Below is information to keep in mind when using this lesson. In some cases, the points elaborate on general suggestions listed in the “Teaching about the Holocaust” section in the Introduction to this resource, and are specific to the content of the lesson. This material is intended to help teachers consider the complexities of teaching the Holocaust and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.
• Students will likely have a general understanding of what is meant by “the Holocaust,” but that understanding may come primarily from movies and a few assigned readings. Determine what students know about the Holocaust and how they have come to possess that knowledge.
• It is important that students have a clear understanding of the vocabulary used in Echoes and Reflections. Teachers may decide to distribute a copy of the Glossary to each student for future reference or point out where students can access the Glossary online. It is recommended that other words in the lesson that may be unfamiliar to students are also reviewed to ensure understanding of the subject matter.
• Help students understand that the Nazis used words and phrases to influence and manipulate the masses. The term Kristallnacht is an example of Nazi “language.” Translated, Kristallnacht means “Crystal Night” (also often translated as “Night of Broken Glass”), a description that hardly captures the devastation and demoralization that Jews faced across Germany, Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia on November 9/10, 1938. There are numerous other examples of this same tendency in the language of the Nazi perpetrators: Sonderbehandlung (“special treatment”) for the murder of primarily Jewish victims, Euthanasie for a policy of mass murder of individuals with mental or physical disabilities, Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Makes You Free”) over the entrance to Auschwitz. When the Nazis launched their plan to annihilate the remaining Jews in Poland in the fall of 1943, they called it Erntefest, or “Harvest Festival.” While this may have been a code word, it had the same grim irony that was reflected in Kristallnacht.
• Teachers are strongly discouraged from using simulations when teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides. There is a danger that students might be excited by the power of the perpetrators or demonstrate a morbid fascination for the suffering of the victims. It may be useful, however, for students to take on the role of someone from a neutral country, responding to events: a journalist writing an article or editorial; a concerned citizen writing to his or her political representative; or a campaigner trying to mobilize public opinion. Such activities can highlight possible courses of action that students can take about events that concern them in the world today.
• Many students will be unfamiliar with the medium of first-person, visual history testimony. Students will react to the visual history testimony in this and all of the lessons in very different ways. This range of responses should be expected and welcomed. It may be necessary for students to view a particular testimony clip more than once in order to feel comfortable with the medium and to process the information presented by the interviewee. For additional information on using visual history testimony in the classroom, refer to “About Visual History Testimony” in the Introduction to this resource or access Guidelines for Using Visual History Testimony on the website.