Holocaust Memorial Day


Write on the board: Holocaust – when? who? where? what? why? how?

Ask students, in small groups, to discuss the questions for 10 – 15 minutes, to see how much they know. You could allow them to use phones / tablets to access the internet if you like. Elicit answers and tell them it’s Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January and that we need to remember the Holocaust so that it never happens again.

Reading / quiz

Ask learners to read the short text about the Holocaust in this link and try to remember all the important facts. They can have time to discuss in pairs which facts they think are most important.

Then click on the link to the quiz under the article and get the class to do the quiz to check what they remembered. If necessary, they can read the text again, or access the text on their own phones / tablets / computers.

Film trailers

Ask if the class know any films about the Holocaust, and why they think many films have been made about it.

Dictate these 3 questions:

  1. What do you think the story of the film is?
  2. Who do you think are the main characters?
  3. What do you think is the message of the film?

Tell learners they are going to watch 3 film trailers and then write their answers to the 3 questions for each of the films, in pairs. At the end, they will read what the other pairs have written and anyone who has seen the films can decide which version is closest to the truth. (If no-one has seen the films, you could look up summaries online. Alternatively, you could choose to use only one or two of the trailers).

Play the first trailer, then give pairs 10 – 15 minutes to write their answers.
Repeat with the second and third trailer.

Blu-tac all the writing to the board / walls of the classroom. All the learners stand up to read them. They select which is closest to the truth, and you can select some common errors and elicit corrections.


Dictate or display these questions:

  1. What has the world learnt from the Holocaust?
  2. Which situations share similarities to the Holocaust in the world today?
  3. What can we do to stop the Holocaust happening again?

Learners, in groups of three, discuss the 3 questions and make a poster to put up on the wall.


This unit was created by Linda Ruas, GISIG Joint-Coordinator.

8 Responses to Holocaust Memorial Day

  1. Bill Templer January 21, 2018 at 9:39 pm #

    1. What occurred on Jan. 27, 1945? Why was that date chosen to mark Holocaust Memorial Day?

    2. Ask students to search the etymon, the origin of the term ‘Holocaust’, originally a Greek word in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

    3. The modern Hebrew word for the Holocaust in WW II, used by many Jews, is Shoah, in Hebrew שואה, an ancient word meaning ‘catastrophe’. Israel celebrates Holocaust Day in the Hebrew calendar a week after the end of Passover, on 27 Nisan, in April or May. The memorial day is called Yom HaShoah jn Hebrew and can be read about here: http://goo.gl/SPzxUw

    4. Another word applied to the Nazi Holocaust is ‘genocide’, also based on Greek, coined in 1944. What does it mean? Are there examples of genocide ongoing today, reported in the news for all to see? Ask students: what is ‘ethnic cleansing’?

    5. What was the most notorious Nazi concentration camp, and what do students know about it?

    6. What do students know about the Holocaust in their own country?

    7. What is anti-Semitism and what do students know about it?

    8. The Nazi racist-biological ideology singled out the Jews for mass annihilation and one other ethnic group, still widespread across Eastern Europe, often very poor and marginalized, with many migrants today in Europe’s West. What was that pan-European group and what do students know about them in the Holocaust, and today?

    9. In one country in southeastern Europe, Bulgaria—an ally of Nazi Germany in the fascist Axis during WW II—the entire Jewish population of some 50,000 Jews were rescued from mass murder during the Holocaust. This was by the actions of a group of politicians in the Parliament, several key bishops in the Orthodox Church and many ordinary simple people, along with Tsar Boris III, the Bulgarian monarch.

    The government in Sofia (and Boris III) defied an order from Berlin in 1943 to hand over all Jews for deportation. Berlin finally backed down. But Tsar Boris III died suddenly, ‘mysteriously’ in Aug. 1943 soon after returning from a meeting in Berlin with Hitler. Most historians believe he was poisoned in Berlin by Hitler, who was furious with the Bulgarian regime and its defiance in regard to the Jews. Bulgaria had also refused to deploy soldiers to fight against the advancing Red Army, as Berlin had requested. The German Wehrmacht was stationed all over Bulgaria, as an ‘ally.’

    ***Bulgaria is commemorating the 75th anniversary of that unique rescue this spring, beginning with festivities on Jan. 27. Students and teachers can read about that here: https://sofiaglobe.com/2018/01/18/shalom-announces-programme-for-75th-anniversary-of-rescue-of-bulgarian-jews-from-holocaust/

    10. Here materials to learn about the Holocaust from USHMM in Washington: https://www.ushmm.org/learn

    11. Here an article on the Holocaust students can read and discuss: http://goo.gl/mcwaJT

    12. A personal brief interview on 27 Jan. 2017 a year ago that students would appreciate and readily understand is with Harry Bibring, now 92. He recalls his Holocaust experience, born in Vienna. Harry was 12 in November 1938 during the great Kristallnacht pogrom across Germany and Austria, and later fled to the UK. All his family was murdered. Harry talks about his dedicated work speaking in schools in the UK about the Holocaust: http://news.sky.com/video/holocaust-survivor-recalls-his-experiences-10744410
    Students can also discuss this article about Harry and his life: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/holocaust_survivors_gallery_03.shtml

  2. Bill Templer January 22, 2018 at 8:35 am #

    A striking film available in full on youtube is ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR (1987), a British dramatic film directed by Jack Gold, dealing with the Sobibor concentration camp and the revolt by prisoners in Oct.1943:

    Students can watch on their own (2:22 min. in toto). Many memorable scenes and based on a true story of actual prisoner revolt and successful escape. Much to discuss. The transport train arrival scene with prisoners (min. 4:20-17:25) is shattering to watch, an iconic sequence, extraordinary images.

    This on the film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Sobibor
    This on Sobibor camp: http://goo.gl/JrKWJK

    It makes for an intriguing Holocaust cinematic focus. And underlines Jewish resistance inside a brutal camp on Polish soil to the horrors of WW II.

  3. Bill Templer January 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    A very useful IATEFL webinar by Margarita Kosior in November 2017 centered on teaching about the Holocaust with direct reference to the Maidanek concentration camp, which is adjacent to her native hometown of Lublin in eastern Poland. Margarita also utilized the film THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS as a key part of the lesson for her students.

    Lublin is also a short distance (109 km) from the Sobibor concentration camp mentioned above, see: http://goo.gl/jextzk . IATEFL members can access the recording of that webinar via the webinar site at https://www.iatefl.org/

  4. Bill Templer January 27, 2018 at 9:18 am #

    Here a very personal brief article for HMD 2018: “My family is Jewish. My penpal’s has a Nazi past. Such is friendship” by Leonie Mellinger:


    Leonie (an actor in the UK) is the granddaughter of Werner Scholem, murdered at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1940 as a high-profile ‘Jewish communist’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Scholem ), the older brother of the famous Israeli expert on Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem . Both brothers were born and raised in Berlin.

    Here a new biography of Werner Scholem just published by Mirjam Zadoff, an Austrian-Jewish historian on staff at Indiana University, whose work I know well: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Werner-Scholem-German-Culture-Contexts/dp/0812249690/ref=sr_1_1

    Leonie’s penpal Viktoria in Germany turns out to be the granddaughter [!] of Baldur von Schirach, head of the Nazi Hitler Youth. Incredible the two granddaughters of these diametrically opposed men becoming, in time’s uncanny and healing undulations, long-time friends.

  5. Bill Templer February 6, 2018 at 9:48 am #

    This from UNESCO just publsihed about the importance of teaching about the Holocaust, many good framework ideas there: https://en.unesco.org/news/importance-teaching-and-learning-about-holocaust

  6. Bill Templer January 25, 2020 at 10:51 pm #

    January 27, 2020 75th anniversary of the liberation of the extermination camp Auschwitz in southwestern Poland by the Soviet Red Army. A lesson plan centering on HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY Jan. 27 is here in Margarita Kosior’s book. 12 Months of Social Issues, pp. 6-12: https://gisig.iatefl.org/wp-content/uploads/12MSI_GISIG.pdf Teachers can explore, perhaps use the lesson plan (centering on Anne Frank and her diary) on a different day to teach about this unspeakable event in European history not so long ago.

    A friend of mine over many years, Prof. Otto Dov Kulka (b. April 1933), eminent historian emeritus of Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was a small boy in Auschwitz, interred there in Sept. 1943 at age 10, and survived, almost age 12 when liberated.. Dov’s book LANDSCAPES OF THE METROPOLIS OF DEATH: REFLECTIONS ON MEMORY AND IMAGINATION (2014) is about coming to terms in later life with terrible fraught memories of events during his 16-month childhood internment in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It should be read by every teacher.
    Otto Dov Kulka is the only eminent historian of WW II, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, German as his L1, to have grown up as a young boy in the horrors of Auschwitz. He emigrated to Israel from Czechoslovakia in 1949, aged 16. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Landscapes-Metropolis-Death-Reflections-Imagination/dp/071819702X/ref=sr_1_4
    This an overview of the book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Dov_Kulka#Landscapes_of_the_Metropolis_of_Death

    The World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem 23 Jan. 2020 was attended by many political leaders, dignitaries, survivors; a range of videos are available that teachers and students can explore: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=world+holocaust+Forum++2020

    You can find a range of teaching materials on the Holocaust here: https://www.ushmm.org/teach/teaching-materials

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