Holocaust Unit Revived, Reimagined

Middle School Holocaust study curtailed by COVID-19


Raina Green

Students from the class of 2026, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. in the spring of 2022.

Zoey Ueland, Co-Editor-In-Cheif

A 2020 Pew Research study revealed a drastic lack of understanding amidst Millennials and Gen Z regarding the Holocaust. 55% of participants didn’t know that six million Jews were murdered as a result of Hitler’s Final Solution. While Holocaust and Genocide Studies was added as an elective in 2022-2023, the majority of students’ Holocaust education stems from the eighth grade curriculum, which lessened due to COVID. Curricular changes perpetuated a misunderstanding over lack of Holocaust education throughout the school. 

      The eighth grade Memorial Project, formerly focused on World War II and the Holocaust, broadened. Eighth grade Social Studies teacher Raina Green explains, “We decided to move the memorial out of just World War II as a context and instead make it about any topic within U.S history students felt was worthy of a memorial.” 

        This change was in part due to the advancement of the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. which is now mandatory and includes a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Cole Eckes ‘26 explains, “When you look at [the Holocaust] on a larger scale like in a school lesson, you’re kind of just seeing it for its impacts, the numbers, the statistics. When you’re going through the museum, it deepened my understanding of what it was actually like.” However, Ivy Besikof ‘23 grew frustrated during her visit to the museum as “there were some people who weren’t really taking it as seriously or didn’t really care about it as much.” 

       As COVID hit, the D.C. trip was canceled for two years. Zellie Olson ‘25 comments, “Everyone [knows] how meaningful [the Holocaust Museum’s] exhibit[s are]. I just feel like it’s such an emotional experience because it shares so much about firsthand experiences within it. I do feel like we missed out.”

      “Night” a “memoir by a Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who not just survived Auschwitz himself and several other camps but has worked all of the rest of his life to resist genocides wherever else they occur in the world,” was removed from the eighth grade curriculum due to COVID, explains Chair of the English Department Rick Cawood. Cawood furthers, “We didn’t teach ‘Night’ because we couldn’t give it the proper context. Doing ‘Night’ via online Zoom school didn’t seem to be the best choice because we couldn’t really help kids understand … the emotional weight.”   

    Holocaust studies were phased back into the Middle School curriculum in 2021-2022 via the D.C. trip. As students recover from the emotional strains of COVID, “Night” will return to the curriculum. As for the Upper School, Olson notes, “[Holocaust and Genocide Studies is] a really great example of how we can continue to dive deeper into instances of genocide and of the Holocaust.” Besikof adds, “I don’t think having it as an elective is enough in my opinion, I wish there was a way it could be embedded more into the Upper School.”