Leaving a Lasting Impression: Personalised Holocaust Memorials

With the events of the Holocaust it is not just a matter of whether the students can recite answers to text book questions, it is about enabling your students to process the information in a more meaningful way. I believe it is important to allow your students the opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings on what they have learnt. There are many ways to achieve this from: poetry, story accounts and book reviews but another option is to create a class memorial – a physical object that remains within the classroom as a reminder to the students.

Here are some the memorials my classes have created over the years:

The first memorial I created with a class was by far my most ambitious:
The Patchwork.

This patchwork comprises of white squares upon which each student individually captured part of the Holocaust that they thought was important to share with others.

The patchwork was donated to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Memorial in Nottinghamshire http://www.nationalholocaustcentre.net


A simple but effective memorial was created using black card and chalk.


Similar to the patchwork each student represented a thought, feeling or idea associated with Holocaust which were then displayed in the shape of a Star of David.

With one class it was the false hope that the victims had for their futures (packing their suitcases with hopes of a better life) and the cruel reality of the situation that really influOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAenced them. Because of this I adapted this memorial to them. I ordered some Halloween plastic barbed wire and bought four half metre stripes of striped coloured fabric (blue, black, purple and red) and cut a small strip of fabric for each student.
Upon the fabric the student wrote one thing they wanted to achieve in their future. What was written was not shared and the piece of fabric was tied in knot around the wire.

Luggage tags (found in most craft shops) were used one year by the students. 20130830_161349Each student received a luggage tag: on one side the student wrote their name, student number and age, on the other side of the tag they wrote the name of the person who shared that number in the camp (see post: It is all about the number). These were then tied to a long piece of striped fabric.

The most recent memorial created was with an old suitcase. 100_5297On the outside of the suitcase the students painted their name, student number and the name of the person who had their student number in the camp. Within the suitcase each student put a picture of one item that is very precious to them.

Memorials are a powerful way to remind people of a certain event or person. Memorials for the Holocaust need to achieve both. It is about capturing both the event and the individual victims involved. This is why the starting point for most of my memorial ideas are based upon numbers and names.

For more information on the Holocaust Memorial in the UK, check out Holocaust Memorial Museum UK. For teaching ideas see It is all about the number…Teaching about the Holocaust. If you are considering taking students to Auschwitz this might help Once Experienced Never Forgotten – A tour of Auschwitz

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