Engaging with Holocaust Memorial Day through film

10 Jan 2023 BY Rachel Century

6 mins
The Book Thief
The Book Thief

We mark a number of significant calendar dates here at Into Film but perhaps none are more important for the classroom and specifically in the context of film and learning, as Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January).

We are therefore very happy to present an article written by Rachel Century, the Head of Research for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT). Below, she discusses the history of this crucial day of remembrance, the importance of film in conveying the impact of genocide and the many ways that you and your students can get involved.

Film can be crucial in discovering more about and discussing the impact of genocide, and can bring a group together as they discuss the issues raised.

Rachel Century, Head of Research for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT)

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. We promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) - an international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable, and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.

HMD is for everyone. Each year across the UK, tens of thousands of people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. We know they learn more, empathise more and do more as a result. These activities take place in schools, libraries, cinemas, prisons, museums, local authorities, faith buildings and many more, and take a variety of formats including assemblies, ceremonies, sermons, film screenings and workshops.

We know that it may not be possible for groups, organisations and communities to physically come together. We have therefore created HMD Together, a collection of resources that have been specifically designed to enable people to mark HMD in meaningful ways, even if we can't gather in person.

Within this, we have produced two resources called Watch Together that explore film as a way of commemorating and learning about the Holocaust and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Each resource - one focusing on The Book Thief and one with a focus on genocides that occurred after the Holocaust - supports those who wish to organise a film-led activity, with discussion questions, film recommendations and follow up activities.

Film can be crucial in discovering more about and discussing the impact of genocide, and can bring a group together as they discuss the issues raised. There are so many films that relate to the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and it can be hard choosing. Our resources have several options for different films but please watch any film yourself first if you can to ensure they are appropriate for your classroom. After watching a film, either together in a classroom or individually at home, discuss with your students what they thought about it, the questions from the resources and if appropriate, whether it was a suitable method of learning about genocide.

You may like to follow your HMD film screening with another activity to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, such as encouraging your students to write their own poem inspired by the film they watched.

Finally, on the day itself, please encourage your group to join us in Lighting the Darkness. We organise a national moment for Holocaust Memorial Day each year where households across the UK will be lighting candles in their windows at 8pm. This is to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand together against hatred and prejudice today.

However you mark Holocaust Memorial Day, please add your event or activity to our online map as this helps us build up the picture of how the day is marked all around the UK.

If you're interested in exploring films around the Holocaust with your students, the aforementioned The Book Thief as well as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Diary of Anne Frank can all be watched on Into Film's free* streaming service for schools, Into Film+, and include additional teaching resources for the classroom.

*Screenings for an entertainment or extra-curricular purpose require a PVS (Public Video Screening) Licence from Filmbankmedia. State-funded schools in England are covered by the PVS Licence.

Rachel wrote the Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 article

Rachel Century, Head of Research for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT)

Rachel has been a member of the staff team at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust since 2013, starting in the role of Education Officer.

She has a doctorate in Holocaust Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London and published a book based on her research in 2017. She is an educator for March of the Living UK. In addition she is a Fellow of the Imperial War Museum in Holocaust Education, is currently a member of the External Advisory Group supporting the IWM's learning programme and is in the inaugural cohort of the Global Holocaust Educator Fellowship.

You may also be interested in...

Viewing 4 of 4 related items.

Into Film Clubs

Into Film Clubs

Find out everything you need to know about starting an Into Film Club.

News details

Want to write for us?

Get in touch with your article ideas for the News and Views section.