World War II and the Holocaust


The resources in this collection help students build background knowledge about the origins of World War II and the Holocaust that is essential to interpreting the documents and oral histories available through Ancestry. We also offer a selection of material related specifically to the United States and the Holocaust, including a unit on Americans’ responses to the 1930s refugee crisis that intersects with the theme of immigration. A selection of professional learning resources supports educators by modeling how to best incorporate survivor accounts and testimony into their teaching of this history.

Classroom Resources provided by Facing History and Ourselves

Americans and the Holocaust: The Refugee Crisis | Facing History This 4-lesson unit explores the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism and the humanitarian refugee crisis it provoked during the 1930s and 1940s. By examining primary sources that range from public opinion polls to personal narratives to radio plays, students will explore why widespread American sympathy for the plight of Jewish refugees never translated into widespread support for prioritizing their rescue.
Reading: American Experience: America and the Holocaust

Videos: the following four videos offer important historical context about the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust, featuring insights from prominent scholars and primary source selections:

Professional Learning for Educators provided by Facing History and Ourselves


Rethinking America and the Holocaust

This webinar is a companion to the “Americans and the Holocaust” unit. It models resources and activities from the unit and includes teaching tips.


Those Who Were There: Using Podcasts and Survivor Testimony in Your Classroom

Explore the significance of hearing testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust.

Classroom Video

Using Survivor Testimony

Watch a master teacher prepare his students to engage with survivor testimony.

Ancestry Resources

  • World Memory Project. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ancestry have created the World Memory Project to allow anyone, anywhere to help build the largest free online resource for information about victims and survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution during World War II.
  • Jewish Family History (and a list of all collections) Ancestry® has partnered with JewishGen®, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc., the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the USC Shoah Foundation, and Arolsen Archives to create a collection of over 20 million Jewish historical records.
  • Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947. This collection consists of Germans and foreign nationals who were persecuted by public institutions, social securities, and companies in Germany between 1939-1947. The records may also include information on those who died, including burial information.
  • Africa, Asia and Europe, Passenger Lists of Displaced Persons, 1946-1971. This collection consists of passenger lists of immigrants leaving Germany and other European ports and airports between 1946-1971. The majority of the immigrants listed in this collection are displaced persons - Holocaust survivors, former concentration camp inmates and Nazi forced laborers, as well as refugees from Central and Eastern European countries and some non-European countries.
  • Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944. This is a collection of individual index cards of Jews who had their German nationality annulled by the Nazis. The records were created when German citizenship was revoked because of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935. The laws spelled out exactly who was considered Jewish and who was allowed German citizenship and its accompanying rights. The Nuremberg Laws also prevented Jews from marrying those of German descent.
  • Munich, Vienna and Barcelona Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943-1959 (JDC). This database contains the registration cards of approximately 85,000 Jewish Displaced Persons who registered with the emigration department of JDC in Munich and Vienna after World War II, in addition to cards containing information about Jewish refugees whom JDC provided care for in Barcelona during and immediately after the war.
  • Jewish Holocaust Survivor List from the files of World Jewish Congress, 1918-1982. The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is an international Jewish representative organization established in 1936. Originally headquartered in Europe, the WJC's main office was moved to New York in July 1940 when most of Europe was overrun by the Nazis. The World Jewish Congress collection (1918-1982) consists of the archival records of the New York office.
  • Passenger Lists. This category covers arrivals through major and smaller U.S. ports, as well as several large international ports.

Ancestry Exercises