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This subsection provides more details on how to find connections between the Holocaust and human rights, applying the values and awareness model of Human Rights Education.
Teaching the story of the Holocaust is vital for the understanding of the modern world. The Holocaust was a formative historical event and a turning point in human ethics that resulted in a collective reassessment of human rights in 1948. Hence, educators who teach about the Holocaust are essentially helping to shape the values of future generations, sensitizing others to violations of human rights and empowering others to contribute to the realization of human rights.

Key Didactic Approaches                                      Download Key Didactic Approaches (pdf)

  • Raising awareness of the ideological background of the National Socialist discrimination and extermination policies;
  • Centrality of the human aspect in the story of the Holocaust;
  • Demonstration of the gradual escalation of anti-Jewish policies by the National Socialist regime; Human rights as a frame of reference for the analysis, reflection and discussion and the educational process;
  • Interdisciplinary method; and
  • Age-appropriate approaches.

1. Raising awareness of the ideological background of the National Socialist discrimination and extermination policy
The events of the past can only be explained and understood by taking into account the ideologies that served as basis for and paved the way to the National Socialist regime.
Racism, Anti-Semitism, and nationalism were all not invented by the Nazi regime, but the totality of Nazi racial ideology ultimately resulted in the planned destruction of the Jewish people in Europe.
Background knowledge about the history of racism and Anti-Semitism will help pupils understand why certain groups were dehumanized and deprived of their rights (including their basic right to life).

2. Centrality of the Personalization of History
Each individual of the millions of victims was a human being, with his/her inner world, belonging to a family and a Jewish community, with a rich cultural heritage. Students, and especially those of younger ages, can empathize with human beings, especially with those of a similar age to themselves. It is recommended to focus on primary source materials that highlight the voices of the victims who lived during that period rather than on fictional characters. Moreover, it is suggested to refrain from shocking unprepared students with horrible pictures of walking skeletons or with piles of dead bodies.
We recommend beginning instruction of Holocaust history with a focus on the image of the Jewish world in the pre-war period. It is important that students become acquainted with Jewish people’s lives as ordinary human beings, before they recognize them as victims of merciless terror.

Jewish people during the Holocaust were not merely objects, but rather subjects that responded to what was happening around them. A key educational question is: How did the victims attempt to live in the world of chaos?
It is especially important to present the moral dilemmas Jews faced in ghettos, forests or Nazi camps. In many cases they were forced to grapple with “choice-less choices” under insurmountable circumstances and inhuman conditions. It should be taken into account that the difficult ethical questions faced by the victims during the Holocaust period cannot easily be compared with that of situations students come into contact today. The Holocaust was ultimately an extreme event.
The analysis in the classroom of the victims’ lives should not conclude with the end of World War II.  The human story continued. It is vital to dedicate special attention to the choices and dilemmas of Holocaust survivors following their loss of their families and communities as well as their efforts to rebuild their lives after the war. Why did they decide to emigrate? How did they overcome their loneliness, despair, and urge to take revenge. What are the educational messages of Holocaust survivors?

Perpetrators and Accomplices to Murder
The perpetrators were not beasts, but rather human beings. They made their moral and ethical choices. They chose to commit evil and violate human rights. They had a choice, even under the Nazi racist regime. This issue is still being researched by historians and other scholars.
Pedagogically it is significant to differentiate between the upper echelon of the Nazis and the more common perpetrators. The study of the motivations of the upper echelon usually leads to an abstract, academic discussion on Nazi ideology. Whereas the consideration of the motivations of ordinary killers may lend itself more easily to an educational exercise relevant to every human being. The fundamental ethical question here is how was it humanly possible for an average man to become a heartless killer, sometimes without being a member of the SS?
The majority of bystanders remained passively silent and often indifferent. Most of them simply went about their daily family lives some times in very close proximity to the Nazi extermination camps. In keeping with the ap-proach laid out above, the rescuers were not angels, but normal people.
Educators are advised to include personal testimonies or interviews in their projects. For more information about the tiny minority of those who rescued Jewish people during the Holocaust, known as the Righteous among the Nations, see:

3. Escalation of Discrimination and Persecution
With the Nazi rise to power in 1933 and the virulent anti-Semitic propaganda, a slow but systematic process of removal of Jewish people (i.e. those defined by the National Socialist regime as Jewish) from the rest of the German society commenced. The world economic crisis and high unemployment accentuated existing anti-Semitic views and attitudes in society and led to indifference or even to sympathy of the local population for the dismissal and replacement of Jews in positions of government, academia, medicine, banking, economics etc. and for their segregation or even exclusion in the education system.
Gradually, step-by-step, the public in Germany and elsewhere, became accustomed to perceiving Jews as an enemy within society deprived of their rights which later made it much easier to deport them to the ghettos and concentration camps and eventually to kill them. Nazi anti-Jewish legislation, culminating in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 stigmatized Jews and isolated them from society. After the so-called Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, Jews in effect became outcasts in their native country.

4. Human rights as a frame of reference for the analysis, reflection, discussion and the educational process
As a frame of reference, human rights can serve the analysis, reflection and discussion of the Holocaust – underlining the focus on the human dignity and human existence and the relevance of their protection in today’s and future society –, can enrich the educational process with a clear model for the relation between the understanding of the past, present and future and the building of a better present and future, and can emphasize the significance that the educational process as a process (access, learning environment, methods) is coherent to its own content.

5. Interdisciplinary Approach
Despite the fact that our studies are based on historical research and the broad historical context, students often gain a deeper understanding into this period through literature, art, music, theology, sociology, psychology, etc.  However, it is important to note that when teaching about the Holocaust, educators should focus on using primary sources. [1]

6.  Age-Appropriate Approach
For many years it was believed that the history of Holocaust, with all its horrors, and extreme manifestations of human cruelty, which at times seemed beyond comprehension should not be taught to children under the age of fifteen. In the twenty-first century, however, children have access to almost any kind of information without supervision and the start of ethics education should be introduced very early on. Although some educators may find it difficult to address the history of the Holocaust with younger students, the Holocaust education can be successfully taught in a spiral manner, following consultation with psychologists. Information is conveyed in a step-by-step manner progressing from the particular stories to the more general history. For example:

  • in elementary school one biography may be studied (ages 9-12),
  • in middle school one community may be explored and (ages 12-14)
  • in high school more global questions of responsibility, justice and historical perspectives may be discussed (ages 15-18).

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Given the complexity of the historic material, historical context is vital. The transformational model uses participatory and integrative methodology, which allows students to co-decide on topics, methodologies and content, which not only leads to high motivation of the students, but ultimately empowers them to apply their knowledge of human rights and of the Holocaust in their lives. In this model, it is important to encourage action oriented thinking that supports young people in finding ways to act in relation to contemporary human rights questions, but also in relation to questions of policies of memory.
The FRA proposes to see education about the Holocaust and Human Rights Education as two interconnected educations that build up on each other. If the history of the Holocaust is taken as the starting point for education towards transformation, then the second part (i.e. human rights education) would allow having an emphasis on respecting diversity and on regarding equality and non-discrimination as positive values that need to be defended in the present and in the future.

Practical Techniques                                              Download Practical Techniques (pdf)

  • Bridging the historical knowledge of the Holocaust and human rights framework
  • Peer centered didactic approach
  • Encouraging students to study about youngsters who were the same age during the Holocaust
  • Giving human rights a meaning
  • Acknowledging diversity and promoting equality and non-discrimination
  • Empowering young individuals to keep themselves informed and to have an impact on society.

1. Bridging the historical knowledge of the Holocaust and human rights framework
The combination of Holocaust Education and Human Rights Rducation should be based on historical facts as well, aiming to sensitize students.
Holocaust education and human rights education together should include reflection and discussion of the justification and the reasons why every human being is a holder of human rights. Combined Holocaust education and human rights education-perspective reinforces the relevance of a historical reflection of the Holocaust for today’s society as it reminds us what the denial of human rights means and makes clear that the respect and the protection of human rights will always remain an essential task of humankind.
Caution should be taken when comparing the Holocaust to all human rights violations.
The transfer of knowledge on the normative human rights background and values and attitudes further needs to be linked to practical competencies applicable in the immediate environment of youth to actually ensure human rights implementation and to act and/ or support action in line with core human rights values.

2. Peer-centered didactic approach
A focus is recommended on Jewish children’s lives before and during the Holocaust, showing how their normal everyday lives dramatically changed. This allows students to develop deeper empathy towards youngsters who were the same age during the Holocaust.

3. Giving Human Rights a meaning
Normative learning objectives should allow for transmitting the history of human rights but should focus on deepening the knowledge of those rights that have been highlighted in the activities and exercises.
Emphasis should be given on balanced information on rights awareness and duty awareness, the dehumanization and persecution of parts of the population and of the responsibilities of duty bearers.

4. Acknowledging diversity and promoting equality and non-discrimination
During the educational process students should become aware that the societies they live in are diverse.
The educational process should highlight the importance to ensure equality and non-discrimination in society should encourage students to make use of their opportunities in society and be sensitive to others.

5. “Empowering” young individuals to keep themselves informed and to have an impact on society
The combination of Holocaust Education and Human Rights Education should empower young individuals to exercise or defend their own and others’ human rights. And the students should be encouraged to acquire various skills needed to safeguard human rights (such as communication, campaigning, organizing exhibitions, setting up websites, writing an article, producing visual material, gathering information, participation etc.).

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Download Step by Step Methodology (pdf)
Download Holocaust Education Lessons (pdf)
Download Human Rights Education Lessons (pdf)




What (activities)

Preparatory lesson

test the existing background information of the pupils on history and on human rights

take a mutual decision with the pupils on content and process

to align the content and learning objectives building up on existing knowledge

increase ownership of the learners

flipchart brainstorming

secret ballots on the selection of topics

Holocaust education lessons[1]

Life before the Holocaust

Illustrating the diversity of lives and living styles before the coming to power of the National Socialists

Discuss the presence of racist, anti-Semitic and nationalist ideologies already before the Holocaust

Illustrating the lives of Jewish children as individuals with the same interests and problems as their peers at that time and also with nowadays youth Enabling to discover that the primary feature of identity of Jewish youngsters was being youngsters

Stressing the components of community environment that provides with personal, education and professional opportunities and a perceived feeling of security, stability and trust

To find understanding of “normality” before the Holocaust and in particular for the normality of children’s life before the institutionalization of discrimination and persecution

To make the gradual changes and their implications more visible

Use original public documents and newspapers as well as diaries and pictures to illustrate life perceptions, expectations and conditions

Focus on children’s environment: school, family, music, sports and link to important figures such as teachers, neighbors, parents

Changing times in Europe and its effects on children

Introducing the gradual changes that started taking place as described by the children

Focusing on the challenges to their relationships and opportunities and their sense of security, stability and trust

To make clear the consequences and long term implications of the gradual changes at the beginning that led to a big tragedy

Diaries and pictures

Discussing the role of important figures in the environment of children, such as teachers, neighbors, parents and friends, in the loss of relationships, opportunities, security, stability and trust.

Critical thinking on the role of state authorities such as school and police

Though governmental institutions such as school (or other duty bearers, civil service providers, police etc) can be perceived to be areas of protection and stability, critical thinking towards these authorities should be emphasized

This section is also highly suitable to be connected to the contemporary human rights context by providing information on complaints mechanisms

Human rights violations can take place from the side of the state

Focusing on the gap of what would be expected from these authority figures in a child’s life (trust building etc.) and the experienced discrimination and humiliation

The yellow star

Reflecting on what it means to be marked as being a member of an unwanted group

Discussing visibility, symbolism and its effects

Core motivation of humiliation and dehumanization of Jewish people by a variety of means 

Marking a certain group within the population and the linked symbolism

Diaries and pictures

Focus on the reactions of the environment to persons wearing the star

Web research

Daily life in the ghetto


Physical exclusion from the society

To highlight the response to the dehumanization (f.e. sense of togetherness within the community)

Diaries and pictures

Key events have to be explained in a chronological order

Human rights education lessons

Start with ‘your’ rights

Including youth in the decision making and the governance of this training program by being equal partners in the selection of the topics and the processes -> exercising a participatory approach by showcase

Putting personal interests of youth such as sports, computer, movies, family in the centre


Integrating positive “success stories” of human rights to encourage students and to emphasize human rights as a positive achievement which changes human lives

to draw attention and to start with something concrete that concerns them


avoid the blaming psychology (students need to watch out not to violate the rights of others, but more so to protect their own rights)


Emphasize the normal life, not something extraordinary located i)geographically somewhere else ii) located within marginalized groups/minorities


Emphasizing the strong link of human rights and peace and security/ stability and social cohesion, therefore drawing attention on both the negative consequences of HR violations but also the consequences of implemented HR standards


Human Rights Education differs from other educational approaches and theories as it is law-based. Its direct referral to the legal dimension of human rights is part of its core essence: these philosophical concepts are not “just” theories and ideas but legal rights. This existence of a legal fundament is strength of Human Rights Education. As a consequence of it, Human Rights Education can start with positive achievements and developments due to an important conceptual element of Human Rights Rducation, to start with the positive, still keeping the critical attitude to see what still has to change.

Discuss the rights of the pupils and how they can defend their rights


What do human rights mean in their personnel context?

limitation of the transmission of the normative human rights information to the addressed rights only


Overall legal framework should give reference to the UDHR (bridging from the Holocaust Education part), and the core principles of indivisibility and inviolability of hr


The Holocaust Education part of the training (see above) is based on testimonies and diaries -> by using a similar format for the contemporary part, a horizontal (contemporary) and vertical (historical) view will be given


Focus on hr defenders for the Holocaust Education part, in order to not focus on HR violations only, and on positive examples where somebody claim her/his rights successfully


The Holocaust Education part is child centered, therefore the rights of the child could be focused

Linking human rights to the contemporary context of young people

From the theory of rights to their practice in the life of young people

the motivation to learn about their own rights is likely higher if it is connected to their lives

bridging the normative HR framework to their own environment is vital

the students could be encouraged to investigate on the history of their neighborhood (via the municipality, media etc) and trace back habitants’ biographies

diversify learning environment (by visiting a memorial site, a human rights NGO or anti discrimination/equality body)

Commemoration of specific days

Focus on the global approach, concentration on things in common

Moving away from group thinking and the ‘we’ and the ‘others’ concept but all of us a being equal parts of a global society/ community

In terms of social cohesion identity related discussions are crucial.

The widespread ‘othering’ approach is probably the most challenging issue to overcome but the most crucial too. Opinions, political views etc. are based on the division of we and the others by including and excluding parts of society

Look at diversity (differences and similarities) in the society the pupils live in

Discuss similarities across groups and differences within groups, with the aim to denaturalize groups and obliterate group borders

From bystander to human rights defender

Discuss consequences of action and non-action

The number of bystanders to HR violations is likely to be quite high.

it is important to raise awareness on the fact that just as much as action does have consequences, non-action does also have consequences

Discuss different forms of participating in society (including, but also going beyond the participation in elections)

Discuss possibilities to report human rights violations

intervening in situations where human rights violations take place

Determination of learning objectives

can/ should vary from case to case but should be set at the beginning (commonly agreed with students)

part of the learning objectives should cover the learning about the human rights set up in their environment

values, attitudes



Normative learning objectives (UDHR)

learning about country specific complaints mechanism or likewise

Linking the final phase of the learning to a process/ output

The pupils should be encouraged to proactively seek for information.

The teacher can support in providing guidance on the action points linked to the process (such as design poster, conduct exhibition, set-up of website, conduct interviews and publish etc. -> this way the practical skills to translate things into action are advanced, development of competencies)

the level of rights awareness of marginalized groups

set-up of website

write an article in the local news

art, cartoon exhibition

conduct an appointment with the national anti discrimination/equality body and to present this back to school

conduct interviews with marginalized groups

conduct a training on human rights with a group of smaller aged students of the same school

peer to peer or mentoring type of work

1 page poster of code of ethics for the school class as a concrete contract for all parties

individual, family, community, country, history

[1] Annex Yad Vashem methodology or book ‘Through Our Eyes’.



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