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Roosevelt and the Holocaust. Mike Spinrad and Dave Fichman San Marin High School Sonoma Valley High California Council for the Social Studies 46th Annual Conference March 2-4, 2007 Oakland, CA. Background Notes Prior To The Lesson.

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roosevelt and the holocaust

Roosevelt and the Holocaust

Mike Spinrad and Dave Fichman

San Marin High School Sonoma Valley High

California Council for the Social Studies

46th Annual Conference

March 2-4, 2007

Oakland, CA

in the new york times
In The New York Times

“Throughout World War II, the American media published and broadcast timely, detailed, and accurate accounts of what was happening to the Jews in Europe. The New York Times alone printed nearly 1,200 articles about what we have now come to call the Holocaust, about one every other day.” (Leff par 1)

Roosevelt’s Response to Govenor of South Carolina Blackwood’s Request to Help European Jews During 1933

“Confidentially, I instructed the State

Department recently to carefully

observe the situation in Germany

and to take every step that one

Government can take in a situation

where another Government us

dealing with a domestic

problem on its own”

rabbis march to inform roosevelt october 6 1943
Rabbis March To Inform RooseveltOctober 6, 1943
  • October 6, 1943, three days before Yom Kippur and more than four hundred rabbis had come Washington D.C. to plead for U.S. government action to save Jews from Hitler.
the lesson grade level 11 us history or ap us history
The LessonGrade Level 11 - US History or AP US History

Summary: Franklin Roosevelt was president during the destruction of European Jewry. Was his administration’s response correct for fighting total war or should he have done more to save those doomed by Nazism? This lesson will familiarize students with both sides of the current historical controversy, assessing Roosevelt as a wartime leader.

Standards Addressed:

History/Social Science:

11.75: Discuss the constitutional issues and impact of events on the U.S. homefront including…the response of the administration to Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other groups….

12.82: Describe the roles of broadcast…media…as means of communication in American politics.

Language Arts:

2.3:Synthesize the content from several sources or works… paraphrase the ideas and connect them to other sources and related topics to demonstrate comprehension

english language learner ell strategies
English Language Learner (ELL) Strategies:

Partnering:students work in partners to analyze video. Teacher asks for verbal answers from prepared students.

Group Work:students jigsaw and summarize paragraphs from scholarly journal and present synopsis to class. Results are written in T-chart form on worksheet.


Engaging Scenario

Who is the last president who was assassinated? Who killed President Kennedy? Today, 44 years later, there is still some controversy over the Warren Commission’s report. The facts—who was hit and how many shots were fired—are not greatly contested. The debate rages over the interpretation of those facts. Likewise, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration provided little direct aid for victims of Nazi genocide. Is it reasonable to assume that FDR could have done more to save the doomed Jews of Europe? Some historians’ interpretation of the facts leads them to believe that FDR should have done more. Other historians write that the president did what was possible, considering the political climate of the pre-war and war years.

task summary 1 of 3
Task Summary: 1 of 3

1. Introduce PBS documentary. PBS aired a documentary about fifteen years ago called America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference. This video was based on historian David Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews. The media prefers Wyman’s outlook and has contributed to make it the dominant view on FDR and the Holocaust.

2. Show segments of the video, adding up to about seven minutes.

task summary 2 of 3
Task Summary: 2 of 3

3. Students work with partners to fill out the left side of the worksheet (Roosevelt Should Have Done More). I call upon three students to share their answers.

4. Introduce historians Henry Feingold and Richard Breitman who represent the right side of the worksheet. These historians, in contrast to Wyman, look at the Roosevelt administration and the American people not as they should have been but as they actually were.

5. Divide the class into seven groups and jigsaw seven paragraphs from Feingold’s and Breitman’s articles in Dimensions.

task summary 2 of 314
Task Summary: 2 of 3
  • Each group writes three to five bullet-points summarized from their paragraph on large sheets of paper posted around the room. Each large sheet is titled to match the paragraph.
  • Each group presents its findings and all student finish the right side of the worksheet.

8. Students work again in pairs and discuss how the Roosevelt administration should be judged, drawing from their worksheet. If needed, step eight can be assessed with a homework paragraph asking the same question.

resources materials needed
Resources/Materials Needed:

1. Paragraphs from Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1994.

2. Worksheet and rubric

3. Large sheets of paper taped around the room. A blackboard/dryboard can substitute.

4. America and the Holocaust, American Experience Series, WGBH Video, 1994.

Roosevelt and the Holocaust

Grading Rubric

Exceeds Standard


1. Answers all questions thoroughly

2. Responses on assessment show balance between views

3. Student uses critical thought

Meets Standard


1. Answers all questions

2. Answers lack balance or critical thought

3. Understands difference between what FDR should have done versus what he could have done

Progressing Toward Standard


1. Does not answer all questions on assessment

2. Confused answers—does not understand difference between what FDR should have done versus what he could have done

3. Sloppy work

4. Participates minimally in partner work, group activity, and class discussion

  • Mike Spinrad
    • email
  • Dave Fichman
    • email
    • We would really like your feedback. If you use this lesson please let us know how it goes.
works cited
Works Cited
  • Leff, Laurel. “How the NYT Missed the Story of the Holocaust While It Was Happening” 4 April,2005 <>.