Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bystanders, Collaborators and Perpetrators

Recently at MCHE we went through some “refresher” training in a curriculum series titled Echoes and Reflections.  This is a really great resource for teachers, especially if you had a class or an entire unit designated to Holocaust studies.  But, I am not one of those lucky teachers.  In fact I teach US History, so I always have to find creative ways to work in Holocaust education into my classroom during our unit on WWII.  I’ve blogged aboutways to do this in earlier posts such as comparing and contrasting Jim Crow andNuremberg Laws.  I’ve used readings from the book Race and Membership inAmerican History:  The Eugenics Movement, which was created by Facing History and Ourselves to examine eugenics programs and racial misconceptions in both the US and Germany.     

The newest lesson I introduced this year was dealing with the terms:  bystanders, collaborators, and perpetrators.  I used a lesson from the Echoes and Reflections curriculum that has students define the terms and then apply them to a document.  The document is an official report discussing one particular Jewish transport.  In this lesson, I had students first define the terms bystander, collaborator, and perpetrator.  We discussed the definitions and came to a consensus on each definition.  Then they read the report and made a list of all people who were involved or aware of the transport.  We discussed that list as a class and then I asked students to label who was a bystander, collaborator, and perpetrator based on the definitions.  

We then went over the labels and it was really very interesting to see how the students came up with different labels for most of the people.  We then had a group discussion about these three terms and how you determine who should be held accountable and how. For example, we asked if the US was a bystander and if so what was our responsibility?   My students really wrestled with these questions and I think it helped, once again, to establish the complexity of the Holocaust in dealing with the subject of responsibility and accountability. 

Training on this curriculum is available through the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in July - and all registered participants receive a free copy of the curriculum valued at $100. If you are not able to attend a training, you can still check a copy of the curriculum out of the MCHE Resource Center

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