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Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Syrian boy plays the violin at refugee encampment, Edirne, Turkey, September 2015

Classroom Presentations and Training for Educators

Choose from nearly 20 PowerPoint presentations designed for 90-minute blocks. They can easily be adapted to any classroom format. The topics have also been divided into separate presentations for different level abilities of students. Scroll down for list of in-service presentations.

To Schedule a Presentation or Professional Training In-Service Workshop, email Tom White.

Printable List of Presentations and In-Service Workshops

Classroom Presentations

1. Judaism & Historical Anti-Judaism

For classes such as World Perspectives I, Western Civilization, Intro to Holocaust, or Sociology, this presentation gives an overview of the history of Judaism and its religious traditions, ideas, and values. The roots of historical anti-Judaism are also traced, from antiquity to the European Middle Ages. This is a good starting point for any study of the Holocaust.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

2. Antisemitisms: Hate as Identity

This presentation explores the origins of antisemitism utilizing Rabbi Jonathan Sak’s metaphor of a “mutating virus.” How do issues of identity (individual and collective) allow the cultural expression of antisemitism? The development of antisemitic tropes and ideas from pre-Christian anti-Judaism to Christian anti-Judaism and antisemitism to modern antisemitism will be examined. This presentation broadly examines the difficult relationship between Judaism and Christianity and Christianity’s wrestling with its own assumptions and traditions while facing the darkness of the Holocaust. We will wrestle with current manifestations of antisemitism – including anti-Zionism – while examining what is at stake.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

3. Traveling and Studying in Israel

This presentation developed from trips to Israel and will serve as a fun travelogue illustrating the geography, culture, and history of Israel. Particular focus will be given to the Old City of Jerusalem as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites. Additionally, we will visit the landscapes of the Galilee, Masada and the Dead Sea, as well as the Jordanian and Lebanese borders. The presentation will end by highlighting the work and mission of Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority).

4. The Rise of the Nazis: 1933-1939 (Middle School)

This presentation will focus on the origins and rise of the Nazis; the accession to political power; the human rights violations and antisemitic policies. How do human rights violations escalate without being checked and what is the responsibility of individuals when facing such violations? A major focus will be how we create the ‘other’ and how to be an Upstander in the face of a perpetrator or bully. An ideal introductory presentation for high school and middle school dealing with the issues of personal and social responsibility and resisting bullying behavior.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

5. Rise of the Nazis: Establishing Dictatorship, Destroying Democracy (1933-1936)

The Nazis were not interested in governing, they were interested in ruling. Focusing on the early years of the Nazis we explore the layers of complicity and cooperation that undermined the German democratic system. We will look at contextual factors such as WW I; the poisonous political climate; political intrigue; manipulation of law; manipulation of the electoral and legal process; and the motivations of industrialists, nationalists, and radicals. By exploring the concept of individual initiative of “working towards the Führer” this study of German society will also examine the momentum towards the Nazi racialized state. How do human rights violations escalate without being checked and what is the responsibility of individuals when facing such violations?

Timeline 1932-1937
Student Worksheet Rise of Nazis: Establishing Dictatorship, Destroying Democracy
Essay Establishing Dictatorship, Destroying Democracy

6. Discrimination and Law in Nazi Germany (1933-1938)

The Nazis passed over 2000 laws in their persecution of German Jews. This simple figure shows how the Nazis were obsessed not only with the “Jewish Question,” but also in their need to act “legally.” Hitler had a great contempt for law, but came to see its use as an absolutely necessary in his war to progressively remove human rights from those he perceived as dangerous threats to the German Volk. Why? This presentation deals with the legal dimension of the Holocaust and its role in the lead-up to the so-called “Final Solution”. The actions of the police and the judiciary will be highlighted with a particular focus on Franz Schlegelberger. He served in the Ministry of Justice from 1931-1942. For the last seventeen months of his service, Schlegelberger was Director of the Ministry of Justice. Key themes in the development of human rights violations, individual initiative, and social constructs will be discussed to illustrate early warning signs of genocide.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

7. Elie Wiesel: Trauma, Remembrance and Hope

Live, do not despair. What do we want our students to learn when teaching Night?

“Such is the miracle: A tale about despair becomes a tale against despair.” Open Heart, p, 73.

I often hear that teachers and students are apprehensive or hesitant to teach or read Elie Wiesel’s Night. Perhaps that is because we believe that our role is to point out that evil exists in the world. True. But if this is our only focus, we will live in a “gloom and doom” curriculum. What is left to teach except despair and hopelessness?

I would like to suggest that we teach Night not to only have our students encounter the history of the Holocaust, but to also learn to live fuller and more productive lives. Wiesel’s writing of his stylized, constructed memoir was a beginning for him, not an end. He writes a counter-narrative of protest that attempts to frame or hold the devastation of the world of his childhood, but through the eyes of a Hasidic boy. It is a witnessing story that serves as a new beginning, a breaking away from the bleakness of 1944-1945. Wiesel’s writing of Night served as a springboard to life – to a vocation, to tremendous deeds, to discover how to live as a Jew in the post Holocaust world. I would offer that rather than try to avoid the trauma or even to dwell in it, we should use the text to inspire our students to find ways of contributing to the world now grounded in deeper knowledge.

To do this, I would suggest that it is pedagogically imperative to pair Night with Wiesel’s 2013 Open Heart. Facing open heart surgery Wiesel explores, in a very short text, what it means to open his heart. Pairing these two texts will illustrate that Wiesel was not frozen in time, a captive to despair. Life went on and Wiesel found joy, fulfillment and purpose through family and teaching. Open Heart can be used to open up Night and allow students wrestle with the text as Wiesel does. How does Open Heart inform us about his journey?

The first line begins with a date. The date is suggestive, June. Deportations to the “kingdom of Night” from Wiesel’s hometown of Sighet took place in May. We live with trauma and as anniversaries arrive in our lives we are always conscious of it. In Chapter 5, Wiesel reflects on what happened in the camps and gives us more insight into his relationship with his father. In chapter 8 he clings to life and all that the future may hold. Throughout this book Wiesel offers short reflections on his son; his father; his family; wrestling with despair; writing Night and his 50 other works; of embracing a Jewish identity; and asking if his life has contributed to the world. Though he rarely ever talks about his mother and sisters (some things must always remain private and personal) he does mention them in Open Heart. He also comes to a moment of healing with his father.

And so, I encourage you not to avoid the trauma, but by witnessing it, we use it to inspire responsibility. Wiesel employs us to never give up and never despair. “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” There is enough in Open Heart that will inspire reflection and open up new thoughts and possibilities both in reading Night and in living a life well lived. Students will see Wiesel in new ways, ‘fencing with the shadows, but always having the song.’

This power point presentation traces the life of Elie Wiesel from his birth in Sighet, Romania; his early, formative years; the historical context of Hungarian history; the round-up of his family and deportation to Auschwitz. We will discuss Night as the beginning, not end, of Wiesel’s encounter with the Shoah by exploring the text through his Hasidic roots and identity. We will explore Night as a counter-narrative; a constructed memoir; a crafted testimony; a matzeva (marker/gravestone) about the limits of witnessing and “surviving survival.” And yet, by studying the Shoah and Wiesel’s writings we will encounter his hope that the spark for goodness must be ignited within us.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

Student Worksheet: Elie Wiesel

8. A “Perfect Storm”: Antecedents and Precursors to the Holocaust

This presentation examines the preexisting prejudices, myths, anxieties and fears that the Nazis utilized to not only become a mainstream political party, but one with “moral authority” within German society. Focus will be given to persecution of the offspring of French-African soldiers after World War I; homosexuals; the handicapped; the Sinti and Roma; Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Jews. In the cases of these minorities, professionals and many segments of society became invested with the questions thrust before them and wrestled – through growing frustration – to imagine more radical solutions…from sterilization to deportation to… While obsessed with “the Jews”, the Nazi persecution of many groups helped them to utilize natural social processes of group identification and turn them on a genocidal path. Nazism existed and was attractive precisely because its ideology “made sense” to many Germans and held emotional appeal by tapping into: symbolic expression and cultural meaning; morality; national pride; redemption; and enemy-making in times of trauma and confusion and seeks to emphasize the need for eternal vigilance for the “other” in our midst.

9. Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Germany 1933-1938

Using Marion Kaplan’s work, this presentation deals with gender. “Along the stations toward extinction … each gender lived its own journey.” Using images and memoirs, the focus here is on the role of everyday Germans, on a daily level in the social death of their neighbors. Often overlooked is the initiative of ordinary Germans in complying with the new tone of the government without serious legislation being passed in the early stages of the regime. Also misunderstood is that the mixed messages being sent did not make the so-called “writing on the wall” clear until 1938. A comparison of the male and female German Jewish experience will reveal the difficulties in accurately assessing the dangers facing this small minority of Germans.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

10. The Holocaust: “The Twisted Road to Auschwitz”

This presentation focuses on the cascading radicalization and evolution to genocide that took place from 1939-1945. We explore how Nazi policy incrementally evolved and adapted over time in the complex face of changing political, military, and social circumstances. Specific attention will be placed upon the Nazi racial laboratory of Poland 1939-1940. Topics to be covered include: Nazi ideology and the unfolding war situation; the influence of location; emerging role of the SS; the difficulties and failures of implementing emigration policy and demographic engineering; the failure and complicity of the Wehrmacht; T-4 Program; ghettos; General Plan Ost and the Commissar Order; the Wannsee Conference; the Einsatzgruppen and the so-called “Final Solution.” By exploring individual initiative of “working towards the Führer” we will examine the “moral universe” created by willing perpetrators.

(For advanced classes.)

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

Fr. Patrick Desbois Investigates the Forgotten Holocaust

11. Hiding and Passing: Background for Europa, Europa

This power point traces the life and times of Solomon Perel in preparation for showing the film “Europa, Europa.” Using events and images from his early life through the end of the war (including photographs of himself, the places, and other characters portrayed in the movie) this presentation addresses such issues as: Factors in deciding to hide or pass as a non-Jew; the dangers and difficulties in hiding or passing; and the difficulties and personal impact of hiding or passing.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

12. Anne Frank - To Be free, to Be Myself

Who was Anne Frank? This presentation frames Anne’s Frank’s voice and experiences within the historical context of her life. How do we resist evil while maintaining our moral core? Special attention is given to the life of Otto Frank and the memories of Hannah (Goslar) Pick, Anne’s childhood friend (whose January 2007 interview will be used). The life and decisions of the Frank family (such as emigration and going into hiding) are placed within the context of the Nazi era. Otto Frank’s failed attempt to get his two children (Margot and Anne) into the United States begins a discussion of refugee policy. This presentation also traces the family’s history after their betrayal in the Secret Annex and arrival at Auschwitz. How can we draw on the example of the rescuers and of the Franks themselves?

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

13. France Under Nazi Occupation: Memory, Myth, and Misogyny

Due to the trauma of the wartime experience, the collaboration of the Vichy regime, French police and paramilitaries, and to some extent, the Catholic Church, remembering the Holocaust in France is complicated. The rising tide of antisemitism, the appeal of authoritarian leaders in France, and Marine Le Pen’s 2017 defeat illustrates the importance of the Vichy past and its legacy. We will discuss how “memory” is shaped in France and how perceiving the past shapes contemporary French society. In the process we will explore how French self-perceptions of gender impacted actions and perceptions then and now. What was unique about the French experience? How did competing goals of the German army, the SS, Hitler, and Vichy escalate the anti-partisan policy into the “Final Solution?” Topics covered include: the ongoing political conflict between left and right; the defeat of France in 1940; antisemitism; art theft; Vichy collaboration; French resistance; French police roundups; “Vél d’Hiv” roundup; French prisoners of war; Volunteer and forced labor in the Reich; Life in Paris and its liberation; Postwar retribution and humiliation of women; de Gaulle’s shaping of French memory; Struggle with Holocaust memory; Rise of the right-wing National Front party; and how this examination of the past helps us confront our own difficult and traumatic history.

14. The Righteous: Danish Rescue (Elementary School)

This presentation is designed for elementary students reading Number the Stars. We will discuss in general terms the history and relative advantages of Denmark during the Nazi era and explore the rescuers and the rescued. We will also touch upon some of the Danish complicity with the Nazis and examine “goodness” as a human, not national trait. It will place the story and its characters within the broader context of events in Denmark during the war. It gives a general account of the history of the escape and rescue of Danish Jews while exploring the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous’ 8 traits of an “Upstander.” (Grades 5-8)

15. Civil Society Between Darkness and Light: Danish Escape and Rescue

An exploration of the German occupation of Denmark, the rescue operation to Sweden, and the postwar reintegration of Jewish refugees. What factors shaped Danish attitudes towards its Jewish neighbors? Was the Danish government collaborating or merely cooperating? Why was the summer of 1943 the turning point? What was different about Nazi policy in Denmark? What advantages did the Danes have? How did the Danes treat non Danish Jewish refugees? A particular focus will be on the fishing village of Gilleleje and those captured and sent to Theresienstadt. Two child survivor testimonies recorded on October 21, 2015 (Ole Philpson and Tove Udshott) will be utilized. Using the JFR’s eight “Traits that Transcend” we introduce students to the subject of rescue during the Holocaust. We will also evaluate Denmark and Sweden’s unique experience and its testament to civil society before, during, and after the Holocaust.

16. The United States and the Problem of Nazi Germany

Facing the challenge of fascism and its appeal in the U.S. President Roosevelt was able to rescue liberal democracy in an uncomfortable partnership with the Southern Democratic Party that combined progressive ideas with Jim Crow racism. We will explore the fears faced and consider the impact of FDR’s response to the threat of Nazism. Policy decisions are presented in context of the unfolding events between 1933 and 1938. Topics covered include: U.S. immigration policy and the quota system; U.S. attitudes of pacifism, isolationism, racism, nativism, xenophobia and antisemitism; Anti-lynching legislation and political realities; the Evian Refugee Conference, the German American Bund; Charlie Chaplin; and the failed Wager-Rogers Kindertransport bill. We will examine what is at stake in the struggle to preserve democracy by listening to the echoes of the past.


17. Systemic Racism: The United States and Nazi Race Law

How did Hitler and the Nazis utilize American precedents, including the U.S. eugenics movement, to shape and formulate their own race laws? As racism, Nazism, the KKK, and the “alt-right” have emerged as significant societal factors we will explore American precedents and reactions to Nazi Germany then and now. In September 1933, Hitler ordered a memorandum from Prussia Ministry of the Interior directing German political and legal minds to wrestle with the self-imposed “Jewish Question.” The memo demanded criminalization of racially mixed marriages and specifically cited the American experience as the world leader in white supremacist legislation. Nazis began researching American race laws and discovered that immigration, naturalization, and marriage laws could be useful in crafting what became the infamous Nuremberg Laws. This presentation explores implicit and explicit bias that leads to racism. We will explore how racism functions in the U.S. and American reactions to Nazi Germany then and now. Racism will be a central theme of the presentation as we

Exploring slavery as the root cause of the Civil War we will examine how leaders manipulate racism for personal gain and shape memory before, during, and after the war. We will explore the failure of post-war Reconstruction, the rise of the KKK, and the war against emancipation that created Jim Crow and created a new form of slavery with the for-profit convict labor system. We will look at how Hollywood embraced both implicit and explicit racism and the southern myth of the “Lost cause.”

By highlighting examples of leadership and the influence of targeted minorities in enhancing democratic values, we explore how to utilize this history to promote competencies for democratic citizenship.

18. Holocaust Denial: Deceit and Distortion

Holocaust denial is an active propaganda effort to deny the reality of the approximately 6 million victims of the Shoah. This presentation will answer questions such as, “How do we know what we know?” “Who would deny the Holocaust and why?” The context and origins of Holocaust denial (initiated by the Nazis themselves) will be presented as will the role of the historian as witness. Fundamental denier motives, distortions and tropes will be examined. Using the documented facts of the Shoah, this presentation will illustrate how denier arguments have no basis in truth.

19. The Human Problem of Genocide

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in the State of NH. What is required to recognize, deter and prevent genocide? What is genocide? When do processes become part of a genocidal momentum? How do we prevent the escalation? How do we identify moments in the process where intervention (any type) can change the momentum? What can we do to make a difference? We will discuss the U.N. Genocide definition; genocide risk factors and warning signs. We will explore proactive and reactive responses. We will also wrestle with the tension between the moral imperative to act and the principles of nonintervention and state sovereignty. This presentation seeks to empower students to make such attitudes and behaviors culturally unacceptable.

Pre-presentation reading assignments:

20. The Power of Place: Encountering Auschwitz

“There is one thing worse than Auschwitz itself…and that is if the world forgets there was such a place.” - Henry Appel, Auschwitz survivor

How does one encounter the killing site of Auschwitz? What can we learn? How do we “remember”? Based upon visiting Auschwitz I and II in November 2014 with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) this presentation explores how ordinary people commit extraordinary evil. Weaving together archival images from a project by two Nazi photographers from the lab/identification service project in Auschwitz with pictures from the 2014 trip, we will explore the process of genocide and the “moral universe” the perpetrators created. We will explore the deliberate structures created to serve the needs of the SS, architects and businessmen in exploiting and destroying human beings. We will make room for mourning, refusing to normalize our outrage, and ask, “Where do we go from here?”

Over Auschwitz: 70 Years Later November 2014

Spielberg’s “Auschwitz

How Steven Spielberg Discovered His Calling

Drone video shows scale of Auschwitz

KSC Equinox Story

KSC Story

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: 70 Years After Liberation

Windham World Affairs Council Presentation

Professional Development and In-Service Workshops

Teaching the Holocaust: Keeping The Moral Core

Why do we need to teach the Holocaust? What moral messages do we convey? What do students actual learn? The task of educators is to make historical topics relevant to their students. How does one make the Holocaust relevant to students today? How should teachers approach this extremely difficult topic in an appropriate way? The Holocaust must be taught in a multidisciplinary way as a human story taking place in modern society - one human being to another - by neighbors, in the same civilization. This workshop explores ways to humanize the experience of the victims and perpetrators in order to motivate successive generations to recognize an ethical responsibility to respond to prejudice and hatred. This presentation illustrates how to connect students to the victims as human beings; putting people above statistics; how to explore everyday life in the ghettos; how Jews fought dehumanization by confronting moral dilemmas; the choice many survivors made to choose life and continuation over despair and violence; proper contexts; suggested appropriate lessons and use of film; and the burden and responsibility of representing trauma. Specific attention will be given to the use of imagery. What kinds of images are appropriate and in what context? A fundamental approach will be to discuss the limits and goals of teaching about the Holocaust while teaching students how to maintain a moral core. The methodological considerations can be applied to any social studies or English curriculum.

Dehumanization and Incitement: The Use and Abuse of Holocaust Photographs and Images

Photographs do not merely capture or illustrate the historical past, they interpret it. A potential pitfall in teaching about the Holocaust is using Holocaust imagery without ever teaching students how to evaluate and decode those images. As many of our students’ encounters with the Holocaust will often be visual (and a visual memory that is shaped by collective memory) it is important to recognize that the majority of images from the Holocaust have been taken and framed by the perpetrator. These images were carefully constructed and passed through censors and/or were shaped by Nazi protocols. Nazi photographers were designated as “weapons” of the Nazi effort and their images continue to have power to shape the narrative in ways that serve the perpetrator. We must recognize that the photographs are part of the process of genocide. We must critically evaluate this evidence as much as we do written or oral material. This workshop uses a series of competency expectations such as: recognizing perspective; intentionally; social, political context; elements of composition; expanding the frame; in order to apply these competencies today. Students will be able to deconstruct imagery while developing a sense of the “moral universe” perpetrators operate in.

Teaching Anne Frank: Resistance and Keeping the Moral Core

How do we “remember” and teach about Anne Frank? What are the contexts and pitfalls to be aware of? How do we keep our moral integrity when dealing with Anne as “symbol” and icon? How do we avoid teaching the diary as fairy tale or fable? The life and decisions of the Frank family (such as emigration and going into hiding) are placed within the context of the Nazi era. Otto Frank’s failed attempt to get his two children (Margot and Anne) into the United States is highlighted. This presentation also traces the family’s history after their betrayal in the Secret Annex. How can we draw on the example of the rescuers and of the Franks themselves?

Teaching Elie Wiesel: Trauma, Remembrance and Hope

How does one approach Elie Wiesel’s workand witness in the classroom? This workshop presents Night as a constructed memoir, a crafted testimony; a matzeva (marker/gravestone) about the limits of witnessing and “surviving survival”. We will discuss Night as the beginning, not end, of Wiesel’s encounter with the Shoah by exploring the text through his Hasidic roots and identity. And yet, by studying the Shoah and Wiesel’s writings we will encounter his hope that the spark for goodness must be ignited within us. How does Night help us to “hold” someone else’s traumatic memory? How will reading this book make me a better person? How will Night allow us “to fence with the shadows, but always have the song”? This workshop looks at the construction of Night; the questions it raises; its Hasidic framework; and how to teach it as the beginning of a journey against despair.

Tom White is available at a moment’s notice to discuss issues, to sit on panels, to engage in question and answer sessions.

To Schedule a Presentation or Professional Training In-Service Workshop

Contact Tom White

Tom White
Coordinator of Educational Outreach

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