Empowering Educators to Teach on Genocide

Wisconsin Act 30, passed on April 21, 2021, requires Wisconsin schools to teach students about the Holocaust and other genocides. Students are required to have at least one lesson in middle school and one in high school. The UW-Madison area studies centers along with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education and Resource Center (HERC) and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) planned a two-day workshop from January 15-16 to educate Wisconsin teachers on how to teach about these sensitive subjects.

The second session on Sunday focused on the requirements of Act 30, methodology on teaching about genocides, and supplying valuable resources teachers can use in the classroom. Kris McDaniel, Social Studies Education Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, conducted an overview of Act 30 and the various requirements schools now face.

Ilana Weltman

The Center for European Studies invited Ilana Weltman for the second session to discuss effective pedagogical practices. She teaches Holocaust Education & Contemporary Anti-Semitism at The George Washington University and is pursuing her doctorate degree at UW-Madison in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. We were honored to hear the testimony of Susan Warsinger. Susan Warsinger is a Holocaust survivor, former teacher, and volunteer at the United States Holocaust Museum. They work together with a local DC Child Survivor group and promote Holocaust Education.

Susan Warsinger

Susan told her powerful personal testimony beginning with her family life pre-war, being forced out of public schools, and her vivid memories of the “Night of Broken Glass.” She and her brother fled Germany in 1939. She talked about her journey through France, Portugal, and then later the United States to flee Nazi rule. She shared her testimony along with personal pictures and editorial cartoons of the time. Pictures from her presentation are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Susan shared her rational for her participation with the U.S. Holocaust Museum; she is compelled by her conscience to teach the public about the crimes against humanity that occurred between 1933 and 1945. Later, Ilana Weltman presented on effective pedagogical practices and pointed out how Susan used some of these practices during her testimony. Some of these practices included sharing pre-war Jewish life, translating statistics into people, discussing the history of antisemitism in German life, showing how Jewish people tried to retain their humanity, and other effective practices. To supplement the “Teaching with Testimony” lecture, Samantha Goldberg, Director of Education at the Nathan & Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, provided a methodology for teaching about the Holocaust.

In addition, the first session focused on genocide cases represented by the UW-Madison area studies centers specifically cases in Southeast Asia (Cambodia), Latin America (Argentina), and East Asia (China). The keynote speaker was Alexander Hinton, Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and UNESCO Chair on Genocide Prevention. He discussed themes from his book Man or Monster? A Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer, which focuses on the Cambodian genocide in the mid-to-late 1970s. Ksenija Bilbija, UW-Madison Professor of Spanish American Literatures, explored state-sponsored terrorism that occurred in Argentina from 1976-1983 during the military dictatorship. She emphasizes the role of alternative truth-telling in novels, short-series, and testimonial that gave society a sense of relief. Timothy Grose, Associate Professor of China Studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, provided an update of the state violence in the Uyghur homeland drawing parallels to experiences of Native American communities in the United States. To conclude the first session, Kathryn Mara, Albert Markham Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African Cultural Studies at UW-Madison, shared her research among the Rwandan community of Toronto and her findings about the power of language around genocides in the K-12 classrooms.

The workshop ended with a teacher panelist discussion with William Gibson and Sara Motl from Madison East High School and Kristine Sielaff Johnson from Racine Unified School District.

To learn more about how the UW area studies centers are providing resources to teachers and for more testimony about this workshop visit: https://international.wisc.edu/workshop-empowers-educators-to-confidently-teach-on-genocide/

For more details about individual lectures and to access recordings visit the workshop website: https://seasia.wisc.edu/community-outreach-events/spring-2022/#program