NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ856325
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Bearing Witness: Teaching the Holocaust from a Victim-Centered Perspective
Blutinger, Jeffrey C.
History Teacher, v42 n3 p269-279 May 2009
A fundamental problem faced by anyone who wishes to teach the Holocaust, or any other mass slaughter, is the tension between the desire " to allow the dead their voices to make the silence heard," and a historical narrative that often deals almost exclusively on perpetrator actions. This bias in the narrative derives from the tendency in history, particularly in classroom teaching, to focus on historical actors. In the case of the Holocaust, this results in teaching the event from a German-centered perspective. This perpetrator-based discourse not only mirrors Nazi language, it exacerbates the image of Jews as going passively to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter. The solution to this problem is deceptively simple: to teach the Holocaust both from a victim-centered perspective, as well as from a perpetrator-based perspective. Both are essential in order to give the students a fuller understanding of the issues surrounding this event. This means giving voice to the victims, all the victims, and treating their experience as something of historical value in itself. Yet, almost all the discussion of how to construct a victim-centered narrative has been theoretical. How then can and should an instructor teach this subject from a victim-centered perspective? Survivor testimonies should play a central role in creating such a narrative, but these in turn raise distinct problems for the instructor. These include finding appropriate material to use in the classroom, particularly due to the disparity between the wealth of memoirs on the Jewish experience and the relative paucity of accounts written by non-Jews, but also the methodological problems inherent in this sort of material, namely the atypical experience of the survivor and distortions of memory that can creep into their memoirs. (Contains 37 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A