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2kNreeJ

2kNreeJ

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 122 The thread that links each of these misconceptions together is that they are the result of misinformation or a lack of historical knowledge, and are unfortunately perpetuated by a methodology or an approach that seeks simplistic answers to what are complex historical questions. Our shared goal in this piece is to identify misconceptions that you may have heard about or even believe yourself, as well as to provide factually-based, historically-sound, succinct answers to correct these misconceptions. Each of these queries is valuable and including them does not imply that students should be discouraged from asking such questions. It is our shared pedagogical belief that in asking questions, student are part of the learning process and should be encouraged to engage in questioning. We also provide information on where to find additional information on each of the relevant issues. Although it is not exhaustive by any means, it will equip educators with appropriate tools with which to correct some of the most common misunderstandings that arise, and dispel erroneous myths. We have chosen the questions that kept cropping up in our teaching experiences. Presented in numerical order on the following pages, we hope this content assists in your teaching. Part of the memorial to the Rosenstraße protest called “Block der Frauen” by Ingeborg Hunzinger. Photo credit: Michael Rajzman for the Neuberger

Misconceptions, Myths, and Questions We Have Been Asked During Our Years of Teaching the Holocaust 1 Didn’t Hitler have Jewish ancestors? Asked by: Jason, public high school, Grade 10 Students have frequently asked us this question in one variation or another. Variations such as “Wasn’t Hitler part Jewish?” or “Is it true that Hitler had a Jewish grandparent?” invariably crop up. The reason for attempting to find a Jewish familial connection to Hitler, or to another Nazi perpetrator, is as baffling as it is problematic. Historian Doris Bergen has written extensively on how this fascination with Hitler’s genealogy is representative of the obsession with issues of blood and race that existed during the National Socialist era in Germany. Bergen notes, “In Nazi Germany, accusations of so-called Jewish blood were a sure way to discredit someone (31).” Exhaustive historical research has also revealed that there is no evidence that Hitler had any Jewish relatives. The myth originates perhaps because his paternal grandfather Alois was born to an unmarried woman who did not name the identity of the father of her child. The myth persists, perhaps, because of a desire to link the perpetrators to their victims as if to find a way to blame the victims for their fate. Yet as Bergen aptly demonstrates in War & Genocide, this is a complete myth. She writes, “Those allegations were unfounded. In fact there were no Jews in the town where Hitler’s grandmother lived, because Jews were prohibited from living in that part of Austria at the time.” 123 HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE If we invert the question for our students as in “Would it make any difference if Hitler had a Jewish ancestor?” or “Why are we curious about whether or not Hitler had a Jewish relative?” it may reveal more about us, and our attitudes, than it would ever reveal about why Hitler fervently promoted his anti-Jewish, exclusionary Nazi ideology. This is important to know and teach because: In teaching and learning about the Holocaust, it is imperative that we avoid simplistic answers and encourage critical thinking skills and self-reflection. We need to avoid looking for “the” answer as to why Hitler was an antisemite who created a racial hierarchy and subsequently engaged in genocidal policies. We need to stop looking only for the answer and instead, wrestle more with the questions.

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