Outstanding SMSC

It is essential that the Holocaust is not simply reduced to a package of easy moral lessons. Outstanding SMSC comes from young people wrestling with the difficult questions that emerge from a more complex understanding of the Holocaust.

“Holocaust and Genocide Education… is a significant strength, creating proper, respectful people. There is an over whelming positive ethos, attitude and respect for each other and all the issues covered. – OFSTED inspection in 2013”

The Holocaust is frequently deployed to teach universal lessons about the dangers of man’s inhumanity to man, the evils of racism and the need for a more tolerant society. All are good causes, but do we really need the Holocaust to demonstrate their value?

Racism is wrong, but not because of the gas chambers of Treblinka. It is wrong intellectually for its weak and faulty view of human beings, and morally for the widespread injustice and suffering it causes every day. Reducing the Holocaust to ‘this is where racism can lead’ teaches us nothing and oversimplifies a complex historical past, at the risk of missing other important truths.

Asking difficult questions

If we simply turn the Holocaust into a metaphor for the ‘lessons’ we wish young people to learn, then we deprive students of the opportunity to ask the challenging and difficult questions that come from the specificity of the event itself.

How was it possible that not long ago, and not far from where we live, people collaborated in the murder of their Jewish neighbours? Why didn’t people do more to save them? How does the genocide of European Jewry relate to the other atrocities committed by the Nazis: the genocide of the Roma and Sinti (or Gypsies); the mass murder of disabled people; the genocide of the Poles and Slavs; the persecution and murder of political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and others? How did the victims respond to, and how far did they resist, the unfolding genocide?

Shocking truths

Through the Centre’s teaching and learning resources students discover that there is no record of anyone being killed or sent to a concentration camp for refusing to murder Jewish people, while there are cases of people refusing to murder who were simply given other duties or even sent back home.

They learn that, while Nazi antisemitic ideology was the driving motivation of many decision-makers and killers, others participated in mass shootings because of peer pressure, ambition or a warped sense of duty. They find examples of rescuers who were antisemitic but who still risked their lives to save Jewish people, while others with more enlightened views did nothing. And they discover that tens of thousands profited from the persecution of their neighbours, using slave labour from the camps in their businesses and on their farms.

The issues raised have profound implications for religious education, for citizenship, and for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of our students.

Our lesson ‘Being human?’ explores the widespread complicity of ordinary people in this European-wide genocide.

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“Very relevant to citizenship, as it can provide for all aspects: identity and diversity, responsibility, democracy and justice.”