Genocide Curriculum

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies' Genocide Curriculum will familiarize students with Canadian and international laws and standards concerning the identification and prevention of genocide,and the prosecution of genocide perpetrators.

 Furthermore, students will not only learn about past genocides,but also current examples, enabling them to engage in social action projects and be inspired to speak out against prejudice and intolerance. Students will also have several opportunities to engage in research that will foster compassion and further develop their understanding of genocide by learning about the plights of specific individuals.

 The lessons are comprised of cooperative learning exercises, such as think-pair-share; a persuasive essays; and research projects and/or tasks.Both texts and films are utilized as well as various learning activities to appeal to multiple learning styles.

Learning Objectives:

Students will:

1.     Be well versed on the history of one particular genocide, and knowledgeable regarding notorious genocides of recent memory

2.     Apply defining characteristics of genocides to the specific case they have been assigned to research

3.     Recognize the stages of genocide in contemporary world events

4.     Identify and discuss the consequences of racism and intolerance

5.     Possess the knowledge and resources required to effectively advocate for the prevention of genocide

6.     Demonstrate an understanding of the roles of citizens and organizations (government as well as non-governmental organizations) in responding to genocidal events



Materials: Internet access, Brainstorming Handout below , Background Handout, 10 Stages of Genocide Handout


a) Introduction: In think-pair-share, students are asked to discuss what they know about genocide. Students use a brainstorming map to list all of the words, phrases, images, etc. that come to mind when considering genocide (graphic organizer— below). The class discusses their findings. 

b) Students read the What is Genocide? section of the website, and then respond to the following questions in pairs:

·        What is the difference between a massacre and genocide?

·        What is the point of the term “genocide”? Why not just use the term mass killings?

·        Who coined the term genocide and why?

c) Students compare and contrast terms and phrases to gain more of an understanding of genocide. Such terms include, but are not limited to civil war, tribal hatred,ethnic hatred, ethnic cleansing, ethnocide, atrocity, massacre, mass murder,genocidal process, selective genocide, and genocide. The goal should be to attempt to come to a conclusion as to the exact meaning of each term. The teacher is encouraged to model how handling at least two terms should do this.

d) Students are introduced to Gregory H. Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide. Students are divided into 10 groups, and each group is responsible for thinking of ways to prevent the stage of genocide that they are assigned. Each group presents their findings to the class. Students are introduced to Stanton’s preventative measures and identify how many of the solutions they came up with coincide with his ideas.


Materials: Internet and Library access; FSWC Genocide & the Power of Action workshop/ Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust Workshop; and/or class viewing of Genocide(1982)/ 10 Stages of Genocide handout


a) Students view Genocide by Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah films (more resources below) or take part in an FSWC workshop. After receiving this background, students should be able to answer the following questions:

·        What was the term used to distinguish Germans from non-Germans? (classification)

·        When did the use of symbolization occur and what was the symbol used for Jews?

·        How early was the first Labour Camp opened? What was its name? (preparation)

·        How did Hitler spread his messages? How did these messages dehumanize Jews? How were they depicted?

·        How did the international community fail to assist Jews in July 1938? Why?

·        What happened on November 10 1938, and which stage of genocide is this?

·        Provide some examples of the polarization of the Jews?

·        List all of the opportunities the international community had to intervene. Why didn’t they? What can be done to help people in similar situations today?


b) Students form groups of five students. Each member of the group chooses a research topic from the provided list of 20th century genocides. Students meet up with other students in the class who selected the same genocide to research to form their expert group. After collaborating, students return to their original group to present their findings and share their knowledge.

 Teacher facilitates a follow-up discussion:

·        What are the main causes of genocide (racism, intolerance, greed etc.)?

·        Is there anything the victims can do to escape being targeted?

·        What is the difference between genocide and war?

·        What are some of the characteristics shared by some or all of the genocides discussed?

Research Topics- 20th and 21st Century Genocides:

·        Armenia

·        Cambodia

·        Former Yugoslavia – Bosnia and Kosovo

·        Myanmar (Rohingya Muslims)

·        The Holocaust - Jews

·        The Holocaust - Homosexuals, people with disabilities, Roma,Poles, etc.

·        The Nanking Massacre

·        Rwanda

·        Sudan

·        Uganda

·        The Ukrainian Famine (The Holodomor)



a) Students review Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide

Students are briefly introduced to the Rwandan Genocide; either through FSWC’s Genocide & the Power of Action workshop; a viewing of Hotel Rwanda + Special Features video“Return to Rwanda”; and/or a viewing of Ghosts of Rwanda (available on YouTube). 

Students will be expected to answer the following questions:

·        What did Paul do to save Rwandan refugees? How many did he save?

·        How many people were killed at the monument? How many more monuments are there?

·        What did the French soldiers do to help the Rwandans?

·        How many people survived?

·        Why didn’t Paul leave the hotel when he had the chance?

b) The teacher allows students to form groups and select a genocide from lesson two. Students are asked to create a timeline (i.e. date,circumstances and victims/perpetrators etc.) that corresponds with the ten stages of genocide.

Students will look at how each stage was employed; they will also examine whether any attempt was made by local and international groups and individuals to prevent the escalation of each stage. Each group must provide examples of what was or could have been done at each stage—by individuals,government, NGOs and the international community—to prevent escalation. By the end of the activity, each group will have had the opportunity to trace their assigned genocide from stage one to stage eight. (Handout #6 attached).

 Follow-up discussion: As a class, reflect on the suggestions put forth by each group, and discuss what society can do to prevent genocides from occurring:

·        When discussing each occurrence of genocide, think about why these groups acted or did not act, and if so, how successful they were at preventing escalation?

·        Explain how each stage is dependent on the one preceding it.

·        Discuss the final stage—denial. Why is this included in the ten stages?Where do we see examples of denial in current events?

·        Can individuals make a difference at any of the ten stages? Is it ever too late to act?

·        Encourage students to share experiences if they have ever felt like they or someone in their family or community has been a victim of any of thestages of genocide. Have they ever been guilty of classifying or symbolizing a person from a different group?

·        Do any of these early stages exist in Canada or around the world right now? Option: Refer to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum fortheir alert page, or Genocide Watch.

·        What are the warning signs of an occurrence, such as the Holocaust, and how can we stop it from happening again?

·        Why didn’t Canada and/or other countries stop genocides, such as the Holocaust and Rwanda, sooner?

Optional: View LGen. Roméo Dallaire’s film, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, which documents his experiences as the commander of the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda, and how this mission ultimately failed to save Rwandans from Genocide.

Discussion Questions:

·        What did the United Nations say to Dallaire when he warned them about the impending genocide?

·        Why did Dallaire stay in Rwanda even though he could not stop the genocide?

·        How do Rwandans perceive Dallaire today?

·        How does Stephen Lewis perceive Dallaire?

·        What does former President Clinton say about the Rwandan genocide—after the fact?

·        Do you agree with the idea that the lack of international support on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide indicates that another genocide is probable?

·        Why does Dallaire think that the international community did not help the Rwandans?

·        What is the most startling fact that you learned from this documentary?

·        If you could ask Dallaire one question, what would it be?


Materials: Internet and Library access; Nuremberg. Dir Yves Simoneau. 2000

This lesson will educate students on the laws Canada and the international community have enacted to prevent and confront such tragedies.All of the necessary documents (Section 318 of the Canadian Criminal Code, Fact Scenarios handout, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) are included in handout #7.


a) Introduction: Students engage in a think-pair-share activity where they explore how criminals can be prosecuted for crimes of genocide. Questions to consider:

·        Whose responsibility is it to prosecute such criminals (especially when a leader of a country has allegedly committed the crime)?

·        Is there an organization that is responsible for leading such cases?

·        Do international laws exist to dictate how such issues are dealt with?

·        When were such laws set in place and by whom?

·        Do you know of any examples where war criminals have been prosecuted? Do you think the penalties are too harsh or too lax?


b) Genocide in Canadian and International Law: Essay Assignment:Students will submit an essay (individually or with a partner) that will compare and contrast Canadian and international laws concerning the punishment and prevention of genocide. Students will refer to the genocide they researched in the previous lessons and remark on:

·        If/how the perpetrators were brought to justice?

·        What were the obstacles in the way of justice?

·        If/how the victims were compensated?

·        If/how the international community responded?

Students are expected to cite relevant pieces of the Criminal Code of Canada, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Genocide Convention; and compare Canadian and international law, citing whether the tribunal would be different had it occurred in Canada.


Materials: Internet and Library Access

 Smile Through Tears: the Story of the Rwandan Genocide

 Resources: I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal. Dir Richard Trank. 2007; Smile Through Tears: The story of the Rwandan Genocide (Rupert Bazambanza); Night (Elie Wiesel); class set of memoirs can be ordered through the Azrieli Foundation; and/or students can access videos of survivor testimony on FSWC’s Never Forget Me website. (more resources below)

 In order for students to understand the effects of genocide on a more personal level, students will research the story of a survivor by reading a book or watching a film, writing a short summary and review of the piece, and creating a visual aid.


Students will have the opportunity to explore the human face of the atrocities they have been studying by choosing one of the suggested books or films that document the stories of survivors. Each student will write a one-page summary of their survivor’s story and a book or film review, as well as create a visual aid (educational pamphlet, poster, visual or digital exhibit etc.). Students will place their summary, review and visual aid on display in the classroom for the Faces of Genocide: A Gallery Exhibit of Survivors. Students will have the opportunity to circulate the exhibit and perhaps even make it accessible to other classes, parents and the community.

Additional Resources

The Holocaust:

·        Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl (book)

·        Spring’s End by John Freund (book)

·        The Violin by Rachel Shtibel (book)

·        A Child’s Testimony by Adam Shtibel (book)

·        Bits and Pieces by Henia Reinhartz (book)

·        Getting Out Alive by Tommy Dick (book)

·        Maus by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel

Armenian Genocide:

·        The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel (book)

·        Armenian Genocide: My Son Shall Be Armenian (film)

·        Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir: An American Son Uncovers his ArmenianPast by Peter Balakian (book)

·        Memory Fragments from the Armenian Genocide: A Mosaic of a SharedHeritage by Margaret Dicanio (book)



·        The Killing Fields (film)

·        Facing Death in Cambodia by Peter Maguire (book)

·        Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors byDith Pran (book)

·        On the Wings of a White Horse: A Cambodian Princess’s Story ofSurviving the Khmer Rouge Genocide by Oni Vitandham (book)


·        Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival (film and book)

·        Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyondby Don Cheadle and John Prendergast (book)


Moriah Films is the Film Division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.Our documentaries focus on the 3,500 year old Jewish experience as well as contemporary human rights and ethical issues. Moriah’s goal is to produce theatrical documentaries on a regular basis that both enlighten and educate while at the same time reach national and international audiences. Two of Moriahs’ films have been recipients of Academy Awards™ for Best Feature Documentary, Genocide (1981) and The Long Way Home (1997).


Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny (2010). Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley

Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny, focuses on the years 1940 and 1941, when the Swastika flew over continental Europe. Only England with her back to the wall, under Winston Churchill, remained defiant. Walking With Destiny highlights Churchill's years in the political wilderness, his early opposition to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and his support for Jews under threat by the Nazi regime. As historian John Lukacs explains, Churchill may not have won the War in 1940, but without him, the War most certainly would have been lost. The film examines why Winston Churchill's legacy continues to be relevant in the 21st Century and explores why his leadership remains inspirational to current day political leaders and diplomats.


Against the Tide (2008). Narrated by Dustin Hoffman.

Against the Tide is a compelling film that documents what happened in the United States during the Holocaust, highlighting how a young activist,Peter Bergson, challenged Washington and the establishment Jewish organizations to demand that the rescue of Europe’s Jews become a top priority for American Jews. Against the Tide addresses the attitudes of President Roosevelt and his senior advisors, who used the pretext of winning the war against the Nazis to block any Jewish immigration to the U.S. and juxtaposes the events in America with heart-wrenching heroic stories of the doomed Jews of Europe and the leaders of Polish Jewry who had faith that their powerful brothers and sisters in the United States would somehow be able to save them.

I Have Never Forgotten You: the Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal(2007). Narrated by Nicole Kidman.

Narrated by Academy Award®-winning actress Nicole Kidman, the feature length documentary examines the life of Simon Wiesenthal. It features interviews with longtime associates, government leaders, friends and family members, many of whom have never discussed the legendary Nazi hunter on camera.What drove him to pursue this dangerous and thankless task? What kept him going when for years the odds were against his efforts? What is his legacy today?

In May 1945, when Simon Wiesenthal was liberated from Mauthausen Concentration Camp he weighed less than 100 pounds but he was determined to live. In the days after liberation he decided that he must bring those who committed such unspeakable crimes to justice. Simon Wiesenthal never trained as an investigator but he made up for it through his sheer determination to bring Nazi murderers to justice, not for vengeance, but as an insurance policy to protect future generations from such crimes. He helped bring to justice more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals including the commandants of the Treblinka and Sobibor, and the Gestapo official who arrested Anne Frank. He would always say,"When my life is over and I meet up with the 6 million, I will be proud to say to them, I have never forgotten you."


Ever Again (2005). Narrated by Kevin Costner

Narrated by Academy Award®-winning actor/director, Kevin Costner,Ever Again examines the resurgence of violent antisemitism and terrorism that threatens Europe and all of Western civilization. It exposes the dangerous Islamic extremism and culture of death being preached in Europe’s major cities.In Ever Again, you will hear from victims of the new antisemitism, government officials, and Jewish community leaders. Chilling perspectives are also provided by those who blame the world’s problems on the Jews - the inciters and perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts including physical attacks, firebombings of synagogues and Jewish community centers, and the vandalism of Jewish homes and businesses. Undercover crews captured explosive new material in interviews with both Islamic fundamentalists and neo-Nazis.


Unlikely Heroes (2003). Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley

Narrated by Academy Award®-winner Sir Ben Kingsley, Unlikely Heroes chronicles the yet untold stories of Jewish resistance and individual heroism throughout the Nazi Holocaust. The film utilizes rare film and photos discovered in archives across Europe, and enhanced by weeks of newly filmed sequences in the locations where many of these stories actually occurred. For most people, the idea of Jewish resistance or defiance during the Holocaust is limited to the heroism of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a few isolated acts throughout the Second World War. Contrary to the view of some that Jews caught in the terror of Hitler's Europe were passive, Moriah Films latest documentary feature presents previously unknown stories of extraordinary men and women who exemplified the highest level of courage and human dignity during the most desperate days of the Holocaust.

In Search of Peace (2000). Narrated by Michael Douglas

In Search of Peace chronicles Israel’s first two decades, offering new insights on the origins of the Middle East conflict. Combining a rich tapestry of rare archival film and photos, the film offers a unique global perspective on one of the seminal events in the 3,500-year history of the Jewish people.


The Long Way Home (1998). Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film combines rare archival films and stills with new interviews, and interweaves historical narrative with stories, anecdotes, and recollections of Jewish refugees. The film opens in 1945. Germany has been defeated by the Allies and the war in Europe is officially over. American, British, and Russian soldiers have liberated Nazi death camps in Central and Eastern Europe, uncovering to the world the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust. Thousands of starving, half-dead Jewish survivors are freed from Nazi persecution. The film takes an in-depth look at how most of the world was either indifferent or unwilling to deal with the plight of the Jewish refugees, but at the same time acknowledges the efforts of those who did support the survivors in their attempt to make new lives for themselves.


Liberation(1995). Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, Miriam Margolyes, Patrick Stewart,Jean Boht and Whoopi Goldberg

Liberation tells the dramatic story of the battle waged on two fronts during the Second World War– the Allied campaign to liberate Europe and Hitler’s genocidal campaign against the Jews. Liberation begins in 1942, when Adolf Hitler was still at the height of his power and the Allies began envisioning a cross-channel invasion of Europe. The film takes you behind the scenes to illuminate the strategies and deceptions for the combatants on all sides - from America's and Britain's Home Front to wartime London, Moscow,Washington, D.C., and occupied Paris to Berlin. From Churchill to Roosevelt,from Stalin to de Gaulle, to the Nazi leaders - to the battlefields alongside generals and ordinary soldiers - the film's panoramic sweep records those fateful years. The film exposes the audience to the inescapable and sobering reality that while Hitler was losing the war on the Allied Front, the Nazis were winning their war on the Jews and other innocent victims of the Holocaust.The film reaches its climax with the dramatic liberation of Paris, the Benelux countries, and the death camps, through to V-E Day.


Genocide(1982). Narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles

In 1981 this film became the first Holocaust documentary to receive an Academy Award® and it remains today a chilling, heartbreaking testament to the strength and suffering of the Jewish people and the courage and heroism of those who came to their aid. The film begins by providing a look at the flourishing Jewish community in pre-war Europe and then traces their grim trajectory through the ghettos,camps, and prisons of the Nazi regime, introducing the lost victims and brave heroes along the way.

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