Since I work at a Jewish day school, we focus a lot on Holocaust education and remembering the past, so it does not repeat itself. Each year, we try to focus on not the brutality of what happened to the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other minorities, but we try to focus on what we can do to highlight the heroes and make sure it doesn't happen again.
In fifth grade, we focus on the poem "The Butterfly" by Pavel Friedmann:
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone…
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
In the ghetto.
Our students go to Kennesaw State University's Holocaust Museum to see "The Butterfly Project" which was a project established in Houston in 2001 to collect 1.5 million handcrafted butterflies in order to remember the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. Talk about powerful.
Another story we read is The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco one of my all time favorite story tellers. If you haven't read this story and are interested in teaching your students about the Holocaust check out this site to read more about the story: http://www.patriciapolacco.com/books/butterfly/butterfly_navigations.html
Lastly, something new this year that I am so excited to introduce my students to is a story called, Hana's Suitcase. This story was introduced to me by my Judaic Studies counterparts, and boy am I glad they told me of this story. My students are going to latch on to it from it's first sentence and their desire to learn about young Hana Brady's story of the Holocaust through a child's eyes. Truly inspirational and moving. The story spotlights a hero who wants to make sure history doesn't repeat itself by bringing Holocaust education to Japan.
If you're interested check out this description: