How does one teach students about the Holocaust? With questions. One must begin with questions. What haunts those who undertake this educational task is the feeling that one ends with questions, too. Any answers seem inadequate to most of those questions, incomplete to the subject. Such feelings continue to haunt survivors, people who interview survivors, writers and historians who confront the subject. Almost all Holocaust curricula have ignored this fundamental difficulty of language to communicate this particular history. They have been too moralistic or too shocking, too uninformed or too sentimental, too certain or too missionary. They have either artificially freed themselves of the ghosts or become possessed by them.


Beginning with an awareness of such difficulties, the authors of this project also were aware of the insurmountable obstacle they inherited: speaking about the unspeakable—teaching about the unteachable. The authors also inherited a dilemma of silence. Should one remain silent? Or should one speak inadequately?


Like so many survivors who began to break their silence after 1981, the authors have proceeded with deep reservations, concerned that what they said could not possibly convey the reality. As one survivor noted, “there is not enough paper and not enough ink to write what one minute was like during the Holocaust.” The subject contains the most profound consequences—consequences that must be confronted and examined carefully and thoughtfully.


As one of the authors, I can offer a partial rationale for deciding to try to improve the quality of Holocaust education. After the most obvious reasons, one overrides all the others. I worry. I worry about my children and their children; I worry about the children of my friends and the children I do not know. I worry about Jewish children and non-Jewish children. It was too late for parents of Jewish children to worry in 1943. What could they have known about the plans for genocide?


Today we know what they could not have known. It is not too late to worry now—prevention may be a product of education. The forces of Western civilization that evolved into the Holocaust have not disappeared—they have continued in the mainstream of our own traditions: the excesses of objectivity, efficiency, bureaucracy, science, progress and civilization itself. We have avoided abstractions in the curriculum because the issues are not abstract—they are thousands of concrete examples of people engaged in routinized adaptation to murder. We have offered some of those examples.


And from those specifics, there are no analogies to be drawn, no “lessons” about the nature of man. There is the history, with its coldness and its calculating perpetrators, and there is the loss. We would like our children to know about those so they can avoid being victims and avoid being perpetrators.


Accepting the challenges of writing about the Holocaust was a bit less intimidating because Betty Rotberg Ellias understood the pitfalls and knew how to avoid them, and David Harris seemed unerring in his historical and ethical perspectives. Both brought admirable professionalism to the work. That professionalism was tempered by sensitivity to the experiences of the victims. Remarkably, all those who worked on the project had that combination of sensitivity and professionalism. They are recognized in the acknowledgements. One of them, however, stands out because of his faith and determination and his initiative to produce a high-caliber educational program. Dr. Sidney A. Lutz, president of the Center for the Study of the Child, must indeed worry about the children of the world. He has shown his dedication and love to them by his generosity in this project.


This curriculum is an 18-lesson unit. The number 18 in Hebrew is the word chai. It means “life.” Studying about the Holocaust ought to take a lifetime; more importantly, studying about the Holocaust ought to be devoted to the preservation and enhancement of life.


                                                                                      Sidney M. Bolkosky

                                                                                     August 18, 1987




This curriculum grew from humble beginnings in the Holocaust Sub-Committee of the Jewish Community Council (JCC) of Metropolitan Detroit. It was the brain-child of Zelda Robinson, chairperson of the sub-committee. Stefanie Gurwitz, who has since moved to Baltimore, Maryland, worked tirelessly as a coordinator for the JCC. Miriam Schey later assumed the responsibility; the remainder of the sub-committee was consistently supportive and helpful.


Oakland Schools offered to pilot a curriculum on the Holocaust. Dr. Guy Blackburn served as advisor to the original project. Diane Fletcher, secretary of the Oakland Schools Department of Curriculum and Instruction, proved to be not only efficient but aware of and sensitive to the issues involved. John Bancroft, Greg Clevenger, Randal DePollo, Harry Jubas and William Lynch piloted the first draft of the curriculum in their high school classes in 1985.


The Center for the Study of the Child had available the expertise of Lutz Associates professionals: Dr. Peter Nagourney was unstinting in his intelligent and sharp direction; Mary McBride, the account executive for the project, seemed to intuit the necessary character and tone; Zenon Tomyn, assisted by Sheryl Hildebrand and Lisa Ritter, produced exceptionally moving graphics; Jane Racey, Andrew Brown and Patricia Denstaedt brought the best of editorial skills to the text; and Deborah Van Hoewyk was indispensable, as were Karen Gilbert, Cynthia Eggleton, Jung-No Lee, Mary Ginka and everyone else at Lutz who contributed to this project.


After the graphics were thoughtfully and painstakingly designed, Howard Kloc of Klocworks Photography continued the rare blend of professionalism and sensitivity.


The people at the television studio on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus donated hundreds of hours videotaping photographs and interviews with Holocaust survivors for the videotape that accompanies this curriculum. The director of the studio, Christopher Laxton, and the engineer, Greg Taylor, were unfailing in their careful production of the tapes. Virginia Sayles, Director of Media, gave her staff the freedom to assist in the project.


Sarah Bell and the Midrasha Library were invaluable resources.


The JCC and the Center for the Study of the Child provided an advisory committee. The members of that committee include: Harry M. Eisenberg, Dr. David Harris, Dr. Peter Naourney, Zelda Robinson and Dr. Peter Stine.


The Holocaust Memorial Center of Greater Detroit allowed us access to its photographs and artifacts and permitted us to use its conference room and museum for teacher education workshops.


 Special Thanks:


Our thanks go to: Sheldon Lutz, who took a good idea and inspired those in the proper places to implement it; Marsha Kozlowski and Susan Bloetscher of Franklin J. Ellias & Associates, Ltd.; Shirley Kimbrough of the JCC; Dr. Beverly Geltner for her helpful comments; Leo Marx, who allowed us to use his astounding family collection of papers and photographs, which have been loaned to the University of Michigan-Dearborn; Eric Leighton for the use of his family photographs; Marton Adler for his photographs and recounting; Mrs. Fay Gutman Rotberg for the use of her family’s only remaining pre-war portrait; Joanne Rudolf of the Yale Video Archives; Alex Ehrmann for his warmth, support and personal history; Nathan Harris and Richard Brown for their artifacts and photographs; Franka Charlupski, Hilma Geffen, Dr. Leo Goldenberger, Ruth Kent, Sarah Kupfer, Leo Liffman, Bernie Offen, Abe Pasternak, Agi Rubin, Dr. Emanuel Tanay, Ruth Webber and Shari Weiss for speaking and allowing us to listen; Erna Gorman for her courage and generosity; Harvey Grace for the generous donation of studio time; Saul Wineman for his voice; Laurie Bolkosky for her patience; Miriam and Gabriel Bolkosky for their advice and balance; Franklin J. Ellias for his unflagging loyalty; The Detroit Free Press for the use of its photograph; WTVS, Channel 56 for its time; Selma Silverman for her dedication of education.


In a very real sense, this curriculum belongs to Dr. Sidney A. Lutz. He nurtured it, funded it, gave it new life and a new spirit. We hope our work reflects his high standards and his devotion to a better future.


Finally, the electronic edition of this curriculum would not be possible without the generous financial support of the Holocaust Education Coalition of Detroit.