Wanted: Holocaust Cybereducators

By Sharna Marcus

Today I asked my students to create a Graffiti Wall that would help future generations remember the Holocaust – we had just finished reading Night and I thought it would help bring closure to all we have read and learned…. However, for the first time I had a student refuse to do the assignment because that was not relevant to her and she honestly doesn’t believe it happened.

I happened upon them on accident.

Post after post by public school high school teachers asking questions about the Holocaust.

My colleague invited me to join two online communities for high school humanities teachers. She said that she had been exposed to many new ideas that have enhanced her curriculum and sent the links.

Eventually, I started seeing posts from these communities and many, many, many of them were about the Holocaust. The posts ranged from total ignorance to dealing with students who would laugh at pictures of death camps. Here are a few of them.

I started introducing the play [Anne Frank] and what it was about and I’ve already had 3 classes out of my 5 where students praised Hitler for helping with overpopulation and said he did what was best for the world. I am at a loss for words and have no idea how to handle this situation and help them understand.

I need ideas and guidance. This is my first year teaching 8th grade. We are reading The Book Thief and Social Studies is studying World War Two. Next quarter Social Studies is studying the Holocaust, and I will be doing activities to support that (she is reading Anne Frank). I have been noticing a number of swastikas written on folders and desks in my class, and it has now gone into the other classes as well. I don’t want to just make this a discipline issue, I would like to make it a teaching moment.

I am about to start my Holocaust unit, and I am very aware that my kiddos are lacking in historical awareness. The only thing my unit is missing is the front loading portion to give them the historical background. Suggestions? I’m thinking a PowerPoint with Guided Notes because my kids do surprisingly well with those… but I can’t find a good one online and I’m really lacking for time.

I’m starting a holocaust unit with my 8th graders on Monday that includes the butterfly poem and Anne Frank as a play. Any intro activities that are good for extremely unmotivated students?? I have all levels of learner from SPED to Pre-AP.

The good news is that teachers are teaching about the Holocaust. The bad news is that they are lacking in knowledge and resources to properly teach about it. Reading these posts stressed me out. As an educator, I wanted to help them. For the teacher requesting a PowerPoint, I sent her one. But the posts keep coming, and I have a family and full-time job. I cannot be the virtual Holocaust educator for America’s secondary education teachers. However, there are people who can.

Facing History and Ourselves, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Yad Vashem all have excellent trainings for teachers. I’ve personally benefited from the Facing History resources for almost 20 years. However, what they do not have and need are cyber educator units. There are hundreds of feeds for secondary teachers. These cyber educator units would scan for posts on social media educator feeds about the Holocaust and respond with good, helpful advice and resources These teachers could also be recruited (and given scholarship to) summer trainings. Some of the cyber educator units should include those fluent in European languages and Russian to offer help to teachers in those areas.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana have all had incidents that went viral of large groups high school students giving the Nazi salute. Their schools wrestle with how to respond. What if the response was pre-emptive? The only way to accomplish this next phase of Holocaust education, the post-survivor phase, is by giving teachers the support that they need and where they go to get it: on social media.

Sharna Marcus teaches History and English at a secular private school in Israel.