Using film to teach the Holocaust

08 Jan 2018 BY Kathy Mather in Using Film to Teach...

5 mins
Everything Is Illuminated
Everything Is Illuminated

Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) is a poignant reminder of not only those who suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution during the Second World War, but of the victims of all genocides throughout history. As always, Into Film supports Holocaust Memorial Day and its 2018 theme, ‘The Power of Words' - by encouraging teachers to use the accessible and engaging medium of film to explore this challenging topic with their students.

Films are one of the most powerful ways for young people to gain an understanding of the experiences of those who suffered under genocide, and by reflecting on and discussing the issues raised in these films, viewers can learn lessons from the past and help create a safer, better future.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Chief Executive

Watching and discussing an age-appropriate film is an important and effective gateway to learning about the Holocaust. Below, Kathy Mather, from Holy Cross Roman Catholic Primary School on the Isle of Wight, tells us how she used one particular film to teach her students about the Holocaust.

As part of our film club at Holy Cross RC Primary School we use memorial days, and celebration days/weeks as a focus for the films we choose to watch. After carefully researching the films and resources available on the Into Film website, I decided to show Paper Clips to my club. Paper Clips was chosen as it documents how a group of children were so moved by the Holocaust that they wanted to show their understanding and respect for such an horrific period of history. Additionally, it is a film best suited to the ages of my film club members (my club is for Years 5 and 6 so are aged between 9 and 11). 

Before showing the film we had a discussion about what the Holocaust was and the impact it had on people living at that time. Some students already knew of some of the acts of violence and terror. We then went on to discuss what type of person Adolf Hitler was. The children were aghast that this kind of crime was ever committed and found it quite a struggle to understand how it was allowed to happen, and how by just being someone other than Hitler wanted they were killed. All the children watched the film intently and showed a great deal of empathy for the Holocaust survivors who spoke in it.

As the documentary went on and the stories were told, a number of children became very emotional at the realisation of what the survivors went through. Reviewing the film afterwards provided a further chance to express their views - one student won Review of the Week and had his review featured on the Into Film and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust websites.

Watching this film has highlighted to the children the need to mark Holocaust Memorial Day each year, so that the people who lost their lives will forever be remembered, and so that we as a society can learn from it and try to ensure that such a tragic event doesn't happen again. At the end of film club I gave each of the children a Paper Clip to wear so they could show and discuss it with others, and they continued to wear them for sometime.

Kathy Mather Primary School Teacher

Kathy Mather, Primary School Teacher

Kathy has run Film Club at Holy Cross Primary School for the past 5 years and uses local, national and international events and occasions as a focus for the film choices she shows.

This Article is part of: Using Film to Teach...

A series of articles that highlight how the medium of film can be used to teach a wide variety of subjects and themes.

View other Articles in this column

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