‘… They Locked Them Up in Houses and Let Gas in’: Swiss Primary School Pupils’ Conceptions of the Holocaust

  • Christian Mathis
Part of the The Holocaust and its Contexts book series (HOLC)


In Switzerland, the Holocaust is not a mandatory subject in primary school. But should teachers teach it when children ask questions about it? Mathis’ study shows that pupils have ideas, particularly about the destruction of the Jews, but they lack ideas about the systematic persecution and murder of people that took place under the structures and mechanisms of the Nazi regime. Mathis reconstructs a Hitler(centr)ism which is, on the one hand, a reason for focusing on the phase of destruction. On the other hand, it rejects the ideas of the structure of the regime and thus the enforcement of its Jewish policy. Mathis concludes in regard to pupils’ prior knowledge that the Holocaust can be taught by focusing on both individual biographies and structures.


Holocaust education Shoah education Conceptual change Switzerland Primary school Prior knowledge Preconceptions Hitlercentrism Biographies 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Mathis
    • 1
  1. 1.Zurich University of Teacher EducationZurichSwitzerland

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