Primary School Teaching notes

List of activities

  • A recommended approach to teaching the history of the Holocaust is to use background material and start by studying a book or film.
  • Step two would be to explore the timeline of events and clarify specific vocabulary to show the outcome of the exclusion process.
  • Allowances should be made for children’s prior command of the subject and what they may have imagined. At a very early age, primary school children come into contact with all kinds of facts in the media —the Internet, print, radio and television — and at home. The aim is to help them put what they already know in order rather than to overwhelm them with a mass of information.
  • It is advisable to use a map to locate the countries at war and the main centers of Jewish life.
  • Documents can help illustrate the various themes to be studied (photographs, drawings and letters by hidden children). Photographs must be carefully selected since they are powerful. Showing children graphic pictures or film footage of the Holocaust is obviously out of the question. They may be asked to bring items to school (badges, newspapers, flyers, posters, photographs, etc.).
  • At the close of the sequence, children should be encouraged to illustrate the theme through drawings, paintings, collages and writing so that they can externalize their emotions. Their questions should be answered if possible.
  • Teachers must be careful about avoiding rejection or saturation. The Holocaust’s specificity should be emphasized but later a wider perspective could help the children relate to other victims of racism or mass crimes (the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 and of the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994).
  • Beyond the horror of crimes incomprehensible to a child, taking a broader view including a message of hope for a better world is recommended. The following themes could be mentioned: the Righteous among the Nations; democratic advances such as justice, secularism, citizenship; key values such as tolerance, humanism, universalism; and the establishment of a strong and lasting peace between France and Germany after three wars.


The history of the Holocaust can be studied from many different angles across a variety of subjects — history, geography, civics, literature, art —and extracurricular activities such as meetings with witnesses or authors who write about the period, shows, exhibitions, films and activities organized by the Shoah Memorial. Current cultural and artistic events are also worthy of attention.

Meeting a witness

  • Meetings with witnesses must be carefully prepared, both with regard to the witnesses and the children. Witnesses should be asked to talk particularly about how their own personal experience relates to the historical context, but neither limit their talk to that nor try to give a history lesson. A wise precaution is to go through the story with the witness beforehand to be sure it will be comprehensible and free of unnecessary details that might shock young listeners.
  • Teachers should prepare the children for the visit and emphasize that it is impossible to judge events of which we all now know the tragic outcome with hindsight in order to avoid involuntarily indecent or arrogant questions.

Teaching and cultural activities organized by the Memorial Museum

  • Visit of the permanent exhibition with a special signposted tour and a visitor’s brochure especially designed for children.
  • Guided tours
  • Educational workshops for groups and individuals
  • Slide shows and panel discussions at the Forum des Images, Paris
  • Training courses for teachers and summer universities
  • Assistance with specific school projects
  • Pedagogical files and data sheets, etc.
  • Traveling thematic exhibitions
  • Multimedia Learning Center (testimonies, encyclopedia, website selection, films, etc.). Viewing on our premises.
  • Exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, panel discussions

The Memorial’s website has “Sarah’s Attic” — an introduction for 8-12 year olds — FAQ for children, a bibliography, a comparative timeline, a dictionary of the Holocaust linked to every page of the website and more.

Frequently asked questions in primary school