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LESSON PLAN
EDUCATOR RESOURCE: LESSON PLANS
Our Lesson Plans provide a unique experience for educators to teach about the Holocaust effectively and interactively. Lessons are organized by topics that represent major themes associated with the Holocaust in an order that is roughly chronological; the modular design of the Lessons allows for adaption and customization to specific grade levels and subject areas. The integration of rich content in each Lesson helps students construct an authentic and comprehensive portrait of the past as they frame their own thoughts about what they are learning, resulting in a deeper level of interest and inquiry. Each lesson includes:
  • Step-by-step procedures
  • Estimated completion time
  • Resources labeled by icons        direct teachers to the piece of content named in the procedures
  • Print-ready pages as indicated by  are available as PDFs for download
For more information, questions or concerns please contact us.
PEDAGOGY PRINCIPLES FOR EFFECTIVE HOLOCAUST INSTRUCTION

PEDAGOGICAL PRINCIPLES FOR EFFECTIVE HOLOCAUST INSTRUCTION

JEWISH RESISTANCE
RESISTANCE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE WITH A GUN AND A BULLET....

- ROMAN KENT, JEWISH SURVIVOR

PREPARING TO TEACH THIS UNIT  

Below is information to keep in mind when teaching the content in this unit. This material is intended to help teachers consider the complexities of teaching about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.

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  • The term “resistance” when related to Jews in ghettos and camps during the Holocaust takes on a different meaning than the way students may understand the term. Jews faced an increasingly lethal situation in the ghettos, and once the Nazis adopted the “Final Solution” every single Jew living under Nazi tyranny was sentenced to death.

  • Emphasize that the fighters of the Warsaw ghetto were Jews who were imprisoned in the ghetto and suffered from the same misfortune as other Jews there. Because their actions were so remarkable it may seem that they were “different” from other Jews in the ghetto. Realizing that what they did was done from within the misery of the ghetto, their deeds seem even more remarkable.

  • Throughout this unit, help students understand that resistance required great courage and at times physical strength. Those who chose to resist had to grapple with many dilemmas including the possible price of disobeying Nazi orders, the possible effect of their resistance on their families and communities, and the punishment they might have to endure for resisting. These issues are not always obvious and should be brought to students’ attention.


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ABOUT THIS UNIT
Introduction

This unit provides an opportunity for students to explore Jewish resistance efforts during the Holocaust—focusing on the period from the establishment of the ghettos through the implementation of the “Final Solution.” An opportunity is provided for students to learn about the risks of resisting Nazi domination and the means, scope, and intensity of resistance efforts. These ranged from cultural and spiritual resistance in the ghettos to armed resistance of partisans and ghetto and camp prisoners. At their core, these forms of resistance are expressions of the capacity to preserve what is best in humanity in the face of the worst humanity has to offer. This unit also provides an opportunity for students to consider the role of personal and cultural identity in their lives.

Objectives
  • Define resistance within the context of the Holocaust.

  • Explain how resistance and rebellion were discouraged in occupied territories.

  • Identify various forms of resistance that took place in the ghettos and camps.

  • Conclude that designating an action as “resistance” is based on a variety of factors, i.e., what might be considered resistance in one situation may not be considered resistance in another situation.

  • Interpret primary source materials—including clips of visual history testimony—that represent a range of resistance efforts against the Nazi regime in Europe.

  • Explain the connection between the “Final Solution” and armed resistance.

  • Construct an argument, based on evidence from primary and secondary sources, to support the claim that Jews resisted the Nazi regime in a variety of ways.

  • Analyze the role of culture, customs, and traditions in individual or group narratives.




  EDUCATOR PREPARATORY VIDEO


ACADEMIC STANDARDS
The materials in this unit address many Common Core State Standards
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View History/SS »

  TESTIMONY VIDEO GUIDE
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  ESTIMATED COMPLETION TIME

60-90 minutes

LESSON PLAN:

Spiritual and Cultural Resistance



1Begin this lesson by writing the word “resistance” on the board. Have students brainstorm the meaning of the word and suggest situations when an individual or group of people might decide that resistance is appropriate or necessary. Record students’ responses on the board or on chart paper.
2Introduce students to Roman Kent and show his clip of testimony. Discuss the following questions:

  ROMAN KENT
Biographical Profile »


  IWITNESS ACTIVITY
Info Quest: Roman Kent
here »
  • What are the specific examples of resistance Roman Kent shares in his testimony?

  • In his testimony, Roman says, “sometimes the easiest resistance is with a gun and a bullet.” What do you think he means by this statement? Do you agree with him? Explain your thinking.

  • Roman wants people to understand that contrary to what some may think, Jews did resist the Nazis during the Holocaust in a variety of ways. Why do you think he feels it is important for people to understand this?


3Ask students to think about the term “resistance” in the context of the Holocaust. Have them consider and respond to the question, “What were Jews resisting during the Holocaust?”

  NOTE
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4Explain to students that there were many examples of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust even though the risks of opposing the Nazi regime were grave. Using the board or chart paper, record students’ thoughts on possible reasons why most people could not resist (e.g., hunger, sickness, isolation, lack of weapons, care for children, parents, or other family members).

  NOTE
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5In addition to the term “resistance,” have students think about the term “survival.” Take a few minutes to discuss how these terms are similar and how they are different. Ask for volunteers to look the words up in dictionaries and compare the dictionary definitions.
6On the board or on chart paper, write the heading, “Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust” and below write the subheadings “Cultural/Spiritual Resistance” and “Active/Armed Resistance.” While providing students with the definitions and examples from the corresponding Note, have a volunteer(s) write key ideas for each form of resistance under the appropriate heading.

  NOTE
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  NOTE
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7Explain that spiritual resistance can often be seen as an attempt to maintain one’s previous way of life and his or her unique identity. The terrible reality in which Jews lived was expressed by the teacher, Chaim Kaplan who lived in the Warsaw ghetto: “Everything is forbidden to us, but we do everything.” Have students consider the meaning of this statement.
8After introducing students to Helen Fagin and Ruth Brand, show their clips of testimony and discuss the following questions:

  HELEN FAGIN
Biographical Profile »

  RUTH BRAND
Biographical Profile »


  IWITNESS ACTIVITY
Info Quest Helen Fagin
here »

  IWITNESS ACTIVITY
Info Quest: Ruth Brand
here »
  STUDENT HANDOUT
Cultural and Spiritual Resistance View More »
  • How would you characterize the activities Helen Fagin initiated in the ghetto?

  • What purpose does the Gone with the Wind story serve for the students in Helen’s “clandestine school”?

  • What reason does Ruth Brand give for fasting on Yom Kippur, despite the danger of doing so?

  • How were Ruth and the other girls punished for this act of resistance?

  • What does the word “brave” mean to you? Based on your definition, would you describe Helen and Ruth as brave?


9Distribute the Cultural and Spiritual Resistance handout. Have students read the excerpts that were compiled from a variety of documents and then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to use the excerpts and clips of visual history testimony that they watched to discuss the following questions:
  • Which of the excerpts on the handout would you identify as examples of resistance and why?

  • How does the information in the excerpts illustrate the need Jews felt to maintain the traditions that had been in place prior to the war? Provide specific examples from the text.

  • What role do traditions, customs, and culture play in people’s lives?

  • Why do you think it was so important for Jews to remain connected to the traditions, customs, and culture that were part of their lives even when this connection placed them in immediate jeopardy?

  • Jews in the ghettos tried to maintain their customs from before the war, but at the same time were confronted with a totally different reality. How are these two themes reflected in the excerpts and testimony clips?

  • What were the dilemmas in maintaining traditions and customs during the Holocaust?


10End this lesson with a whole-group discussion whereby students respond to the following question: How, if at all, has your understanding of resistance, especially as it pertains to the Holocaust, changed over the course of this lesson?


  ESTIMATED COMPLETION TIME

60-90 minutes

LESSON PLAN:

Partisans and Armed Resistance



1Begin this lesson by reviewing the definitions of spiritual and armed resistance and provide examples of each.
2Introduce students to Mira Shelub and Sol Liber and then show their clips of testimony. Follow with a discussion using the questions below.

  MIRA SHELUB
Biographical Profile »

  SOL LIBER
Biographical Profile »
  • Were you surprised to learn that there were female partisans? Why or why not?

  • What do you learn about the partisans from Mira Shelub’s testimony?

  • What does Mira say was the goal of the partisans?

  • What do you learn about armed resistance in the Warsaw ghetto from Sol Liber’s testimony?

  • Both Mira and Sol give insight into how resistance during the Holocaust didn’t mean “winning,” but each and every act remained significant. How were the acts of resistance that Mira and Sol describe “significant”?


3Prepare students for the material on partisans by asking the questions below.

  NOTE
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  • What visual image do you have when you hear the word “forest”?

  • Is a forest a protected or an exposed place?

  • What are some possible dangers and difficulties that someone would face if he or she were to survive for any length of time in a forest?


4Distribute the Partisans handout and instruct students to read the material and identify textual evidence to support their responses to the questions below.

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Partisans View More »
  • What dilemmas did a Jewish person face when thinking about whether he or she should flee to the forest?

  • What were the main differences between a Jewish partisan and a non-Jewish partisan?

  • According to information provided in the text, why was it so difficult for people to flee to the forest? Why was it impossible for most Jews to flee to the forest?

  • Why did partisans feel it necessary to keep their location secret— even from local farmers and peasants?


5Distribute or show students the Pronouncement by Abba Kovner, a pronouncement written and read by Kovner at a meeting in Vilna on January 1, 1942. To provide context, explain that Abba Kovner was a young Lithuanian Jew who was a leader of a youth movement that hoped to take part in building a Jewish state in Israel. A young activist in the ghetto, he eventually became the leader of an armed underground. After a wave of murder during the second half of 1941, in which 2/3 of the Jews of Vilna were killed, Kovner was convinced that the Germans had a plan to murder all Jews everywhere. He had no real solid proof, but a strong feeling based on the events that had occurred in Vilna. Thus, the underground members decided to enter the ghetto and when it was about to be liquidated, they hoped to lead an armed uprising. After reading the pronouncement together, have a discussion based on the following questions:

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Pronouncement by Abba Kovner View More »
  NOTE
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  • To whom is Abba Kovner directing his message? What specific words in the text support your answer? Explain why you think this was his audience.

  • What are Kovner’s arguments in favor of resistance?

  • Analyze the following statement from the text: “It is better to die as free fighters than to live at the mercy of murderers.” What was Kovner’s central argument?

  • Why do you think that most Jews who participated in the revolts were youth?


6Explain to students that, in addition to the underground partisan resistance that occurred in the villages and countryside of Nazi- occupied territories, there were forms of active resistance including armed revolts that were organized in the ghettos, concentration camps, and even extermination camps during the Holocaust. Stress that it was very difficult for Jews to conduct armed resistance, and have students brainstorm possible conditions or other factors that made armed resistance so difficult. To help put this in context, tell students that the German army in World War II was a very powerful army, and it took nearly six years from the start of the war and an effort unparalleled in history to defeat it.
7Distribute the Armed Resistance in the Ghettos and Camps handout. Have students read the information aloud or in small groups. Discuss the reading with emphasis on the following questions:

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Armed Resistance in the Ghettoes and Camps View More »
  • What motivated Jews to fight the Nazis?

  • How were their motives similar or different from other examples of resistance that you know about?

  • What does it mean to “offer resistance for its own sake”?


8After a general discussion of resistance in the camps and ghettos, distribute the Personal Testimonies handout. After the class has read the handout (either in groups, individually, aloud, or for homework), have them respond to the following questions, citing specific information and examples from the text to support their answers whenever possible.

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Personal Testimonies View More »
  • What difficulties and dilemmas did the fighters face in obtaining weapons?

  • What expressions does Mordechai Anielewicz use to describe the revolt?

  • To whom does Anielewicz address his message? Why do you think this is his audience?

  • Why do you think it was important to Anielewicz that news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising be broadcast over the underground radio?

  • What descriptive word or term would you use to describe this revolt?

  • Why was it important for Zalman Gradowski to leave written testimonies behind?

  • How would you title the Zalman Gradowski passage?

  • What, in your opinion, makes someone a hero? Based on your definition of “hero,” is the man who wrote these lines a hero?

  • Antek Zuckerman said about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: “If there’s a school to study the human spirit, there it [the Uprising] should be a major subject.” From the statement, what importance does Zuckerman assign to the Uprising? Cite other examples studied in this lesson that could also be used to support the statement.


9Assign students the writing prompt below as a culminating activity for this lesson or unit.  

Prompt: Sometimes people who have not studied the Holocaust will ask, “Why didn’t Jews fight back?” In his testimony, Roman Kent addresses this very question when he says, “I’ve heard so many times [it] being said that Jews didn’t do anything, that they went like sheep to the ovens, but it’s not  true…”

Based on materials studied in this lesson, prepare a written argument to support the claim that Jews did resist the Nazi regime in a variety of ways. The argument should introduce the topic, establish the significance of the claim, and provide relevant and sufficient evidence from primary and secondary sources to support your argument.

Reflect & Respond

The questions below, used in class or as homework, prompt students to reflect on what they are learning and its meaning in their own lives and in society.

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These queries are excellent for journaling, allowing students to create their own primary source material. Keep in mind, the sensitive and emotional nature of the topics may preclude teacher evaluation. If journaling is used as an assessment tool, assure students that they will not be evaluated negatively for expressing opinions that may be different from others in class or from the teacher’s.

  • Reflect on the meaning of unarmed and armed resistance based on the testimonies you heard. Why is one form of resistance more appropriate than another in certain situations? Think of an example of a situation that might warrant each type of resistance.

  • Think about the role culture, traditions, and customs play in your life. Write about one or more traditions that are particularly important to you, explaining why they are important and how they have shaped—or continue to shape—your identity.

  • In the Krakow ghetto, the underground declared that they were fighting “for three lines in history.” Reflect on what you understand this statement to mean and how studying about resistance efforts during the Holocaust influence your understanding of the words and the sentiment they express.

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Making Connections

The additional activities and projects listed below can be integrated directly into the lessons in this unit or can be used to extend lessons once they have been completed. The topics lend themselves to students’ continued study of the Holocaust as well as opportunities for students to make meaningful connections to other people and events, including relevant contemporary issues. These activities may include instructional strategies and techniques and/or address academic standards in addition to those that were identified for the unit.

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1Visit IWitness (iwitness.usc.edu) for testimonies, resources, and activities to help students learn more about Jewish resistance in the ghettos and camps.
2Using a variety of print and digital sources, have students research other examples of underground movements or partisan resistance during World War II: Italian, Slovakian, Polish, French, Yugoslavian, and others, and prepare a written, oral, or multimedia presentation on their findings. Encourage students to identify how the partisan movement they researched was both different from and similar to the Jewish partisans’ movement.
3Using the information discussed in this unit, break students into small groups and have them construct their own underground newspaper from one of the camps or ghettos. Articles, announcements, and advertisements should reflect what they have learned about the culture and environment in the ghettos or camps.
4Have students read Excerpts from On Both Sides of the Wall. After reading the text, instruct students, either individually or as part of a small group, to prepare up to five questions they would ask Vladka Meed about her experiences as part of the underground if they could have interviewed her (Vladka Meed passed away on November 21, 2012, at the age of 90). Students should then research the answers to their questions using a variety of sources including Vladka Meed’s testimony (available on IWitness (iwitness.usc.edu), her Biographical Profile, and her autobiography. Their final piece of writing should be written in interview format, clearly indicating what questions were posed and how Vladka Meed might have responded.

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Excerpts from On Both Sides of the Wall View More »
5Throughout history, music has been used as a form of resistance and as a catalyst for societal change. During the Holocaust, music was secretly composed and performed in the ghettos as a way to uphold traditions, escape the harsh existence that Jews faced, and to document ghetto life. One such composition, created by Hirsh Glick, became the official song of the partisans. It was translated into several languages and was well known in both the ghettos and concentration camps. Show or distribute a copy of Never Say and have students identify specific words, phases, or lines that reveal Glick’s intended audience as well as the message/s he was attempting to convey in the song. Refer to Yad Vashem’s Heartstrings exhibition so students can hear the song. Ask students if the rhythm is what they had expected or if they had anticipated the song to sound different, and if so, in what way.

Extend this activity by having students research the role of music in resistance efforts, protest, and/or in raising awareness of social issues in the United States, and prepare a multimedia presentation to share their findings. Encourage students to visit History Now: The Music and History of Our Times at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History website for primary source materials and soundtracks that will support their research (gilderlehrman.org/history-now).

  STUDENT HANDOUT
Never Say View More »
6Have students gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources about resistance efforts by enslaved African Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries or interned Japanese Americans during World War II and prepare a multimedia presentation. Their research should include information about both active/armed resistance and cultural/spiritual resistance. Examples of primary source materials (e.g., a newspaper written in an internment camp, photographs, interviews) should be included in the presentation. Have presentations posted on the class website so students will be able to learn about resistance efforts by the group that they did not study and to see a variety of primary sources.
7Have students pretend they are a film critic for a local media outlet and their assignment is to review one of the following films: Uprising (2001), Escape from Sobibor (1987), or Defiance (2008). After watching the film, have students write a review of the film and recommend whether people should see it or not. The review should comment on such things as acting, cinematography, etc., but the focus of the review should be on whether the film is historically accurate based on what students have learned in this unit and through additional research on the topic addressed in the film.

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KEY WORDS
Aktion  
armed resistance
Aryan
Auschwitz-Birkenau  
cantor
collaborator
Communist
concentration camp
crematoria
cultural resistance
Einsatzgruppen  
extermination camp
ghetto
Holocaust
Kadoshim  
liquidated
Lodz Ghetto Chronicle
Majdanek  
Molotov Cocktail
Nazi
partisans
Passover
Purim
resistance
Sobibor  
Sonderkommando  
spiritual resistance
Treblinka  
tyranny
underground
Warsaw ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Yom Kippur
Zionist
Z.O.B.
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PHOTO
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RIGHT COL
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