The Holocaust and World War II left profound legacies—in the shape of the immediate aftermath of the war and the decades that followed, in the lives of individuals and the course of nations, and in the new ideas, laws, policies, and institutions that were developed in response to the death and destruction. This chapter explores some of those legacies, and it also considers what it means not just to learn about this history but also to remember it and acknowledge how it influences our lives today.

Essential Questions

  • What can individuals or nations do to repair, rebuild, and restore their societies after war, genocide, and mass violence?
  • How should we remember the Holocaust? 
  • How does the past influence us as individuals and as members of society? Does the past influence us differently depending on our individual identities? 
  • Why is it important to remember the past? What are the consequences of not remembering? 



Before you explore our readings on the legacies of the Holocaust, get familiar with the chapter’s central themes and concepts.

Reading 1 of 18

The End and the Beginning

Read this poem by Wislawa Szymborska and reflect on the aftermath of war.

Reading 2 of 18

Post-War: Chaos and Challenges

Learn about the immense challenges that countries and Europeans faced after the end of World War II.

Reading 3 of 18

The Persistence of Antisemitism

Learn about the lingering threats of antisemitism that Jews in Europe, and especially Poland, faced after the Holocaust.

Reading 4 of 18

The United Nations

Learn about the formation of the United Nations and the principles outlined in its charter.

Reading 5 of 18

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Learn about the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in its creation.

Reading 6 of 18

Does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Matter?

Consider the reverberations that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has made in the years since it was adopted.

Reading 7 of 18

Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention

Learn about lawyer and activist Raphael Lemkin's efforts to make the world recognize mass murder as an international crime.

Reading 8 of 18

The International Criminal Court

Learn about the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the challenges it faces in upholding justice around the world.

Reading 9 of 18

Christian Churches and Antisemitism: New Teachings

Consider how Christian churches confronted their legacy of antisemitism in the years following the Holocaust.

Reading 10 of 18

Survivors and Memory

Reflect on the challenges that face survivors of the Holocaust in living with their memories and in sharing their stories.

Reading 11 of 18

Transitional Justice in Germany

Learn about the concept of transitional justice and reflect on ways that Germany as a nation has faced its past and accepted responsibility for the Holocaust.

Reading 12 of 18

Transitional Justice in South Africa

Learn about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and consider how it enabled the country to face a history of violence, hatred, and discrimination.

Reading 13 of 18

Facing the Past in Poland

Learn about how Poland has dealt with its painful and complex past in the years after World War II and the Holocaust.

Reading 14 of 18

Genocide Denied

Learn about the history and consequences of denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Visual Essay 15 of 18

Visual Essay: Holocaust Memorials and Monuments

Study various memorials and monuments and reflect on the ways in which we choose to remember history.

Reading 16 of 18

Remembering the Names

Learn about German artist Gunter Demnig and his work installing plaques that honor Holocaust victims across Europe.

Reading 17 of 18

Memory and Decision Making in Europe Today

Consider the connection between the refugee crisis facing Europe in 2016 and the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.

Reading 18 of 18

The Holocaust as a Call to Conscience

Reflect on the legacies of the Holocaust and the implications of a "never again" promise.

Analysis & Reflection

Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on the legacies of the Holocaust with these follow-up questions and prompts.

Get Our Companion Unit: Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior

Lead your middle and high school students through a thorough examination of the history of the Holocaust. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to:

  • Craft an argumentative essay
  • Explore primary sources, videos, and readings that lead them through an in-depth study of the Holocaust
  • Recognize the societal consequences of "we" and "they" thinking
  • Understand the historical context in which the Nazi party rose to power and committed genocide

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