Essay Contest Questions 2024 - 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



1. Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, believes that we have “trouble connecting our historical knowledge with our moral choices today.” 

Do you agree? Have we fully learned the lessons of the past? Is enough being done to prevent a future genocide? In a thoughtful essay, please respond to these questions, using examples from Elie Wiesel's Night to support your argument.


2. If you have visited a Holocaust Museum or Memorial or attended a Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, please describe the lessons you learned from that experience.

Some possible places to visit in person or virtually are: The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (What Hate Can Do Exhibit and Courage to Act Exhibit); The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; The Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive; The Anne Frank House

3. As an individual, what responsibility do you have to ensure the phrase “Never Again” is a reality?  What steps can you take towards this goal? 


4. Miep Gies, who was the woman who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, is quoted as saying, “I don’t like being called a hero because no one should ever think you have to be special to help others. Even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can turn on a small light in a dark room.”

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. As a young person, what are some actions you can take, have taken or witnessed others take to be an Upstander in our world?

Some examples of Upstanders during the Holocaust are:  The “war parents” of Leo Ullman, Miep Gies, Oskar Schindler, Nicholas Winton, Chiune Sugihara, Ho Feng-Shan, Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler


5.  While social media can be a source for increasing antisemitism, it can also be a tool to fight antisemitism.  What are examples of how people have used social media to combat online hate?  What other ideas do you have to combat the spread of hate online?


6. Why is it relevant for individuals, political leaders or people in positions of power to learn about the Holocaust and take action to combat antisemitism?