Blog: Through Testimony

Teaching with Testimony for Genocide Awareness Month

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 10:18am -- deanna.pitre

Contributor: Deanna Hendrick

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 10:18am

Survivors from five genocides have testimony in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive, including Edith Umugiraneza, Rwanda; Dario Gabbai, Holocaust (born in Greece); the late Yevnige Salibian, Armenia; Sara Pol-Lim, Cambodia

Throughout history, April has unfortunately been a significant month in the planning and implementation of genocide. In April 1915, the Ottoman government rounded up and arrested Armenian intellectuals – the first step in the Armenian Genocide. Less than 20 years later, in April 1933, the Nazis implemented several measures restricting the rights of Jews in Germany.  In 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh in Cambodia and massacred over 1 million people over four years. And in April 1994, an airplane carrying the president of Rwanda was shot down by a surface-to-air missile as it was about to land in Kigali airport – igniting the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

That’s why it’s fitting for April to be designated as Genocide Awareness Month. Many educators use this time to teach about different genocides throughout history. However, it can seem overwhelming to teach about something as complex and difficult as genocide, while making it relatable to students. During a recent #IWitnessChat – moderated by USC Shoah Foundation’s educational platform IWitness with guest host Facing History and Ourselves – teachers from across the United States shared how they use testimony to commemorate and teach about the Holocaust and genocide in their classrooms.

Explore the below tips from educators on how to use testimony to commemorate Genocide Awareness Month and introduce the topic of genocide in your classroom.  

Click here to register for IWitness 

1.  Introducing testimony into your curriculum

Testimony helps provides a human face to the past, engages students to critically think about universal themes of tolerance, diversity and justice from an individual perspective. Testimony can be used across disciplines from history to geography and even in Language Arts.

  • Teaching World Geography I strive to find testimony and voice for every topic we study.
  • Holocaust, slavery, women's rights. Testimony can be used for almost any unit as a powerful tool.
  • 10th grade has many possible topics to integrate testimony into literature including Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Night.
  • Testimony can be integrated into Native American Studies (present day and historical), Japanese American incarceration and civil rights.
  • Testimony helps make historical figures and survivors real for middle school students--not just words on a page.

 

 

 

 

 

Tip: Integrate testimony into your curriculum with curated clips from the Watch Page from over 50 various topics. Learn best practices for teaching with testimony, download the guide Using Visual Testimony in the Classroom.

2. How to introduce the topic and history genocide into your classroom

It is important to create context about the time, place and culture surrounding the events described by interviewees, and share this information with students. This context will help students more fully understand and appreciate the interviewee’s motivations, choices and actions, as well as those of the people around him/her.

  • For the Holocaust, I start with teaching rise of Hitler, historical antisemitism, forced marginalization and then the Final Solution. It is important to teach the stages of genocide.
  • I use the pyramid of hate, which lists the steps beginning with prejudiced attitudes, acts of prejudice, discrimination and then violence, which lead to genocide and genocide denial.

It is important teach that genocide is sadly too common in our global history, and is not isolated to the past.

 

 

 

 

Tip: Register free in IWitness and use the Connection Videos available in the educator dashboard. Connection Videos provide context and historical information on several different genocides and themes.

3. Teaching themes across disciplines

Use testimony to teach different themes like propaganda, resistance, discrimination, to courage.

  • I teach 7th grade so I start with building empathy and a sense of global civic responsibility. 
  • Examining propaganda is a good way to connect feelings of prejudice with actions of discrimination 
  • We look at propaganda for evidence of author bias and discrimination to show how prejudice and hate builds up to action. 
  • Testimony on the topic of courage appeals to middle school students.

Testimony makes it real. When we make history about people, students are better able to see how much choices matter. 

 

 

 

Tip: Browse the Activity Library for multimedia activities that focus on an array topics, themes and subject areas. 

4. The impact of teaching with testimony

Educators share how teaching with testimony is powerful experience for their students and themselves.

  • Testimony helps students see how lives are impacted by genocide, beyond number killed.
  • Testimony helps students understand that genocide doesn't happen to faceless masses, it happens to individuals. 
  • Firsthand accounts are always so important. Difficult to look someone in the eye & deny what happened to them.
  • Testimony humanizes history and helps students empathize. Shows how an executive order, law, or action affects "real" people.
  • Testimony provides the background knowledge for students to see the influence and effects of policies.
  • Too often genocide is spoken about in numbers, not people. Testimony helps humanize those who have been dehumanized.  
  • Words don't reveal facial expression or emotion. These things change story and understanding. Essential to build empathy. 
  • Testimony helps students learn genocide is aimed at a group but the group is made up of individuals.
  • So much about genocide is new to most of my students. Though they learn how important it is to be up standers and resist hatred.
  • Genocide testimony helps focus on how we can be up standers in our daily lives. Students feel empowered instead of helpless.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tip: Share how testimony inspires you and your students on social media with #BeginsWithMe.  

 

Genocide Awareness Month Testimony Series

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Genocide Awareness Month Testimony Series

To commemorate Genocide Awareness Month listen to clips of testimony from survivors across six genocides represented in the Visual History Archive. This testimony series follows the narrative of the "Pyramid of Hate," which lists the steps, beginning with Prejudiced Attitudes, Acts of Prejudice, Discrimination and then Violence, which lead to Genocide and Genocide Denial.

Explore full-length testimony from the Visual History Archive

Nurusseher's Message for Help

Language: Rohingya

Nurusseher is a Rohingya refugee. An English transcript of Nurusseher's message is below:

“Greetings. I am from Shoab Prang  village which is in the township of Rathidaung. We were persecuted and tortured by the military. We lost our relatives and our children, all innocent people. Then, we fled to Bangladesh. My husband’s name is Bellu. In Shoab Prang, 350 people were killed by the military and 56 men were arrested, including my husband. The military tightly bound their bodies with steel rope and took the men away. I do not know where he is. It is not even clear to me if he is alive or dead. The ones who would know what happened are the Ukhangda [the local Rakhine leader] Aung Chay and  the military representative. They know if he is alive or not. We urge to the international community to seek justice for us and to find out if our missing Rohingya are alive or not. We fled here to Bangladesh and want the international community to know about what happened to us. We are depending on you. Please help us.”

  • Nurusseher's Message for Help

    Language: Rohingya

    Nurusseher is a Rohingya refugee. An English transcript of Nurusseher's message is below:

    “Greetings. I am from Shoab Prang  village which is in the township of Rathidaung. We were persecuted and tortured by the military. We lost our relatives and our children, all innocent people. Then, we fled to Bangladesh. My husband’s name is Bellu. In Shoab Prang, 350 people were killed by the military and 56 men were arrested, including my husband. The military tightly bound their bodies with steel rope and took the men away. I do not know where he is. It is not even clear to me if he is alive or dead. The ones who would know what happened are the Ukhangda [the local Rakhine leader] Aung Chay and  the military representative. They know if he is alive or not. We urge to the international community to seek justice for us and to find out if our missing Rohingya are alive or not. We fled here to Bangladesh and want the international community to know about what happened to us. We are depending on you. Please help us.”

  • Prejudiced Attitudes: Kizito Kalima on the dangers of prejudice

    Language: English

    Kizito Kalima, a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, recalls the negative effects of labeling in the classroom before the genocide.

     

  • Prejudiced Attitudes: Yehudi Lindeman on anti-Semitism in Holland

    Language: English

    Yehudi Lindeman reflects on his childhood in Holland and recalls the anti-Semitism he experienced from other children.

  • Prejudiced Attitudes: Rose Burizihiza Remembers School anti-Tutsi Prejudice

    Language: Kinyarwanda

    Rose Burizhiza speaks on the discrimination she faced in school before the genocide began in Rwanda. Rose’s testimony is featured in the IWitness activity, Information Quest: The Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

  • Prejudiced Attitudes: Ellen Brandt on Jewish identity

    Language: English

    Ellen Brandt recalls the implementation of the Nuremberg Laws in Berlin and her participation in a Jewish youth movement BDJJ or Bund Deutsch-Jüdischer Jugend. She also reflects how the organization helped her connect with her Jewish identity.

  • Acts of Prejudice: Henry Laurant on experiencing anti-Semitism

    Language: English

    Henry Laurant remembers the first time he experienced anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. He was targeted by other children who were influenced by Nazi rhetoric. His testimony is featured in the multimedia professional development program, Echoes and Reflections.

  • Acts of Prejudice: Emmanuel Muhinda on anti-Tutsi propaganda

    Language: Kinyarwanda

    Emmanuel Muhinda describes the persecution of Tutsi and anti-Tutsi propaganda he witnessed before the genocide started in April 1994. His testimony is featured in the IWitness activity, Information Quest: The Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

  • Acts of Prejudice:Ruth Brand on Jewish Persecution Bystander Response

    Language: English

    Ruth Brand remembers how the non-Jewish people in her neighborhood taunted her family while they were being forced out of their home in Romania. She also describes how members of her family tried to reclaim their property after the war.

  • Acts of Prejudice: Holocaust survivor Lea Schabinski-Faranof

    Language: English

    Holocaust survivor Lea Schabinski-Faranof remembers the prevelant anti-Semitism in her school.

  • Discrimination: Peter Braunfeld on Anti-Semitism

    Language: English

    Peter Braunfeld recounts experiencing anti-Semitism as a child in Vienna after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.  This testimony clip is featured in the new IWitness activity, A thing of the Past? Anti-Semitism Past and Present.

  • Discrimination: Roma Sinti Survivor Julia Lentini

    Language: English

    Roma-Sinti Survivor Julia describes how her family’s lack of awareness of war events led to their incarceration at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

     

  • Discrimination: Homosexual Survivor Stefan Kosinski

    Language: English

    After his arrest in September 1942, Stefan Kosinski was incarcerated while awaiting his trial. In this clip, he recounts the conditions in the jail and his memory of seeing his mother out the window of his jail cell keeping vigil. She is also present during his trial before the Nazi court, which sentences Stefan to five years hard labor. 

    Foreign words in this clip:

    • pedo (Polish): derogatory term for a gay person
    • schwul (German): gay, homosexual
    • Zuchthaus (German): penitentiary
  • Discrimination: Rita Feder remembers the 1936 Olympics

    Language: English

    Rita Feder was a young girl during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and remembers how desperately she wanted to attend the games but was unable to because she was Jewish. Feder recalls how dangerous it was for Jews during that time even though there was an international audience in Berlin.

  • Discrimination: Eva Bergmann on anti-Jewish Employment Exclusion

    Language: English

    Eva Bergmann remembers when she was forced to leave her job at a public kindergarten school in Berlin because of Nazi enforced anti-Jewish restrictions. Eva also reflects that her gentile friends remained loyal and friendly to her even after she was labeled as “non-Aryan.”

  • Discrimination: Alphonse Kabalisa on anti-Tutsi propaganda

    Language: Kinyarwanda

    Alphonse Kabalisa recalls listening to anti-Tutsi propaganda on the radio with his father, after the death of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana. Alphonse’s testimony is featured in the IWitness activity, Information Quest: The Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda

  • Violence: Lina Jackson on the roundup of her family

    Language: English

    Lina Jackson remembers the roundup of her family members because they were Sinti and Roma, and their subsequent deportation to Auschwitz. She describes the difficult conditions of the cattle car. This testimony clip is featured in the book, Testimony – The Legacy of Schindler’s List and the USC Shoah Foundation.  

  • Violence: Guatemalan Genocide Survivor Jesús Tecú

    Language: Spanish

    Guatemalan survivor Jesús Tecú speaks about his parents going into town to take care of business in 1982, and never returning home. He later discovered that they were killed that day during the massacre Río Negro. Tecú’s testimony was recorded through a partnership with  La Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG), a Guatemalan forensics organization, to collect video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Guatemalan Genocide, which killed some 200,000 civilians in the early 1980s, mainly indigenous Mayans.

  • Violence: Chaim Borenstein on the Warsaw Ghetto

    Language: English

    Chaim Borenstein remembers the brutality of the SS guards while imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto in Nazi occupied Poland.

  • Violence: Madame Xia remembers the 1937 Nanjing Massacre

    Language: Mandarin

     Madame Xia discusses her family's experiences on December 13, 1937, when Japanese forces entered Nanjing, China.

  • Violence: Armenian Survivor Dirouhi Haigas

    Language: English

    Dirouhi Haigas was a young Turkish-Armenian girl of 7 when she and her family were abruptly uprooted from their home and deported on foot to the southern desert. A native of Konya, Turkey, she had lived an idyllic life up to that time with her parents, grandparents, aunt, and uncles. Her father was in the family business as a leather merchant, and her uncles were amateur musicians who loved nothing more than to get together with friends and relatives to enjoy folk music and dancing.  This life came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of World War I. In the middle of a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1915, church bells rang out unexpectedly, calling Armenians to the church square, where they were told that they were to be deported within the next two weeks and allowed to take with them only what they could carry. Soon after, the family was forced to leave their ancestral home, never to return.

    Dirouhi’s experience was similar to that of most of the 1.5 Armenian victims of the Armenian Genocide. The difference is that Konya is located in the center of Anatolia, far from the war zone to the east where most of the Turkish Armenians lived and where the Turkish Government claimed the exigencies of war as an excuse for their actions. There was no fighting in the Konya area, the Armenians posed no threat, and the deportations were clearly part of the Turkish Government’s brutal policy to eliminate its Armenian population.

    Author: Barbara Merguerian, PhD, Director of the Armenian Women’s Archives of the Armenian International Women’s Association. www.aiwainternational.org

  • Violence: Freddy Mutanguha on saying goodbye to his mother

    Language: English

    Freddy Mutanguha remembers saying goodbye to his mother before she was murdered during the Rwanda Tutsi Genocide.

  • Violence: Holocaust survivor Milton Belfer

    Language: English

    Milton Belfer remembers when his parents were arrested and his father's beard was forcibly shaved.

  • Genocide: Holocaust survivor Itka Zygmuntowicz

    Language: English

    Holocaust survivor Itka Zygmuntowicz on the last time she saw her mother.

  • Genocide: Live Wesige on Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

    Language: English

    On April 6, 1994, an aircraft carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down by a surface-to-air missile as it was about to land in Kigali airport. Everyone aboard the plane was killed: Habyarimana; president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira; and a three-man French crew. While it remains unclear who fired the missile, the event is viewed as having ignited the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide.

    Live Wesige remembers hearing the news about the president’s death and describes the violence that ensued in his neighborhood the next day, April 7, 1994.

  • Genocide: Armenian Survivor Sam Kadorian

    Language: English

    Sam Kadorian remembers the separation and killings of Armenian families during the 1915 genocide.

     

     

  • Genocide: Dario Gabbai on his Sonderkommando experience

    Language: English

    Dario Gabbai recalls his experiences as a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz II-Birkenau. He was forced to usher people into gas chambers, and then haul out the bodies, take them to the crematorium, and clean up the room for the next group of victims.

  • Genocide: Phansy Peang on the loss of her family

    Language: Khmer

    Phansy details how she was affected by losing both her parents and children during the genocide.

  • Genocide: Ella Davis on Arriving to Auschwitz

    Language: English

    Sinti and Roma survivor, Ella Davis speaks about arriving to Auschwitz and how SS guards took all her possessions and cut off her hair. This is the fifth testimony clip in the series 70 Days of Testimony: Leading up to the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

  • Genocide: Aurora Mardiganian on the Armenian Genocide

    Language: English

    Aurora Mardiganian speaks here as a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. But from 1918-1920, she was also the face of the Genocide to literally millions of Americans and to others throughout the world. Her tragic, horrific story was told through a 1918 semi-autobiographical book, Ravished Armenia, and a 1919 screen adaptation, also known as Auction of Souls. With the immediacy of a newsreel, the human side to the Genocide was brought to the screen. Working with Near East Relief and with the support of the wealthiest and the most prominent members of New York society, Aurora and her film helped raise some $117 million (the equivalent of $2 billion today) for the relief of Armenian suffering.

  • Genocide: Erna Anolik on arriving at Auschwitz

    Language: English

    Erna Anolik recalls the intake procedures at Auschwitz, including shaving off her hair, undressing in front of soldiers, and only being given a grey dress and wooden shoes.

  • Genocide: Aracely Garrido

    Language: Spanish

    Guatemalan Genocide survivor Aracely Garrido reflects on the seemingly eternal suffering endured by indigenous civilian non-combatant populations in a Guatemalan village who practiced their own limited form of resistance during the war.

  • Genocide: Bronia Hatfield on Wolyn

    Language: English

    Bronia Hatfield speaks on the mass killings that took place near her village in the region of Wolyn. By the end of World War II, 98.5 percent of Wolyn’s Jewish population was dead and most of the towns destroyed.

  • Genocide: Abraham Bomba on Treblinka

    Language: English

    Abraham Bomba remembers arriving to the Treblinka extermination camp and the selection process for the gas chambers.

  • Genocide: Sara Pol-Lim on Survivor's Guilt

    Language: English

    Cambodian Genocide survivor Sara Pol-Lim explains that she feels a responsibility to make something of her life to honor her family members who did not survive.

  • Genocide Denial: Holocaust Liberator Martin Becker

    Language: English

    Martin Becker talks about having various people walk through the concentration camp in Dachau and overhearing a man explaining that the various corpses lying around were brought in from Russia to "scare everyone." He says that responses like that are contagious when you are under stress and caught "red-handed."

  • Genocide Denial: Armenian Survivor Haigas Bonapart

    Language: English

    Armenian Genocide survivor Haigas Bonapart talks about denial of the genocide. This clip is one of the newest to be published on the IWitness "Watch" page.

  • Genocide Denial: Holocaust survivor Nina Kaleska

    Language: English

    Nina Kaleska talks about how she responds to people that say the Holocaust never happened. She says it is not worth arguing about because it only gives their ideas more attention and the evidence of the Holocaust is overwhelming. 

  • Genocide Denial: Holocaust Liberator Ed Carter-Edwards

    Language: English

    Holocaust liberator Ed Carter Edwards on how his eyewitness testimony along with others helps combat Holocaust denial.

Posts are contributed by individual authors. The opinions are solely the authors’ and are not necessarily a reflection of the views of USC Shoah Foundation.

About Deanna Hendrick

Social Media Marketing Specialist Deanna Hendrick joined the communication team at  USC Shoah Foundation in July 2013.  Deanna graduated cum laude with a BA in Journalism and a Spanish minor from California State University, Long Beach. In 2017 she received a Masters in Communication Management at USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

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