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Curricular Connections: Holocaust Remembrance

The Holocaust is often a difficult topic to discuss with students. This guide offers tips for approaching the subject, as well as cross-curricular connections for a more meaningful reading experience.

As a pre-reading activity, have students complete an anticipation guide structured in the following manner:

Before ReadingAfter ReadingStatements
Following a leader who improves a country by promoting job creation, rebuilding community awareness, and instilling a sense of pride and patriotism is always a good idea regardless of how that process is carried out.
It is acceptable to remove a member of a society if he or she is thought to be inferior.
Losing some individual freedom is acceptable if it benefits the community or society as a whole.
If you disagree with a rule, law, or public policy, it is better to remain silent than speak out and risk punishment.
A civilized society would ensure that its functions never allow a child to be harmed intentionally.
  • Instruct students to complete the guide by placing a “+” sign in the box next to the statements for which they agree, and a “0” next to those for which they disagree. They must commit to agreement or disagreement-there are no conditional responses. Assure students that there are no correct or incorrect positions.
  • Once students complete the guide, read each statement aloud and have students who agree show it by standing or raising their hands. Each student should be permitted to provide their rationale for agreeing if they wish.
  • Repeat the process after reading each book, giving students the opportunity to provide their rationales for keeping or changing their positions.
  • This activity can be effectively coupled with a KWHL chart for the Holocaust.

The social and ethnic antagonisms that resulted in the Holocaust go far beyond the Nazi regime in Germany. Have student groups investigate the fate of a selected group of Holocaust victims (Jews, Roma, Poles, homosexuals, communists, mentally/physically disabled, etc.) as a historical process. Groups should develop time lines plotting the history of antagonism toward their subject, culminating in the Holocaust. Groups may present their findings, emphasizing the causes and effects of the points of their time lines. When applicable, groups should refer to examples from or allusions in the texts.

Three of the books utilize Poland as part of their setting (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Milkweed, In My Hands). Task students with creating “A Brief History of Poland,” emphasizing the region’s role and location as a cultural crossroads as they do so. Assign student groups a time period to investigate (a century per group should be sufficient). Groups may develop presentations of their era to the class, or members of each group can come together in a jigsaw activity to discuss their time frame.

Each of the books provides a unique perspective on the concept of family. Instruct individual students, student pairs, or student groups to develop a comparison of the treatment of the concept of family in at least two of the texts. This can be done as a short graphic organizer activity (e.g., a Venn diagram or double-bubble Thinking Map), or as a more elaborate activity such as an essay.

The language that authors use in their works is essential to getting across their intended meaning. Select four quotes from one or more of these novels that seem to signify key ideas that the author hopes that readers take from the book(s). These might be quotes spoken by characters or might be from the narration, and page numbers should be included with the quotes. Have students develop a chart with the following four columns:

  • Quote
  • Page Number
  • Relevance to the Novel
  • Intended Meaning for Readers

The intended meaning should have relevance not only to the characters in the text, but also to the lives of anyone who reads the book(s).

In each book, there is at least one character whose actions put them at tremendous personal risk. This risk is typically physical, emotional, or psychological, or is a combination of these. Risk management is a valuable skill for teens to learn and utilize now and in their futures. Have students select a character from one of the books (or compare characters across texts) and develop a simple risk management plan for them, citing examples from the texts to support the points of their plans. Some of the broad information their plans could include would be:

  • Identifying and characterizing risks
  • Determining the vulnerability of themselves and people/things important to them to the threats they identify
  • Assessing the risk involved if the threats are realized (what is the best-case scenario, worst-case, etc.)
  • Determining ways to reduce the threats
  • Prioritizing risks and developing a strategy to manage them based on their priority

A risk management analysis can also be developed, where students critique their character(s) on their ability to manage their risks through the course of the text(s).

Additional resources

Discussion guides

Teaching resources