Holocaust Movies for Middle School and High School

The Holocaust is one of the toughest subjects to teach sensitively, accurately, and age-appropriately. Here is a list of Holocaust movies for middle school and high school that are PG-13 or under.

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Nothing can bring history to life like the big screen. Even if they’re not 100% historically accurate, they invite looking further into the topic and its true story. (History vs Hollywood is a great resource for vetting what was true and what wasn’t.)

Not all these movies have a happy ending, but each conveys a strong message of hope, resilience, sacrifice, justice, faith, and more.

Side note: I left Pearl Harbor and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas out of this list. Both were incredibly unrealistic without offering much in return. You can read about the dangers of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas here.

Holocaust Movies for Middle School and High School

The Courageous Heart of Irena SendlerThe Island on Bird StreetZookeepers wife

The Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler, a small Polish Catholic social worker, rescued 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. Incredibly, every single child she brought out survived. This classic Hallmark Hall of Fame film strays away from violence, sexual content, and profanity without downplaying anything. There is a torture scene towards the end that’s not graphic but very difficult to watch. Otherwise, this movie is well-acted, well-made and is among my top favorites. Find the movie guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

Island On Bird Street

Inspired by the semi-autobiographical children’s novel, the Island on Bird Street. Alex is an 11-year-old Jewish boy living in the Warsaw Ghetto. When he is suddenly separated from his uncle and father, he must find the courage and wits to survive on his own. This film is a great introduction to the Holocaust, since it is accurate and not gruesome. It’s great for middle school students.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Polish Zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski sheltered 300 Jews and resistance fighters in their zoo during the war. They have an incredible, unique story of the sacrifices they made and the courage they showed. Grab the movie guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

Run Boy RunHidden in SilenceAnne Frank - The Whole Story [DVD]

Run, Boy, Run

Based upon a true story, Run, Boy Run is the unbelievable story of a nine-year-old Jewish boy who survives the Holocaust on his own for two and a half years. With his innocent charm and newly learned Catholic prayers, Jurek survives by living in the woods and relying on friendly Polish farmers to take him in for a night or two.  During this time, he also loses his arm in a freak accident – and survives it all.

Hidden In Silence

Based on a true story, teenager Stefania Podgorska and her younger sister shelter thirteen Jewish people in their attic for two and a half years. This film’s graphic content is low and it is also pretty accurate based on everything I’ve researched.

Anne Frank: The Whole Story

There are many movies about Anne Frank, but this is probably my favorite edition. Anne Frank was a young Dutch Jewish girl who lived in hiding for a few years. Although she died in a concentration camp, her father survived the war and published her wartime diaries.

Life Is Beautiful (English Subtitled)No Place on EarthWalking With The Enemy

Life Is Beautiful

This classic Italian film won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Music, and Best Foreign Language Film. The first part is an innocent romantic comedy, about a mischievous Italian man, Guido, who wins the heart of a miserably-engaged woman. The second half is set in a concentration camp, where Guido uses his wit and humor to protect his young son.

Life is Beautiful is poignant and unforgettable. It in no way makes fun of or downplays the Holocaust, but instead offers a story of hope and triumph of the human spirit. Find the movie guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

No Place on Earth

In 1942, 38 Jewish men, women, and children made the drastic move to live in an underground cave to escape the Nazis. This documentary/docudrama follows where they lived for one and a half years, setting a record for the longest uninterrupted time underground in the process. The film’s site has many great resources for looking more into the story and an educator’s discussion guide.

Walking With the Enemy

This is an incredible story based on real events, a young man disguises himself as a Nazi and uses his position to rescue thousands of people during the war.

It is rated PG-13, but I was surprised it did not receive an R rating. It has several violent scenes including several shootings, torture, and attempted rape.

The Hiding Place

Corrie ten Boom has inspired millions across the globe with her story of faith. The Hiding Place is based on her memoir filled with faith, hope, love, and light in the midst of history’s darkest days. Being older, it is less graphic than some modern Holocaust movies. Find the movie guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

Return to the Hiding Place

Many know of Corrie ten Boom’s heroism during the Holocaust, but few know of her small group of teenage resistance fighters. Hans Poley is a talented physics student, who refuses to join the Nazi party and instead becomes involved in the resistance movement. The film is obviously from a Christian perspective but never felt preachy. You can view my full review hereImage credit: Return to the Hiding Place

The Holocaust was one of the worst times in history and is a tough subject to teach. Here is a list of Holocaust movies for middle school and high school that are PG-13 or under.
Nicky’s Family

I typically don’t include documentaries in movie lists, but I really enjoyed the storyline, and never felt like it was a “boring documentary.” British stockbroker Nicholas “Nicky” Winton rescued 669 Czech Jewish children during the Holocaust, by placing the children with British families right before the war broke out.

Escape from Sobibor

The Sobibor death camp claimed the lives of 250,000 people. This true story follows the largest successful escape from a concentration camp. It’s a made for tv film and older (it was made in the 1980s), so the violence is more toned down than other films set in a concentration camp. Around 600 prisoners managed to escape during the 1943 revolt, although only about 50 survived the war.

Escape from Auschwitz

Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler made their daring escape from Auschwitz by hiding in a woodpile. After 15 days of traveling across Poland, the two found freedom in Slovakia and spread the news about the horrors of Auschwitz in the Vrba-Wetzler report. Eventually, over 100,000 Jewish lives were saved by their incredible act of courage. Grab a study guide on PBS and watch it for free there, too. (it’s a docudrama, not a movie)

Holocaust Movies for High Schoolers and Adults

These are some Holocaust movies that I really enjoyed, but they are rated R for violence and profanity. In each of the films, I felt the positives outweighed the negatives.

Schindler's List [DVD]The PianistThe Counterfeiters (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray]

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List is an Academy Award-winning classic for a reason. It tells the true story of a Nazi, Oskar Schindler, who employed 1,200 Jews in his factory, saving their lives in the process. There is heavy violence, sexual content, and language. For mature teens, this is an excellent film. Even if middle school students can “handle” the violence, this is best left for mature high school students since the themes and discussion are heavy, in-depth topics.

The Pianist

With a haunting soundtrack, The Pianist is the true story of one Jewish pianist’s survival during the Holocaust. The story follows through his struggles, from his freedoms being stripped away to hiding out during the remaining months of the war. Adrian Brody offers a brilliant performance, which earned him a well-deserved Oscar. It’s rated R for language and war violence.

The Counterfeiters

Before WWII broke out, Salomon Sorowitsch was a career counterfeiter. After being arrested and sent to a concentration camp, Sorowitsch finds himself in part of the Nazis’ counterfeit schemes.

A battle of ethics evolves: in order to survive, they must show the Nazis progress. Some parts were dramatized, but it remains a unique story and a good film. You can read more about the true story in an interview with one of the counterfeiters.

DefianceThe Relief Of Belsen [DVD]Fateless [DVD]

 

Defiance

After witnessing the murder of their parents and the mass murder of their village, the Jewish Bielski brothers fled to the woods as a safe haven from the Nazis. As other Jewish refugees (including women, children, and the elderly) flee to the forests, the Bielskis find themselves the leaders of a growing community of ordinary citizens, including children and the elderly. The ragtag group of partisans survived for a miraculous two years, with incredibly high survival rates. All in all, the Bielski partisans helped shelter 1,200 Jews during the war.

Based on the amazing biographyDefiance is one of my favorite movies. It’s a thrilling story of family, faith, honor, resilience, and triumph of the human spirit. Grab the movie guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Relief of Belsen

In April 1945, the British army stumbled across the horrendous aftermath of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Faced with an impossible task, the British work to bury and rehabilitate the living with the very few resources they have. Much of the horror in The Relief of Belsen comes from real-life footage that blends with the reenactment of the British’s desperate attempt to save as many lives as possible.

Fateless

Based on the memoir by Imre Kertesz, Fateless is a Hungarian film about one boy’s story of survival through the camps. I really enjoyed this one – it is well-made, had a great storyline, and was the poignant story of Imre’s survival.

In Darkness

This Polish film was an Academy Award nominee and is the true story of sewer worker (and petty thief) Leopold Socha. He originally begins hiding a group of desperate Jewish people in the sewers for a hefty profit. As time continues, he begins to grow a conscience and continues risking his life for them, as he helped shelter them for 14 months.

There is violence and heartache that is extremely difficult to watch (and a sexual scene to skip), but it is still a very great movie of one man’s character development.

Band of Brothers Episode 1×09: Why We Fight

The Band of Brothers miniseries is rated R and is for mature audiences only. In this episode, as the war is drawing towards a close, Easy Company liberates a concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau. There is realistic violence and rough profanity, and a scene of sexual content in the beginning. Each episode of Band of Brothers opens with the real-life members of Easy Company, and ends with facts.

Post-Holocaust Movies

Denial

In this true story, a woman battles a Holocaust denier in this great court case. It is a fantastic courtroom drama that sheds light on Holocaust denial.

Operation Finale

Starring Ben Kingsley, this movie details the hunt for Adolf Eichmann, who was known as the Architect of the Holocaust.

The Little Traitor

In this sweet coming-of-age movie, Proffy (short for “professor”) is a young Jewish boy growing up right before Israel officially became a country in 1948. Israel, with its people young and desperate for freedom, wants nothing more than the British to leave them alone.

At the time, Britain owned Israel, which was then called Palestine. Proffy has similar views. That is until he befriends a British soldier. It doesn’t try to show the big picture of Israel’s liberation. Instead, the story focuses on a Jewish boy and a British soldier. It has a smidgen of partial nudity/Proffy becomes interested in women (you can skip this part), but other than that is great for 12+ with some discussion.

Make a movie night educational

Make a movie night educational with my growing collection of movie guides. Find movie guides for favorites like Unbroken, The Zookeeper’s Wife, or Defiance. You can also find me on Teachers Pay Teachers.

You may also enjoy my Holocaust unit study, Tell Them We Remember. It is a comprehensive unit study designed for students in grades 6-8 to inspire discussion about four of the main aspects of the Holocaust.

For all of my historical book and movie lists, visit learnincolor.com/history.











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