From the perspective of a high school English teacher, I do not believe that Hitler, the man, is over-emphasized at all, nor is the holocaust ignored. In my own experience as a student and a teacher I find the opposite to be true.
While in history class it is true that we do learn much about the background and life of Hitler. But, most will agree that this is necessary to portray to students how devastating misplaced power can be. By studying the life of Hitler, students will understand how he used propaganda to control the masses. Hopefully students will realize how important it is to question authority, rather than go along with what everyone else says and does. Studying the life of Hitler does not lead to an under-emphasis on the Holocaust itself; it actually makes the Holocaust all the more real. Why some people still doubt that it ever took place is beyond me, but studying the historical facts of Hitlers’ life will help students understand that these evil things really do happen.
Outside of history class, the Holocaust often makes its way into the language arts classrooms through the medium of literature. Many students read The Diary of Anne Frank, Night, by Elie Wiesel, or other pieces of literature that address the horrific events of the Holocaust. The fact that the study of the Holocaust stretches beyond the history classroom is evidence of the emphasis placed on the horrific event. The goal of the history classroom is to present the facts of the Holocaust many of which revolves around the dictator that was the engine behind it. While in the language arts classroom, students learn about the emotions and effects the Holocaust had on, not only the Jewish people, but, society as a whole.
Students are exposed to the Holocaust from a historical fact-based approach in their history classes which usually includes much information concerning how one man, Hitler, was able to persuade the masses to do his bidding. However, students are also able to learn about the incident firsthand from the perspective of the victims as well, because of the literature written by survivors or, in some cases, those that simply wrote about their experiences and did not survive as in the case of Anne Frank.
From my experience both as a student and a teacher, to say that the Holocaust is under-emphasized in school would be inaccurate indeed; the Holocaust is an event that needs not be forgotten, and as long as public schools use the literature that I mentioned I believe the Holocaust will get the emphasis it deserves.