In late winter 2018, I walked into the Facing History and Ourselves offices to interview for a new job. Immediately, I stopped in my tracks as I saw a framed cover of Facing History's publication Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians. The cover depicts a painting by Arshile Gorky of the artist and his mother from a photograph taken in 1912 near the city of Van, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. Three years later during the Genocide, they would flee their homeland. Gorky’s mother would never recover, dying in his arms in 1919.
Genocide Awareness Month each April is an annual period of remembrance that sheds light on the extremes of human behavior, surfacing the evil, altruism and resilience of which human beings are capable. As we sit with the strong emotions that this reflection elicits, there is also a rich opportunity to think critically about the specific historical and contemporary conditions under which genocide has occurred. Below are 10 classroom resources that educators can use to unite heart and head in their instruction on genocides past and present:
Teaching about genocide is challenging for a number of reasons. Each instance of genocide is unique to the historical, cultural, and political contexts in which it emerges, demanding sustained intellectual engagement. Simultaneously, however, educators teaching about genocide are also called to engage themselves—and their students—in a level of emotional engagement and ethical reflection not required by most other topics of instruction. Below are 6 virtual tours, exhibitions, and professional development opportunities that educators can use to navigate these challenges with greater support:
Genocide Awareness Month every April is an important time to draw our attention to the victims of genocides that are ongoing in the contemporary world, that may yet happen, and that have already taken place, leaving an indelible mark on individuals, communities, and nations. However, Genocide Awareness Month is also an opportunity to recover and amplify the stories of people who, despite being targeted by perpetrators, have refused to be victims and resisted against all odds.
Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day—an annual, international observance of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between the years of 1915 and 1923. Despite the denialist rhetoric and political coercion of leaders in Turkey, nations around the world are beginning to tell the truth about the genocide perpetrated against Armenians, and witness the Armenian community’s immense resilience and humanity. After decades of political gridlock came to an end last December, the United States joined twenty-eight countries in formally recognizing the genocide. But there’s much more that must be done to honor this history of genocide and, this year, Armenians are leading the way through an unprecedented campaign.
During Genocide Awareness Month this April, we would like to draw educators' and parents' attention to Facing History’s rich array of teaching resources on genocide. But we also invite you to deepen your own learning with these 7 brand new titles written by scholars and memoirists grappling with the nature of genocide, its impacts on people around the world, and the acts of resistance and humanity that persist amid horrific circumstances. These books range in format from survivor testimony and multigenerational biography, to accounts of historical upstanders and scholarly analysis of how we represent and teach about genocide itself.
In the midst of global catastrophe, it might seem counterintuitive to pause and acknowledge Genocide Awareness Month this April. But we cannot approach painful histories as ones to remember only when times are good. Further, this month is actually an opportunity to consider some of the tragedies that have unfolded—and may yet unfold—when people play upon fear, panic, hatred, and even apocalyptic thinking to marshal support for mass violence against particular populations. As we move through the month of April, stay tuned for these 5 new pieces of content related to the history and contemporary reality of genocide:
Commemorated with rituals and traditions, Yom HaShoah—or Holocaust Remembrance Day—helps us pause to focus on the lessons of history—painful, brutal history. In most communities, observations will feature presentations from Holocaust survivors or their children, remembrances in the flesh and—through their stories—living reminders of the exclamation, “Never again!”
In a recent interview, I spoke with internationally recognized human rights activist and Rwandan genocide survivor Jacqueline Murekatete. Murekatete is the founder of the Genocide Survivors Foundation which is dedicated to preventing genocide and supporting survivors in need.
KS: For readers who are unfamiliar with the Rwandan genocide, what are some high-level details that you think are important for them to know and understand?
JM: I think that it’s very important for people to recognize that, like any genocide, the genocide in Rwanda did not happen overnight.
After I read the news, I often feel powerless. What can any of us do to prevent genocide, to dismantle structural inequalities, or to stop the other horrors we hear about in the news? The massive scale of the problems in the world can feel overwhelming, but we shouldn’t let it be paralyzing. My own involvement in activism changed dramatically in high school, when a human rights activist inspired me to hope.