Studying the Holocaust Beyond Two Dimensions

Teacher(s) - Edilvergel Quetua
School(s) - Hubble Middle School
Grade(s) - 8th grade



Studying the Holocaust

Goal / Objective - In our unit "1940's: Decade of Change" students interact with fiction and non-fiction texts and view documentaries that illuminate this turbulent time in world history. A significant portion of the unit is devoted to studying the Holocaust. While we have access to a variety of texts and film materials, I would like for the students to interact with artifacts, displays, and hear the testimony of Holocaust survivors by visiting the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, IL.

Impact - Below are the responses my 25 students gave on their reflection surveys.  Two-thirds indicated that the trip increased their factual knowledge of the event, while 91% indicated that their tour prompted them to think of broader issues/themes such as treating “others” in our society, upstanders vs. bystanders, ongoing genocide, etc.  Likewise, 91% indicated that the trip evoked an emotional and psychological response to the stories, artifacts, design/architectural layout, artwork and meeting survivors at the museum. 

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Do you feel that the museum tour broadened the "lessons"/impact beyond the topic of the Jewish Holocaust in WWII? Explain.

  • Yes, it helped me understand the pain these people were going through
  • The trip was able to help me understand people personal roles in the Holocaust. Like when our dosen shared her mothers experience and the speaker shared hers as well.
  • Yes, it taught us about other instances of genocide such as Rwanda, Indonesia, Native America and Soviet Russia. It told us the real importance of "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
  • Yes, because our docent mainly focused on defying evil and being an "upstander", which could apply to many situations other that the Holocaust.
  • Absolutely. Before the trip, I already had extensive knowledge of the holocaust, but I was introduced to other examples of genocide, such as the Native Americans and in Rwanda. I think it really hit the spot on why we shouldn't do anything like that ever again, and I liked the message on how we need to stand up instead of watching things happen, but I did not like the way they used terms that were affiliated with bullying, as it seemed to relate such a dark topic to bullying. I'm not saying bullying is good, but compared to the holocaust, it is a lot less impacting, and I found it hard to use terms like "bystander" and "upstander".
  • I absolutely feel that my knowledge was broadened through the trip to the Holocaust museum. Not only did I learn about genocides that occurred in other countries, but I was able to compare certain types of people in every day life to those in WW2. For example, upstanders and bystanders in WW2 could be compared to bullies today.
    I believe that when we learned more about other genocide and the growing concern that hasn't been stopped it impacted me.
  • Yes, specifically in the art gallery there were many paintings not only about the holocaust, but about different genocides in human history.
  • I think that it did not really broaden the topic beyond that from the part that I saw, it seemed to try to go through and give the story of the Holocaust, how and why it happened, but not anything about the genocides that have occurred after, or problems like that. They had a small area about the Nazi march on Skokie, and the effect of it.
  • I heard about people's personal stories and how they went through the holocaust. It was nice to hear what someone actually went through instead of generalized things, it was their experience instead.
  • Yes, I felt that the museum tour did help me learn more about the Holocaust. I could see how Hitler and the Nazis affected everyone both in Germany and out. It showed me, in detail, how because of them Germans were brainwashed into hating people based on their religion and how everyone had to make tough decisions and sacrifices.
  • I'm not quite sure it broadened the topic as much but it did teach me a lot more about the parts of the Holocaust that I didn't know about. For example I did not know that China was the only country that took in Jews without a visa.
    yes, seeing everything up close and being able to see it in person helped me create a deeper understanding for the topic.
  • Yes, I do. One reason is because they connected it to more recent genocides and it made everything more real. Especially in the art gallery, there was an old painting of a mother trying to chase after the body of her dead child, and next to it was a picture of a modern women in Africa, lying on the ground screaming as her child's body, out of the frame, was taken. It just made you think about how even though we said, "never again," genocide happens today.
  • I liked how they didn't just talk about the Jewish Holocaust, but they talked about other forms of genocide, and also how they tied in other aspects of WW2, and also how they had a lot more information beyond just the camps, which was previously the only thing I really knew about.
  • Before going to the museum, I knew a lot about the Jewish Holocaust from books and school but I didn't know much about it beyond what happened to the Jewish people. Although what happened to them was very important, I had no idea that Hitler and the Nazis discriminated again many other groups of people and not just Jews. It also helped to know what was going on in Europe leading up the the "final solution" aspect of the Holocaust that I was so familiar with.
  • I felt that the museum was an extension to the research that we did in class and the books we read. i think it was a good way to end the unit.
  • Seeing some of the exhibits in person definitely invoked much more emotion than seeing them in books or even online. One part of the museum that struck me the most was the art gallery. This gallery did not focus as much on the holocaust as other genocides that have occurred over the last few hundred years. This served as an intro to make you fully experience how devastating the holocaust actually was.
  • I think that the tour really broadened my knowledge of the Holocaust. There is definately a difference between reading facts and looking at pictures on a page than going to a museum with people who have been influenced by the Holocaust.
    I really believe that this museum tour broadened the lessons we learned in school. This is because rather than giving us dates, numbers, and facts to memorize, they asked us why it happened and then proceeded to go into the morality of the situation.
  • Yes, being able to experience everything the the Holocaust museum had to offer, especially the survivors story, really affected me deep down. Where just studying it from textbooks would not. Listening to the survivors story brought yet another, dimension to our studies, this one a first person account.

Please write about at least one aspect of your experience that left an impression on you.

  • Being stuffed into the cramped cattle car.
  • The little model of what the gas chamber would have looked like with people in it. It was ultimately terrifying and left me trying not to cry. Along with the image of the father clutching his child to his chest, so when they where shot the bullet would kill them both. That picture will stick with me fervor because it just kills me how people would say "alright now hold your child while we shoot you so that way we can save bullets!" How sick is that? well shooting people in the first place is horrible. But I guess it just makes the horrible even worse- I'm just struggling so hard to wrap my mind around how anyone would be able to hold a gun to their worst enemy head, Let alone an innocent stranger.
  • Hearing the story of a survivor of the Shanghai ghetto helped us understand the real stories and experiences that happened in the ghetto.
  • When our docent said that she talks to her mother, who survived Auschwitz, and she says back "I slept in Auschwitz and I woke up in Skokie." This just showed how haunting the experience truly was to all that went through it.
  • There was this one clip that showed Nazi soldiers discarding underfed, lifeless bodies into a ditch, and this clip made it a lot more real and horrifying for me, to actually see it in real life. (film)
  • One part of my experience in the museum that I will most likely never forget was the architecture. The architecture and overall setup portrayed how revealing the museum is to how the Holocaust was. Also, I felt that the art gallery helped to display that no Nazi cared about "who" you were, but instead about doing their job.
  • I felt that being in a place with the lighting and surroundings resembling the Holocaust made the effect all the more intense.
  • There was a picture of some shaving brushes in the art gallery. The story behind it was that the Nazis told the Jews that they were going to get a better job and somewhere good to live, so people brought one suitcase stuffed full of stuff they would need, especially to look good. These people were happy to go with the Nazis, but then they learned what there fate really was to be.
  • One aspect that left a big impression on me was the temporary exhibit on the Berlin 1936 Olympics. I was amazed at how much the Nazi's tried to hide their policies against Jews during that time, and how easily they were able to hide it. I had not realized that although they tried to get rid of Jews, they stopped during that time, and were successful in hiding it from the world.
  • Being in the train car and how 100 starving people stood in their for about 5 days with no food water and place to go to the bathroom except where they were standing and that they died standing up.
  • The boxcar at the museum was really impressive and it left a huge impression on me. I got to see what it felt like to stand there in the dark cramped space. It let me realize that many jews were standing here, uncomfortable, cramped, starving, etc. like this. The box car was a nice touch on the museums part and made the trip ten times better.
  • One of the main things that affected me were the pictures that they had. I had always imagined the people in the concentration camp as skinny but the pictures that they had really helped me visualise what they had to go through. It also helped me learn a lot more about the ghettos, before it seemed to me that it was like a normal neighborhood but it was almost as bad as the concentration camps.
  • The part where there was broken glass underneath me and there were broken windows, just seeing that mess and thinking of how jew's buildings and churches were ruined just because of their religion impacted me so much.
  • One aspect was when we learned about the "neo" Nazis, something I never knew even existed and their plan to march on Skokie. There was a certain sign, it said "Warsaw 1939 Skokie 1989" Or something along those lines, I can't remember the exact dates. It struck me at how close something so horrible came. No more was it just "over there." Another was in the art gallery where there was this wall with about six Korean women's pictures on it. All forced to be prostitutes and spent there teen years being passed between men in the army. Funny thing is, they were smiling, they held their heads tall. It was a show of such immense strength and will and left me speechless.
  • I think it's just one thing to see statistics and read articles, but to see pictures and hear stories of how the people really felt and lived, that was something completely different. I also do feel that it made it much more real and a lot more sad walking through and imagining what everyone had to go through.
  • They took a really personal aspect on the Holocaust and it made me realize how real this event actually was. At the beginning of the tour out docent told us about how all of these people that died had their own lives just like us and that made it seem so much more real and it finally made me understand how terrible this actually was.
  • For most of the museum i thought it was all pictures and words on walls, especially for the Berlin Olympics section. but one of the most impactful parts was the train car. to actually feel how they felt really sunk in and made us understand on a different level. i think that was one of the most important reasons to go on the field trip.
  • As i mentioned in the earlier question the art gallery part had the longest standing impression on me. Its main focus was on genocide as a whole not specifically just the holocaust. This aspect really showed how bleak and devastating a genocide actually is.
  • I really liked the speaker that spoke to us about her experience with the Holocaust. It was very interesting to hear about her struggles.
  • Personally, something that really left an impact on me was the fact that genocide is still happening in modern times, and that it has happened many times in the past, not just once. More specifically, the section in the art gallery that depicted the Korean women who had survived hardships during WW2. I thought that the story of how they lived through such cruel injustices, yet still survived to an old age showed how people will persevere through the most intolerable evils.
  • An experience that left an impression on be would be the forest shooting of Babi Yar. Babi Yar is a 10 day Jewish holiday where in 1941 German troops rounded up 37,771 Jewish people and shot them all in a forest. Obviously this alone is the shocking, but the thing that left a impression on me is that one person survived. She jumped into the mass grave before being shot, and then cheated death again by being stood on by a German soldier, who bayoneted everyone except her.

I titled this grant request from the NEW 200 Foundation, "Studying the Holocaust Beyond Two Dimensions" with the idea that students could benefit from having a live experience with primary artifacts, displays, and testimonials instead of just gleaning information from textbooks, videos, and databases. Did you feel that this tour gave you knowledge, experience, or understanding beyond what we had available to us back at Hubble? Please explain.

  • Yes because we heard the stories of actual survivors
  • Definitely. For me personally just going on a field trip makes me more alert and more sponge like (able to soak in as much information as possible) But also having people share their or their family member's experience, makes it seem all more real, rather than black and white print.
  • Feelings, sights and sounds leave us with a deeper impact than reading or watching a movie about the topic.
  • I do feel that this experience gave me a larger understanding of the Holocaust, because we were able to hear other people's stories first hand, and the pictures and exhibits our docents showed us really grasped what truly happened during the Holocaust.
  • I do feel that we benefited from this trip. It showed all of the terrors of the past and showed how they are repeating themselves in today's society, like with Rwanda. It also further pushed the reason to stand up, and it gave a great example of what we could do when we pressured the Neo-Nazis to have their March outside of Skokie. The artwork exhibit was really powerful, also.
  • I 100% feel that the museum tour gave us much more knowledge than available at Hubble. One reason I have to support this is that having a speaker who lived during WW2, and was affected, really helped me to understand it more on a personal level.
  • In a modern school like ours, in a safe place with no way to understand the true horrors of the Holocaust, I think that the museum really helped us to get a real feeling of the genocide.
  • Yes, it definitely did. I feel that I learned a lot more than you can in a book or even a movie. This was an actual experience that really will have a lasting impression on me. There was a small model of a ghetto, in the museum, and I didn't really know how bad the ghettos were at that time.
  • I think that this experience did give me more knowledge because instead of reading books or watching films like we would do at school, we heard a firsthand account of someone who went through the holocaust, and even though they were on the Japanese side, it showed how bad they were to Jews. Also, our guide was the daughter of someone who went through the Holocaust, so she was able to give us firsthand stories and accounts.
  • I think it is was better to look at actual objects from the era and see models of what it was like in concentration camps and the ghetto than small pictures in a textbook. With the speaker you could actually know what it was like to live in a ghetto instead of someone just saying this is how it was like in this location.
  • I felt like I better understood the Holocaust after this trip. They had artifacts and a good guide that made the experience way better. By actually looking at the things and touching it made me realize that this actually happened, that there were actual innocent people like me that died. I liked listening to the stories told by both the survivor and the guide. Having them made me feel more connected to the subject and let me gain more knowledge.
  • I think it did because being with people with a personal connection to it really helped me come to the realization that it wasn't just something on a piece of paper, it was something that actually happened and it affected peoples lives in a big way and I don't think I could've gotten it back at Hubble.
  • Yes, definitely. I was able to hear about events and more from people who experienced it or had relatives or close friends who experienced it which put the horrors in a whole new perspective that helped me understand the holocaust a lot more.
  • Of course, when I returned to Hubble, I know this sounds cheesy, but it felt as though I had aged years. My life seemed so fake and easy, seeing what I did truly changed my outlook on life. Something that a book could never do for me, I should know, reading world war two stories has always been a hobby of mine. It's not the same though, actually seeing these things, being there and most of all, hearing the survivor's story, that was special. I didn't even know about the Chinese letting the Jews in, and from what I've learned, there's maybe all of a paragraph about it in the textbook, if that! Not to mention, seeing that lady, and how despite everything, she was still swinging her legs and smiling. She was alive, and that no matter how hard the Nazi's tried, they couldn't break her spirit. That is truly an inspiration to me.
  • I think that learning something in a classroom, and walking through an exhibit are two ways to learn. The first, you look at books or watch videos, but what really makes it have an impact on you is walking through a museum, and I think what we saw has much more than any textbook or movie. The emotional impact in the exhibits was colossal compared to any amount of research or learning we could ever do in a classroom.
  • I'm the kind of person who has more trouble learning through lectures or textbooks, I need to actually experience things to fully understand them. Being at the museum, like many other helped me fully understand the horrors of the Holocaust from standing in the train car to seeing the models of the gas chambers. Even the design and decorations of the building helped me wrap my mind around such a tough topic. When we walked through the section about the ghettos, it was decorated with barbed wire and walls that looked like poorly made brick walls.
  • Often when a new unit comes up its all research books and pictures. this was a great experience to go to because it was seeing it up close. It definitely was a different perspective and i think that's a great aspect to help understand and teach the topic
  • This tour as in the title of the grant let us "see" the holocaust in at the least three dimensions. Just the docent alone without having any specific experience explained things in much more detail than any book or picture could have. Going to the holocaust museum was for me much less factual than it was meaningful. I did learn a few new facts and stories which i could have found in books, but the factual part only consisted of about 15 percent of the trip. The knowledge and experience we gained from this trip is quite obvious. When we came back to the bus we were all much more somber and in deeper thought than we were before we entered the museum. Overall I think that going to this museum gave us much more than studying from a book or even watching videos about it.
  • I definitely think so. I think you can't really understand another person's story from a text book.
  • Without a doubt, this field trip fully accomplished the idea of going above and beyond what we would learn in the classroom. With each painting having a certain hidden meaning and a moral sense as well as being able to fully see the atrocities of the Holocaust, all being capped off with the story of an actual survivor, the exhibits definitely had more to offer than what was available to us previously.
  • Yes, in school reading from the textbooks and even reading stories about the Holocaust made it just seem like a bunch of numbers and statistics. Traveling to the museum really hit home the actual reality of the terrible evils carried out against the European Jewish population during World War 2


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