What is the Holocaust?


the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II



High School - United States History Since 1877

113.41.c.7.d: analyze major issues of World War II, including the Holocaust; the internment of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans and Executive Order 9066; and the development of conventional and atomic weapons.

Background Information


  • January 30: Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Von Hindenburg.
  • March 22: The first official Nazi concentration camp opens in Dachau, a small village located near Munich


  • September 15: "Nuremberg Laws": first anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens; Jews could not marry Aryans; nor could they fly the German flag.


  • March 3: Jewish doctors barred from practicing medicine in German institutions.


  • August 3: Italy enacts sweeping antisemitic laws
  • November 9-10: Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland; 200 synagogues destroyed; 7,500 Jewish shops looted; 30,000 male Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen).


  • September 1: Beginning of World War II: Germany invades Poland. In the following weeks, 16.336 civilians are murdered by the Nazies in 714 localities. At least 5,000 victims were Jews.
  • November 23: Jews in German-occupied Poland forced to wear an arm band or yellow star.


  • May 20: Concentration camp established at Auschwitz.


  • October: Establishment of Auschwitz II (Birkenau) for the extermination of Jews; Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and others were also murdered at the camp.
  • December 7: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
  • December 11: United States declares war on Japan and Germany.


  • June 6: D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy.
  • October 7: Revolt by inmates at Auschwitz; one crematorium blown up;
  • November: Last Jews deported from Terezin to Auschwitz.
  • November 8: Beginning of death march of approximately 40,000 Jews from Budapest to Austria.


  • January 17: Evacuation of Auschwitz; beginning of death march
  • April 29: Liberation of Dachau.
  • April 30: Hitler commits suicide, liberation of Ravensbruck.
  • May 8: V-E Day: Germany surrenders; end of Third Reich


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What countries were affected by the Holocaust?

Shown in the picture above are all the different countries that the Nazi party invaded during World War II. From 1938- 1943, the Nazi Party occupied and invaded countries such as Poland, Austria, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, etc. The Jewish people living in these countries were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.


What is a concentration camp? And what is life like in one?

A concentration camp is, " a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy."

In these camps, prisoners were beat, malnourished, but given enough for to do the slave labor, had to live in unsanitary conditions, and were not given proper clothing for the weather they lived in.



Multiple Perspectives

While doing this project I was able to listen to/read about two different stories of holocaust survivors. One of them was a talk at the TCU Holocaust Museum by a man named Harry Kahn and the second was an autobiography about a man named Primo Levi and how he survived Auschwitz.

When I was listening to Harry Kahn speak, I heard a much different story than what I was expecting. Instead of listening to a man's struggles as he was rounded up by the Nazi Party and sent to a concentration camp. Instead I heard a story of a man who was for some reason chosen to clean up his synagogue instead of being sent to Dachau. I heard of how him and hist sister went to Cologne until is was safe for them to hop on a ship to America. The whole time I was listening to the story I was expecting something tragic to happen, but him, his mother, and his sister were able to safely meet his father in America. He still lived in fear every day, but in a different way than most might think of. One thing he said that really stuck out to me was when he mentioned that even though he was safe in America, he would've changed that to help the rest of his family that was still in Germany being sent to concentration camps.

The autobiographical book I read by Primo Levi started out as the "typical" Holocaust story that I expected it to be. He was a 24 year old chemist from Italy who's life got turned upside down when he was rounded up, put on a train, and sent to Auschwitz. He talked about the brutal conditions and the daily routines and how he would use bread to trade for different things he needed. At one point, he was sent to the infirmary where he said he was actually able to rest for a while. Eventually, he was sent back to the hard labor and the terrible conditions until his profession of chemistry ended up saving his life.

Primary Source

If This is a Man and The Truce - By Primo Levi

Autobiography of Primo Levi.

First hand account of his journey to, survival of, and departure from Auschwitz concentration camp.

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When should the Holocaust first be introduced to students?

When looking through the TEKS, I found that the Holocaust wasn't explicitly mentioned in the TEKS until high school. I looked a little further and tried to look at where World War II was mentioned in the elementary TEKS. It was first mentioned in the 2nd grade ,but it ha d to do with World War II Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). The other times that World War II was mentioned was in the 4th and 7th grade TEKS, but they involved how World War II effected Texas. This made me wonder when was an appropriate time to introduce the Holocaust to elementary students because I feel like it is too important of an issue to be put off until high school.

For this, I emailed several different Holocaust museums and asked them when they thought students should be introduced to the Holocaust. One of the responses I got was from Senior Researcher Aaron Breitbart from the Museum of Tolerance - Los Angeles. He said,

“My personal belief is that children below the age of 9 may not be ready to study the Holocaust, but are able to understand discrimination, as well as learn which groups that have been targeted by it. They should be taught that bigotry and intolerance have brought on horrific suffering and even mass murder. There is a good amount of children's literature on the Holocaust, and by the age of 10, children can be more directly introduced holocaust study, though the teacher should be careful with the more gory details.

I liked his response because it gave an idea for scaffolding information about the Holocaust until students are ready to actually hear about this serious event in history.

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