In 2014 I attended a forum held by No 10 Downing Street at Wembley Arena. Holocaust survivors and their families were being invited to participate in the Prime Minister’s commission for a permanent memorial for the Holocaust in Britain. Since the 1990s, successive British Prime Ministers have each attempted to out-do their predecessors in their desire to acknowledge and embrace the legacy of the Holocaust. Organisations like the Holocaust Education Trust, who I work for from time to time have benefitted in terms of funding and their ability to influence government policy, and the profile of the Holocaust has steadily risen in the classroom. I can see the benefits of this when I work on the Lessons From Auschwitz programme twice a year and we take hundreds of pupils to Poland to see the crematoria and the railways. The general opinion of the survivors and families gathered at the PM’s forum, hosted by Natasha Kaplinsky and attended by such luminaries as Eric Pickles, was that the Holocaust ought to be taught even more in schools, that the lessons were still not being learned and that children still did not know enough about it. In some schools it is possible to study the Holocaust in KS3, Nazism and the Third Reich at GCSE and again at A level. Many pupils (as I have previously discussed here) come to the subject with everything the History Channel has provided them with, meaning that far from their being a lack of knowledge, they are saturated with it. If it is taught at KS3, the re-teaching of the subject at GCSE does nothing for the overall understanding of the Holocaust (and research being done at the moment, which I can’t say any more about now because it is still being written but I will hopefully be able to divulge soon) suggests that it actually undermines deeper learning about the Final Solution.
Are there better ways of doing this? Yes, of course, and I will try to address alternatives to repetition in coming posts.