Playing Devil’s Advocate

Classroom Encounters with Holocaust Perpetrators

Authored by: Alasdair Richardson

The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138103245
eBook ISBN: 9781315102887
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the difficult negotiations that take place when educators introduce the narratives of perpetrators to school pupils in classroom discussions. Through the lens of Holocaust Education, it considers the possible benefits and pitfalls inherent in telling these narratives. It asserts that it is necessary to rehumanize perpetrators if young people are to begin to understand the human context of the event. The chapter considers many of the challenges for teachers (and pupils) as they explore the choices and actions of perpetrators. Consideration is given to when educators might feel it is appropriate to introduce perpetrator narratives into their schemes of work, taking into account variables such as the age, maturity, and social contexts of their pupils. It offers practical suggestions for educators (such as the use of photographs from the perpetrator’s perspective) to help pupils towards a critical understanding of such sources. Finally, a number of case studies of perpetrators are considered. These individuals’ stories intentionally provoke discussion around perpetrators’ backgrounds, choices, and actions. Finally, the chapter provides web links for further research and information.

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