Aftermath: Response and Reflection

No chapter in modern history has resulted in such resounding infamy as the deliberate and systematic attempts of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to annihilate European Jews and other "undesirables" in order to establish an "Aryan Master Race." The world reacted to the Holocaust in a variety of ways, yet acknowledgment of the atrocities was slow to come. Before and even during World War II, most people underestimated the strength of Hitler and the Nazis and found the stories of Jewish persecution and murder too difficult to swallow. The terrible truth would come out in graphic detail, in the voices of the Nazi leaders themselves, during the Nuremberg Trials. As the magnitude and truth of the Holocaust became part of the world's consciousness, people across the globe cried out, "Never again," words that must be echoed by each succeeding generation if civilization is to learn and to endure. In the fifty years since the Holocaust, scholars have come to a variety of conclusions in response to the following questions:

Which historical events and political measures precipitated the rise of Nazism?

Could anything have been done to prevent the deaths of so many millions? Were the Nazis really so different from us?

What motivated otherwise "normal" people to commit such inhuman acts?

What moral lessons are we to now draw from the Holocaust?

These issues are relevant to all of humankind, and will continue to concern us all. Only by seeking answers to these questions can we then direct judgment back upon ourselves and hope to prevent such a tragedy as horrible as the Holocaust from ever recurring.

The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
 by Michael Berenbaum

Written by leading Holocaust scholar and the project director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, this comprehensive book presents a historical survey of the Third Reich. Michael Berenbaum covers the pre-Hitler days to the aftermath of WWII. He draws upon a range of sources, including eyewitness accounts, photographs, and artifacts. There are stories about the Nazi perpetrators, the passive bystanders, the innocent victims, and the heroic survivors. Recommended for high school students.

"American Response to the Holocaust, 1933-1945"
 by Jack Fischel

This brief article is a useful summary of the two primary periods of American response to the Holocaust. The first, from 1933 to 1938, is characterized by an increase in antisemitism and isolationism in the United States. During the second period, from 1939 to 1945, Americans slowly became aware of the Nazi plan to exterminate the European Jewry. Jack Fischel discusses several books that analyze the US government's official response to the situation. Recommended for high school students.

While Six Million Died
 by Arthur Morse

Arthur Morse's book was the first major work on the Holocaust to directly accuse the United States government of failing to quickly implement a rescue policy upon discovery of the Nazi death camps. Written by a non-academic, this famous book is a passionate indictment of the Roosevelt administration's inaction towards both antisemitism at home and Hitler's Final Solution in Europe. Many of the issues raised in this book are still hotly debated. Morse's book is meticulously documented and is geared for a mass audience rather than for scholars. Recommended for high school students.

FDR and the Holocaust
 by Verne W. Newton

This collection of essays, written by both Holocaust scholars and experts on FDR's presidency, examines the specific question, "What did Franklin D. Roosevelt know about the Holocaust and what steps did he take to prevent it?" Several interesting theories on Roosevelt's reaction to the fate of European Jews are raised, but no single answer is definitive. Recommended for high school students.

The White Power Movement: America's Racist Hate Groups
 by Elaine Landau

Elaine Landau's non-fiction account of hate groups includes background information on the roots of racism and its specific sources in the United States. Landau also discusses the rise of hate crimes over the last decade in this country. The book has a useful bibliography and lists the names and addresses of groups that fight discrimination and promote racial tolerance. Recommended for high school students.

 by Ronald John Vierling

This brief play describes a man's first visit to the Nazi concentration camp Dachau. At the site of the camp, an old Jewish man appears out of the shadows of the crematoria and offers to tell the story of his days as a prisoner in the camp. The play is structured as two voices speaking alternately. The voice of the visiting tourist is Ronald John Vierling. The other voice, Joyce Carol Davidsen, speaks about the history of Dachau in the tone of a tour guide. Recommended for junior high school and high school students.

The complete text of this play may be found in the Resources section.

Number the Stars
 by Lois Lowry

This award-winning story of danger and heroism, set in Denmark in 1943, tells how the relationship of a young girl and her Jewish best friend remains solid in the face of difficult circumstances. As a result of Nazi persecution, one of the girls, Ellen Rosen, along with her family, is forced into hiding. But Ellen's best friend, Annemarie, and Annemarie’s family decide to assist the Rosens by "adopting" Ellen. The hardest challenge is to reunite Ellen with her parents and then help them escape to neutral Sweden. Recommended for junior high school and high school students.

She turned to her father. "Papa, do you remember what you heard the boy say to the soldier? That all of Denmark would be the king's bodyguard?"

Her father smiled. "I have never forgotten it," he said.

"Well," Annemarie said slowly, "now I think that all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews, as well."

"So we shall be," Papa replied....

Now she was ten, with long legs and no more silly dreams of pink-frosted cupcakes. And now she and all the Danes were to be bodyguard for Ellen, and Ellen's parents, and all of Denmark's Jews. Would she die to protect them? Truly? Annemarie was honest enough to admit, there in the darkness, to herself, that she wasn't sure.

Remember Not to Forget, A Memory of the Holocaust
 by Norman Finkelstein

An ideal children's introduction to the Holocaust, this book presents a brief history of antisemitism, covers the era of the Third Reich and World War II, and discusses occurrences of racial intolerance since that time. The tone describing Holocaust specifics, such as the Nazi camps, is tempered and restrained without being vague or insincere. Woodcut illustrations accompany the text. Recommended for elementary school students.

Voices from the Holocaust
 edited by Sylvia Rothchild

As editor of this collection of survivor testimony, Sylvia Rothchild transcribes 650 hours of conversation and focuses her book on three main areas: life before the Holocaust, life during the Holocaust, and life in America. Stories told by survivors from Greece, France, Hungary, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, and Austria give readers a real sense of the agonies and heartaches inflicted by the Third Reich on European Jews. The message of all these survivors, however, is the same. People today must remember the past and learn from it. Recommended for high school students.

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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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