The Holocaust was a 20th century genocide of staggering proportions. Over the course of twelve years, the Nazi Party brutally and systematically killed nearly six million Jews and five million other victims. It remains a profoundly tragic chapter of world history. It also remains an important part of history for students to study in order to better understand World War 2 and even current events. The activities in this guide present a variety of topics that will help teachers engage students in a discussion about the Holocaust to further develop an understanding of this very complex topic.
The Great War devastated Germany. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, Germany went into a deep depression. The country had to pay reparations for World War I to other countries and limit their military. Economy and industry were debilitated and Germany entered into a hyper-inflationary period. The German people suffered greatly, and blamed their leaders for prolonging the war and then badly negotiating terms in the Treaty of Versailles.
The success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia spread fears of communist expansion. Many political activists were imprisoned for instigating political unrest. A prevalent attitude among the German people was a preference for an authoritative government or leading body.
Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, a political manifesto, while serving time in prison for treason. Hitler blamed Germany’s disastrous economy on the Jewish race. After only serving nine months of a five-year sentence, Hitler, a mesmerizing speaker, drummed up enough political power and support to become Chancellor of Germany. His National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) took over and drastically changed Germany.
These activities are meant to help students grasp daunting questions about what lead to the bureaucratic and systematic extermination of the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other individuals that the Nazis deemed “undesirable”. Students will be able to represent the causes of the Holocaust and explain how the horrors of the Holocaust came to be.