Teaching the Holocaust

Suffield Academy faculty member Beth Krasemann recently released her first book, Teaching the Holocaust by InquiryThe beginnings of the book idea came to Beth almost ten years ago when a friend recommended that she read Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? by Bruce A. Lesh and Edward L. Ayers, which posits that history classes should be taught more like science labs. The idea resonated with Beth and she began teaching inquiry-based classes where she gives students conflicting historical evidence and then asks them what they think. This way of teaching allows students to think and act like historians, as there is often more than one right answer to the questions. 

Following her summer sabbatical trip in 2013 to Germany and France, and subsequent trips to Israel and Washington, D.C. to learn more about the Holocaust, Beth began applying her inquiry-based teaching methods to the Holocaust unit she teaches. She also further pursued her own education by attaining a Holocaust and Genocide Studies Masters degree. Seeing her passion for both the teaching and historical content aspects of Beth’s work, her husband (Volker Krasemann, Suffield’s Science Department Chair], suggested she might want to write a book. And thus, their pandemic project was born.

Following Beth’s hard work pulling together the proposal, Volker translated it into German and the proposal then sold to German publisher LIT Verlag in June 2020 (and they agreed to publish the English version in October 2020). While writing the book was Beth’s passion project, it truly became a collaboration as it unfolded. Beth would write her portion in English and then Volker would translate it into German; Volker found additional supporting information to add to the book and did the permissions research; famous Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum wrote the foreward; Suffield English teacher Ben Morgan became Beth’s English editor. And about nine months after the book sold it was finally complete. 

What makes Teaching the Holocaust stand out most strongly is Beth’s Teacher Notes, which guide instructors on the best ways to teach about the Holocaust and questions to ask in inquiry-based teaching. Twenty-two states across the country require Holocaust education, which makes her book timely and important, as does the fact April is genocide awareness month. Beth also notes that this Holocaust unit for her freshman classes is always their favorite, emphasizing the impact of this kind of teaching on students.