Post-Viewing: The Persecution of the Rohingya and the Persistence of Genocide | Facing History & Ourselves
A woman and a baby are helped off a boat.

Post-Viewing: The Persecution of the Rohingya and the Persistence of Genocide

Students reflect on how the Holocaust can educate us about our responsibilities to confront genocide and injustice today.


At a Glance



English — US


  • History


  • The Holocaust



One of the most important legacies of the Holocaust is an idea, a promise most often expressed with the phrase “never again.” For decades, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel urged his readers and listeners to see the Holocaust not just as a historical event but as a call to conscience for people everywhere. He linked world leaders’ failures to stop Nazi crimes in the 1930s and 1940s with the problem of indifference in the twenty-first century. With the film Schindler’s List, director Steven Spielberg also sought to appeal to the consciences of his viewers. “When the film initially came out, it made one of the most incomprehensible acts of humankind accessible,” Spielberg said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. 1  “ It didn’t make it understandable, but reachable to audiences to be able explore it, to be moved in such a way to want to stand against all hatred, and know it is real and what can shockingly happen in the 20th and now the 21st centuries if we are not vigilant.”

How vigilant is society against hatred, violence, and genocide today, 25 years after the film’s release? We live in a world roiled by deep currents of hatred and dehumanization, one still plagued by mass violence and genocide. In previous lessons, students analyzed the central themes of Schindler’s List. In this lesson, students will learn about an ongoing genocide of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, and consider what their study of Schindler’s List and the Holocaust can teach about their responsibilities in the world today.

  • How can Schindler’s List and the legacy of the Holocaust educate us about our responsibilities to confront genocide, global suffering, and injustice today?
  • 4 activities
  • 1 extension
  • 1 reading
  • 1 image
  • 1 map

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Should you wish to learn more about the history of the Rohingya and the roots of the conflict before teaching this lesson, the podcast Arrested for Reporting a Massacre and the BBC article Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi can provide this additional context. It is important to note that the contents of this lesson reflect the Rohingya crisis in the fall of 2018, and as the conflict has not yet been resolved, statistics and information may change as events continue to unfold in the future. Please also note that the purpose of this lesson is to stir a sense of responsibility in students that can inspire them as they turn to more concrete ways of responding to hatred in the final lesson of this guide.

If students are unfamiliar with the term genocide, you might want to take some time to explore that term before teaching this lesson. The reading Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention will help students understand the historical context of the word genocide and the adoption of the Genocide Convention by the United Nations in 1948. You might discuss the connection questions as a class and ask students to share examples of genocides that they have learned about.

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Lesson Plans


Have students respond to the following prompt in their journals. Tell them that they will be discussing the question as a class, but they do not have to share their personal stories with others.

What responsibility comes with knowledge? Write about a time when learning about an issue, event, or struggle impacted your understanding of yourself and/or the world. The issue, event, or struggle might be something you learned about from your family or in school or something more personal, like a friend’s struggle.

  • Tell students that they will now be thinking about the relevance of the Holocaust and Schindler’s List in our world today. Project or distribute copies of the image Rohingya Refugees Arriving by Boat, 2017. To give students the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about the image, do not provide any context at this time, including the title of the image.
  • Lead students through a See, Think, Wonder activity, pausing after each prompt to give them time to record their thoughts. Consider asking students to add one or two more ideas to each response before moving to the next question. This step can push students to examine the image more closely, perhaps making a new observation or inference or posing a new question. Ask students to debrief with a partner using the Think, Pair, Share strategy. Alternatively, if you projected the image, you might invite students one at a time to the board to share their “sees” and “thinks,” having them point to details in the image as they present. You might also list some of their “wonders” on the board or chart paper to refer to later in the lesson.
  • In the reading I Saw a Genocide in Slow MotionNew York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof provides insight into the lives of Rohingya men, women, and children who have remained in Myanmar since the outbreak of violence in August 2017. (Note: Kristof’s article includes descriptions of violence committed against Rohingya people and might not be appropriate for all classrooms. It is important that you read the article in its entirety and consider how you will frame its contents before sharing it with your students.) Distribute copies of the article. Depending on the group’s reading level, background knowledge, and available time, students can take turns doing a read-aloud as a class, with a partner or small group, or silently to themselves. You might distribute copies of the United Nations Map of Myanmar for students to reference as they read or save the map work for the extension activity.
  • As students read the article, ask them to keep track of their understanding using the following key:
    • Write an explanation point (!) in the margin alongside information that surprises you.
    • Write a question mark (?) in the margin alongside anything you do not fully understand or anything that raises a question for you.
  • Before moving on to the next activity, you might have students share their annotations with a small group or in a whole-class discussion. Each category of response could be recorded on the board or chart paper so that the class can return to these later in the lesson.

After students have read and annotated the article carefully, ask them to discuss the prompts below with a partner, in a small group, or in a class discussion. For a more structured conversation, consider having students participate in a Fishbowl discussion.

Kristof quotes from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

  • What does it mean for a group of people who have been persecuted to “become the center of the universe”?
  • How does the way we view others influence our feelings of responsibility toward them?

If you would like to capture each student’s voice in a brief reflection, consider having students write a phrase or sentence that responds to the following question: What idea in today’s class—from the journal prompt, reading, or class discussion—resonated with you? Ask students to share their phrases or sentences (no more than one sentence per student) in a Wraparound activity to end class.


The final lesson in this guide, Building a Toolbox against Hate, provides students with a framework for thinking about the variety of ways we can respond to hatred and its consequences around the world and in our own communities. You might also explore some of the activities and materials included in the resource Responding to the Rohingya Crisis. Beyond providing additional information about the genocide against the Rohingya, this resource offers a variety of examples of how individuals have responded to genocide through activism, politics, and art.

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