Teaching with Survivor Art: An Inquiry Design Model

Can art reflect the pain of the Holocaust? This is the compelling question that is asked and examined in this collection of five focused inquiries using Holocaust survivor art. Inquiry should be a routine practice in any classroom; therefore, the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, through the generous financial support of The Covenant Foundation, has created five educational narratives based upon the Inquiry Design Model – each focused on survivor art pieces within our collection at the HMC.

Why teach the Holocaust through survivor art?
Art often expresses what words cannot. It allows the experiences and memories of the artist to come through the work. Learners of all ages can merge their experiences with the images presented, in a presentation that is safe as well as personal to the viewer. Contextualizing history through art allows the viewer to safely witness a facet of Holocaust history at a pace that provides space for inquiry, exploration, contemplation, and discussion. Why did the artist create this piece? What message is conveyed to the viewer? What has been learned from the art? Such inquiry into art, in various settings, sets the stage for robust learning, vibrant conversation, and inquiry that moves beyond the piece of art itself.

How can the Holocaust be taught using survivor art?
There are many considerations when using art to teach the Holocaust. Ensure it is age-appropriate for your audience. Allot sufficient time and space to view, contemplate, and discuss the art piece. Use at a time when a visual would set a more resonant tone with your students than words or timelines. Provide background information on the artist as questions unfold. The Arc of Inquiry is an important part of this process.

How are these inquiries organized?
The five guides use Holocaust survivor art in different media to explore the compelling question, Can art reflect the pain of the Holocaust? A compelling question is one that focuses on an enduring issue and concern. Each inquiry focuses on a different supporting question to help guide the development of an inquiry into the compelling question. The five inquiries are presented in a specific order to address the compelling question from different angles and perspectives. Each inquiry is a focused inquiry that condenses the inquiry experience into a one or two day lesson. The inquiries are designed so they can be used independently or collectively. In addition, each inquiry has recommendations for extension activities as well as suggested modifications for English Language Learners/English as a Second Language students and for students with disabilities.

Question 1: How can Holocaust survivor art be used to understand the history of the Holocaust?

Question 1 (PDF) Question 1 (Word)

Question 2: How do first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors provide an understanding of specific events of the Holocaust?

Question 2 (PDF) Question 2 (Word)

Question 3: How were the perspectives of the Holocaust represented differently through art?

Question 3 (PDF) Question 3 (Word)

Question 4: How do works of art represent Holocaust survivor’s life circumstances?

Question 4 (PDF) Question 4 (Word)

Question 5: What can Holocaust survivor art tell us about the life circumstances of the artist?

Question 5 (PDF) Question 5 (Word)