Essay Contest Questions 2023 - Middle School and High School

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia



What does it mean to be an Upstander? 

  • Describe the importance of an individual who was an Upstander during the Holocaust and what we can learn from this person’s actions today.


  • How can you be an Upstander?  What is an issue that you have witnessed that motivated you to be an Upstander? 

Some examples of Upstanders during the Holocaust are:  Oskar Schindler, Nicholas Winton, Chiune Sugihara, Ho Feng-Shan, Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler, Jan & Miep Gies


According to the Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking reports of harassment, vandalism and violence against Jews since 1979, 2021 was the highest year on record for documented reports of antisemitic incidents. The frequency of such hate crimes was nearly as high in 2022.  Recently, entertainers, athletes and individuals with large social media platforms have spouted antisemitic tropes on social media, fueling discrimination and hate speech.  Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel argued that “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”     

What are the consequences and dangers of online hate? Who is responsible for countering online hate and what can be done to stand against bigotry and hate online? 


What does the Holocaust teach us about the impact of words, choices and actions? How can an understanding of the conditions and choices that led to the Holocaust help us combat the current trend of extremist groups and hate crimes?


As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out, “History is information. Memory, by contrast, is part of identity...Memory is the past as present, as it lives on in me…It’s a responsibility we all share.”  

Listen or view testimony of a Holocaust Survivor. Reflect on the Survivor’s experience. Why is it important to listen to a Survivor? What valuable lessons have you learned from listening to this testimony? How can listening to a Survivor help make the phrase “Never Again” a reality?


USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive:

US Holocuast Memorial Museum:

Yad Vashem The World Holocaust Remembrance Center:

Upstander Resource USC Shoah Foundation:

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