Holocaust education Contents

1The purpose of Holocaust education

Social and historical awareness

7.The Department for Education told us that “The Government believes it is important that pupils are taught the history and understand the appalling events of the Holocaust, and to understand how society can prevent the repeat of such a catastrophe.”4 As a consequence, the Holocaust has been a named topic for compulsory inclusion as part of the secondary school history curriculum in England since the statutory National Curriculum was introduced in 1991.5 Its status was unaffected by the 2014 review of the National Curriculum.6 Although the teaching of the Holocaust is a compulsory part of the history curriculum in maintained schools, the Department for Education acknowledges the scope for it to be taught through other subjects in addition to history.7 The Department also stated in its written memorandum that “whilst there is no requirement to teach the history of other genocide atrocities, teachers are free to do so, and many do.”8

Confronting intolerance and prejudice

8.A number of the written submissions that we received from people involved in the education of young people stated that intolerance and prejudice in general and anti-Semitism in particular were problems that they had encountered in classrooms and wider society.9 Tackling intolerance and prejudice was also given as a reason to teach the Holocaust in schools. Paul Salmons, Programme Director of the Centre for Holocaust Education (CfHE) at University College London’s Institute of Education told us that it was difficult to show through research that teaching the Holocaust promoted tolerance. However, he noted that this was a problem not limited to Holocaust education, but was a feature of ‘values education’ more widely, and did not necessarily mean that the effect did not take place.10 Professor Debórah Dwork at Clark University went further in her memorandum, stating that although “there is no empirical evidence that Holocaust education either is needed to serve as vaccination against racism, or in fact does so function, students clearly believe that is its role.”11 These views were shared by Professor Michael Rosen, Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths University of London, who told us that while it was difficult to say that Holocaust education promoted tolerance as such, it had a role to play in confronting Holocaust denial and challenging racism and anti-Semitism.12

9.However, Paul Salmons suggested that the value of Holocaust education was in the opportunity it presented for the articulation of values often already held by young people, a view which was shared by Andy Lawrence, a history teacher from Hampton School.13 Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) suggested that studying the Holocaust might cause young people to become more active in the community in fighting injustice.14 Andy Lawrence gave an example of this activism in the production by a group of students of a video entitled We Remember Rwanda, which was made following their study of the 1994 genocide in that country.15 The Board of Deputies of British Jews stated that the “messages of Holocaust education, including the danger of appeasement, lead logically out of the classroom and into social action and campaigning.”16

10.We have received a wealth of written evidence attesting to the importance of
high-quality Holocaust education
. This requires a detailed knowledge of the subject including when, why, where and who as well as an understanding of the roles of perpetrator, victim, bystander and rescuer. We have heard about examples of inspiring education which take students well beyond the classroom. At its best, Holocaust education can lead students towards being active and informed citizens.

4 Department for Education (HOL 053) para 4

5 Department for Education (HOL 053) para 1

6 Department for Education, The national curriculum in England: Key stages 3 and 4 framework document (December 2014), p97

7 Department for Education (HOL 053) para 2

8 Department for Education (HOL 053) para 3

9 Professor Michael Rosen (HOL 001) paras 3-4; Alice Bouilliez (HOL 002) paras 3-5; Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (HOL 021) paras 3 and 10; Community Safety Trust (HOL 082) para 5

10 Q1

11 Professor Debórah Dwork (HOL 047) para 17

12 Q35

13 Q1 [Salmons]; Q35 [Lawrence]

14 Q1

15 Q37; Youtube.com, We Remember Rwanda, accessed 27 December 2015; see also Centre for Holocaust Education, St John’s School, Leatherhead, accessed 27 December 2015

16 Board of Deputies of British Jews (HOL 091) para 6

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 21 January 2016