One of the main objectives of the trunk contents is to give the Holocaust a human voice. While studying the Holocaust, it is important to read first person accounts, eyewitness testimonies, or stories focusing on individual experiences. Doing so provides a greater understanding of the complexity of the Holocaust by demonstrating through personal accounts and stories that the Holocaust is more than analyses, statistics, and a period in history. The statistics especially, though staggering, should not be the emphasis of Holocaust studies.
Furthermore, providing students with the opportunity to learn about the themes of the Holocaust through personal accounts allows students to connect with what they’re learning. The legacy of the story of Anne Frank and her belief that despite everything people are truly good at heart has connected with millions of people throughout the world for decades. In this way, stories of survival, resilience, and standing up in the face of bigotry and discrimination is more powerful than the legacy and reputation of the Nazis and their crimes.
The Holocaust Learning Trunk Project coordinators, Georgia Commission on the Holocaust’s Educator Advisory Committee, and other advisors have selected challenging, thought-provoking resources and reviewed the materials in the trunks based on the following criteria:
- Age appropriateness
- Historical accuracy
- Social, political, and cultural context
- Variet of genres: memoir, diary, autobiographical novel, non-fiction, primary sources, drama, etc.
- Balance of personal stories, primary sources, and factual evidence
These materials provide students with the opportunity to expand their understanding of the past by using multiple sources and perspectives to build interpretations of past events. Materials are varied according to general learning styles: visual, audio, kinetic/tactile.
Materials that can have accompanying lesson modules must provide ability to teach the following:
- examination of historical events
- combination of testimony and factual evidence
- relevance to today
- allow students to:
- construct a timeline
- discuss themes
- write response journal reflecting on themes
- develop critical thinking skills
- examine and process historical and textual evidence
Materials and activities should not trivialize the Holocaust. Activities and teaching strategies that should be avoided:
- word scrambles, crossword puzzles, counting objects, model building, and other gimmicky exercises
- simulation exercises