Teaching Genocide

When to Begin

We recommend teaching the Holocaust and genocide starting in middle school, as students at that level can begin to understand the complexity of these historic events in their proper context. At the elementary level, students should receive character-building lessons that teach empathy, citizenship, the value of diversity, and the dangers of prejudice and bias in society.

Establishing Goals

Before teaching about genocide, it is essential that educators at all levels establish a rationale for teaching it in their classrooms. It is important to create a clear set of goals and objectives with an understanding of the historical context in order to connect with your students and aid them in their understanding of the complexities of the Holocaust and genocide studies.

Choosing Lessons and Activities

When determining what lessons and activities are suitable for classroom:

  • Make sure the lessons fit within your goals for teaching the Holocaust or other genocides in your classroom.
  • Be sure the lessons are age-appropriate and can be easily integrated into your existing curriculum. 
  • Always provide students with the correct historical context and references prior to introducing resources, lessons, and activities. 
  • Avoid activities that trivialize events or require students to play the role of the victim.
  • Be sensitive to the emotional nature of the material and use discretion in utilizing graphic images. There are an abundance of source materials that convey the horror and tragic nature of genocide without using photographs of the dead.

Minnesota State Standards

The State of Minnesota does not have a legislative mandate for the teaching of the Holocaust and other genocides. Please consult the Minnesota Department of Education’s K-12 Academic Standards.

Unreliable Sources on Holocaust & Genocide Denial

Students, educators, and researchers should be aware that there is a proliferation of websites operated by Holocaust and genocide deniers that our center and others in the academic community consider unreliable. Learn more about Holocaust and genocide denial.