Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis targeted and systematically murdered millions of children, women, and men solely because of their ancestry. Those murders are collectively known as the Holocaust, a Greek word that means "complete destruction by fire." The word Holocaust evokes the crematoria of Auschwitz and other death camps where the bodies of many victims were burned. This event is also known as the Shoah, the Hebrew word for catastrophe.
Immediately after World War II, Nazi leaders were brought to trial at Nuremberg, Germany for "crimes against humanity" and other war crimes. At those trials, the world heard evidence solely of what the perpetrators did. The voices of victims were not given full expression until decades later. Survivors of the Holocaust brings some of their voices to the classroom.
Steven Spielberg, in association with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and Turner Original Productions, offers viewers a unique opportunity to hear the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of the survivors.
For nearly 20 years, Facing History and Ourselves has been teaching about the Holocaust and bringing the stories of the survivors to classrooms across the nation. These stories literally change the way students and teachers view history and themselves. As Steven Spielberg reminds us, the testimonies of the survivors reveal "that the devastating events of the Holocaust didn't happen to faceless numbers, they happened to...men and women and children with names and faces and families and dreams. People just like us."
As students confront this history, they discover how unexamined prejudices encourage racism and anti-Semitism by turning neighbor against neighbor. Students make important connections between history and the moral choices they face in their own lives. And they come to understand that acts like those described in the documentary did not just happen randomly. They were the result of choices made by countless individuals and groups. Students learn that even the smallest decisions can have enormous consequences.
TBS grants teachers the right to videotape the broadcast of Survivors of the Holocaust for classroom use in perpetuity. Teachers may also reproduce parts of this guide for classroom use. The guide is two sided. One side contains two sets of reproducible pages: Pre-View provides an overview of the ideas that led to the Holocaust and should be discussed with students before viewing the program; Post-View consists of short readings and questions that prompt reflection and discussion of issues explored in the documentary and can be used once students have seen the program. The other side of the guide is a poster that highlights significant events before, during, and after the Holocaust , along with brief quotations from the documentary.
Margot Stern Strom
Executive Director, Facing History and Ourselves
Senior Program Associate, Facing History and Ourselves