Below is a collection of Yom HaShoah lesson plans, interactive tools, and articles created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
Yom Hashoah overview
- What: Offically called “Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah,” it is the Israeli Holocaust rememberence day, commemorating the heroism displayed during the Holocaust and the deaths of approximately six million Jews carried out through systematic genocide by Nazi Germany during WWII.
- Where: Yom HaShoah is a national holiday in Israel and is commemorated in Jewish communities around the world as well.
- When: Yom HaShoah is a one-day commemorative day begins at nightfall of the 27th of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
- Why: The Israeli government set aside a day to commemorate the Holocaust and after much deliberation, settled on the 27th of Nissan. This has been the date of Yom HaShoah since 1951. In addition, in 2005, the United Nations designated January 27th as an International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
- How: Starting the evening of the 27th of Nissan, businesses close and commemorative ceremonies take place throughout the country. Yad Vashem hosts the official ceremony for the State of Israel and it is broadcasted on television. The following morning, there is a two minute long siren that is heard nationwide — cars stop in the streets and everyone observes a moment of silence in memory of those who perished. More commemorative events take place in schools and community centers throughout the day.
*NOTE: Most activities listed below are more relevant to middle school or high school students, unless otherwise indicated.
Yom HaShoah Vocabulary
The Hebrew term for the Holocaust
Camps in which Jews and other miniorites were placed by the Nazis, located in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Camps included transit, labor, and extermination camps. Many prisoners died within months from starvation or violence. Some famous examples include Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and more.
A section of a Nazi-occupied city in which Jews were forced to live in squalid conditions; usually intended as gathering stations for Jews before deportation to concentration camps. Well-known ghettos include the Warsaw and Lodz Ghettos
|Gas Chamber||Sealed rooms used for mass murdering prisoners of concentration camps, usually from deadly gas emitted from shower nozzles|
|Nazi||The National Socialist Democratic Workers Party, headed by Adolf Hitler|
|Nuremberg Laws||Anti-Jewish laws enacted in 1935 which restricted citizenship and forced segrartion of Jews within their communities, including the mandated yellow stars on all Jews’ clothing|
|Kristallnacht||An attack on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues throughout Germany and Austria between November 9-10, 1938. Also known as “The Night of Broken Glass,” this night marked the beginning of the end for Jewish life in Europe during this time period.|
|Schutzstaffel (SS)||The German army’s elite guard group who guarded the concentration camps|
|Swastika||The Nazi party’s official symbol|
|Tekes טקס||A commemorative ceremony|
|Tzfira צפירה||A siren; the start of Yom HaShoah is signaled throughout Israel with a siren which signifies a marked moment of silence|
Yom HaShoah Educational Themes
- The importance of memory, both individual and communal
- Not allowing history to repeat itself
- Collective responsibility
- National identity
- Faith in difficult times
- Ethical dilemmas
- Bystanders vs. upstanders
Ideas for Classroom Discussions and Activities
- Read Holocaust-inspired poetry and analyze it together. See examples here.
- Research an individual who either survived or perished in the Holocaust.
- Discuss family connections to the Holocaust.
- Light memorial candles and recite traditional memorial prayers, such as the ones listed here. Listen to meaningful songs, such as “Eli, Eli” by Hannah Szenes. See more about using songs to commemorate the Shoah here.
- Art activities – view or create Holocaust-inspired art (famous examples of Holocaust art can be found here).
- Discuss: What are the benefits/disadvantages of emphasizing the Shoah as a key component of Jewish identity formation?
- Discuss: Is the Shoah a more important component of Jewish identity in Israel or in the Diaspora?
- Discuss: Should the Shoah be taught from a “universalist” perspective as a prime example of the danger of prejudice and man’s inhumanity to man, or from a “particularistic” perspective highlighting its uniqueness and its special focus on the extermination of the Jewish people?
- Discuss: At what age should Shoah education begin and what should be its content?
LESSON PLANS, RESOURCES, AND ACTIVITIES
Creating Memory – This arts-based program is intended to help young people encounter the Holocaust in a personal, emotional way. Add your name and email to the form in order to receive a free copy of the booklet, which can be used for both in-person and virtual programs. Created by The Lookstein Center.
Ancient Egypt and Modern Germany: An Integrated Unit – This integrated Tanakh and history unit allows high school students to examine Jewish identity, integration, and acculturation in a host society. By The Lookstein Center.
Holocaust Remembrance After the Survivors – This blog by Martin Herskovitz for The Lookstein Center details different ways to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, even after many survivors have passed away.
Educational Materials from Yad Vashem – This comprehensive page includes lesson plans, ceremony ideas, artifacts, and more.
Teacher Resources from the Museum of Tolerance – These comprehensive resources from the Museum of Tolerance includes lesson plans, articles, and more for students of all ages.
Teaching Materials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – These teaching resources include guidelines, lesson plans, and fundamentals of teaching the Holocaust.
English Lesson Plans from the Israeli Ministry of Education – This website includes lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school students. Hebrew resources can be found here.
Lesson Plans from the Museum of Jewish Heritage – These ten flexible lesson plans can be used across many different grade levels.
Holocaust Project Activities – These craft activities to commemorate the Holocaust can also be relevant for younger students. By Creative Jewish Mom.
Holocaust Teacher Resource Center – This page includes a variety of free articles about the Holocaust.
Educational Resources about the Holocaust – This page includes videos, lesson plans, and a comprehensive list of websites about Holocaust education.
HIGHLIGHTED ARTICLES FROM JEWISH EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP: teaching the holocaust
Issues in Holocaust Education – This article explores common issues in Holocaust education and how to tackle them.
Why I Teach the Shoah in Fifth Grade – This article discusses the importance of beginning Holocaust education at a young age.
Best Practices in Holocaust Education: Guidelines and Standards – This article addresses best practices in teaching about the Holocaust and how to implement them.
Teaching the Role of the Poles in the Shoah – This article analyzes the role of the Polish people during the Holocaust.
Stories and Sages: New Directions in Holocaust Education – This article shares some examples and lesson techniques for Holocaust education.
Holocaust Education for a New Generation: Learning to Meaningfully Confront Our Past – This article discusses how each school with its own varying values can approach the Holocaust from a perspective of morality and meaning.
Teaching History: Why the Facts Matter – This blog post explores the importance of getting the facts right when teaching about historical events such as the Holocaust. By Rabbi Lee Buckman for The Lookstein Center.
Relating the Four Sons to Holocaust Memory – This blog post compares the four sons of the Haggadah to the different approaches to commemorating the Holocaust. By Martin Herskovitz for The Lookstein Center.
Revitalizing the Tekkes – This blog post reviews methods for maximizing the school ceremonies for Yom HaShoah and other commemorative days. By Rabbi Yael Buechler for The Lookstein Center.
Yad Vashem Education Videos –This playlist of videos from Yad Vashem features many historical, informative videos to help teach about the Holocaust.
The Rise of the Nazis – This animated video from The History Channel gives an overview of Hitler’s rise to power.
Who Was Anne Frank? – This informative video from The History Channel provides background about Anne Frank’s life and legacy.
Everyday Life in the Warsaw Ghetto – This video from Yad Vashem provides historical context about the daily lives of Jews in the ghetto.
Israeli Yom Hashoah Siren – This video gives an example of Israelis reacting in real-time to the nationwide siren signaling a moment of silence for Yom Hashoah.
Survivor Videos – This page from the Holocaust Teacher Resource Center features many testimonials from Holocaust survivors.
Playlist of Survivor Testimonials – This playlist from the USC Shoah Foundation features full-length survivor testimonials.
A Holocaust Survivor Recalls The Day He Was Liberated – This short video from Buzzfeed shares the story of one survivor recalling the day of his liberation from the concentration camps.
Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel – This video from The Oprah Winfrey Show features an interview with Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel revisiting the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Francine’s Story – This interview with Holocaust survivor Francine Christophe recalls an emotional moment in the concentration camp.
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