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Between 1933 and 1945, a catastrophe occurred in Europe which culminated in the wanton, planned destruction of much of European Jewry and millions of other “undesirables” while most of the world looked on with disinterest. Was this aberrant behavior by so-called “civilized” human beings a half-century ago a quirk of history? How could this have happened? Could it happen again? Could it happen to you or me here in the United States? What parallels do we see today between what happened in Germany and what is happening today? Why isn’t genocide an anachronism instead of being today’s front page news?
This Guide seeks to provide answers to many of these questions. Its purpose is not so much to provide the gory details of the Nazis’ race war against the Jews as to permit students to understand the types of thinking and behavior which led to genocide during World War II. By understanding this thinking and behavior, students can develop the necessary tools to not only avoid this themselves, but to condemn such thinking and behavior of others.
Scores of issues surrounding the Holocaust are both academically controversial as well as politically controversial. How does one discuss Christian anti-Semitism? How does one discuss other genocides? Even the issue of the number of Jews which perished in the Holocaust resulted in many different answers from Task Force participants.
The debate among the Task Force on many of these issues was intellectually stimulating and provocative. Yet we never lost sight of the fact that the resolution of these issues was the ultimate goal. It would be disingenuous to insist that a consensus was reached on every one of these issues. Historians often disagree among themselves on what happened, and when. Professionals in the field of Holocaust studies often disagree on the interpretation of events, and on what emphasis to place them in the context of world and Jewish history. I believe we did the best job we could to eliminate the most contentious statements in the draft of the Guide while maintaining its intellectual integrity.
This document is the product of more than four years of effort and involved the participation and expertise of scores of educators, historians, religious authorities, and community relations leaders. In my duel role as project director and chief writer for this Guide, I was privileged to direct the efforts of many dedicated Pennsylvanians, almost all of whom were volunteers, whose only compensation was the satisfaction of seeing this Guide take shape and become what will be one of the most useful of its kind in the United States. Many others worked long and hard hours in return for only a token honorarium.
We carefully avoided “re-inventing the wheel,” acknowledging that there are currently several valuable Holocaust Curriculum Guides available. Many of the themes, ideas for discussions and activities, and the format were adapted from the best Guides available, particularly:
- Facing History and Ourselves Intentional Educations, Inc.;
- Life Unworthy of Life Center for the Study of the Child, Farmington Hills, Michigan;
- The Holocaust – A Teacher Resource School District of Philadelphia, Office of Curriculum and Instruction;
- The Holocaust_Prejudice Unleashed State of Ohio Council on Holocaust Education;
- The Human Rights Series The University of the State of New York (State Education Dept., Bureau of Curriculum Development); and
- Holocaust and Genocide_A Search for Conscience New Jersey Dept. of Education/Vineland, NJ; Board of Education/ADL of B’nai B’rith.
The Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference Curriculum Guide also influenced this Guide, as well as the texts, The War Against the Jews by Lucy Dawidowicz and The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert. I am grateful to the hundreds of pioneers in the Holocaust Curriculum field whose creative insights have found their way into this Guide in one form or another and for those who gave us permission to directly quote their work, including useful charts and maps. I wish to thank the scores of people not on the Task Force who reviewed the drafts of the Guide and made suggestions and corrections.
I am also grateful to my secretary, Selma Balaban; to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; to Dr. Albert Myers and Dr. Paul Gehris of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; to Josey Fisher, who contributed major sections, and whose persistence vastly improved this publication in numerous respects; to Jim Culbertson who contributed most of the information which eventually comprised Chapter 7; and to the late Nora Levin, who is responsible for most of Chapter 8 and much of Chapter 5, and who contributed scores of corrections and improvements to the manuscript. She also inspired me to continue this project when it appeared it would never get off the ground.
I am indebted to PJC Grants Consultant Michael Sand, who chaired most of the meetings of the Task Force; to Marilynn Abrams, who contributed to the “Teaching Strategies” section; to Linda Hurwitz, who wrote the section on how to use the Guide; to Ned Shulman, for preparing the bibliography and who contributed to every phase of the project; to Ruth Rubin, who provided the material on the music of the Holocaust (for information about her wonderful books and recordings, write to her at 45 Gramercy Park North, NY, NY 10012); to the late Joan Keats, who contributed whole paragraphs to the Guide; to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (and particularly its past Chair, Marion Wilen) which conceived of the project and to Susan Behrend who staffed it for the JCRC; to the project historians, Dr. Jack Fischel and Dr. Reynold Koppel; to Clyde McGeary, formerly of the PA Department of Education, who provided both guidance and some of the funding for this project; to the PJC Board, at the time of publication chaired by Frederick Frank (currently chaired by Dan Frankel); to Linda Grobman, who contributed to the vocabulary section; to Lois Olena, who wrote much of the section on Christian anti-Semitism and gave it an academic Christian perspective which had been missing from previous drafts, and whose typing, editing, and layout in the most professional and timely manner kept the project on course; and most of all, to the Task Force itself, which worked tirelessly to complete its assignment.
Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition
April 1990/ updated July 1994
_ 1990 Gary M. Grobman
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