What happened in Holocaust not taught properly by many teachers

Too many teachers are using unreliable sources when teaching what happened during the Holocaust, says a new report by the Commons Education Committee. This is especially the case with history teachers.

While much of the training available regarding teaching about the Holocaust is of a high standard, more needs to be done to extend its reach to other subjects, including drama, English, or PSHE (personal social and economic education).

The Report said it found a wealth of good practice and enthusiasm in Holocaust education, with many teachers taking their students beyond the facts to a deeper understanding of what being an active and informed citizen means.

Holocaust teaching students on a school trip to AuschwitzA group of British students on a school trip to Auschwitz.

Nevertheless, the Report added:

“However, despite the valuable efforts of educational and charitable organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Centre for Holocaust Education, the Committee heard that most teachers either have not received any professional development in Holocaust education or have participated in the programmes of institutions whose work is not quality assured.”

Support for site visits, testimonials and organisations

The Committee believes the Department for Education needs to do more to support the organisations it currently funds so as to deliver Holocaust education to a greater number of teachers.

The Department for Education is urged to consider how the current teacher training could be extending to teachers of other subjects, apart from history.

Students should hear the personal testimony of Holocaust survivors. Young people benefit from hearing first-hand what the impact of the Holocaust had been for those directly affected and their loved ones.

It is important that steps are taken to preserve the words of Holocaust survivors for generations to come, the Committee stressed.

The British Government should consider giving students the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. They could also be encouraged to visit other sites after going to Auschwitz.

Witnesses spoke positively of the value of visiting other sites linked to the Holocaust such as Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen or Wannsee.

Young survivors of AuschwitzA group of young survivors at the Auschwitz, liberated by the Red Army in January 1945. (Image: Wikipedia)

Auschwitz concentration camp

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

It consisted of the original camp, Auschwitz I , Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), plus 45 satellite camps.

At least 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz, about 90% of them were Jewish. One in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in the camp.

Hungarian Jews at the concentration campHungarian Jews on the Jewish ramp (Judenrampe) after disembarking from the transport trains. Those told to stand on the right were chosen to be labourers, while those on the left were to die in the gas chambers. (Image: Wikipedia)

Comment by Chair of the Committee

Chair of the Committee, Neil Carmichael, Member of Parliament for the Stroud constituency in Gloucestershire said:

“Teaching young people about the Holocaust and its legacy continues to be a vital part of their education. In the course of our inquiry, we heard from a number of inspiring witnesses who help to explain the nature, scale and significance of the Holocaust to students in classrooms today.”

“During our evidence we heard of some excellent and engaging teaching which serves to deepen young people’s understanding and knowledge of the Holocaust.”

“However, too few teachers, particularly history teachers, are being trained to teach the Holocaust and our report calls on the Government to act. We expect the Department for Education to ensure the support it gives to Holocaust education is as effective as possible.”

In some schools, teaching about the Holocaust leads onto learning about other genocides. The Committee is in favour of this, as long as the Holocaust continues being taught as well.

A growing number of students attend schools where the Holocaust is not a compulsory subject. While several academies will rightly elect to teach students about the Holocaust, the report said the Government needs to take steps to ensure that Holocaust education does not become ‘inadvertently patchy’.

The Committee wrote in the report:

“We recognise the importance of ensuring that the Holocaust is taught in sensitive and age-appropriate ways, and conclude that the teaching of the Holocaust would be strengthened by the adoption of a deliberately cross-curricular approach.”

Video – Auschwitz: Nazi Jewish Holocaust