Refugees During the Holocaust & Today




What is a refugee? Do they have rights? How are refugees different from migrants? These are questions students often ask when the topic of refugees arises. The plight of refugees is integral to the study of the Holocaust and continues to be a pressing issue today. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently 25.9 million refugees worldwide, over half of whom are under the age of 18 (as of 2019). As the number of refugees continues to climb due to violence and environmental insecurity, it becomes increasingly important to thoughtfully answer students’ questions related to refugees and their rights. The resources found below are meant to aid and guide you through those discussions.


Some resources are denoted GC (graphic content) due to the discussion of mature subject matter. You are encouraged to review and decide what is and is not appropriate for your students.

Refugees during The Holocaust


Finding Safety in Italy

Holocaust survivor Esther Bem describes the people in Northern Italy who protected her and her family during World War II.

(Facing History and Ourselves)


Turned Away on the M.S. Saint Louis​

Holocaust survivor Sol Messinger describes his experience attempting to emigrate from Germany to Cuba in 1939 aboard the ship the M.S. Saint Louis.

(Facing History and Ourselves)

Refugees Today

The Rights of Refugees

Sasha Chanoff, Co-Founder and Executive Director of RefugePoint, explains the definition of the term “refugee” and illustrates how the international community has sought to address refugee issues since the end of World War II.​

(Facing History and Ourselves)


Everyone has a Story: Arn Chorn Pond (GC)

Cambodian genocide survivor and human rights activist Arn Chorn Pond describes what it was like to be a refugee in America.​

(Facing History and Ourselves)


I am a Refugee: Global Refugees Share Their Stories

Refugees from around the world share their stories of survival and hope.​

(Global Citizen)

Refugee: Human Stories from the Refugee Crisis (GC)

Millions have fled the violence in Syria since the start of the war in 2011, with many landing on the shores of Greece. New arrivals share their experiences and their thoughts on now being a refugee.

(The Atlantic)

Curricular Materials:

The Refugee Experience (iWitness)
Responding to a Refugee Crisis (Facing History and Ourselves
Americans and the Holocaust: The Refugee Crisis (Facing History and Ourselves)
Read and Reflect: Emigration in Klaus Langer’s Diary (Facing History and Ourselves

Teaching About Refugees (UNHCR)
Refugee Stories: Mapping a Crisis (Brown University)
The Refugee Crisis and Human Responsibility (Facing History and Ourselves)
Responding to the Rohingya Crisis (Facing History and Ourselves)