The Use of Graphic Holocaust Images in the Classroom

Dr. Julie Dawn Freeman
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Teaching the Holocaust to college-level students through visual images, both film and photography, raises ethical and pedagogical issues. The use of illustrative images is an effective tool especially with today's "visual learners". But instructors must be aware of potential student response to graphic material. Students can become fascinated with the images on a voyeuristic level which hinders their ability to critically study the subject. Instructors should not assume that exposure to the images of brutality will encourage greater humanism and tolerance. Secondary to this is the risk of desensitizing students to human suffering, particularly in America today where violence has become part of the cultural norm.

Exposing students to graphic images of horror may violate the trust between student and teacher. If a student feels the classroom has become unsafe, learning may stop. It is essential to provide students with a penalty-free escape from graphic material. This allows them a measure of control over potentially disturbing material.

Finally, instructors must be careful of presented Jews as perpetual victims. Images of emaciated Jews dressed in rags, corpses, and victims of brutality may create a stereotype for students. Images of thriving Jewish communities pre-Holocaust, of rescued Jews, and rehabilitated survivors can balance the perception.

Keywords: Holocaust, visual images, higher education, student response, ethical dilemmas
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Teaching the Holocaust

Dr. Julie Dawn Freeman

Assistant Professor of History, Assistant Professor of History, State University of New York, College at Oneonta

Ref: L05P0258