Teaching the Holocaust and Genocide

Film recommendations

Film and Documentary Recommendations

Last Update August 2018

Preparation before, during, and after viewing films/documentaries. Source

PBS Guide to Teaching Genocide

PBS Teachers is PBS' national web destination for high-quality preK-12 educational resources. This site offers classroom materials suitable for a wide range of subjects and grade levels. PBS  provides thousands of lesson plans, teaching activities, on-demand video assets, and interactive games and simulations. These resources are correlated to state and national educational standards and are tied to PBS' award-winning on-air and online programming like NOVA, Nature, Cyberchase, Between the Lions and more.

This site offers four different teaching guides for separate age groups from grade 3 to grade 12. Guide includes text suggestions and many online resources.

Facing History and Ourselves

Founded in 1976, Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.

Human Rights and Genocide: Case Study of the First Modern Genocide of the 20th Century

This comprehensive teacher's manual focuses on the Armenian Genocide of 1915 during which 1.5 million Armenians, half of the Armenian population, were systematically annihilated. It includes a 1-day, 2-day, and 10-day unit with all the materials teachers will need, including more than two dozen overheads, interactive classroom exercises and more. Discussions include a wide range of topics related to the Armenian Genocide: the history of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, primary source documents, witness and survivor memoirs, maps and political-economic timelines, and the problem of denial. The lessons also consider the links between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, and capture other major human rights violations such as the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Rape of Nanking, and the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides.

The Genocide Teaching Project

The Project provides resources to teach about the legal concept of genocide in high schools, including a discussion of the Genocide Convention (1948), a brief overview of genocides that have taken place throughout history, and the types of behavior and actions, which may lead to genocide. Our two lesson plans include a 90-minute lesson on the genocide in Rwanda and a 45-minute lesson on the current violence in Darfur, Sudan. After the students learn about these two crises, the lessons conclude by having the students identify actions they can take - both as individuals and as a group - to impact the situation in Sudan and to ensure that genocide does not happen again.

PBS offers lesson plans for preparing students to watch documentaries in class.

Blessed is the Match: The Story of Hannah Senesh (2008)

Narrated by Joan Allen, Blessed Is the Match is the first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, the World War II-era poet and diarist who became a paratrooper, resistance fighter and modern-day Joan of Arc. Safe in Palestine in 1944, Hannah joined a mission to rescue Jews in her native Hungary. Shockingly, it was the only military rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by the Nazis.

A free 30-page Study Guide for middle and high school students, and created by Facing History and Ourselves, is now available. Source

My Neighbor, My Killer (2008)

The 1994 genocide of Tutsis by Hutus left Rwanda physically and psychically bereft and unable to function. The Gacaca Law mandated Tutsis and Hutus to reconcile--to forgive and move on with the rebuilding of the nation. Anne Aghion spent more than nine years chronicling the peace process to produce this brilliant documentary that brings us to a new level of understanding about the human capacity for creating mutuality. Source

The Devil Came on Horseback (2007)

Brian Steidle was quite surprised to find himself an advocate for social and political change--when his personal point of view about the world of international politics was transformed by his serving as an observer for the African Union in the Sudan. For six months, he watched the Sudanese Arab-controlled government actively engage in an ongoing systematic genocide against black citizens living in the country’s Darfur region. He decided he had to do something to save hundreds of thousands of innocent people from slaughter. Source

The Number on my Great-Grandpa’s Arm (appropriate for younger viewers)

When ten-year-old Elliott asks his 90-year-old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, he sparks an intimate conversation about Jack’s life that spans happy memories of childhood in Poland, the loss of his family, surviving Auschwitz and finding a new life in America.

The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm is the centerpiece for a new installation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, which includes the film, its animation art, and companion segments produced by HBO featuring survivors in conversation with young people. Source

Hotel Rwanda (2004) (High School)

Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages. Source

Teacher Resources

Schindler’s List (1993) (High School)

This seven-time Academy Award winning film, directed by Stephen Spielberg, dramatizes the efforts of Oskar Schindler who saved the lives of over a thousand Polish Jewish refugees during the Holocaust of World War II. View still images of the actual list, as well as shots of “The Girl in Red” from the film. Source

The Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler (High School/Middle School) 

Irena Sendler, a small Polish Catholic social worker, rescued 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. As a social worker, Irena was able to legally enter the ghetto. With the help of an underground resistance network, she bravely used everything from toolboxes and potato sacks to ambulances to smuggle children out. Incredibly, every single child she brought out survived.

This classic Hallmark Hall of Fame film strays away from violence, sexual content, and profanity without downplaying anything. There is a torture scene towards the end that’s not graphic but very difficult to watch. Otherwise, this movie is well acted and well made, and is among my top favorites. Image credit: The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler. Source

Run, Boy, Run (High School/Adult)

Based upon a true story, Run, Boy Run is the unbelievable story of a nine year old Jewish boy who survives the Holocaust on his own for two and a half years. With his adorable looks, innocent charm, and his newly learnt Catholic prayers, Jurek survives by living in the woods and relying on friendly Polish farmers to take him in for a night or two.  During this time, he also freaking loses his arm in a freak accident – and survives it all.

It has low content problems, however is an incredibly hard film to watch, especially for mothers (my mom couldn’t finish it). There’s a particularly intense scene when Jurek outsmarts a group of German soldiers after being arrested. He runs for his life in the woods, with soldiers behind him shooting and giant German shepherds on his heels. The film is available on Netflix! Source

Hidden In Silence (Middle School/High School)

Based on a true story, teenager Stefania Podgorska and her younger sister shelter thirteen Jewish people in their attic for two and a half years. This film’s content is low and is Dove family approved for ages 12+. Source