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Resources for Teaching about Genocide

Published on Mon, 02/07/2022

Photo of Nuremberg courtroom shows the many rows of judges, lawyers, helmeted military police, and defendants.
Trial at Nuremberg. (1945). Read more at the Library of Congress.

Updated 05-21-2022

Read “Massachusetts Passes Genocide Education Legislation" by Emerging America's Rich Cairn in June's Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives The Volunteer. 

In December 2021, Massachusetts became the 20th state to pass legislation requiring that every student learn about genocide. (See the Massachusetts law.) The law pointedly requires that students learn about human rights and genocides across history. In this Month’s post, we offer a selection of resources to help address this imperative. 

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released this FAQ on the Genocide Education legislation on April 6, 2022. 

A familiar historic photo from the 1945 Nuremberg Trials shows rows of judges, lawyers, helmeted military police, and defendants packed into the paneled courtroom. The court found defendants guilty of the worst crimes in history, genocide against Jews, Romany, religious minorities, gays, disabled people, and others. Yet the trials themselves also represented a powerful new movement to expand accountability and the rule of law. In response to Nazi crimes, the newly formed United Nations established the World Court in 1946, and in 1948, the UN General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students must learn about the horrors of genocide. They also need to learn about powerful tools to thwart genocide. 

Emerging America drafted new lessons on the American Eugenics Movement in the early 20th century as part of a new K-12 Disability History curriculum. The curriculum places agency by disabled people at the center of student investigation. So the lessons on eugenics begin with objections to eugenics in primary sources from the period. A centerpiece of the lesson is a 2012 North Carolina program to set up an Office of Justice to Sterilization Victims and to pay compensation to thousands of disabled people forcibly sterilized by that state. See the curriculum project announcement to learn more and to sign up to pilot materials. (The eugenics lesson is in the unit on the Progressive Era.) 

Emerging America has partnered for many years with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives to offer the graduate course for teachers: America and World Fascism: From the Spanish Civil War to Nuremberg and Beyond. Link to course information. (Course runs next in October, 2022.) Registration cost reduced thanks to the Puffin Foundation. 



NEW: The United States U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum launched the crowd-source project: History Unfolded to utilize American newspapers.   

Compiled by Massachusetts educators through the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. Any errors are the responsibility of Emerging America. 


Young Adult Literature

  • The Assignment. Liza Wiemer. Delacorte Press. (2020). 


Current Media

Rich Cairn

Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services
Rich Cairn founded Emerging America in 2006, which features the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History program, "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry." The Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse, supported by the Library of Congress TPS program promotes full inclusion of students with disabilities and English Learners in civics and social studies education.