Learning about the Holocaust

From Prejudice to Genocide – Learning about the Holocaust by Carrie Supple, published by Trentham Books 1993, 2003, 2006 and Stylus Publishing in the USA

I taught History in secondary schools for ten years 1982 – 1992.  When it came to the Holocaust, text books said something like, ‘Hitler hated the Jews and he murdered six million of them’ and the text was accompanied by a photo of dead skeletal bodies – with maybe a mention of Anne Frank.  Nothing about Jewish or Gypsy life, nothing examining the perpetrators, non-Nazi Germans, ‘other’ victims’, Jewish resistance, responses or rescuers.  There was nothing to help us begin to understand why and how the Holocaust could possibly have happened, only crude stereotypes.  As a Jewish person, active in anti-racist education looking at how people were represented, whose voices were heard and whose pictures we saw, I was appalled.  So I decided to write a book for teachers and students which included the themes (above) I thought were missing, including dictatorship, collaboration, indifference, obedience, dehumanisation and  solidarity, when those who, despite unimaginable fear, spoke out and tried to save victims of the Nazis.  The book took five years, 1986 – 1991, to research and write because I was working full time though I had a sabbatical term interviewing staff and students about their teaching and learning of the Holocaust in  North East schools.  I am immensely grateful to my editor Dr Gillian Klein and to Sir Martin Gilbert who proofread my copy and sent 60 pages of corrections!  Thanks also to the friends, colleagues, family and pupils, too many to name – who made it possible.  They are all listed in the book.


From Prejudice to Genocide: Learning about the Holocaust: Third Revised Edition

Author: Carrie Supple

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Where Shall We Go? Swingbridge Video, 1991

While living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (where my mother Sonia was born) friends Nick Hudson, Viv Schwartzberg and I made a film which brought Holocaust survivors and school students together.  We found four extraordinary survivors living in England, working with young people and the public in the 1980s, talking about their experiences: Esther Brunstein and Chaim Nagelsztajn from Poland, Liesl Silverstone from what was Czechoslovakia and Werner Meyer from Germany.  Their families were a mix of: socialist, Zionist, religious, secular, rich and poor.  Werner and Liesl escaped to England in 1938-9 and Chaim and Esther survived the death camps though close family members of all four were murdered.  We advertised in local schools and chose 12 remarkable young people to take part.  The discussion was immensely powerful.  It covered: life before the Holocaust, perceptions of Hitler and the Nazis, anti-Semitism, friendships, invasion, separation from and reunion with family, ghetto life, deportation, bystanders/rescuers, Auschwitz, perpetrators, murder of family, coping with survival, the role of religion/humanism and racism today.  Esther, Werner, Liesl and Chaim’s stories are also told in my book From Prejudice to Genocide.

The film was launched in 1991 at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle.  With huge thanks to our participants, funders (listed at the end of the film) and Hugh Kelly and staff at Swingbridge Video.

Twenty years on, I tried to find everyone who appears in the film and am grateful to those who gave their permission for WSWG to be online.  Since the aim was for as many people as possible to see it, I hope you’re fine with it being on the web.

Voices of the Holocaust, British Library, 1993

In 1992 I was asked to edit a set of interviews with Holocaust survivors, recorded by the British Library for use in schools.  The resource introduces students to a range of experiences before, during and after the Holocaust.  The testimony conveys the mix of Jewish life and responses through personal stories.  Click here to read about and listen to Voices of the Holocaust.


The Holocaust in the School Curriculum – a European Perspective, by Geoffrey Short, Carrie Supple and Katherine Klinger, Council of Europe, 1998

A guide to teaching about the Holocaust – why it should be taught, the role it plays in promoting anti-racism, some of the issues and problems involved and a directory of organisations which can advise.  Read The Holocaust in the School Curriculum.

‘That was the sin of Nazi Germany…The dehumanization. Making people into vermin’. (Werner Mayer, escaped to England on the Kindertransport)

‘I don’t hate en masse, I can’t do it because it was done to me and I know it is a very destructive force.’ (Esther Brunstein, survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen)

‘God did not put the Jews in Auschwitz, man did’ (Rabbi Hugo Gryn, survivor)


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