Michael Polgar and Suki John

Introduction to Preview Edition

By Michael Polgar PhD and Suki John PhD, Project co-editors


Thank you for taking time to view the Preview Edition of The Holocaust: Remembrance, Respect, and Resilience. This text is the work of a large collaboration among scholars and teachers from around the world. We have worked together to bring you free educational materials that you can use to learn and teach about the Holocaust and genocide. This Open Educational Resource (OER) and text(book) is now ready for use by educators, particularly those in high (secondary) school and college. Please note that this work was produced by authors, editors, administrators, production specialists, and reviewers, none of whom were compensated financially for their work. Working together on this project, however, has been extraordinarily educational and rewarding.


Among the many advantages of OER textbooks is that educators and other readers can easily pick and choose which chapters to assign, read, and discuss. As authors, we can add to it and provide updates without the limitations associated with traditional printing. You are welcome to use any or many of these chapters and materials; you are also free (within the bounds of our Creative Commons licensing) to print (on demand) most of these materials, though we do not currently supply resources to help with this process.


Preview edition chapters will soon be supplemented by even more topics and chapters, many of which are already completed and ‘in press.’ Future chapters will be added thanks to collaborating authors Elisa Rappaport and William Schabio, Nicolas De Warren, Jesse Tannetta, Hashim Davis, Francesca Freeman, Nicole Korsen, Naomi Patz, Judith Brin Ingber, Harold Marcuse, Ruth Eshel, Gillian Walnes Perry, Ursula Duba, Lara Lengel, Victoria Newsom, Desiree Montenegro, Judy LaPietra, Avril Alba, Meryl Menashe, Hank Greenspan, Susan Jacobowitz, and many others.


Each OER chapter concludes with a short biographical note about each of the authors. A list of our many helpful authors and editors is also in the backmatter of the text, along with an extensive glossary and other materials. Glossary key terms are highlighted; when readers hover over these terms a definition (with its source) pops up, since each term is linked to our Textbook Glossary section. Educators and students can use this hypertextual feature in many ways and as needed.


Reflections on historical injustices look backward and help us look forward. Remembrance and respect, major elements of memorial culture, are essential moral obligations. We never forget; we respect people and populations who were harmed and murdered. And then, what do we take from these lessons? Hopefully we learn to be upstanders and to appreciate the resilience of humanity under duress. Holocaust survivors are exceptional examples of human and cultural resilience. The recounting of human dignity, altruism, resilience, and endurance during and since any genocide (including the Holocaust) can inspire and hopefully strengthen us all.


Remembrance is, like a stone or a grave marker, a representation of the past. In addition to material cultural representation, recorded and reflective testimonies (recounted memories) resonate, evolve, and represent difficult histories that we cannot forget. Some who express or receive such testimonies may be upset or even traumatized, and some may wish that difficult histories would fade away so that our understandable sadness and pain could recede. But we must remember major events, as communities and nations, out of duty and obligation. We cannot forget the Holocaust. We also learn and develop international law in response to the Holocaust (Bazyler, 2016), and despite the uncomfortable fact of repeated crimes against humanity, we shall never accept genocide now or in the future.


Destruction during the Holocaust was a nightmare from which we cannot awaken. Like other genocides in central Europe before the Holocaust (Snyder, 2022), the statistics of genocide from the Holocaust are horrific. In the Holocaust, cold and merciless forms of mass-murder were developed and operationalized at an industrial-scale by Nazi perpetrators, and then this planned system of human destruction was extended across a continent, attempting to realize hateful eugenic ideologies.


We regularly and ritually pay our respects to those who suffered and died in the Holocaust/Shoah. Reform Jewish tradition includes prayers from our Reform Jewish liturgy, a prayer which is poignant especially on Yom Kippur (Goldberg et al., 2007, p. 599), which reads (in English):

For the Six Million and for All Who Died in the Shoah
Avinu Malkeinu (Hebrew), ‘Our Father, Our King’
Let there be perfect rest for the souls of the six million
Who died as Jews in the flames of the Shoah
Let there be perfect rest for the countless millions
Who died because of race, religion or nationality,
Political affiliation or sexual orientation,
Hold them close to You forever.
Seal their souls for everlasting life in the shelter of Your presence
For You are their external home.


Resilience, aided by such shelter from communities, is something we all need, and something we wish for ourselves and for one another. It is also an important resource in education, as we have learned recently and all-too-well from the Covid global pandemic. Holocaust and other survivors of genocide and other crimes often illustrate the power of resilience in ways that academic or analytic writing cannot. We encourage everyone to listen to survivor experiences, recounted and recorded in many ways, and now fully accessible in many formats, especially through the amazing and diversifying iWitness platform.


This OER first began when we, two Professors, first cousins, and descendants of Holocaust survivors, discussed editing a traditional anthology of academic works on Holocaust upstanders. Then, while websites and textbook transformations were developing new media for curricula and academic uses, Michael Polgar and a small Penn State production team were invited to learn from the Rebus Textbook Success Program about how to create an online textbook. We started a weekly Zoom training in February 2020, but Covid struck soon thereafter. We were geographically dispersed but technically allied. Our team was forged, and our digital writing improved by and during the pandemic. This collaboration expanded quickly, incorporating national and international authors and editors, some affiliated with the Association of Holocaust Organizations, thanks in part to the many educators we met through The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI).


The design of this book has always been interdisciplinary, including scholarship from the arts in each of the five sections. We recognize and represent the wide and varied scope and diversity of Holocaust education and Holocaust studies. Our target reading audience consists of students in college and in secondary (high school) education. We know that Holocaust education is possible and inspirational in section-language education. We also hope to expand our audience beyond readers of English, but that is presently an ideal for the future. Our collaboration includes people from many professions and disciplinary backgrounds. While many of our authors are at present based in the United States, this multinational work is part of global education, and we also include authors from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Israel. While some of our authors teach in a university or secondary educational sphere, others work in museums and research institutes. Our editors and reviewers are also geographically diverse and from varied professions; we are grateful to all project collaborators.


We recognize and appreciate that digital and online Holocaust educational resources are expanding quickly with the development of all sorts of new media. Twenty-first century students and teachers are benefitting from a renaissance of information widely accessible in online museums and repositories like Yad Vashem, iWitness, and the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum (USHMM). We also continue to learn from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, and many other museums. A core resource for teachers and students has long been freely shared by Echoes and Reflections. We are grateful to have accessible materials from the Jewish Partisans Educational Fund and the Defiant Requiem Foundation, just to name a few of the many Holocaust education organizations that are creating and upgrading online resources for learners and educators.


It is our privilege, after many online meetings and much work, to be pre-releasing the first ten chapters of our collective work. We expect to soon have at least 30 chapters in this collection, exceeding our initial goals. We also have (and will have more) teacher-resources that are designed for each section. Unlike some fine resource collections, like Facing History and Ourselves, we do not have a standard pedagogy for all our resources; each chapter is a topic of its own, some with teaching resources, illustrating varying writing styles and different opportunities for teaching and learning. We hope you feel free to use as much (or as little) of the information we share freely to reduce the cost of educational materials to students.


The project began as part of the Penn State University (PSU) Libraries initiative to support OER texts that made learning materials and thus education more accessible to all.


As noted, this textbook, a collaborative collection of educational resources, was developed by a team of dedicated authors, editors, librarians, reviewers, instructional designers, instructional production specialists, and others. It is an outgrowth of Penn State University Library’s Affordable Course Transformation project, which supported our participation in the Rebus Community’s Textbook Success Program, and continues to be supported by Penn State’s shared technologies. Related work has been supported by other organizations, including Texas Christian University, The Olga Lengyel Institute, and many others.


We started work on this textbook in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, and were trained by the Rebus group in methods for the creation and distribution of free online textbooks (the multi-site training was done online, with meetings using Zoom). Our subsequent remote-meeting skills then served us well during the pandemic, as we struggled along with everyone else to endure and be resilient, mustering authors and editors to join us, despite competing concerns and demands.


We started with a title, encouragement, and a goal of sharing 10-15 chapters, creating parts that survey topics the three phases of Holocaust studies (before, during, and after the Holocaust). We have benefitted from extensive professional development and guidelines shared by the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum. When Suki John, a Professor of Dance at Texas Christian University, joined as co-editor, we expanded our goals to include many more chapters and a focus on how the Holocaust has been expressed, explored, and endured through the Arts. We involved secondary school teachers from the start, thanks to the TOLI Holocaust educators’ network. Our project has grown and will continue to evolve based on feedback from teachers and students who adopt this resource; that is a benefit of OER and online publishing.


This was and is not a commercial enterprise. The non-commercial nature of our work is established by our CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons) product license. Collaborators were not compensated for their work, though some of us received usual salaries as teachers and/or scholars; we are aware that not all of us are privileged to work as scholars or to develop instructional materials. In turn, this is now a free online resource, an open and accessible OER, part of our shared work to make educational texts freely accessible to students and other learners anywhere in the world.


Following Hayes and Roth (2010), we have created five sections for our chapters and topics. These sections include chapter topics that focus on events well before the Holocaust (section one, ‘Enablers’), during the Holocaust (sections two and three, ‘Protagonists’ and ‘Settings,’), and then after the Holocaust (‘After-Effects’ and ‘Representations’). This and other guidance from our US Holocaust Memorial and Museum teaching principles, helps readers reflect on events both within and beyond 1933-45, which is the traditional focus. Even so, since we do not attempt to create a linear or comprehensive series of chapters (if that is possible), our chapter topics dive deeply into a subject, sometimes a subject in the arts, rather than generating or illustrating a historical timeline or a geographical perspective. For those goals, we suggest exploring Echoes and Reflections or any other well-developed online Holocaust resource.


Authors and chapters usually reflect a set of writing and format conventions. We use APA formatting for citation and references, and for many other elements of academic style. We have worked to make this OER more accessible by incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, for example by tagging the language of non-English terms and by embedding images with alternative text. Authors and editors have often provided English translations of (italicized) non-English terms. We have also worked to develop ‘pop-up’ key terms, which are listed alphabetically in our Pressbooks Glossary, giving sourced definitions to our readers. If readers have any thoughts about format or presentation of the text, please let us know through email or other methods.


We dedicate this work, and our related work, to our parents who survived the Holocaust. As descendants of Steven Polgar PhD and Vera John-Steiner PhD (Budapest-born Holocaust survivors and siblings), we understand the importance of remembering the Holocaust and respecting its victims, both surviving and of blessed memory. We, like many people, learn a great deal from the resilience of people persecuted by the Holocaust and other human rights violations. From Veronka, (the Hungarian name she reclaimed late in her life as an immigrant) we learned creative collaboration, which we practice with the creation of this educational resource. From Steven, we learned resilience, which we all need, especially in times of difficulty. We also dedicate this work to our Grandmother Sophie F. Polgar, whose care and enduring concern gave all her family a more peaceful and optimistic view of life.


Thank you for your attention.


Michael Polgar PhD and Suki John PhD, Project co-editors

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

We support, appreciate, and invite global collaboration towards the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As global citizens, we seek to promote these and other goals that are identified by UN programs and agencies, including those on Genocide, the Holocaust, and UNESCO. While all seventeen development goals (World Bank, 2018) can be addressed in some ways through Holocaust and Human Rights education, some specific SDG targets that can be advanced through Holocaust and human rights education include:

  • SDG #4: We seek education that is inclusive, equitable, lifelong, and universal; any OER helps this goal by offering course materials at no cost for online learners.
  • SDG #5: Understanding genocide and historical persecution can help achieve gender equality, eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
  • SDG #10: We work towards reducing inequality in and among nations (including harm to refugees and other migrants). Holocaust and human rights education offer historical warnings to current and future leadership.
  • SDG #16: Peace and Justice: Human Rights education and Open Educational Resources can help illustrate need for “justice for all” and help “build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”


Bazyler, M. J. (2016). Holocaust, genocide, and the law: A quest for justice in a post-holocaust world. Oxford university press.

Goldberg, E., Marder, J., Marder, S., & Morris, L. (Eds.). (2007). משכן תפלה (Hebrew), “Mishkan t’filah:” A Reform siddur: weekdays, Shabbat, festivals, and other occasions of public worship. Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Hayes, P., & Roth, J. K. (Eds.). (2010). The Oxford handbook of Holocaust studies. Oxford University Press.

Snyder, T. (2022). Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin.

World Bank (Ed.). (2018). Atlas of sustainable development goals 2018: From world development indicators. The World Bank.


About the authors

Michael F. Polgar, PhD is a co-editor of this OER textbook: ‘The Holocaust: Remembrance, Respect, and Resilience.” He is a professor and sociologist working at Penn State University in Hazleton, PA. Michael is committed to Holocaust Education and also author of the book Holocaust and Human Rights Education. With co-editor Suki John, Ph.D., Michael is a descendant (son and grandson) of Holocaust survivors from Budapest Hungary. Some of the Polgar family, including Michael’s father Steven Polgar PhD, his aunt Vera John-Steiner PhD, and his Grandparents Sophie and Ferenc Polgar, survived the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Michael lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Michele Schasberger and three daughters Sophie, Isabelle, and Rebecca Polgar.


Suki John, PhD is editor of arts content and co-editor of The Holocaust: Remembrance, Respect, and Resilience. She is a Professor of Classical & Contemporary Dance at Texas Christian University, and Director of Dance for the Texas Jewish Arts Association. Having worked internationally as a dance artist and scholar for most of her career, she continues to teach, choreograph, and write about the intersections between dance, history, activism, and culture. Her book, Contemporary Dance in Cuba: técnica cubana as Revolutionary Movement (McFarland Press 2012) is a personal and scholarly account of Cuban dance. She founded The Sh’ma Project: Move Against Hate, which is centered around Sh’ma, a choreodrama and dance film. Sh’ma is based on the Holocaust experience of Suki’s mother Veronka (nee Polgar) John-Steiner, and Veronka’s parents and brother, Steven Polgar, father of co-author Michael Polgar.



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The Holocaust:  Remembrance, Respect, and Resilience Copyright © 2023 by Michael Polgar and Suki John is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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