“When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.”
-Elie Wiesel, author and Holocaust survivor
All my life I have read about Rome, the Eternal City. However, until I walked the stone steps of the Colosseum or stood looking out on St. Peter’s Square, I had no idea of the magnitude of that history.
As teachers, we often cover topics, events, and people who are far distant from any understanding of our students. For brains that only comprehend the immediate, historical events such as the fall of Rome, The Spanish Inquisition, or WWII are, for all intents and purposes, ancient history. It is not until there is some tangible object for them to connect to that many learners understand the weight and magnitude of historical events. I saw this when one of my students stopped in the forum with an awed look and said, “People have walked these streets for thousands of years!”
With this understanding in mind, the TAG cohort of teachers approached the very momentous events of the Holocaust. We have striven to understand and create lessons that allow students to connect with artifacts from the Holocaust that bring to life the individuals who owned them.
As always, it is exceedingly important to use engaging experiences in the classroom to bring the past to life. Putting a human face on a very complex moment in history is essential to connecting individual narratives to society as a whole. The artifacts and the stories they tell afford students an opportunity to learn about the individuals who owned them, and their experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust.
The following is the end product of a collaboration between social studies and English educators. Each lesson contains an artifact, enrichment pieces, and Core Content/State Standards for easy use and in-depth learning. These are lessons that can easily be put into practice to save you time and stress.
It is our driving purpose to educate our students about the Holocaust by showing the humanity in the stories we tell. Each artifact, and so many more that are not contained here, bring to life those witnesses from the past so that we may tell their narrative authentically and faithfully. We hope that you find these valuable and useful tools for your classes.
-Sara Pohl and the Ingham ISD TAG team