The Holocaust has challenged the cognitive and communicative faculties of even those who were firsthand witnesses to its atrocities: recurring themes among survivors refer to their inability to believe their own eyes in the moment, or afterwards to record and tell about their experiences. As educators who live in a time and place far removed from those events, we, too, are confronted with the difficulty of finding appropriate words, images, and mental models to make comprehensible the unimaginable. Yet it is our responsibility to do so. In terms of historical accuracy, sensitivity to student needs and to the subject matter, and appropriate levels of engagement, how may we most effectively reach students? What are the best practices in the classroom for teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides?
Fortunately, over the course of many years, helpful guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust have been developed. These guidelines have proved most effective in steering lessons clear of the common pitfalls educators have encountered when engaging this complex subject. The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is committed to helping teachers navigate these guidelines with clarity and purpose. We invite you to read through the guidelines, available through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
For further clarification on best teaching practices, and how they correlate to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, please contact our office (512-463-5108) or attend one of our workshops.
Online Digital Library
Staff at the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission has been working diligently to put together a unique set of resources for educators' classroom use. Included are poems, film clips, and excerpts from novels, memoirs, and non-fiction texts. Educators can gain access to this password-protected resource library by contacting our education coordinator.