Following the instruction of Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), his office announced Monday morning that it had formulated a lesson plan for a special course—in response to the proposed Polish parliament bill punishing individuals for using the term “Polish Death Camps.” The course, titled, “The involvement of local populations, including Poland, in the Holocaust of the Jewish people,” will be taught in two segments this week in grades 7 through 12.
According to the Education Ministry, the lesson plan offers a variety of suggestions for relevant learning materials from the Yad Vashem website, testimonies of survivors, historical sources, and class discussion questions. The lesson plan enables students to delve deeper into the subject matter, with emphasis on the historical facts and circumstances that led to the murder of the Jews in Poland and in the rest of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, as well as in Western Europe, the Balkans, and North Africa.
“It is a historical fact that many Poles helped in the murder Jews, by informing on them, turning them in, and murdering Jews themselves during and after the Holocaust,” Minister Bennett said Monday morning.
“Granted, the term ‘Polish death camps’ is inaccurate, since these were German extermination camps on Polish soil,” Bennett said, “But, as noted, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis – and we must make sure that Israeli students know this reality the way it took place.”
In the lesson plan, students will learn, among other things, that “Jews who tried to escape or hide were handed over to the authorities, often by local people who sought to win a reward or hoped to take control of Jewish property, and some people attacked Jews with rage.”
The lesson plan also says that “this collaboration was expressed through ignoring the fate of the Jews (“bystanding”), in informing on and turning in Jews, and even active participation in the murder itself (collaborators). For example, about 200,000 Polish Jews were murdered by the Poles themselves.”
“Had not so many civilians outside Germany participated in the extermination campaign, there would have been fewer Jews murdered in the Holocaust,” the plan teaches. “But the number of casualties would have been greater if not for other non-Germans who did not cooperate or even interfered [in the extermination effort].”
The lesson plan also reminds students that “even after the war, Jews encountered hostility from their former neighbors as they returned from the concentration camps to their countries and homes. The most famous case was the Kielce pogrom in Poland, in July 1946, during which the Poles murdered 42 Holocaust survivors who returned to the city.”