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Established through an Executive Order signed by President Jimmy Carter, the annual Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust ask U.S. citizens to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust—the murder of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II. This year, the Days of Remembrance stretch from April 15 to April 22, with April 19 identified as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
How can you teach the Days of Remembrance in secondary classrooms? Some students may feel that the Holocaust happened long ago on another continent, a distant event that has little to do with their lives today. Teaching the Days of Remembrance and the Holocaust offers the chance to think about global connections, individual and group responsibility, the fragile nature of democracies, and the importance of individual vigilance and action.
What impact did the Holocaust have on the U.S.? When did the U.S. learn about it? How did the government respond? How did individuals respond? Who were the people who carried out the Holocaust? As a group? As individuals? Why did they carry out the Holocaust? Who were the individuals, institutions, and nations who helped the victims, often at the risk of their own lives?
How do people talk about and understand the Holocaust today in the U.S. and around the world? There are hundreds of difficult but rewarding questions you can explore with your students, sharpening their historical thinking skills and challenging them to consider the place of ethics and personal decisions in the past and the present.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum can help introduce students to these questions. Every year, the museum chooses a theme for the Days of Remembrance. This year, the theme is "Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue," focusing on the stories of those who risked their lives to help protect Jews from persecution, imprisonment, and death. Learn more about the theme (and request CDs and DVDs of free resources) at the museum's website.
Explore the website further to uncover:
- In-depth information for middle school and high school educators on how and why to teach the Holocaust
- The Holocaust Encyclopedia, featuring more than 700 articles and more than 500 ID cards describing the lives of Holocaust victims
- Lesson plans and activities covering topics ranging from pre-World War II Jewish life to genocide today
- Guides to resources on the U.S. response to the Holocaust, rescue efforts during the Holocaust, and the aftereffects of the Holocaust
- Materials for Jewish American Heritage Month and African American History Month
- Video of U.S. reactions to Kristallnacht
- Maps, video, testimonies, and more on the liberation of Holocaust prison camps
- President Barack Obama's remarks on visiting the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp
- Artifacts related to the Nuremberg trials
The museum also maintains online exhibits, including:
- Life After the Holocaust — the lives of six survivors who came to the U.S.
- Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings
- The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936
- Life Reborn: Jewish Displaced Persons 19451951 — a look at the lives of displaced Holocaust survivors
- Voyage of the Saint Louis — the voyage of Jewish refugees denied entrance to Cuba, Canada, and the U.S.
- Flight and Rescue — escape from Nazi-controlled Europe was only the beginning
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of many institutions offering materials on the Holocaust. For more resources, visit our Days of Remembrance spotlight page. The page also features materials on Jewish American history.