New Testimony-Centered Teaching Materials

By Stephen Naron - April 30, 2024

We are happy to share that Dr. Aya Marczyk and her colleagues have partnered with the American Historical Review (AHR) to publish new testimony-centered curriculum materials in the March issue of the AHR.

They will also offer a related webinar for educators on Wednesday, May 8th.

Dr. Marczyk, the Fortunoff Archive’s curriculum development fellow, has been working with Dr. Abby Reisman at the Penn Graduate School of Education, and Dr. Brenda Santos at Brown’s Annenberg Institute to develop a new approach to teaching historiography in high schools and in college survey courses. They share the design principles of this instructional model, which they call Historiography-Based Inquiry, in their AHR article. It is a pedagogical approach that invites students to analyze how historical arguments evolve over time and how historians interpret sources to construct and revise understandings of the past.

The new unit explores the question “What is the role of survivor testimony and voices of victims in the study of the Holocaust?” It invites students to explore the path from the marginalization of survivor voices in early postwar histories of the Holocaust to what Annette Wieviorka has called the “Era of the Witness.” Students first read excerpts from Martin Broszat's historical work to analyze a history of Nazi concentration camps written without the voices of survivors. They then analyze excerpts from books written by Saul Friedländer and Christopher R. Browning to learn about two different ways in which historians have included survivor narratives in their work.

The unit consists of a Teacher Guide, Historiographical Signposts essay, Document Packet, and Guiding Questions.  It also includes a web-based presentation of the testimony of Mania Kaufman from the Fortunoff Archive’s collection. Mrs. Kaufman was among the 272 survivors whose testimonies Browning analyzed to reconstruct the history of the Nazi forced-labor camps in Wierzbnik-Starachowice. The new curricular resource, which Marczyk designed together with Eliana Swerdlow, a graduate student assistant currently working for the Fortunoff Archive, presents Mrs. Kaufman’s testimony in ways that invite students to attend to the complexity of testimony as both a historical source and a personal account that conveys traumatic memories.

Earlier in April, Dr. Marczyk and her colleagues were featured on the American Historical Association’s History in Focus podcast. On May 8th, they will offer a webinar for educators in the AHA Online event series. Please visit the AHA Online page to learn more and register.

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