Never Stop Asking Why

Never Stop Asking Why

Watch the Never Stop Asking Why Video,
featuring Museum Council member, Ray Allen

As the Museum marks its 25th anniversary later this year, I am reaching out to ask you to join us in a new endeavor launching this month. As we look toward our next 25 years, the Museum’s greatest challenge is ensuring Holocaust history has permanent relevance and that it motivates new generations to think critically.

This is why we are launching Never Stop Asking Why, a digital engagement initiative that features teachers, (like you) and students (like yours), asking complex questions about the Holocaust and what it means for society today. Each week, we’ll focus on questions that explore a different theme, and provide various educational resources that will help deepen both knowledge and self-reflection. You can share as much or as little of the content as meets your needs, and at any time you can opt out of emails or choose not to participate.

Whether or not you choose to participate, we hope that you will follow the Museum across all of our social channels. We hope you are interested in being part of the Museum’s 25th anniversary!

Opportunities for MTFs in 2018

We are looking forward to a very busy and exciting 2018 here at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum full of programming, a new exhibition, and the Museum’s 25th anniversary. Of course, our educational programs and projects always benefit from the support of Museum Teacher Fellows. We also know that these are excellent networking and learning opportunities for you. So, if you need more experience in teacher training, writing, or facilitation, consider supporting the Museum by participating in some of these upcoming activities:

Conference for Holocaust Education Centers:
Applications are now being accepted for MTFs to be part of the Third Biannual Conference for Holocaust Education Centers (CHEC). The program will run May 22-25, 2018 at USHMM. Apply here.

Ten education staff members from Holocaust centers will attend. Each center will be paired with an MTF. Together they will work cooperatively with the Museum to continue to provide quality Holocaust education in U.S. secondary schools, build networks, and explore resources and content from the Museum and the Holocaust centers.

The Museum will cover travel, hotel, ground transportation while in Washington, DC, most meals, and per diem. The Museum will also pay a stipend for the work.  If you have questions, please contact Christina Chavarria directly.

Holocaust Institute for Teacher Educators:
The Holocaust Institute for Teacher Educators (HITE) is designed to encourage teacher educators to use the history of the Holocaust as a model for teacher candidates; prepare teacher candidates to teach about the Holocaust in middle and secondary school (6-12) settings; use national and state content standards in teaching about the Holocaust; and consider the ethical implications for classroom teachers in teaching about the Holocaust.

The Institute is designed for teacher educators currently teaching content methods courses. The Institute explores the content, methods, and rationales for teaching about the Holocaust. By examining the Holocaust within teacher education, we have the opportunity to enrich the learning opportunities provided to P-12 children. The one-week institute includes sessions on teaching about the Holocaust in secondary methods classrooms, ethical implications of teaching about the Holocaust, uses of literature, primary sources, and technology in teaching about the Holocaust.

Each institution will be paired with an MTF. Together they will work cooperatively with the Museum to continue to prepare the next generation of educators to teach about the Holocaust through a project.

More information is forthcoming, including qualifications and duties. The Museum will cover travel, hotel, ground transportation while in Washington, DC, most meals, and per diem. USHMM will also pay a stipend for the work.

Contribute to the Newsletter:
This is a great way to network with each other! Interview another MTF about their experiences in Holocaust education. Then write an MTF Spotlight article based on your interview. Sharing experiences with the rest of the group is a great way to generate ideas and learn from and about one another.

We know you keep up with new research, literature, articles, etc. in Holocaust history and pedagogy. Well, don’t keep your ideas to yourself! Write a book review for the newsletter so other MTFs can share in your learning. You could even get feedback on your review from other MTFs before publishing it in a journal. Contact Kristin Thompson at if you’d like to contribute, or fill out the form.

Book Club:
If you need the extra motivation to read the latest books, join the MTF Book Club. You’ll read a book and have a conversation over video conferencing platform, Zoom.  To join or facilitate a book club discussion, contact Kristin Thompson at
or fill out the form.

2018 Arthur and Rochelle Belfer National Conference for Educators
Unfortunately, due to funding restrictions, we won’t be able to open up the application for MTF Facilitators this year. Four MTFs from Belfer 2017 will return in 2018 to facilitate. We hope to be able to open applications to facilitate the conference next year.
For questions about the Belfer Conference, please contact Cameron Walpole at

MTF Spotlight – Todd Hennessy

Interview and Article by:
Jen Goss, VA (MTF 2010)

Firefighter, father,  hockey player, friend, and educator. These are just a few of the words that one can ascribe to Todd Hennessy (Denver, CO; MTF 2000). Todd gives his all no matter what area of his life one is examining and his dynamic personality make his friendship and collegiality an unequivocal treasure. Although the path he has taken since his entrance into the field of education has been less than traditional, Todd has given back to educators in the field a thousand times over through opportunities he has helped to create in Colorado and nationwide.

Todd graduated from Mankato State University (now Minnesota State University, Mankato) in 1993 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Secondary Education/History, and a minor in Geography and Athletic Coaching. His first teaching assignment was at the very middle school he had attended – Eagle Valley Middle School in Eagle, Colorado. There, he taught U.S. History, Civics, and Geography for seven years. He then moved to Castle Rock Middle School  in Castle Rock, Colorado for two years teaching U.S. History. His last transfer was to Highlands Ranch High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Todd spent a year teaching U.S. History there before feeling a pull to enter the fire academy. Today, his full-time position is with the South Metro (Denver) Fire Rescue; however, teaching about the Holocaust still plays a central role in his life.

During his years in the classroom, Todd taught a two-week integrated Holocaust unit within the Language Arts curriculum. It was this experience that sparked his interest in furthering his formal Holocaust education at the Museum. In 1997, he participated in the Belfer Conference and in 1999 he attended Belfer II. Todd’s acceptance into the Museum Teacher Fellowship program in 2000 was the next logical step, and as it has been for all of us, it was truly life-changing. Of the MTF program, Todd shares, “Without question the MTF program has made me a better educator. The approach, support, resources, and the people involved with the MTF program continue to amaze and inspire me to be a better educator, parent, and person. We are a part of something very special. Earn it, enjoy it, respect it, and never stop learning from it.”

Todd’s journey with the Museum continued in 2002 when he was one of the Belfer classroom facilitators. He also began teaching a Holocaust course for the Introduction to Judaism class sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council and began teaching part-time for the Holocaust Awareness Institute at the University of Denver’s Center for Judaic Studies and for Temple Sinai’s Religious School facilitating their Holocaust curriculum. While he was enriching the lives of others, Todd didn’t cease learning on his own. In addition to the opportunities with the Museum, Todd also participated in  the Jewish Labor Committee’s Summer Teacher Institute, Yad Vashem’s International Conference on Education, the Auschwitz Jewish Center’s Faculty Fellowship, Yahad-In Unum’s European Educators Conference and countless classes offered through institutions, synagogues, and universities.

In 2011, six MTFs from the Denver area, Kirsten Aarested, Barb Figg, Peter Mehlbach, Carrie Olson, Mark Thorsen, and Todd founded the Colorado Holocaust Educators (CHE). Todd states that, “Our goal was to create an educational non-profit that would seek to promote, exemplify, and support quality Holocaust and genocide education throughout the state of Colorado. With the guidance and pedagogical approach we had already received from the Museum we saw a need and fit for our goals in Colorado.” At the MTF 20th Anniversary event held in 2016, Todd shared the ups and downs of this journey.

To date, since their first sponsored training in the spring of 2012 the Colorado Holocaust Educators have facilitated over 500 hours of Colorado Department of Education re-certification, trained over 1,200 educators from eleven states, have participated in twelve different educational programs in six countries, and have partnered with over 30 like-minded institutions on three continents. Their most recent success was a multi-week collaboration with Yahad-In Unum’s Holocaust by Bullets program and exhibit, which also included collaboration with CHE, USHMM, and Colorado schools and universities. In total, over 60 educators were in attendance including eleven MTFs from four states.
It is this work that leads fellow MTF, Andrew Buchanan ‘11 to call Todd, “an engaging, collaborative and thoughtful driving force in Colorado. [He is] constantly looking for new and exciting ways to reach and teach Holocaust history.” Andrew’s quote captures the essence of Todd who says in regards to Holocaust education that, “I’m really looking forward to the future, there are tremendous people out there with fantastic ideas. Change is already happening, and the early results are very positive and impactful.”

In closing, I asked Todd to share advice with with MTFs who are at the start of their career as Holocaust educators but it is really advice that can resonate with all of us.  “Listen, read, ask…..then do it over and over again. There is always something new to learn. There will always be someone with more knowledge, experience, and insight. We must always strive to be better students, better researchers, better educators.”

MTF Spotlight – Thea MacFawn

Interview and Article by:
Casey Pallister, MT (MTF 2016)

Thea MacFawn, (Albany, NY; MTF 2013) is Co-Director and Founder of the Capital Region Institute for Human Rights. Thea has had a diverse teaching career, serving as a high school Language Arts teacher, an instructor for NYSUT’s Education and Learning Trust, a facilitator for professional development workshops, and a graduate college professor. In addition to her work with the Capital Region Institute for Human Rights, Thea is a board member for GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network).

What kind of work are you involved in as co-director of Capital Region Institute
for Human Rights?
As founder and co-director of the Capital Region Institute for Human Rights, I
work with fellow director Kelly Wetherbee and a team of educators to develop
human rights focused programming for teens. Through sessions on historical and
contemporary human rights issues, meeting local and international human rights
advocates, and workshops on 21st century skills, like web design, we empower teens
to see themselves as leaders capable of improving their communities and the world.
The Capital Region Institute for Human Rights is a sister program to the Summer Institute of Buffalo, led by fellow MTF, Drew Beiter. His program just celebrated 10 years. The goals of both programs are to provide students with models of individuals who are making a difference, connect them with other teens interested in human rights, and to provide them with training and skills to challenge injustice and advocate for positive change in their communities. At the end of the program, teens present their plans for human rights focused advocacy project.
Drew and I hope to expand on the Summer Institute model and would love to invite any MTF to visit our programs this summer. The Capital Region Institute for Human Rights Teen Summer Symposium is July 9-11 ; the Summer Institute of Buffalo is July 23-27.

How did you first become interested in studying and teaching the Holocaust?
My first year of teaching, my mentor suggested Parallel Journeys to me as a class text. Learning about the Holocaust impacted my students in ways that encouraged them to want to know more about history and how to be actively engaged citizens. After reading Parallel Journeys, students in my class chose to research the ongoing genocide in Darfur and created presentations to share with other students about how they could help raise awareness and call on our government to intervene.
My first class of students taught me that in order to meet the challenge of “Never Again,” there must first be an increased level of awareness of contemporary genocide. Students who have studied the Holocaust are in a position to begin conversations with their peers that can lead to change and action.

Why do you teach about the Holocaust? 
I teach the Holocaust because I believe it is a moment in history that we haven’t fully learned from. It it is important for students to be made aware of our shared history and to critically look at the pre-existing conditions in Germany, post World War I, and the entrenched history of antisemitism that contributed to an environment where Jews were first scapegoated, then removed from mainstream society, and ultimately murdered.
Genocide is a process. Any process that results in neighbor turning against neighbor, a government turning against its people, and neighboring countries choosing diplomacy over lives, is one that has a place in my classroom.
Today, there is still a level of indifference to the suffering and needs of others. We close our doors, our eyes, say, “at least it’s not happening here” and look away. It is imperative that young people today recognize the role we each play in one another’s lives and feel an intrinsic need to give aid, voice, and time to issues and causes that involve human rights. Prejudice and intolerance are still part of our society.
I teach about the Holocaust because it helps my students recognize injustice and provides a place to discuss what can be done. Teaching about the Holocaust empowers and challenges my students to think differently about discrimination and prejudice. It provides them with the historical knowledge to approach these topics and suggest change that is rooted in an understanding of hate and what can be done to prevent it.

What have been the pivotal or profound moments in your career as a Holocaust
The most pivotal moments in my career as a Holocaust educator have been when my students take the lead in educating others about the Holocaust. I have had the honor of helping organize Holocaust Remembrance programs for my school community, and each year a few of my students volunteer to plan the ceremony. They take the lead—serving as master of ceremonies, sharing what they have learned in class, introducing survivors, and creating videos and resources to share with public.

Are you excited or worried about the future of Holocaust education?
The number of educators committed to teaching students about the Holocaust and contemporary genocide is growing. States around the country have mandated Holocaust education as part of their learning standards and New York has recently added the Armenian Genocide. I believe these are good signs that the Holocaust will continue to be taught in schools.
Additionally, recent events like Charlottesville have made it essential that teachers discuss with students the roots of antisemitism, Holocaust denial, and the presence of active hate groups in the United States. We have a commitment to teach students how to challenge hatred and bigotry.

What rewards and challenges have you found in educating teachers about the
I truly enjoy working with fellow educators. Teachers are eager to teach about the Holocaust, but they are often afraid of “doing it wrong.” I have found the Museum’s guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust and contemporary genocide an invaluable source for teachers new to Holocaust education. Sharing lessons, discussing strategies for building on existing student knowledge, and addressing misconceptions are tools that help to build teacher confidence.

MTF Spotlight – Matt Rozell

MR.June 2017 cropped
Interview and Article by:
Josha Sietsma, Netherlands (MTF 2016)

For Matt Rozell (Granville, NY; MTF 2008), the term ‘retired’ doesn’t define his state of being. A real teacher never stops teaching. Writing books that educate, and with a bigger audience than ever, Matt talks to us on his connection with the Museum and connecting survivors with liberators: “I think [also] it is true that our work as educators is never ever done”.

To start, what are your tools of trade? What is essential to your work, your performance.
A passion to connect to history using real people. When I begin to speak about the history, Holocaust or otherwise, there is a level of excitement and passion that just flows out of me and engages my audience, be it high school students or senior citizens listening to one of my presentations. And it has been with me since my earliest days. As a kid I roamed the banks of the Hudson River looking for lost encampments and historic battle sites. On museum trips to NYC, I was the kid everyone else in the family had to wait for, lagging behind, lost in the exhibits.

You’ve been connected to the Museum for at least ten years. Looking back, what made you want to connect at first?   
Honestly, the USHMM found me and invited me to apply for the Fellowship. An Associated Press article about my first foray into attempting a Holocaust survivor-liberator reunion in September 2007 went viral and the Museum contacted me. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the Museum. My outreach project was another reunion in Sept. 2009, in which we were filmed by the Museum and also ABC World News as their Persons of the Week.
Over the years, I have helped the Museum identify photographs related to the ‘Train Near Magdeburg’ incident and acquire photographs and survivor artwork and testimony. I’ve worked closely with Judy Cohen in the Photo Archives and Steven Vitto in the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center. I also reconnected around 275 survivors with the actual American soldiers who freed them. I wrote a book about this called Train Near Magdeburg; it nearly killed me in the process but it had to come out of me. The book is divided into four parts.
The first part of the book is the chronological unfolding of the Holocaust as it happened, through the eyes of train survivors, who hailed from all over Europe. The second is the experiences of the soldiers themselves, landing shortly after D-Day, knowing nothing about the Holocaust, just fighting for survival. By then of course, most of Europe’s Jews had already been murdered, but their encounters would be raw and searing. These battle hardened soldiers were about to be placed on an emotional roller-coaster.
Part three of the book is the actual liberation, recalled by dozens of survivors and the soldiers. Part four is the aftermath and the experiences of eleven reunions on three continents, including three at our own high school in upstate New York, and my observations and takeaways on what it all means.
And I had to write it from my own personal experience and perspective. My experience as a re-uniter, and as a Holocaust educator, unfolded organically. Any survivor you know will testify as to the miracle of their survival. I honestly think what happened here was also a miracle, being able to bring together over 275 survivors with their actual liberators 65+ years later, all due to the fact that I took the time to sit down and listen to a World War II veteran, and push a little further. But it nearly did not happen at all—he did not volunteer his experience with the ‘train’—his daughter reminded him to tell me after two hours of conversation, just as I was thinking we were done and about to turn the camera off.

You’ve been retired since June but still speak on the subject of the Holocaust and your books. Which book has influenced your work the most?
Yes. I dislike the term ‘retired’ because I don’t think a real teacher ever stops teaching, in a sense, and it is especially true since my books are designed to educate, but now perhaps the audience is the masses. I think also it is true that our work as educators is never ever done, as evidenced by the recent events in our own country highlighting the rise of antisemitism.
When I wrote Train Near Magdeburg, this was a constant in the back of my mind. I knew that my audience for the most part might not know much about the Holocaust, so it was essential to distill a historical backdrop for the narrative of survivors’ and soldiers’ voices. But how does one ‘distill’ the sheer magnitude of the Holocaust? This is a challenge. I also felt like I had an obligation to more knowledgeable readers to present the topic of the Holocaust in terms that might add to their experience in learning about it.
Finally, of course, I had an obligation to my survivor and soldier families to place their experiences in the proper context, so they might also learn something new about what happened to them. This was a very difficult thing to do; I struggled with it for ten years. It did not all come together until I was able to visit the authentic sites with the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program in 2013, and further study on a scholarship at Yad Vashem at the International School for Holocaust Studies in 2016.
There is a film in the works on the Train Near Magdeburg, and right now I am a consultant, making sure they get the Holocaust right (we are waiting with baited breath for word from the Claims Conference regarding some crucial funding). As we all know, there are a lot of ways to teach or present the Holocaust wrong.

Matthew Rozell April 2017
In your work you focus on the testimony of survivors from WWII. How did this come to happen? Why and how did you start your research that eventually led to several publications and awards?
I was always interested in World War II—as a kid I devoured the ‘Sgt. Rock’ comic book series. Just after college, the 40th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of the continent occurred. The vets began to gather in Normandy for the commemoration. Studs Terkel’s oral history on the war, ‘The Good War’, came out in 1984 and was a huge influence on my development as a teacher, and later, as an author. I decided to put kids in touch with our veterans. The veterans were ready, after 40 or 50 years of silence, to tell their stories to me and to the young people. And later I found a similar phenomenon with my Holocaust survivor friends. I think it was cathartic for them. Frankly, this is a model I would like to take further.

In addition to teaching about the Holocaust, you have an interest in archaeology. Is there any relation, for you, between archaeology and the field of Holocaust education? 
Yes. My book opens in Bergen Belsen in the summer of 2013. I am walking the grounds, and I see things that the average person would not notice. The evidence of the past, just beneath the layers of the present, poking out obtrusively to remind one of the evil that occurred in what is a relatively peaceful and tranquil setting today. The original camp was burned down a month after liberation by the British, and nature has reclaimed the grounds. The fact is that these artifacts speak to you—broken window glass, brick fragments, a concrete gutter channel running through what is now woodlands—and you realize that you are having a personal encounter. This happened to me time and again at places where the Nazis tried to erase the evidence—Belzec, Treblinka, the destroyed structures at Auschwitz.

To round up a question from another context. The Paris Review asked Aldous Huxley, spring 1960: Do you keep a notebook and do you ever use maps or charts or diagrams in your writing [work]?
A notebook is absolutely critical for my personal recollections and growth. I carry a composition notebook on every tour, and they become the basis for my later book development. I have also been blogging for ten years straight, and this helped in honing my writing style and my past entries are a resource for further chapters and books. On a recent family trip to Ireland with a private guide, I was in the front seat everyday, making notes and observations on what I hope will become another history book with a personal twist. My grandfather was 18 at the time of the Easter Rising (1916) in Ireland. He was in the early IRA, as were most of his eight brothers, active in the most rebellious part of Ireland in the War of Independence (1918-1921). After the Irish won it, a civil war over the peace treaty broke out, and split the family. My grandfather came to America. We drove around and found the cottage where he was raised—nine boys in a small dwelling overlooking the Shannon. (If you are not familiar with this chapter in Irish history, watch the film ‘Michael Collins’ w/Liam Neeson. Or wait for my book to come out, ha ha.) But anyway, my journals/notebooks are very important.

My final comments: To anybody teaching today who is frustrated with lack of support or feeling shackled with testing, or stifled in their classroom creativity,–just do it. Close the door and channel your passion. Your kids will thank you for it, and who knows, maybe you will change the world.
Links on Matt Rozell
Amazon Author Page
FYI: the book is also for sale at the Museum shop

MTF Spotlight – Karen Levine

Karen and Kristin
Interview and Article by:
Megan Helberg, NE (MTF 2016)

Karen Levine (Succasunna, NJ; MTF 2006) is a retired middle school social studies teacher who now serves as a docent at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

How and when did you become interested in learning more about the Holocaust, and then, eventually, make the decision to teach about the Holocaust?
Growing up, the Holocaust was never a part of any history class or even mentioned in Hebrew School. Of course we knew certain things about it but it was never discussed. When I started teaching about the Holocaust it was not part of the curriculum and a principal once criticized me for speaking of “what happened in Germany during the war” – that’s how he put it.
I started going to conferences and hearing about the Holocaust and about how it should be integrated into the curriculum. When New Jersey published their first Holocaust curriculum I started using parts of it realizing that this wasn’t just a Jewish issue but was a human issue that had to be part of any meaningful study of history.

The past several months have been quite tumultuous in our country, what advice do you have for current teachers on how to approach these difficult topics in the classroom?
I have said many times that I’m happy I don’t have to teach because of what is happening but I often think of the marvelous opportunities to have students investigate issues and form opinions. Students should be given the tools to do this by the teacher using reputable sources and then have students engage in discussions and debates based on FACTS. Yes, this opens the door to a lot of uncomfortable areas, but I believe it will also help students become citizens who think critically in a democratic society.

How did your involvement with the USHMM begin? What motivated you to apply for the MTF program?
In 2000 I went on the NJ Holocaust Commission’s trip to Europe and Israel and from there I knew I had to learn more in order to teach more effectively. When I came back I volunteered to work on the second NJ Holocaust Curriculum and while there I heard about the MTF program and realized that’s what I needed and wanted. I had visited the Museum before but had not taken part in any other programs there.

In what ways did the MTF program change your approach to teaching about the Holocaust?
I became an MTF late in my teaching career but this program impacted all of my teaching, not just my teaching of the Holocaust. I started designing my lessons using more critical thinking skills, more individual research, and more student-centered activities. It’s not that I didn’t use them before, but now I felt they were more integral to my program. My teaching of the Holocaust spent more time on diverse topics and a lot more time on life for people both before and after the Holocaust.

Do you have a funny or memorable moment that has occurred around fellow MTFs?
The memorable moments with MTFs is simply being with these educators. I have formed new friendships that go well beyond the scope of just teaching about the Holocaust. I look forward to spending time with other MTFs in both virtual and real time.
You have been a docent for the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. Can you tell us about the unique connection this museum has with the USHMM in relation to teaching about traumatic events?
That is a thread that weaves together the USHMM and the National 9/11 Memorial Museum. In both instances a part of that answer is by exploring choices people made in these horrific situations. At the USHMM the exhibit on Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity focused on these choices. At the 9/11 Museum that story is interwoven with everything else.

I know a project dear to your heart is the Man in the Red Bandana. Could you please tell us why this particular story is important to you.
I believe that the story of Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandana, helps to discuss choices in a positive way. I am still, in my heart, a teacher and I want students of all ages to think not just about the horror of these events, but about how people reacted. Welles didn’t wake up that day and suddenly know he had to help others. During his entire life he had made decisions based on helping. This is a story that needs to be told.

Outside of your volunteer work with the USHMM and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, how do you spend your time?
I am an avid reader and belong to three book clubs. I also enjoy working out (yup I do), traveling and playing golf. Here, in the interest of full disclosure, I must say I am one of the worst golfers ever but love the game.

You have inspired your former students to not just learn about Holocaust and genocide studies, but to act, as well. Could you point out a few notable student projects?
Tweaking a USHMM lesson, I asked students to bring in any picture of themselves. From these they worked with the online picture archives and found similar pictures. I know that sounds unlikely but everyone was able to do that. They then did research on the countries that were shown and created a diary for these people using facts and their imagination.
I worked with Drew University in Madison, NJ on a project I am very proud of. They had a writing symposium for survivors and wanted to create a CD in which those survivors were interviewed by students. Since this came up in the fall, I reached out to former students who were now in high school to see if they would be willing to help. No grade, no credit, and I had to choose only 5 from the 15 or so who wanted to be involved. I worked with the students using the written words of the survivors to create questions. They then put it all together and even chose backgrounds and some music. These are students I am still in touch with and I’m so so proud to say that they are all involved in various human rights issues.
Karen family

Educational Resources from 2017 MTF Summer Institute

Chris Temple:
As part of the MTF Summer Institute the past two years, Chris Temple from Living on One, has shared his film, Salam Neighbor (“Hello, Neighbor”), and accompanying educational resources with our teachers. We wanted to make these same resources available to our entire MTF community.

Their 360 virtual reality film, For My Son, is a compliment to their feature film on refugees, Salam Neighbor and currently plays in the Museum’s Wexner Center.

Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci
Co-Founders of Living on One | Award-Winning Documentary Filmmakers
From living in a tent in a Syrian refugee camp to working as radish farmers and surviving on $1 a day in Guatemala, Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci are award-winning humanitarians, activists, and filmmakers. They demystify some of the world’s most complex situations, leaving audiences feeling more connected and empowered to make a difference.

As co-founders of Living on One, Chris and Zach have received widespread acclaim as bold storytellers and compassionate leaders of social justice – honored with the 2016 Muslim Public Affairs Council Annual Media Award, and recognized alongside Bill Gates and Angelina Jolie as two of the top 100 visionary leaders of 2015 by YPO’s Real Leaders Magazine. They have been called upon to share their expertise at TEDx, the United Nations, and the World Humanitarian Summit, and have been featured on CBS This Morning, as well as in major publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Variety.

Chris and Zach began their journey in college, when they produced, directed, and starred in their first film, Living on One Dollar. The film followed them as they lived on a dollar a day for two months to experience life in extreme poverty. Their hands-on approach to some of the world’s most pressing issues leaves viewers inspired that their actions can make a difference. (The film is available globally on Netflix.)

Their second feature documentary, Salam Neighbor, provides an intimate look into the lives of Syrian refugees, through their lens as the first filmmakers ever given a tent and registered inside of a refugee camp. Among its accolades, the film has been endorsed by Queen Rania of Jordan and was accepted into the 2016 American Film Showcase by the U.S. State Department. Both films may be found on Netflix.

When they saw the reaction to their latest film Salam Neighbor at the more than 600 school screenings across the world, it was clear what they had to do next. They needed to inspire and empower students, because they hold the power to shift the world from apathy to action around global crises.

Their films serve as a starting point — a spark to engage students. They then took it a step further and created a 98 page Common Core curriculum for grades 7-12 to accompany Salam Neighbor just in time for the beginning of the new school year! The curriculum allows you to delve deeper into this crisis, break down fear towards refugees, and empower your students with the tools they need to actively create change.

Most recently, Chris and Zach collaborated with the UN Refugee Agency and Google to create Searching for Syria, an immersive online hub that answers the world’s top searched questions about Syria. The project was featured on the homepage of Google and reached over 5 million people in the first two weeks.

Equal parts filmmaker and humanitarian, Chris and Zach have been on the front lines fighting for human rights, and have raised over a million dollars to directly empower disenfranchised communities through microfinance, education, and refugee resettlement.

Carl Wilkens:
As a humanitarian aid worker, Carl Wilkens moved his young family to Rwanda in the spring of 1990. When the genocide was launched in April 1994, Carl refused to leave, even when urged to do so by close friends, his church, and the United States government. Thousands of expatriates evacuated and the United Nations pulled out most of its troops. Carl was the only American to remain in the country. Venturing out each day into streets crackling with mortars and gunfire, he worked his way through roadblocks of angry, bloodstained soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles in order to bring food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. His actions saved the lives of hundreds.

I can still hear very clearly the sound of hoes thwacking into the earth…
the men swinging them were not gardening, they were digging up mass graves…

Take a moment to try and put yourself in the shoes of the family members and friends who had loved ones taken from them. Surviving is more than just staying alive; surviving is learning how to live again.

Carl returned to the United States in 1996. After being featured in the 2004 PBS Frontline documentary, Ghosts of Rwanda, (Teacher Resource) about the Rwanda genocide, he began to receive letters, phone calls, and offers from teachers around the country to come and share his experiences with students.

In January 2008, with no end in sight to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Carl decided to quit his job and dedicate himself full-time to accepting these invitations. He and his wife Teresa have since formed an educational nonprofit, World Outside My Shoes, to facilitate this important work.

In 2011 Wilkens released his first book entitled I’m Not Leaving  (New edition also has a Teacher’s Guide & the book is now available in additional languages, too). It is based on tapes he made to his wife and children during the genocide. Last June a new 35-minute documentary film entitled I’m Not Leaving was released about the story of his family’s journey through one of the darkest chapters of modern history. Concerning both the book I’m Not Leaving and in the new documentary by the same name Wilkens writes:
While these stories happened during the genocide, the book and documentary are not really about genocide. They are more about the choices people made, actions people took, courage people showed, and sacrifices people made in the face of genocide.

Dr. James Waller:
IMG_0320Dr. James Waller is the Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College (NH).  Keene State College is home to the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, one of the nation’s oldest Holocaust resource centers, and also offers the only undergraduate major in Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the United States.  Waller is a widely-recognized scholar in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies and has held visiting research professorships at the Technical University in Berlin (1990), the Catholic University in Eichstatt, Germany (1992), and in the George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Justice and Security at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland (2017).  In addition, he has been an invited participant in international seminars hosted by the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies at the University of Leicester in England (2006); the Institute of Sociology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland (2007 and 2008); the Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung in Berlin, Germany (2009); the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands (2009); the University of Alberta in Canada (2010); and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London (2011).  Waller has been awarded summer fellowships by, and been a teaching fellow with, the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University (1996 and 2007-2012) and at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (1999, 2003, and 2005).

In the policymaking arena, Waller is also regularly involved, in his role as Director of Academic Programs with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), as the curriculum developer and lead instructor for the Raphael Lemkin Seminars for Genocide Prevention.  These seminars, held on-site and in conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, introduce diplomats and government officials from around the world to issues of genocide warning and prevention.  In addition, his work with AIPR also has included education and training in genocide prevention for the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Waller also has delivered invited briefings on genocide prevention and perpetrator behavior for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, and the International Human Rights Unit of the FBI.  In January 2009, he was selected for the inaugural class of Carl Wilkins Fellows by the Genocide Intervention Network.  This fellowship program is designed to foster sustained political will for the prevention and cessation of genocide.  Waller has led teacher training in Holocaust and genocide studies for the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center (2009 and 2012), the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (2010), the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2010-2012, 2015), and the Zoryan Institute (2015 and 2016).  In addition, he has consulted on exhibition development with the National Institute for Holocaust Education at the USHMM, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, and for the Genocide Prevention Institute at the Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, GA.  His fieldwork has included research in Germany, Israel, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala.

In addition to four books, Waller has published twenty-eight articles in peer-reviewed professional journals and contributed twenty chapters in edited books.  Waller’s book on perpetrators of genocide, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing (Oxford University Press, 2002), was praised by Publisher’s Weekly for “clearly and effectively synthesizing a wide range of studies to develop an original and persuasive model of the process by which people can become evil.”  In addition to being used as a textbook in college and university courses around the world, Becoming Evil also was short-listed for the biennial Raphael Lemkin Book Award from the Institute for the Study of Genocide.  Concepts from Becoming Evil, released in a revised and updated second edition in 2007, have been the basis for an international best-selling novel (The Exception by Christian Jungersen) and a play workshopped in the School of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA.  Waller’s latest book, also from Oxford, is titled Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide (2016) and has been hailed as “required reading for all those who seek to understand and avert these atrocities in the future.”

Waller is also widely-recognized for his work on intergroup relations and prejudice.  In January 1996, while at Whitworth University, Waller developed an innovative study program titled “Prejudice Across America.”  The study program drew national media attention and was named by President Clinton’s Initiative on Race as one of America’s “Promising Practices for Racial Reconciliation.”  Many of the experiences from the study program are chronicled in his first two books, Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism Across America (New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1998) and Prejudice Across America (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2000).  Prejudice Across America was short-listed for a 2001 Outstanding Book Award from Boston University’s Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.  While at Whitworth, Waller’s achievements in teaching and scholarship were reflected in his selection as the 1993 recipient of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty Achievement, the 1996 recipient of Whitworth’s Teaching Excellence Award, and a 2008 nominee for Whitworth’s Innovative Teaching Award.  In addition, he was a four-time institutional nominee for the CASE U.S. Professor of the Year award.  In fall 2003, Waller was Whitworth’s inaugural appointee for a four-year term as the Edward B. Lindaman Chair, an endowed, rotating chair for senior faculty who are engaged in significant national academic initiatives and who contribute to public dialogue concerning important social issues.

During 1999-2000, Waller was one of sixteen national recipients of the prestigious Pew Fellowship Award to continue his work on the psychology of human evil.  In June 2007, he received the “First Voice Humanitarian Award” from the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture in recognition of his work in connecting students with urban communities, particularly communities in need.  In November 2011, Waller was recognized by a California Senate Resolution for “his tireless efforts to end genocide.”  In 2012, he was Keene State College’s institutional nominee for the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize from Brandeis University, an award given in recognition of scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic, and/or religious relations.  Waller was appointed as the Centennial Global Ethics Fellow of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2013-2014.  In September 2015, he was named a Peace Ambassador by the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Most recently, in April 2017, Waller was selected as the recipient of the inaugural International Association of Genocide Scholars’ Engaged Scholarship Prize. The Prize recognizes exemplary scholarship along with engagement in genocide awareness and prevention.

Waller received his B.S. (1983) from Asbury University (KY), M.S. (1985) from the University of Colorado, and Ph.D. in Social Psychology (1988) from the University of Kentucky.  He also has completed additional certification work in safety and security after violent conflict at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He is an active member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars as well as the International Network of Genocide Scholars.  He also is a member of the International Expert Team of the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada, the Advisory Board of World Without Genocide, and the Advisory Board of the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention at Binghamton University.

Dr. Waller lectures and speaks on Holocaust and genocide studies, intergroup relations, and prejudice for academic, professional, and public audiences.  He has lectured at more than 50 colleges and universities, including the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Boston University, Claremont-McKenna College, Notre Dame, College of the Holy Cross, Hope College, Yale University, Columbia University, the US Military Academy at West Point, and the American University of Paris.  Recent endowed lectures Waller was invited to deliver included the 2010 Karl Schleunes Lecture at Greensboro College, the 2011 Richard J. Yashak Holocaust Lecture at Albright College, the 2015 Ralph L. Harris Memorial Lecture at Sonoma State University, and the inaugural Walter Sommers Lecture on Holocaust History at CANDLES Holocaust Museum in 2016.  In addition to a regular blog titled “Understanding Genocide” on Psychology Today, he is frequently interviewed by broadcast and print media, including PBS, CNN, CBC, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Salon, and the New York Times.

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt:
Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, has published and taught about the Holocaust for close to 40 years. However, she is probably most widely known because of the libel lawsuit brought against her (1996) by David Irving for having called him a Holocaust denier. Irving then was then arguably the world’s leading denier.

After a ten-week trial in London (2000), in an overwhelming victory for Lipstadt, the judge found Irving to be a “neo-Nazi polemicist” who “perverts” history and engages in “racist” and “anti-Semitic” discourse. The Daily Telegraph (London) described the trial as having “done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations.” The Times (London) described it as “history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory.” According to the New York Times, the trial “put an end to the pretense that Mr. Irving is anything but a self-promoting apologist for Hitler.”

The movie DENIAL, starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkenson with a screenplay by David Hare, tells the story of this legal battle. It is based on Lipstadt’s book HISTORY ON TRIAL: MY DAY IN COURT WITH A HOLOCAUST DENIER (Harper Collins 2006) and recently reissued as DENIAL (Harper Collins 2016). The film was nominated for a BAFTA as one of the best British films of the year.

Lipstadt has written most recently HOLOCAUST: AN AMERICAN UNDERSTANDING (Rutgers, 2016) which explores how America has understood and interpreted the Holocaust since 1945. She is currently writing The Antisemitic Delusion: Letters to a Concerned Student.  It will be published in 2018.

Her previous book, THE EICHMANN TRIAL, (Schocken/Nextbook 2011) published in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, was called by Publisher’s Weekly, “a penetrating and authoritative dissection of a landmark case and its after effects.”  The New York Times Book Review described Lipstadt as having “done a great service by… recovering the event as a gripping legal drama, as well as a hinge moment in Israel’s history and in the world’s delayed awakening to the magnitude of the Holocaust.”

She has also published BEYOND BELIEF: THE AMERICAN PRESS AND THE COMING OF THE HOLOCAUST (Free Press, 1986) which surveys what the American press wrote about the persecution of the Jews in the years 1933-1945.  She is currently writing a book, The Antisemitic Delusion: Letters to a Concerned Student which will be published in 2018.

At Emory she directs the website known as HDOT [Holocaust Denial on Trial/ ] which contains a complete archive of the proceedings of Irving v. Penguin UK and Deborah Lipstadt.  It also provides answers to frequent claims made by deniers.

At Emory Lipstadt has won the Emery Williams Teaching Award. She was selected for the award by alumni as the teacher who had most influenced them.   

Lipstadt was an historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and helped design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust.         

She has held Presidential appointment to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council (from Presidents Clinton and Obama) and was asked by President George W. Bush to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. She was part of a committee that advised Secretary of State Madeline Albright on matters of religious freedom abroad.

She has a B.A. from the City College of New York and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University.


MTF Mentors

                                                     2017 MTF Mentors                                                                                    Front Row: Pete Mashinski, Laurie Schaefer, Karen Levine                                   Back Row: Bob Smith, Lisa Bauman, Graeme Stacey

The Museum is excited to announce that we’ve incorporated a new mentorship component to our MTF Summer Institute program that aims to connect veteran MTFs with our newest graduating cohort of MTFs each summer.     

The goals for the MTF Mentorship program are to:

  • Encourage ongoing growth and engagement of new Museum Teacher Fellows
  • Enhance communication within the MTF community; fostering relationships between new and veteran MTFs
  • Leverage experience and expertise to expand quality Holocaust education

This past summer we invited our first group of MTF Mentors to attend a portion of the Summer Institute programming for the returning MTFs who were in DC to report on their Outreach Projects. Each mentor was assigned a group of 3-4 mentees with whom they met both individually and as a group on several occasions during the summer program. They will continue to communicate throughout the upcoming school year and beyond to answer questions, provide guidance, and assist in the planning process and facilitation of any projects that their mentees might be interested in hosting in their local communities.

Our inaugural MTF Mentors this past summer included:

  • Lisa Bauman (MTF 1998) – Overland Park, KS
  • Karen Levine (MTF 2006) – Succasunna, NJ
  • Pete Mashinski (MTF 2013) – Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Laurie Schaefer (MTF 2006) – Tobaccoville, NC
  • Bob Smith (MTF 2001) – South Deerfield, MA
  • Graeme Stacey (MTF 2015) – Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

MTF Mentors and USHMM Staff share a debriefing dinner

We asked our MTF Mentors to explain why they were excited to be a Mentor, what advice they had for the new MTFs, and in thinking back to their own MTF program experience, what they wished they had known at the time. We are sharing their responses below and look forward to working with other veteran MTFs in this role in the future!

Lisa Bauman shared, “I am so excited to be a MTF mentor because the MTF experience truly changed my professional life and gave direction to my passion for teaching about the Holocaust. I am eager to meet the new MTFs and learn from them and their experiences with teaching the Holocaust. The MTF program is truly special. Because of it, I made lifetime friends who all care deeply for each other and their students. These educators inspire me to be a better teacher. Back in 1998, when I was a new MTF, I wish I had realized how important every interaction with people and presenters at the museum would be. I was completely overwhelmed, and wish I had asked more questions and taken better notes.

Karen Levine went on to say that, “Staying connected with the USHMM past your MTF year will change you professionally and personally. It’s not just connections but friendships around the country that you will make through the USHMM. The opportunities are there for you to be a leader in Holocaust education. I am so excited to be a mentor so I can work with new MTFs. I love being part of the process.

Pete Mashinski offered this advice to the new MTFs, “I would strongly encourage MTFs to maintain a strong relationship with the museum and its staff. They are here to help us and make our jobs easier as educators by providing resources and avenues that will only improve our teaching habits. I am honored and humbled to serve as a mentor. I look forward to catching up with friends and being surrounded by a group of professionals who share my passion for Holocaust Education.

Laurie Schaefer shared that “The most important thing I want all new MTFs to know is that being involved with the USHMM will positively impact not only your teaching, but also you personally. Everything that I have learned as an MTF can also be applied to other subjects and units that I teach, as the pedagogical approach we take is that beneficial for students and teachers. This is just the beginning of the journey for you, not the end, as the Museum actually means it when they want you to be involved in leading Holocaust education. Being an MTF mentor is very exciting for me, as it means that I can be there to support you and watch you grow into the leader we know you can be! I look forward to the journey!”

Bob Smith confided that “There is no professional experience as valuable to me as my involvement with the MTF program. From the beginning, I have learned much, shared with like-minded new friends, built relationships that now approach twenty years in length. I wish that when I began I could have known how great an impact all of this would have on my classroom.  I would have savored each minute more, I think. I also wish I had known how hard I would have to work to keep my garden in good shape before and after my many adventures with the Museum! But every second has been a joy. You will find this an incredible adventure of the mind and heart.

Graeme Stacey encouraged the MTFs to stay connected. Connect with your peers, the USHMM staff, or the presenters, authors, and professors that inspire and engage you. The opportunities that arise are immeasurable; both in friendships, and personal and professional growth. So many doors have been opened, and I have gained much through my experiences (for both me and my students) because of the ongoing connections, liaisons, and friendships I have established in the pursuit of Holocaust and Genocide studies. I must give credit and thanks, for where I am today, to the friends and mentors I met in 2015 and 2016 at the USHMM.

What excites me the most about being a mentor is that I am able to once again immerse myself in this special area of study with like-minded teachers, and be led by educational experts in the Levine Institute who do not educate “top down”; the USHMM respects teachers on an equal playing field and recognizes our very diverse classrooms.

Introducing the Newest MTF Cohort (2017)

Row 1 (L to R): Brita Bostad Kienzle (ND), Lisa Henry (KY), Sandy Rubenstein (NJ), Laura Bakes-Gleissner (CO)  Row 2: Becky Henderson-Howie (NY), Alma Zero (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Evan Seitz (NY), Taylor Beal (DE), Nicole Lane (MA), Kristin Thompson (Staff)   Row 3: Jacob Kienzle (ND), Mathy Terrill (ME), Justin Loeber (NY), Megan Fairchild (KS), Peter Garry (Ireland/Belgium),  Row 4: Paul Regelbrugge (WA), Tracy Sockalosky (MA), Robin Christopher (Netherlands), Jon Workman (MA), Amy Corey (IL)

Written by the following 2017 MTFs~
Amy Corey (July 9), Mathy Terrill (July 10), Taylor Beal (July 11), Paul Regelbrugge (July 12), Laura Bakes-Gleissner (July 13)

July 9, 2017:
The 2017 Museum Teacher Fellowship Summer Institute brought together 19 incredible individuals representing ten states in the U.S., the Netherlands, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Ireland/Belgium (from Ireland, teaches in Belgium). They started the week as strangers, but left as a close-knit community of friends and colleagues.

As the institute opened, participants were introduced to the overarching theme of the week; Exploring how and why the Holocaust happened by examining choices made by individuals and institutions. An overview of the Museum’s guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust provided focus for creating curricula, a rubric for selecting classroom resources, and assistance in determining outreach project goals. From there, MTFs worked with new literature layers that have been added to the Timeline lesson (Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, and Gerda Weissman Klein). These new layers allow teachers to demonstrate how the stories of individuals are contextualized by events of the Holocaust and WWII. The group also learned about and discussed the Outreach Projects to be undertaken in the upcoming year and how the projects will help to bring the Museum’s mission to their local communities. A new approach this year was touring the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition (PE) only one floor each day; always framed with the same directive ~ to explore how and why the Holocaust happened by examining choices made by individuals and institutions. Day one’s programming concluded with a walking tour of selected monuments and memorials on the National Mall to reflect on how history can be interpreted, perceived, and at times, forgotten. After a full first day, the MTFs enjoyed dinner together fostering great conversations, reflections on the day, and anticipation regarding the remainder of the week.


July 10, 2017:
Day two of the Fellowship program focused on the impact that individual choices can have on others. The cohort toured the third floor of the PE before it opened to the public. This floor focuses on the years 1940-1945 and the start of the Final Solution. Following an emotional debrief about the third floor, MTFs were introduced to the lesson, “Theresienstadt: Kingdom of Deceit”. Its’ focus was the Nazi use of propaganda at this particular ghetto and individual stories, experiences, and choices that we can all learn from. The day culminated with the incredible opportunity to listen to Dr. James Waller speak about his book, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. His talk was intriguing, eye opening, and offered new perspectives regarding if/how to include the perpetrator’s voice in classroom teaching. 


July 11, 2017:
Day three began with a morning tour of the PE’s second floor. The Fellows continued wrestling with the questions of how and why the Holocaust happened through the lens of decisions made by individuals and institutions. On the second floor, this meant looking at those who chose to form resistance groups, those who helped to rescue Jews, as well as liberation and justice. The afternoon included an intriguing session with Dr. Becky Erbelding that left Fellows eager to learn more about the upcoming Museum initiative, Americans’ Response to the Holocaust. Teachers were given a taste of what the new special exhibition, [to be open in May 2018], would look like. She discussed how teaching about American responses to the Holocaust would add a layer to our teaching that perhaps had not previously been utilized. Similarly, integrating a discussion about student activism on college campuses during that time drew parallels between the past and possible actions and feelings of youth today..

In addition, a case study on choices made by teachers during the Holocaust provided a framework to discuss implications of those choices on their students (Oath and Opposition: Education under the Third Reich). Finally, a clear focus on the importance of words as testimony from individuals in various roles proved invaluable to the MTFs as they strive to help their students understand the true value they have in a safe and free education.

July 12, 2017:
Day Four was thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. It linked history of the Holocaust and World War II to contemporary genocide and helped define the role of educators in teaching difficult subject matter.

Alma Zero, a member of the 2017 MTF cohort, was a young girl in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the civil war in the 1990s. She eloquently shared difficult stories of genocidal atrocities that engulfed her family as they were forced to flee. Alma played a video clip from the film, Miss Sarajevo, that shows her friends singing with others in the shell of a car while bombs and mortar fire are heard in the background. Now teaching in Bosnia, she discussed the challenges of teaching about genocide and mass atrocities in the locations where they actually occurred; when neighbors (& her students) are children and relatives of both victims and perpetrators.

Andrea Gittleman of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide (CPG), provided insight into the Museum’s work on genocide and related crimes against humanity, including forecasting potential threats, influencing policy makers, and stimulating worldwide action to confront genocide. Her session also gave Fellows an idea about the dangers and difficulties the Center encounters in its work.

Alma’s presentation provided the context for the next session on two films that depict brave actions of individuals in harrowing situations. Chris Temple, Executive Director and co-founder of Living on One, screened his film, Salam Neighbor, which depicts his unforgettable experiences living among Syrian refugees in Jordan.  He also has a 360-degree virtual reality film, For My Son, that currently plays in the Museum’s Wexner Center. (For additional information about Chris Temple, his non-profit organization, Living on One, and the many educational resources available to our MTFs, visit these links: Resources and Living on One)

The Fellows then watched
I’m Not Leaving, a film that tells the story of Carl Wilkens, the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Wilkens spoke to the Fellows about the choice he and his family made and how they had nowhere to turn for help.  Mr. Wilkins introduced a new acronym, REI, which stands for Respect, Empathy, Inclusion; three character traits that we could reinforce among our students.(For additional information about Carl Wilkens, his non-profit organization, World Outside My Shoes, and the many educational resources available to our MTFs, visit these links: Resources and World Outside My Shoes)

To conclude, the Fellows had the great fortune to meet and hear the emotional and profound testimony of Steven Fenves, Holocaust survivor originally from Yugoslavia/Hungary.  His testimony described acts of ingenuity, sabotage, chance, and his liberation in Buchenwald on April 10, 1945 by American troops. Mr. Fenves and his wife joined the 2016 and 2017 Fellows for a reception in the Museum’s Hall of Witness in the evening.


July 13, 2017:
How Does One Say Goodbye?
On the morning of July 13th, I wrote in my journal that I was grateful for: my chance to be a part of the MTF 2017 program, a good morning workout at the gym, and confidence. Normally, I would look back on what I had done or accomplished when attempting to remember a day in my life. However, my experience of this final day of our MTF program and the week itself is dominated by one word: gratitude.

Keynote speaker Deborah Lipstadt introduced the film Denial, based on her book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. The film examines the experiences of Dr. Lipstadt and her legal team as they navigate a defense against a claim of libel by David Irving, a Holocaust denier. The film shows the challenge of proving that Irving was the deliberate liar and racist Lipstadt claimed he was in her book, while at the same time facing the risk that the truth of the Holocaust itself would be on trial. The ins and outs Lipstadt and her team faced were confounding. For those of the Fellows who had never seen the film, it was an eye-opener into the dangerous world of denial. How and why do people deny the Holocaust? In the current state of misinformation, blatant racism, and political unrest, it makes one wonder how many young people find these deplorable websites on the internet, why they are vulnerable to them, and how to combat something so insidious.

In the question and answer session that followed, Dr. Lipstadt described what ‘hard core’ and ‘soft core’ denial are. She fielded questions on navigating climates where parents are not supportive of Holocaust education and how to educate children in relation to more recent genocides, such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Dr. Lipstadt was both passionate and humble and made it clear that, as educators, we have a sacred duty to REMEMBER and TEACH.

As I look at the diary entries that close the day, my comments turned to the future. I find that I was nervous about my outreach project, “Will it all come together?” “How will I connect all the dots?”  “What’s next?” It is beyond a doubt that many in my cohort had the same thoughts and feelings about the future. Bringing something so important into being is a cause for both excitement and alarm!

I also wrote about our amazing leaders and the experiences they were able to create for the us.  But the last entries of the day were about the connections I made with the other 18 special educators and human beings that I was lucky enough to meet, eat meals with, work with, negotiate meaning with, and silently process painful moments with. There is only one word left to write: Gratitude.  

Museum Resources Offered through Open Educational Resource (OER) Networks

IMG_3176 (2)
As part of the Museum’s efforts to reach a broad section of educators across the country, we have made some USHMM educational materials available through select Open Educational Resource (OER) networks. The Museum has begun with five resource packets that can be accessed through
Share My Lesson and Teachers Pay Teachers.

The five packets are:

  • Introduction to the Holocaust: Documentary Film and Classroom Materials
  • How To Teach About the Holocaust
  • Teaching about the Holocaust Using Survivor Testimony
  • Planning a Holocaust Commemoration at your School
  • History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust

Our goal is to make the Museum’s resources as accessible as possible to teachers. If you have suggestions regarding additional Open Educational Resources that you frequently use to find classroom materials, or if you have ideas about other networks through which the Museum should share its resources, please contact David Klevan, Educational Outreach Specialist, Education Initiatives, Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, USHMM at or 202.488.0462.