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Teaching the Holocaust: Lesson Plans

Education World provides 10 lesson plans for teaching about the Holocaust. Included: Activities that involve students in creating time lines and ABC books, writing poetry and letters, and learning about Anne Frank and Holocaust rescuers.

The Holocaust is a watershed event in history -- a frightening reminder of the consequences of prejudice and intolerance and of the dangers of silence and apathy. For that reason, the topic is both timely and teachable.

Below, Education World offers 10 lesson plans for teaching about the Holocaust. Thanks to EducationWorld's partnership with Encyclopaedia Britannica, we are also pleased to offer these free resources on the Holocaust.

Any teacher who plans to introduce an examination of the Holocaust and the events that surrounded it should visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum's education team has created a must-read resource for teachers; no teacher should proceed without reading their Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Museum's guidelines page helps teachers methodically examine their goals for teaching about the Holocaust and provides detailed tips for teaching, including

  • Avoid comparisons of pain.
  • Strive for precision of language.
  • Make careful distinctions about sources of information.
  • Try to avoid stereotypical description. Read more about each of those tips in the guidelines.

According to the Holocaust Museum, one of the common errors that teachers make is oversimplifying the Holocaust. The guidelines state "A study of the Holocaust raises difficult questions about human behavior, and it often involves complicated answers as to why events occurred. Be wary of oversimplifications. Allow students to contemplate the various factors that contributed to the Holocaust; do not attempt to reduce Holocaust history to one or two catalysts in isolation from the other factors which came into play."

After reading the guidelines, use the lessons that follow to open up a world of possibilities. Brief descriptions are provided for each activity. Click any headline for a complete teaching resource.

Editor's note: Most of the lessons below were designed for use with students in grades 5 and above. (The standards of the National Council for Social Studies do not introduce world history concepts until grade 5.) However, several of the activities below could be adapted easily for use in lower grades. Teachers will want to examine any resources they intend to use with students, as many Holocaust resources include graphic descriptions and/or photographs.

The Holocaust from Beginning to End
Students create a time line showing the events that occurred before, during, and after the Holocaust.

The ABCs of the Holocaust
Each student is assigned a letter of the alphabet and conducts research to create a Holocaust dictionary from A to Z.

From One Child to Another: Letters About the Holocaust
Students read biographies of children who survived the Holocaust and write letters describing the effects of those stories.

Nazi Concentration Camps -- Map and Chart-Reading Activities
Students use an informational chart about Nazi concentration and death camps to complete a mapping activity and a chart-reading activity.

Rescuers: Those Who Risked Their Lives to Save Others
Students use compelling accounts of people who bravely rescued Jews from persecution as the motivation for writing reflective essays.

The World of Anne Frank
Students learn about the life of Anne Frank and the diary in which she chronicled her years hiding with her family and others before they were sent to Nazi concentration camps.

Holocaust Pictures Exhibition
Students write reactions to selected pictures of the Holocaust.

Testimonies from the Holocaust
Students listen to online testimonies from Holocaust survivors as preparation for interviewing Holocaust survivors in your community.

What Do You Know?
Students complete a K-W-H-L chart about the Holocaust.

Testimony: A Lesson in Creating Poetry
Students transform testimony of people who witnessed the Holocaust into eloquent poetry, using this lesson in the power of words.

Escaping the Holocaust: Incorporating the
Voyage of the St. Louis Into a Unit of Study

Students learn about the difficulties Jewish refugees faced when fleeing Nazi Germany.


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