For years, every time we covered World War II and the Holocaust in school it was just a fact memorization activity. “Hitler was bad and did bad things.” When I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic in college, I got to look at the Holocaust in a new light. It was not just a fact dump but instead a philosophical inquiry.
We used the Holocaust and the work of the Third Reich as a jumping off point to debate and consider questions like: How are values and ethics established in individuals, groups and organizations? What are the responsibilities of leaders to establish ethical climates in their organizations and communities? What are the responsibilities of followers and bystanders? How does this all relate to the world today?
This experience put the power into my hands to guide my educational experience and allowed me to truly reflect on not just events that happened in history but how and why they happen. Now as a World History teacher who covers both World Wars I and II, I attempt to provide this same energy and power to my students by bringing historical dilemmas and events into modern terms that promote inquiry and self reflection.