Philip Rosen, 89, formerly of Philadelphia, a longtime educator who spoke and wrote about the Holocaust, died Saturday, July 21, of a heart attack at Brookdale of Voorhees, where he had lived since 2013.
From 1987 to 2001, Dr. Rosen was curator and educational director of what is now the Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center in Cherry Hill. While there, he helped other educators learn how to tell the story of the Holocaust to elementary and secondary schoolchildren.
Dr. Rosen brought to the task extensive study of the science of teaching, 36 years of classroom experience in the School District of Philadelphia, and a deep knowledge of European history in the years during and prior to World War II.
He compiled two reference books aimed at making it easy for educators and scholars to retrieve information. His Dictionary of the Holocaust: Biography, Geography, and Terminology, compiled with co-editor Eric Joseph Epstein, was a 2,000-item compendium of people, places, and statistics.
Bearing Witness: A Resource Guide to Literature, Poetry, Art, Music, and Videos by Holocaust Victims and Survivors was an attempt to preserve primary source material for future generations.
"His agenda was always the same – let's make sure that the Holocaust does not go away and die," said his daughter Serena Rosen. "He would go around to different schools in Philadelphia suburbs and bring Holocaust survivors with him. He would have them talk to the kids. It was so moving. He was on a mission."
Dr. Rosen believed that the Holocaust story was being too narrowly told by teachers.
In a 1999 paper on file at Millersville University, Dr. Rosen argued the Holocaust could not be summed up by asking students to read the diary of Anne Frank, the girl who hid from Nazi occupiers for two years in the Netherlands before being arrested. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
"This writer's thesis is that teaching the Jewish genocide is too limited in scope," he wrote. "The 20th century has been the century of genocide and ethnic mass murder. If teaching the Holocaust continues in the present manner, students will say, 'We have heard that already.' Parents will ask, 'When are children going to learn about our group's pain?' "
The atrocities committed by the Nazi regime against the disabled, Gypsies, gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Slavic peoples should be a part of the Holocaust story, Dr. Rosen wrote.
He also believed that the story was missing an important moral component. Students, he wrote in the 1999 paper, should be taught "an appreciation of the sacredness of all life and the value of opposition to the persecution, maltreatment and mass murder of any group of people. The tragic flaw in the German educational system, the best in the world before Hitler, was the failure in this moral dimension."
Born in Philadelphia to Robert and Helen Rosen, Dr. Rosen graduated from Northeast High School in 1946. He earned a bachelor of science in secondary education in 1951 and a master of science in elementary education in 1954, both from Temple University. He earned a doctorate in history from Carnegie Mellon University in 1972.
While studying, he worked as an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia from 1951 to 1955, and at the secondary level from 1955 to 1987. The bulk of his time was spent at his alma mater, Northeast High School.
At age 59, when he moved to the Holocaust Museum, he was able to coalesce his thoughts about the Holocaust, and to act on them. He continued in that vein from then on.
He was an adjunct professor at Gratz College in Philadelphia from 1988 to 1999. He was a speaker and consultant for the Pennsylvania Council on Humanities in Philadelphia from 1997 to 2003 before retiring.
Dr. Rosen was active as a volunteer with the Jewish Community Relations Council, Philadelphia; the Zionist Organization of America; and the American Jewish Committee.
He liked writing, tennis, travel, and caring for his cats. Toward the end of his life, he enjoyed taking in the air on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.
In 1956, Dr. Rosen married Lillian Schachter Rosen.
In addition to his wife and daughter Serena, he is survived by a daughter, Ruth Victor.
Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 24, at Roosevelt Memorial Park, Trevose.