• Holocaust
  • Age 11 to 14 (KS3)
  • Age 14-16 (KS4)

This resource provides essential context for study of the Holocaust.

It highlights the diversity of Jewish life and culture before the Second World War and explores roots of antisemitism.

The two films in this resource, The Way We Lived and Roots of Antisemitism, were supported by funding from the Rothschild Foundation Europe.

Free teacher CPD and lesson plans are available from the Centre for Holocaust Education, UCL Institute of Education.



  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world, 1901-present - KS3/4.  
  • Warfare and British society, c1250-Present - GCSE.
  • To explore personal stories of people whose lives were impacted by the Holocaust.

[Onscreen] Introduction 

This home movie footage taken before the Second World War shows the Hartman family from Czechoslovakia enjoying themselves. The Hartmans were well-off, they could afford a movie camera and holidays abroad. This amateur film taken in Poland at about the same time shows an entirely different way of life. These people lived in a small country town called Gombin, they are being filmed by visiting relative who had moved to America just before the first world war. Although they may appear to have little in common both the people from gum beam and Hartman family from Czechoslovakia are Jewish. 

Before the Second World War Europe was home to roughly 9 million Jewish people. There were Jewish communities in every European country, but the largest Jewish population more than 3 million was in Poland. In the countries of Eastern Europe Jewish communities formed an important part of life in all the big cities, as well as in many smaller towns and villages. 

It was a lively world that hummed with differing ideas about how to live a good life. The majority continued to live their lives much as their parents and grandparents had before them, but others turned their backs on traditional beliefs and ways of life. Instead, they joined mainstream society or became members of political movements that held the promise of a brighter future, not only for Jewish people but for mankind as a whole. So, across Europe there were many different ways of being Jewish. There were Jewish people who were deeply religious, those who marked only a few religious festivals, and atheists who didn't believe in God at all. There were some wealthy Jewish people, but most were not well-off, and there were Jewish socialists who wanted better conditions for the poorer working classes. Some Jews were patriotic about the country of their birth, others wanted to leave Europe for a better life in America or longed for a new Jewish homeland in Palestine. All belong to a wider world that could be hostile, even dangerous. But in spite of many centuries of persecution at the hands of their Christian neighbours', they had survived, and many had even become successful. 

Jewish people who lived and worked in vibrant cities such as Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London had not only become part of European society, many had also made outstanding contributions to 20th century civilization. Especially in the arts and in the sciences. Figures like Gustav Mahler one of the world's finest composers, Ida Rubinstein a talented actress and ballerina who danced for audiences across Europe, Marc Chagall the modernist artist who was influenced by Jewish traditions and culture. Sigmund Freud pioneered of the study of the human mind relationships and behaviour. Albert Einstein, whose work completely changed scientific thinking, from the tiniest atoms to the structure of the universe, from explaining the death of stars to understanding the nature of space and time. 

Introduction to Jewish life in Europe before the Second World War

In the early twentieth century, approximately nine million Jewish people lived across Europe, from Britain in the West to the Soviet Union in the East. This extract, from an IWM film called The Way We Lived, shows the diversity of Jewish life before the Second World War. The photograph is of the actress and dancer, Ida Rubinstein.


[Onscreen] Who We Were

[Voiceover] These Jewish people lived in Europe before the Second World War. The language many of them used in their homes was Yiddish, a language based on medieval German. In Eastern Europe many Jewish people still lived in small country towns called shtetls, life in the shtetls was often hard.  

[Daniel Falkner] “We were always on the edge of utter poverty; I remember how my grandmother used to speak to grandfather. You are giving advice to everybody in the town, why can't you give yourself advice to earn a little bit more so that we could afford something better.” 

[Roman Halter] “In our house the loo was outside. There wasn't a bathroom, there was a sort of room for washing where water had to be heated up. So really, even the better off did not live in the luxury that we know today where you have a toilet, bathroom and you have central heating.” 

[Barbara Stimler] “It was not a big town we had cinemas and sometimes theatres coming but of course I was too young to attend these theatres my parents used to go out. We didn't have no televisions we had that, we had already a wireless at home, so we listened to the wireless, I used to read quite a lot. And that was our life, very quiet.” 

[Voiceover] In spite of the general poverty, Jewish charities were active in looking after the poorer members of their own communities. There were also sports clubs which encouraged Jewish youngsters to pursue a healthy outdoor life. Education was highly valued. As well as normal schooling, there were many other places where Jewish children could improve their education from schools that provided religious teaching to places that offered training for work.  

[Daniel Falkner] “I used to go to the library every week and bring quite a number of books home, I read avidly at that time I read only in Polish. There were libraries and reading rooms where people used to come without any fee and read all the newspapers of the world whether German English or French and of course polish and Jewish.” 

[Voiceover] Poverty and the desire for a better life drove Jewish people in their thousands from the shtetls into the big industrial cities.  

[Esther Brunstein] “I was born into a very closely knit enlightened working-class family. I remember childhood as a very happy time, lots of friends, cousins, uncles. I belonged to a very lovely sports club which I attended sometimes once sometimes twice after school, and I was quite the sports girl. I also loved skating in the winter, and it was very cold in Lodz and the winters even the pavements weren't always cleared so I could even skate on the pavement sometimes skating to school.” 

[Voiceover] Many Jewish people found success in the big cities and were able to lead comfortable lives.  

[Edyta Klein-Smith] “My mother was a typical Warsaw fairly well-to-do woman. Her parents, my grandfather whose name was Jakob Kriswarvin, owned three pharmacists in Warsaw. So, she had the sort of, you know, financial security from her husband and her father. Every year for a couple of weeks we would go to Sopot, just right on a Baltic Sea. My mother really loved going there because there was a casino in Sopot and gambling was not allowed in Poland officially and she loved the casino.” 

[Lili Pohlmann] “We were integrated into the Polish society more so than into the Jewish society in the sense that my father was not a religious man and we never lived in the Jewish section of Poland. My mother was always working because she was a very ambitious lady from a very young person and very highly talented. My mother was a dress designer par excellence, she had a salon and employed a number of seamstresses and helpers etc, so she was extremely busy.’” 

[Voiceover] In Germany, most Jewish people experienced far less of the anti-Jewish prejudice that was common in Eastern Europe. As a result, German Jews did well in their professions. In the law, business, medicine, and in the arts. Unlike the majority of Jewish people in Poland, who saw themselves as Jewish first and Polish citizens second, most of Germany's half million Jews felt being German was more important than being Jewish.  

[Beate Green] “It wasn't difficult to be both a little German girl and the little Jewish girl. I must say my father's family came from Franconia, that is northern Bavaria, and an old family Bible showed that the family had been there since the 14th century.” 

[Ruth Foster] “My father was very outgoing, he was a soldier in the First World War, and he won the Iron Cross first class and second class for bravery. I had lots of friends lots of neighbours, I was very, very popular. I was in the school choir and in the local sports club. We lived like one of the Germans even though we were very Jewish.” 

[Rudi Bamber] “My family lived in Germany for several generations and regarded themselves as German mainly. My father in common with many other Jewish people in our group of people thought they were Germans first and of Jewish religion thereafter.” 

Who we were

In this section of The Way We Lived several Jewish people describe the variety of life and culture while they were growing up before the Second World War. The photograph is of the artist, Roman Halter, (on the left) as a young boy with members of his family.


[Onscreen] What we believed in  

[Voiceover] If you could ask the people you see in this film, what does it mean to be Jewish? You would get lots of different answers. And many would say that their Jewishness comes from their traditional religious beliefs and customs. For three thousand years Judaism, the Jewish faith, had been at the centre of Jewish life. For religious Jews the Torah, the first part of what Christians call the Old Testament, was both the basis of their spiritual lives and a practical guide for how to live a good life. 

[Roman Halter] “The Rabbi were chosen for the quality of wisdom knowledge and integrity and people used to make certain that they had the best the wisest person who became the Rabbi of the town. Amongst 800 people Jewish people lived mainly in the town and they existed by being traders and they used to go to marketplaces with a horse and cart twice a week. And then a Shabbat started on Friday, and everybody went to the synagogue and Saturday was observed fully, people would not dare to trade, and that was accepted the Orthodox way of life and you had to be guided by this.” 

[Barbara Stimler] “My mother was religious; my father was not religious. Our shop was closed every Saturday and Sunday and my father used to go twice a year to synagogue on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and my mother was keeping very strict kosher home.” 

[Lili Pohlmann] “Well, my grandparents were very Orthodox, Jewish Orthodox religious people. My grandfather prayed all day long in the synagogue and you know he was one of those holy, holy men who just prayed. Every year my mother had to promise her parents that she will come with the children to spend the Passover holiday with them, my father never went. He never went actually – primarily - because he worked, he could not afford the time off, he could not go. Secondly because he considered it hypocritical because he was not a man of religion at all, and he would have considered this hypocrisy to sit at a very religious man’s stable and pray and so on with something which he did not do all year round.” 

[Voiceover] There were those for whom religion no longer played an important part in their daily lives.  

[Kitty Hart-Moxon] “I wasn't terribly aware of my Jewishness, we didn't keep very strict Orthodox household, we didn't keep many of the High Holidays apart from perhaps the Jewish New Year. And so, I wasn't all that aware of my Jewishness.” 

[Rudi Bamber] “We weren't a very religious family we usually went to the synagogue on High Holidays and my parents made attempts to let me know about Jewish festivals and so on, but they were not a very religious family in any sense.” 

[Voiceover] There were others whose sense of Jewishness came from involvement in Jewish social and political movements which had their own ideas about how to bring about a better world. In the big Polish cities, many Jewish industrial workers joined a political movement called the Bund.  

[Esther Brunstein] “My parents were active members of the Bund which was a Jewish Socialist Party. I remember it as a very, very intense cultural beehive something was going on all the time. There were countless newspapers periodicals weeklies in Yiddish and in Polish and somehow life I think was sort of lift to the full.” 

[Voiceover] Children of Bunte members were able to go to schools, sports clubs, and summer camps organized by the movement.  

[Esther Brunstein] “From early childhood we were imbued with the love towards our fellow human beings in general, but in particular a love and pride in our own origins and culture. And to this day Yiddishkeit is paramount to my existence.” 

[Voiceover] Yiddishkeit, a feeling of Jewish identity based on the Yiddish language had no appeal to those who wish to revive Hebrew, the holy language of the ancient Jewish people. They wanted to create a homeland for Jewish people away from Europe in Palestine, where the biblical kingdom of Israel had once existed. These people were known as Zionists.  

[Daniel Falkner] “We were dreaming of building up a new land, and a Zionist leader by the name of Jabotinsky came over and he was a fantastic speaker. He could rouse the crowd and he was urging the people to leave Poland to go to perform a new country in Israel.” 

What we believed in

In this extract from The Way We Lived we find out more about the different ways of being Jewish. The photograph is of Lili Pohlmann (wearing the bow in her hair) with her family before the Second World War.


[Onscreen] Why did people hate us?

[Voiceover] Everywhere in Europe Jewish people lived as a minority in Christian lands. Much of the time Jews and Christians lived alongside each other in peace.  

[Barbara Stimler] “The school I was attending was the Roman Catholic school. The nuns were teaching us of course and they were treating me very, very well. Even when it was Christmas time, we used to have a pantomime and they never put me with the religious acting. One year I was the summer queen - we had four seasons of queens and I was the summer queen - and they were very, very kind to me. They were trying the hardest not to upset me in any way that I was Jewish.” 

[Voiceover] Ezra Jurmann grew up in the small town of Pirna in Germany.  

[Ezra Jurmann]“There was no Jewish community in Pirna, and as far as I know certainly as far as I knew then the only Jewish Children in the town were two girls, and my brother and myself. As long as I can remember I have always been aware that we were somehow different, different from the other children. Not because we saw ourselves as such but because the other children did, some more so, some less. In what that difference consisted of I never knew. I didn't think about it. I was a child.” 

[Voiceover] Hatred of Jewish people was never far away it had existed for centuries in different forms, from a mistaken religious belief that the Jews had killed Jesus Christ through jealousy and prejudice, to racial hatred which we call antisemitism.  

[Esther Brunstein] “A girl in my own block of flats one day said to me, “you have killed our Lord,” and wouldn't play with me. Now, I just couldn't understand because I was never told anything of the kind. So, I rushed up to my parents and said, what did we do, what did we do, why does Sasha say such dreadful things. I remember my parents said you will learn about it but just remember you mustn't hate her because she has heard it somewhere she is saying it yes there are people who hadn't got this very nice way of dealing with Jewish children and Jewish people. So, I took it as such.” 

[Edyta Klein-Smith] “The children would sometimes shout, and it was you know, “the Jew” or “dirty Jew”, or whatever, but it was also envy I had a beautiful bicycle and just before the war I had a beautiful dog a Great Dane which I'll paraded up and down. I knew I was never allowed to even put the foot outside our front door without my governess or grown-up to protect me just in case.” 

[Voiceover] In neighbouring Germany defeat in the First World War was followed by a time of mass unemployment riots and economic house. German streets became battlefields in which extreme left-wing and right-wing parties fought each other for control, and out of this chaos the Nazi Party emerged as the strongest force in German politics. At its head was Adolf Hitler who was extremely antisemitic. Hitler said that Jewish people were an inferior foreign race and the cause of all Germany's problems. Ignoring the fact that Jewish people had lived in Germany for centuries, had contributed to German society, and had fought and died for Germany in the First World War. 

[Voiceover] In January 1933 Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany and began to pass laws attacking Jewish people. Hitler's popularity encouraged other antisemites to show their own dislike of Jewish people. 

[Beate Green] “We had the teacher whom I still remember she was called Fraulein Felner, and she was antisemitic. And that I didn't know what it meant of course at the time, but she said when I asked for, I think it was an exercise book, can't you Jew kids get your own exercise books, and I thought, yes oh I'm sure we could, and I went home to my mum, and I said Fraulein Felner thinks that we Jew kids could or should get our own exercise books. And it was only then, when I noticed that my mother was angry, that I thought well maybe she shouldn't have said that.” 

[Voiceover] Nazi antisemitism also stirred up existing hatred towards Jewish people elsewhere in Europe.  

[Roman Halter] “Twice a year on Easter Friday and Christmas, we had to put up the shutters because the windows were smashed because the local priests just say, our Christ whom we love has been murdered by the Jews and these Jews live amongst you. And when they heard about Hitler screeching or read about it, we Jewish boys said to defend ourselves after school because we're punched, or stones were thrown at us.”  

[Freddie Knoller] “At one occasion we were just leaving school, one of these Christian pupils spat at me in the face, my reaction was immediately I took my right hand and smashed his smashed my fist in his nose. My father was very upset about all this antisemitism, and he just mentioned that whenever we are involved in a fight, we should not really fight with them, but we should run away, just don't go get involved. I couldn't understand it, I could not see his way of thinking because to my mind with somebody insults you, you hit back hit back. If somebody hits you, you hit back.” 

[Roman Halter] “My father said if I'm attacked by a number of them, I must take my belt off and swing it from side to side, and then if I see an opening run as fast I could and I did this.” 

[Lili Pohlmann] “I have seen policemen beat up Jewish people in the street for no reason whatsoever, and when I asked my father why he is beating this man up my father would say to me well this man is Jewish that's why he beat him. But why is he beating him what has he done that he's Jewish, and he said what this is my child is very difficult to explain he hasn't done anything, but he is Jewish and that's his crime. Which a child of six does not comprehend easily.” 

[Freddie Knoller] “After I joined the Zionist Organization, we were talking about what Hitler did to the Jews, and we were thinking well maybe our life should be in Palestine, and how wonderful it would be to be in a country where there is no antisemitism.” 

Why did people hate us?

In this section of The Way We Lived, Jewish people recall how they were subjected to antisemitism as children before the Second World War. The photograph is of Ezra Jurmann (on the left), a Holocaust survivor, and his brother.


[Onscreen text] Looking to the future  

[Voiceover] For as long as two thousand years Jewish communities, each with their own separate history and way of life, had established themselves in countries across Europe. From Greece in the south, to Lithuania in the north, from Britain in the west, to Russia in the east. For much of that time, Jewish people had had to endure persecution at the hands of their Christian neighbours. Yet the vast majority have managed to survive everything that war, poverty and hostile rulers could throw at them. By 1914, millions had abandoned the old Jewish heartlands in the east for new lives elsewhere in Europe and in America. But for those who remained, and for their children, life carried on. In spite of hard times – the rise of Hitler in Germany and the antisemitism in their own countries – most believed that these problems would eventually go away. In the meantime, they pursued their dreams for a brighter future. And, confident that their own lives would be better than those of their parents, a new generation was waiting to take its place in the adult world.  

[Onscreen text] On 1st September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War began. By May 1945 when the war against Nazi Germany ended most of the Jews in Europe had been murdered. Nearly all the Jewish communities in eastern Europe had been destroyed.  

Looking to the future

In spite of hard times in the early 1930s, the rise of Nazism and antisemitism in their own countries, most Jewish people believed that these problems would eventually go away. This image from the film The Way We Lived is of a group of young Jews dancing at a public event before the Second World War.


Today more than 60 years after the murder in the Holocaust, hatred of Jews refuses to go away. Jewish people may still face verbal abuse or physical attack as they go about their daily lives. Jewish places of worship and cemeteries continue to be vandalized, and Jewish people are still accused of secretly controlling the world economy politics and governments. All these violent acts and mistaken beliefs are based on lies myths and prejudices.  

We call this fear and hatred of Jewish people antisemitism. To discover the origins of antisemitism we have to go back almost 2,000 years to the early days of Christianity. The man who Christians call Jesus Christ was born and died as one of the Jewish people. In his short time on earth, Jesus taught a message of love and how to live a good life in the tradition of other Jewish teachers. Jesus was killed by the Romans, crucified as were countless others seen as a threat to Roman rule. But early Christians, angry that Jewish people did not believe Jesus was the son of God and also wanting Roman citizens to follow their new Christian religion, taught that Jews and not the Romans were to blame for the killing of Christ, a myth that led to hundreds of years of persecution. After the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire was crushed in the second century, the Jewish people were forced to leave the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judea.  

By the 11th century, small Jewish communities were living in countries throughout Europe, the near and Middle East, and North Africa. In countries where Islam was the main religion Jewish people were treated with respect, but for Jewish people in Christian Europe daily life became increasingly difficult. Sometimes Christians attacked Jewish people and tried to force them to give up their religion and way of life. In an age of superstition, Jews were accused of black magic and causing diseases like the Black Death even though they, of course, died of this disease alongside their Christian neighbours. 

If a child went missing, it was often Jewish people who were blamed. Rumours spread through words and images such as these that Jews murdered Christian children to mix their blood in bread baked for Passover, one of the most important Jewish religious festivals. Of course, this was completely untrue and the midges you see here are the results of lies and wild imagination. Not only did Jewish religious law order thou shalt not murder, it also banned Jews from eating even the blood of an animal let alone that of a human child.  

In the Middle Ages Jews were forced to live and work separately from the majority Christian population, in the paintings of the time we do not see Jews as they actually were but rather the fear and hatred in the minds of those who painted them. Jews were banned from most professions and trades and were forced to do unpopular works such as collecting rents and taxes or money lending. People's dislike of paying taxes or owing money led them to resent Jewish people even more.  

As violence against Jews increased throughout Western Europe, Jewish people were driven from their homes and fled eastwards especially to more tolerant Poland, whose rulers promised Jews their safety. Allowed them to trade to travel freely and to practice their religion without persecution. By the middle of the sixteenth century, 80% of the world's Jewish population lived in Poland. Attacks and persecution still continued. 

In some of the countries of Western Europe, Jews had to wear coloured patches on their clothing and were ordered to live in separate parts of town from the rest of the population called ghettos. For centuries these anti-Jewish laws remained in force, but over time the ignorance and superstition that demonized Jewish people began to fade away. 

From the 17th century a growing number of people searched for scientific explanations to understand how the world and universe worked. Church teaching that God decided people's place in society was challenged as ideas about freedom and equality took hold. In the upheavals these ideas created laws that discriminated against Jewish people who gradually abolished and from the 19th century Jewish people were free to leave the ghettos and live and work alongside their non-Jewish neighbours.  

Many expected that Jews would give up their religion and adopt the lifestyle of the majority population and in effect stop being Jewish. The fact that many Jewish people did not give up their beliefs and traditional way of life came as a shock and was seen as a rejection of modern ways by a stubborn people. So, the Jewish question, how to live alongside Jewish communities that were no longer kept in the ghettos, but who refused to disappear by living just like everybody else became a troubling issue for many. 

In 1859 the British scientist Charles Darwin published a book called on the Origin of Species in which he said that all life on Earth had evolved over millions of years. Some people misused Darwin's ideas to claim that humans had evolved into distinct groups or races, they thought that at the very top of these groups was the white European or Aryan race and the Jews were a separate Semitic race. For those obsessed with the Jewish Question the idea of a Semitic race meant the Jews were born different from other people and so could never become part of mainstream society. Today we know these ideas are untrue, modern science shows that there is only one human race and any differences we see between different ethnic groups are very minor variations such as skin colour. Jews are not even a separate ethnic group but come from many different ethnic groups around the world, certainly there is no such thing as a Jewish race.  

Wilhelm Marr, well known in Germany for his anti-Jewish views, was the first person to call dislike of Jewish people antisemitism. Marr and his fellow antisemites did not agree that a Jewish person stopped being Jewish if they became Christian. For them, a Jewish person would always be a member of the so-called Semitic race, whatever their religion, and so hatred of Jewish people for religious reasons was joined by a new idea that Jewish people were an inferior race. The solution to the Jewish Question antisemites argued was to force Jewish people to leave Europe, but at the start of the 20th century the place where Jews suffered the greatest hostility was not Germany, where all the old anti-Jewish laws had been abolished, but Russia. 

Since the late 18th-century Jewish people in the Russian Empire had been forced to live in an area known as the pale, a strip of land covering much of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of western Russia. The Russian Emperor Nicholas II saw his Jewish subjects as enemies within his own empire. He allowed armed thugs to attack Jewish communities. Thousands died and millions more fled abroad, but the Czar's power over his people and his empire was fading revolutionary groups were plotting to overthrow him. 

In 1905, a Christian Sergei Nilus wrote a book called 'The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion'. It was said to be the secret plans of 300 powerful Jewish men who were plotting the collapse of all Christian countries and bring about Jewish world domination. In fact, the book was a clever forgery intended to make it look as if the revolutionaries wanting to overthrow Nicholas were controlled by Jews. 

So, when, in 1917, the Communist Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin took power in Russia, their enemies made a great deal of the fact that Lenin's second-in-command Leon Trotsky was Jewish. Just as in the Middle Ages Jewish people were wrongly blamed for the black death, in the 20th century Jews were now blamed for a new plague that seemed to be sweeping Europe, that of communism. After the Communists took power in Russia, 'The Protocols' was reprinted throughout Europe and America the book was especially popular in Germany, still reeling from defeat in the First World War in 1918. 

Its' readership included a former army corporal called Adolf Hitler who, like many others, blamed Jewish people for Germany losing the war. Ignoring the fact that many thousands of German Jews had fought and died for their country. Hitler believed all the lies that had ever been said about Jewish people since the early days of Christianity and more. He was convinced that Jews were the greatest threat to the so-called Aryan race and that either the German people would defeat the Jewish race or would themselves be destroyed by what he saw as a Jewish communist menace. 

In his book, 'Mein Kampf', Hitler showed how much he had been taken in by the lies written in 'The Protocols' saying that once enough people had read the book the Jewish Menace may be considered broken. Of his own political movement, the Nazi Party Hitler boasted of their violent anti-Jewish hatred. "They say we are a bunch of antisemites, so we are we want to raise a storm", a new and terrible chapter in world history was about to begin. 

Exploring roots of Antisemitism

This film, called Roots of Antisemitism, is a complementary film to The Way We Lived for those who wish to explore the issue of antisemitism in more depth. It considers some of the origins of the myths and lies about Jewish people.

Ruth Foster
©IWM (Mayer Bomsztyk 33132)
Ruth Foster

In this IWM sound clip, Ruth Foster describes how her non-Jewish school friends in Lingen, Germany, treated her after Hitler came to power. This photograph shows Ruth Foster, a German Jew, with her Jewish and non-Jewish classmates before the Second World War.

'I was one of them'

[Ruth Foster] And at 11, I went to the high school in Lingen. I had lots of friends, lots of neighbours, I was very, very popular. I was in the school choir and in the local sport club and I was one of them. It suddenly changed when of course in 1933 Hitler came to power and we had teachers in this school who were very poor, Nazis and went to the Nuremberg rallies each year. And I was the only Jewish girl in this high school, and they made – this particular teacher made my life a misery. She told the girls not to talk to me, during the intervals I stood on my own in the playground some of the teachers came to talk to me out of pity, but they were afraid of this one teacher because they thought I might denounce her, would denounce them. And girls with whom I used to go to school in the mornings and I met afterwards, and we played on the way, and they suddenly ignored me because all of the fear of this one teacher. And she arranged then that I would sit right at the back of the class and two rows were left vacant and I sat against the wall. In 1937, there came a law, more or less at the same time that the Nuremberg laws came out, that all the Jewish children had to leave German schools and Universities. So, it was from one day to the next.  

Explore Further

Rudy Kennedy 1927-2008 © Step Haiselden
Rudy Kennedy 1927-2008 © Step Haiselden

How Holocaust Survivors Rebuilt Their Lives After 1945

What happened to Holocaust survivors after the Second World War? How did they rebuild their lives in the years that followed their release from Nazi persecution?  

Portrait of Hana Maria Pravda

Writing The Unimaginable

The people who used the power of the written word to record what they saw happening during the Holocaust. 

Holocaust Learning at IWM

IWM is the UK’s leading authority on the public understanding of war and conflict, and custodian of the national collection for the Holocaust. Incorporating the most up to date research and evaluation, Holocaust Learning at IWM reflects the latest developments in Holocaust education, academia and understanding. 

Preparing to teach the Holocaust
Teacher CPD

Teacher Guide: Preparing to teach the Holocaust

Free Teacher Guide to support teaching the Holocaust for secondary students, led by IWM experts and teachers. 


Majdanek served as a slave labour camp that provided materials and manpower for German construction projects in occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. This jacket is part of the uniform worn by prisoners at Majdanek.
© IWM (UNI 11110)

What Was The Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the systematic murder of Europe's Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War. This programme of targeted mass murder was a central part of the Nazis’ broader plans to create a new world order based on their ideology.

Three female school pupils looking at a book as part of the Holocaust learning sessions
Age 13 to 14 (KS3), Age 14-16 (KS4), Age 16 to 18 (A Level)

Holocaust Learning at IWM London

Why do we study the Holocaust? Why and how did it happen?

IWM’s Holocaust learning session will introduce these questions and support students’ enquiry through our new Holocaust Galleries.