Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans

Meet the Teachers






by Jennifer Schilling
Shelby Williams

Idaho State University Student

GRADE: 6 to 8

TIME ALLOTMENT: Ten 60 minute classes

SUBJECT MATTER: Social Studies; History

Between 1933 and 1945 thousands of Jews were forced from their homes and placed in concentration camps in Europe. Jews were the primary victims-six million people were murdered. These included Gypsies, the handicapped, and the Polish who were targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny. These people were torn from their jobs and family as Hitler pursued complete control. They were lied to and humiliated based on their beliefs. After Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor, the most powerful position in the German government, he moved quickly to end German democracy. Hitler convinced his cabinet to invoke emergency clauses of the Constitution that permitted the suspension of individual freedoms of press, speech, and assembly. In 1933, the Nazis began to put into practice their racial ideology. The Nazis believed that the Germans were "racially superior" and that there was a struggle for survival between them and "inferior races." Jews, who numbered nearly 600,000 in Germany (less than one percent of the total population in 1933), were the principle target of Nazi hatred. The Nazis mistakenly identified Jews as a race and defined this race as "inferior." They also spewed hate propaganda that unfairly blamed Jews for Germany's economic depression and the country's defeat in World War 1 (1914-1918).

Between 1937 and 1939, Jews were forced from Germany's economic life; the Nazis either seized Jewish businesses and properties outright or forced Jews to sell them at bargain prices. In November 1938, this economic attack against Jews changed into the physical destruction of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores, the arrest of Jewish men, the destruction of homes, and the murder of individuals. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. This was the beginning of a German take over. In pursuit of taking over, millions were killed, businesses were burned to the ground, and if people looked at soldiers the wrong way they were murdered. During the war, ghettos, transit camps, and forced labor camps, in addition to the concentration camps, were created by the Germans and their collaborators to imprison the victims of racial and ethnic hatred as well as political opponents and resistance fighters. Following the invasion of Poland, 3 million Polish Jews were forced into approximately 400 newly establishes ghettos, where they were segregated from the rest of the population. Large numbers of Jews were also deported from other cities and countries, including Germany, to ghettos in Poland and German-occupied territories further east. There were six killing sites, chosen because of their closeness to rail lines and their location in semi-rural areas. They were at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, Majdanek, and AuschwitzBirkenau. Thousands of people were killed each day at each of these camps. On arrival to these camps people were shipped in tight quarters by passenger trains and the men were separated from women and children. Prisoners were forced to undress and hand over all valuables. They were then driven naked into the gas chambers, which were disguised as shower rooms, and either carbon monoxide or Zyklon B (a form of crystalline prussic acid, also used as an insecticide in some camps) was used to asphyxiate them. The minority selected for forced labor were, after initial quarantine, vulnerable to malnutrition exposure, medical experiments, and brutality. Many perished as a result.

In May 1945, Nazi Germany collapsed, the guards fled, and the camps ceased to exist as extermination, forced labor, or concentration camps. Some of the concentration camps were turned into camps for displaced persons, which included former Holocaust victims unable to be repatriated. The Nazi legacy was an empire of murder and exploitation that has affected people in all parts of the world. The toll in lives was enormous. The full magnitude, and the moral and ethical implications of this tragic era are only now beginning to be understood more fully. Through the activities presented in this lesson, students will look at what harsh treatment and sacrifices the Jews and other minorities had to face during W.W.II under Hitler's dictatorship. In addition, students will become an advocate of their Jewish Profile as they follow his or her life. They will try to record their feelings as if they were living in those times.


Students will :

  • Learn more about the culture and religion of the Jewish people.
  • Describe in detail the harsh conditions that the Jews were faced with.
  • Identify the major causes of the Holocaust.
  • Compare the life of a Jew to a Nazi.
  • Define what a Nazi was and what their purpose was during W.W.II.
  • Practice their writing skills by keeping a daily journal. Identify how their lives have been influenced by the Holocaust.
  • Understand the experience of Jews in Germany from reading Number the Stars.


From Idaho Social Studies Standards, US and World History, grades 6-8 http://www.sde.state.id.us/osbe/exstand.htm
Students will:

  • History of Human Civilization: 7a. Understand the development and role of religion in early civilization. They will be able to discuss how religion established a code of conduct for the people and influences it had in different societies.
  • Government/Civics: 1a. Acquire critical thinking and analytical skills; that is, they will use visual and mathematical data presented in various forms to assist in interpreting historical events. Students will chronologically organize significant events and people who form the foundation of early history.
  • Geography: 4a. Understand that geography enables people to comprehend the relationships between people, places, and environments over time. (INSH O1 a.)
  • Economics: 2b. Understand there are many influences on economic systems all over the world and the importance of their functions. (INSH 02b.)


  • Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the websites used in the lesson.
  • Load any plugins necessary to run Websites.
  • Have all materials ready to go.
  • Cut a door, and three small windows into piano box or refrigerator box to represent a train.
  • Hand out the letter and permission slip to students to take home for their parents signature before the start of the lesson.


For each student:

  • Spiral notebook with each student’s name and a Jewish profile inside.
  • Large jackets (From donation or thrift stores, about 6)
  • Various magazines
  • Large boxes such as piano or refrigerator boxes
  • Refreshments (Lemonade and cookies)
  • Copies of Jewish Profiles from United States Holocaust Museum. http://www.ushmm.org/education
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Envelopes Star of David Patches (made from torn cloth with the Star draw on it)
  • Materials to make Concentration Camps Crayons and Markers
  • Letter to parents
  • Permission slip



Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg (1988)

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry


This web site is an extensive learning tool for students. They can site take a tour of the museum and view photos. Washington D.C. Holocaust Museum http://www.ushmm.org

This website is an overview of the Holocaust. It has visuals and pictures that can be shared with students. It is clear and concise and has valuable information. There are pictures of children and families. The Holocaust Overview

Located in Jerusalem, this is he largest Holocaust museum. It has pictures of the museum and allows for easy access for information. It has pictures of artifacts and their origins. The artifacts are outlined with historical facts and ideas about the Holocaust.


The following activities will prepare your students for a lesson on the Holocaust, and will provide them with a strong sense of context for the historical event.
Establishing a Personal Connection with History

Step 1: Explain to your students that you will be examining a historic event that took place between the years 1939-1945. Students will calculate how long ago that was. Tell your students that, although 56 years might seem like a long time ago, it is not in the grand scheme of things. Ask them to look at the progression of history another way. Ask your students to determine the year of their birth by subtracting their age from the current year. What year is it? Ask your students for a sampling of their parents’ ages. Calculate an average age for the parents... Either calculate a quick mental average, or a true average as a class. How many years older than your students is the average parent? What year was the average parent born?

*Make accommodations of individual needs based on home life situations. Some grandparents may not be living. Ask your students how old their grandparents would have been in 1939? Explain to your students that, in the grand scheme of things, 1939 was not that far away... They each know someone (or most certainly know someone who knew someone) who was alive in 1939.

Step 2: Ask your students what they know about the Holocaust? Brain Storm and l list their ideas on the board. After ideas have been expressed, explain to the students that "The Holocaust was the state" sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945."

Jews were the primary victims. Six million were murdered; Gypsies, the handicapped, and the Polish, were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny.

Step 3: Give only the first paragraph of their Jewish profile.. Explain to the students that they will be given small amounts of information on this person. Not until the end of the unit with the student discover the fate of their individual. The students will predict the fate of their Jewish profile in their journal.


Throughout the lessons students will continuously add words to the word wall.

Step 1: Give your students a brief explanation of the story, Number the Stars. “Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen run into German soldiers on the way home from school. Annemarie and her family are Protestant but Ellen's family is Jewish. The Rosens hear they are to be relocated because of their ethnicity and decide to escape. The Johansen's agreed to allow Ellen to live with them to save her life. One of the Johansen's family members has a fishing boat used for occupation and smuggles Jewish refugees into safety at night. The Nazis uncover this plan. In order to make a successful journey Uncle Henrik (Annemarie's uncle) must have a certain packet that is missing. Even though it is very dangerous, Annemarie knows she must play a major part in saving her friend’ life and helping Uncle Henrik to find the packet.” Explain that we are creating a word wall of unfamiliar words that we encounter. Through this word wall they will enhance their vocabulary and better understand cultures languages of the people we will learn about.

Step 2: Read Chapter 1 in Number the Stars. After the Chapter has been read, summarize and discuss the chapter and predict what will happen. Ask your students if they have ever had a friend, relative, or acquaintance that has been of a different religion, faith, or background from them? Listen to all comments.

Step 3: Provide your students with a written worksheet that has this question on the top, Who were the Nazis? Give class time for them to answer. This allows you as the teacher to assess student knowledge. Discuss the definitions.

SHOW picture of Hitler and the other men as they are walking past SA Troops. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections. Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “Hitler”. Then click on #15 photo.

SHOW picture of the soldier in front of the store. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections. Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “Boycott" . Then click on #10 photo. Display an overhead or write on the board key ideas that outline the fact that a "Nazi is a short term for the National Socialist German Workers Party, a right-wing political party formed in 1919 primarily by unemployed German veterans of World War I. " Adolf Hitler became head of the party in 1921, and under his leadership the party eventually became a powerful political force in German elections by the early 1930's. The Nazi party ideology was strongly anti-Communist, anti-Semitic, racist, nationalistic, imperialistic, and militaristic. In 1933, the Nazi Party assumed power in Germany, and Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. He ended German democracy and severely restricted basic rights such as freedom of speech, press, and assembly. He established a brutal dictatorship through a reign of terror. This created an atmosphere of fear, distrust, and suspicion in which people betrayed their neighbors. This helped the Nazis to obtain the acquiescence of social institutions such as the civil service, the educational system, churches, the judiciary, industry, business, and other professions. Students will respond to the actual definition of a Nazi and to how they would feel if their freedoms were taken away from them.

Step 4: Have students record how they would feel if after their freedoms were taken away, one person had total control of how they live their life.

Step 5: Review what happened the day before in Number the Stars. Read Chapter 2. Summarize, discuss and predict.

Step 6: Ask "Why did the Nazis want to kill large numbers of innocent people?" Allow time for responses and then explain the Nazis believed Germans were "racially superior" and there was a struggle for survival between them and "inferior races." Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), and the handicapped were seen as serious biological threats to the purity of the "German Race" and therefore had to be "exterminated." The Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I, for its economic problems, and for the spread of Communist parties throughout Europe. Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others) were also considered "inferior" and destined to serve as slave labor for their German masters. Communists, socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and Freemasons were persecuted, imprisoned, and often killed on political and behavioral (rather than racial) grounds. Sometimes the distinction was not very clear. Millions of Soviet prisoners of war perished from starvation, disease and forced labor.

Step 7: Focus on the children involved during this time. SHOW picture of the many children behind fences and the two little boys. Pass around to the class. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “children”. Then click on #30 photo. SHOW picture of a man standing in a open grave site waiting to be shot and buried. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “mass execution”. Then click on #10 photo. SHOW picture of how many people were killed. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “Nordhausen”. Then click on #9 photo. SHOW picture of the many people buried in the grave sight. http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections Click on “Photographs”. In the photos box type “Hadamar”. Then click on #15 photo.

Step 8: Break into small groups to think and write what it would be like to be a Nazi, or a victim. One is killing innocent people, one is waiting to be killed. connections between both people. Students will write from both perspectives.

Step 9: Review Number the Stars. Summarize, discuss and predict. Read Chapters 3 and 4.

Step 10: Ask , "How did the Nazis carry out their policy of Genocide?" Explain first that genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Discuss their responses.

Step 11: Explain that in the late 1930's, the Nazis killed thousands of handicapped Germans by lethal injection and poisonous gas. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, mobile killing units following in the wake of the German Army began shooting massive numbers of Jews and Gypsies in open fields and ravines on the outskirts of conquered cities and towns. Eventually the Nazis created a more secluded and organized method of killing enormous numbers of civilians. Six extermination centers were established in occupied Poland where large-scale murder by gas and body disposal through cremation were conducted systematically. In addition, millions died in the ghettos and concentration camps as a result of forced labor, starvation, exposure, brutality, disease, and execution. Hitler and his men were faced with developing a method for killing large numbers of people.

Step 12: Students separate into small groups to discuss these ideas. Make a list of what they would need to carry out such an enormous task. Such examples might include, passing a bill or a law to Congress, starting a business, building a car, etc. Record ideas on a large sheet of paper. Students will prepare an oral presentation of their ideas and will defend them in class.

Step 13: Students write in their journals: “If they could change one thing about the Holocaust this far what would it be and how could they accomplish it?

Step 14: Review Number the Stars. Discuss and predict. Read Chapters 5 and 6.

Step 15: Ask, "How did the World Respond to the Holocaust?" Students will respond to this question. Discuss the US role at the time. Explain that the United States, Great Britain and other nations outside of the Nazi-occupied areas received numerous press reports in the 1930's about the persecution of Jews. By 1942, the governments of the United States and Great Britain had confirmed reports about "the final solution", Germany's intent to kill all the Jews of Europe. However, both countries feared a mass immigration problem and neither country modified their refugee policies. Their stated intention to defeat Germany militarily took precedence over rescue efforts, and therefore no specific attempts to stop or slow the genocide were made until mounting pressure eventually forced the United States to undertake limited rescue efforts in 1944.

Step 16: Students will pretend that they are the President of the United States and must devise a plan to defeat Hitler and free the persecuted. How would they go about it?

Step 17: Gather numerous magazines, books, and any merchandise pictured in them. Students will start thinking about the possessions that they would take if they were torn away from their home. Such items might include, family pictures, precious jewelry, or family heirlooms. Students will find pictures in the magazines that could represent those prized possessions. They will put their name on an envelope that represents a suitcase, decorate it, and put the pictures inside.

Step 18: Review Number the Stars . Discuss and predict. Read Chapters 7 and 8.

Step 19: Place Jewish patches (pieces of cloth, torn withstar drawn on it) on randomly selected students.

Step 20: Pass out their envelope suitcases. Ask students with the patches to stand in front of the class. Other students will represent soldiers. The soldiers will direct the other students into the box train. They must leave their suitcases behind believing their belongings will follow.

Step 21: Inside the train the soldiers eat cookies and lemonade in front of the prisoners while giving them none. SHOW picture of a box train used to transport Jews to concentration camps. http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/resource/idcards.pdf
Explain to your students railroads were an essential part of the Nazi plan, Concentration camps were purposefully situated along the major rail lines in Poland. View the Video.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to raise their hands when they can identify why the people were grateful for Schindler spraying water on them. START the video when the screen shows Schindler in a white suit walking at a train depot towards Nazi officers having tea and refreshments. PLAY until Schindler says, "This car. This car." and the Nazi officer is looking at him with suspicion. PAUSE . Check for comprehension. Ask your students to identify conditions other than heat that would have bothered the prisoners. Some answers may include freezing temperatures, sanitation, starvation, and extreme overcrowding. Remind the students how cramped, uncomfortable, and scared they felt inside the box train. Did they feel some jealousy for the soldiers who were having refreshments in front of them?

Step 22: Students will record in their journals how they felt about this experience.

Step 23: Review Number the Stars. Discuss and predict. Read Chapters 9 and 10.

Step 24: Ask the if your students have wondered where their suitcase envelopes went. Do they believe they traveled with them? Discuss what was in their suitcases and why they chose those items.

Step 25: Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION. Ask them to raise their hands when they can name who took their belongings and where they went.

START when the screen shows Schindler walking on a train platform and the Jewish officer saying, "Leave your luggage on the platform."

PLAY until after the Jewish worker takes off his glasses after looking at the gold teeth dumped in front of him taken from other Jews. PAUSE. Check for comprehension. Remind your students that the Jewish people had no idea what was to happen to their belongings. Ask the students to identify what were some of the belongings the people had packed into their suitcases. What did the Nazis do with some of their belongings? Remind the students that there were Jewish people working for the Nazis.

Step 26: Pass out the next paragraph of their profile.

Step 27: Now that they know what happened to their belongings, ask the students to record in their journals what emotions they felt knowing their keepsakes were either thrown away or used as a personal gain to the Nazis.

Step 28: Review Number the Stars. Discuss and predict .Read Chapters 11 and 12 .

Step 29: Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to raise their hands when they can name the boy’s three hiding places. START the video when the screen is showing a record being flipped over. PLAY until the boy looks up out of the toilet. PAUSE. Check for comprehension. Remind your students most of the children had no idea as to what was to happen to them. Only a few children knew what the consequences would be of getting the trucks. They knew they would probably never see their parents again or even survive. Ask your students if they would they help another child even if there was a chance of being found?

Step 30: Pass out the next paragraph of their profile.

Step 31: Students will write in their journals the other places to hide, or other things they could do to survive.

Step 32: Review Number the Stars. Discuss and predict. Read Chapters 13 & 14.

Step 33: Write a letter to a loved-one describing a day in a concentration camp.

Step 34: Randomly assign three students the job of determining who will stay in the camp or be exterminated. They will be separating the weak from the strong. Other students will form a line in front of the desks. Those in line must think of a reason why their life should be spared using previous knowledge. For example, they are a skilled craftsmen, engineer, architect, or can perform domestic duties etc. SHOW picture of concentration camp uniforms. http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/resource/idcards.pdf

Step 35: Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to raise their hands when can determine why the boy was killed? START the video when a boy is scrubbing a bathtub. PLAY until you see three men running to remove the dead boy. PAUSE . Check for comprehension. Remind your students that most of the people were randomly shot for no reason at all. It was a sport or a game .

Step 36: Pass out the final paragraph of their profile which reveals the fate of their individual.

Step 37: Students will write in their journal how they felt after they read what had happened to their profile.

Step 38: Review Number the Stars. Read Chapters 15 and 16.

Step 39: Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION and direct the students to the computer lab for a tour of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC http://www.ushmm.org Click on the education button. Click on “The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students”. Enter the site and follow the directions.

Step 40: Students free write their final thoughts about the unit.


Perform different scenes of the Holocaust with costumes and props..

Visual Arts:
Make a floor plan of what they think a concentration camp would look like. It can be three dimensional.

Language Arts:
Interview their parents or older siblings about how they would feel if they were in a concentration camp or living during this time in history.

Calculate the percentages of people who lived, died and were in concentration camps compared to the whole population.

For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!

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