2014 Workshop


Executive Summary: “Mass Atrocity Education Workshop (MAEW): Teaching about the Holocaust and Genocide”
Understanding Ordinary People in the Holocaust:  A Multi-disciplinary Study of Character, Leadership, and Behavior

Dr. David Frey
Associate Professor of History
Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide
Studies at West Point  

Ms. Gretchen Skidmore
Director, Civic and Defense Initiatives
National Institute for Holocaust Education
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

West Point’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS), in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), will conduct the fourth iteration of an innovative “Mass Atrocity Education Workshop: Teaching about the Holocaust and Genocide.”  The purpose of the workshop, which will take place between 11 and 14 September 2014, in Washington, DC, is twofold. First, the workshop will aid USMA, USNA, USCGA and USAFA faculty as they seek innovative ways to incorporate learning about genocide and mass atrocity into their respective curricula, fulfilling 2012 presidential and OSD imperatives.[1]   Second, the workshop will produce new scholarship and publications with a range of post-secondary applications.  

Specifically, this workshop will convene scholars in order to produce greater understanding of the spectrum of behavior of ordinary people during the Holocaust, and to do so through interdisciplinary study.  The co-organizers, Dr. David Frey of West Point and Ms. Gretchen Skidmore of the USHMM, will gather a group of West Point, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard faculty from multiple departments; renowned Holocaust and genocide scholars; staff and experts from Museum; and representatives of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  The three-day program will focus on the development of case studies and/or micro-histories in order to develop sophisticated understandings of how and why ordinary individuals acted as they did, combining sociological, psychological, historical, economic, political science and ethical explanations for human behavior.   It will take advantage of the unparalleled resources, artifacts, archives, exhibits and expertise of the USHMM, building on the collection of material gathered for the ground-breaking “Some Were Neighbors” exhibit currently on display at the Museum.   In addition to, or as part of, the deep study of these materials, workshop participants will plan the development of Holocaust vignettes in order to enhance the learning experiences of cadets and midshipmen.  These micro-histories will help explain the actions of perpetrators, witnesses, rescuers, active bystanders, passive bystanders, collaborators, resisters, victims and others – potentially all of those enmeshed in conflict.  Multi-disciplinary analyses of these micro-histories will allow our future leaders to better comprehend the broad range of human behavior in conflict, and the varied explanations for those behaviors.

Workshop participants will use the recently published “Ordinary Soldiers” case study as a model for intended output.[2]  The program’s small size is designed to produce an intense, intimate, and productive environment conducive to creative thinking and enduring collaborative relationships, as past iterations of the MAEW have.  The workshop has the following specific objectives:

  1. To advance the field of genocide studies by contributing novel, interdisciplinary scholarship;
  2. To further understanding of the Holocaust and genocide with particular emphasis on knowledge relevant to military officers;
  3. To empower participants with the competencies (knowledge and skills) to develop accurate and meaningful lessons on the Holocaust and /or genocide to be incorporated into existing curricula at the United States service academies and other levels of military education;
  4. To clarify the value of the Holocaust and genocide content in the education of future military officers;
  5. To build awareness of genocide and mass atrocity and current efforts to enhance the world’s ability to prevent and respond to genocide;
  6. To enhance the relationships among service academy faculty, Museum staff, other scholars and policymakers; and
  7. To contribute to the development of the Department of Defense’s readiness to develop further education and training related to atrocity prevention and response.

[1] See” Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities” [PSD-10], (4 August 2011); President Barack Obama, “A Comprehensive Strategy and New Tools to Prevent and Respond to Atrocities Secretary of Defense Memorandum,” (23 April 2012); and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, “DOD implementation of Presidential Study Directive 10,” memorandum, (27 September 2012).

[2] W. Beorn, J. Prescott, D. Frey, G. Skidmore, & J. Ciardelli, Ordinary Soldiers: A Case Study in Law, Ethics & Leadership (Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Point, 2014).