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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use testimony to teach different themes like propaganda, resistance, discrimination, to courage.
Tip: Browse the Activity Library for multimedia activities that focus on an array topics, themes and subject areas.
Educators share how teaching with testimony is powerful experience for their students and themselves.
Tip: Share how testimony inspires you and your students on social media with #BeginsWithMe.