Beyond the Numbers

April 21st, 2007

During eleven years at the U.S. holocaust memorial museum in Washington, D.C., Warren Marcus has trained thousands of high-school and middle-school teachershow to teach the lessons of this 20th-century genocide. A former history teacher, he lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, with his wife, Lisa, and their children, Ally, 15, and Joey, 12. His e-mail address is

BAM How is the Holocaust relevant to students today?

Marcus It raises questions about the fragility of democracy, the use and abuse of technology and power, and the highs and lows of human behavior. Unfortunately, in the Holocaust there are mostly lows—there were very few rescuers. It’s important to think about why that was.

BAM What are the best resources for teachers?

Marcus Teachers should use personal testimonies and not get lost in giant numbers. The study of the Holocaust is an ocean of resources. I recommend All But My Life: A Memoir, by Gerda Weissmann Klein; Alex-andra Zapruder’s Salvaged Pages, which is a compilation of children’s diary fragments; and Friedrich, a novel for middle schoolers by Hans Richter; as well as countless video testimonies.

BAM How do you help teachers in states with little access to Holocaust materials?

Marcus In February we participated in an electronic field trip for more than a million kids all over the country. For a while we had a grant to go to underserved areas. I’ve been to New Hampshire, Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, Alaska, and three islands of Hawaii. Many of these kids will never get to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. A few years ago I was in Lithuania.

BAM Who else do you train?

Marcus I’m working with colleagues to train police and FBI agents and military groups. An entire class of the U.S. Naval Academy came to visit.

BAM What are the challenges for teachers of the Holocaust?

Marcus One daunting obstacle is that teachers rarely have enough time. In some states, social studies and history are being minimized. We provide an array of lessons and resources, many Web based, and let teachers pick and choose. Some teachers have a day or a week [for the lesson], others a semester.

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Related Issue
January / February 2006