Teachers' Intoduction

General aims

The content of this web site is aimed at Year 9, GCSE pupils who have already made an initial study of the Holocaust. The site consists of 28 oral history testimonies gathered from men and women living in Britain today.

Oral history, 'the interviewing of eye witness participants in the events of the past for purposes of historical reconstruction' is a highly appropriate methodology for Holocaust studies.

Oral history enables students to:

  • break down the subject of the Holocaust into a series of limited, identifiable, human experiences
  • foster involvement and empathy with individual survivors of the Holocaust
  • nurture communication, technological and historical skills
    stimulate the capacity to observe and evaluate the actions of others
  • realise the importance of being sensitive to the pain of others

Content and use of website

Students will make the best use of the web site if they begin by exploring the six Student topics in the order below (the order fits into a time scale of the Holocaust) and then follow the directives. The topics can also be used for student research on a specific aspect of the Holocaust. Below is a summary of contents for each section:

1. Student Topics

Each section contains individual testimonies related to the topic. The oral testimonies are short and have been taken from lengthy life interviews stretching over several hours (full recordings in The British Library Sound Archive). In addition each topic includes:

  • A full verbatim transcript for ease of access, supplementing each oral testimony
  • Background information for each topic
  • Student activities relating to the topic
  • Links to student/teacher worksheets

2. Reference Section

Maps - identifying locations of survivors such as places of birth, work camps and extermination camps
Glossary explaining unfamiliar words mentioned in testimonies
Chronology providing a reminder of the major events of the Holocaust
References to useful teaching publications/organisations

3. Information cards

Additional information on specific aspects of the Holocaust

 

Important considerations

  • This web resource does not aim to teach the whole history of the Holocaust in chronological order. It is presumed that history teachers will already have covered the subject with students. Instead, the primary goal of the site is to use oral history in order to enable students to enhance their understanding of selected issues from the Holocaust relating to survivors' testimonies.
  • All the testimonies here reflect the viewpoint of victims of the Holocaust. There are no testimonies included from the perpetrators or the bystanders. Teachers should ensure they supplement these testimonies with other historical sources in order to promote further inquiry and discussion.
  • In order to prevent students from defining Jews as victims of the Holocaust, they should recognise the validity and strength of Jewish faith and culture. Students should therefore explore examples of Jewish pre-war culture. They should realise that millions of Jewish individuals were murdered during the Holocaust, thus destroying a way of life that had been developed over centuries. In spite of this, Jewish faith and culture managed to survive and continues today.
  • Teachers should explore the concept of anti-Semitism with students before using the web site in order to prevent any misleading false stereotypes concerning the depiction of Jews.
  • In order to enhance their students' understanding of the subject, teachers may consider gathering further evidence to supplement the testimonies. This could include historical sources, videos and visits by survivors.
  • Many groups were persecuted by the Nazis, including gypsies, people with disabilities, gays, all political opponents, black people, Jehovah's Witnesses). Teachers should make links between the events of the Holocaust and the persecution of other peoples around the world today.