Rockford Public Schools
Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum
Rationale and Overview:
The teaching of the Holocaust has long been a staple in Social Studies instruction at all levels. From an introductory unit at the elementary level to
a much larger and in-depth exposure at the high school, it has long served as the sole exposure to the elements of genocide and human
destruction. In 2005 the Illinois State legislature passed Public Act 094-0478 broadening the state mandate to teach the Holocaust to also include
the teaching of genocide in much broader terms and using additional case studies, including, but not limited to, the Armenian genocide, the
Ukrainian famine-genocide, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan.
Rockford Public Schools social studies, as taught in the elementary schools, includes instruction in the sociological aspects of self and community
and American history. In the middle grades it includes an introduction to ancient civilizations, geography and US history to 1877. High school
social studies require three courses, one year of United States history and one semester each of government and economics. The following
curriculum is a suggested path and pattern for Rockford school teachers to follow in order to enact a P-20 curriculum model. This curriculum is
designed to provide an outline for the sequence and scope of teaching the Holocaust and genocides and help teachers to integrate the subject of
genocide deeper into their existing curriculums.
Teaching the Holocaust and genocide:
It is the District’s recommendation that the total time spent teaching genocide, as a focused instructional unit, span three to five lessons at each
level and that further exposure be given through natural integration of these topics into already extant lessons.
The teaching of the Holocaust and genocide should be done in a manner that is both sensitive to the age-level and maturity of the students. It is
suggested that teachers communicate their plans to the appropriate administrators, especially if they plan to utilize graphic materials or have
students engage in lessons that are possibly disconcerting. Teachers are further advised to follow the District’s guidelines on the use of
appropriate multimedia in teaching subjects of this nature.
What follows is a recommended outline that delineates the appropriate knowledge and case studies for discussion at each level. However, a
teacher should feel free to respond to the inquiries of their students or select additional case studies that help them reach the diverse backgrounds
and interests of their students, but in such a manner that reflects and respects the appropriate scope and sequence.
Relationship to Power Standards:
The District’s Power Standards are the absolute and enduring social studies standards that provide scope and sequence for amassing student
knowledge. Clearly aligned to the ISBE State Learning Goals for Students, the Power Standards are the starting point for the genocide curriculum
outline yet they also provide the opportunity to develop further integration of an ongoing examination of genocide beyond the concentrated
curriculum. Working with the Power Standards teachers will be able to plan their instruction so that it builds upon a student’s previous knowledge
of the Holocaust and genocide.
Elementary (Grades K-5)
1. Sociological group dynamics
a. How do you get along with others?
b. What is a community?
c. Who has authority (how do you recognize and respect it)?
d. Dr. Seuss, “The Sneetches”
a. Individual socialization
b. How does group mentality begin to emerge
c. Passive participation
3. Content case study: Holocaust
4. Holocaust and genocide-related literature (elementary-level)
Middle (Grades 6-8)
1. World geography
a. Define genocide
b. Where have genocides occurred?
c. What are the cultural/demographic/geographic forces that precipitate genocide?
d. What are the consequences of genocide on geographic elements (e.g. population shifts, migrations, economic developments)?
e. What have been the responses to genocide?
2. Content case studies
a. Ancient civilizations (e.g. persecution, destruction of peoples)
3. Holocaust and genocide-related literature (middle grades-level)
High School (Grades 9-12)
1. Overview of genocide and review of the Holocaust
a. Review the history of the Holocaust
b. Add additional content of the Holocaust
c. Present analytical facets of the Holocaust for comparative analysis
iii. Under the disguise of war
iv. Ethnicity and nationalism determine target for complete extermination
v. Victims, perpetrators, and bystanders
vii. Relationship to Human Rights
viii. Reliability of information
1. What is it?
a. Raphael Lemkin and the UN Definition
2. Who decides?
a. UN Conventions on Genocide and Human Rights
3. Does having a definition help or hinder an academic study of genocide and policy makers when confronting
ii. Brief Overview. Note: The following is excerpted from The Genocide Convention at Fifty by William Schabas of the U.S.
Institute of Peace. Teachers should distribute this excerpt to all students and can be found at:
“The destruction of ethnic groups has marred the progress of human history almost from its beginnings. There are reports
of genocide-like massacres in the writings of the ancient Greeks and in the history of the Middle Ages. Indigenous
populations in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, and elsewhere were sometimes slated for elimination by their
"discoverers" or their colonizers. But ethnic massacre truly seems to have flourished in the twentieth century. The first
great genocide of the era dates to the First World War when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were destroyed despite
the protests of Western diplomats who, possibly for the first time, called such killings a "crime against humanity." In the
Second World War, after nearly a decade of mounting anti-Semitism, Hitler undertook what he called the "final solution,"
reminding his generals that "nobody remembers the Armenians." Churchill called it "the crime without a name," and it was
only in 1944 that a Jewish refugee from Poland teaching in the United States, Raphael Lemkin, coined the term genocide
in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Lemkin's neologism was rapidly accepted. In 1945, the Nuremberg prosecutors
charged genocide in the indictment of Goering, Hess and the others, although the judges of the International Military
Tribunal kept with the official terminology used in their statute and described the Nazi atrocities as "crimes against
humanity." After the Nuremberg judgment, the UN General Assembly declared genocide an international crime and
directed that a treaty aimed at its prevention and punishment be drafted.”
e. Comparisons between individual case-studies (e.g. the Holocaust and Rwanda, and/or Bosnia, etc.) using the analytical elements.
i. “Test” the individual case studies against the definition of genocide: Is it genocide? Why or why not?
f. US policy toward the Holocaust and genocides
ii. Relationship to UN
iii. Political relationships
iv. Economic interests
v. Human Rights
2. Genocide case studies for possible inclusion
a. Irish Famine
c. Famine-genocide in Ukraine
f. East Timor
h. Bosnia (Kosovo)
i. El Salvador
j. Bengali and Pakistan
l. Iraq (Kurds)
*the case studies in bold are those that are specifically mentioned in the Illinois state legislation authorizing the mandate.
3. US Historical case studies for possible inclusion
a. Native Americans
b. African Americans and slavery
c. Native Hawaiians
d. Japanese Americans
a. If “never again” why do genocides still occur?
b. How could we prevent future genocides?
5. Social activism/activist teaching/individual responsibility
a. What can I do to help prevent future genocide?
b. What is my personal responsibility?
c. What organizations can I associate with to do more?
6. Holocaust and genocide-related literature (high school-level)
Suggested links and resources:
Northern Illinois University Institute on Genocide and Human Rights
(explore “Links” and “Lesson Plans” for further content)
University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
(explore “Links” and “Bibliography” for lesson plans and content)
NJ State Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum
Dr. J.D. Bowers
Northern Illinois University
Director of Institute on Genocide and Human Rights
Department of History