Resource Overview

Pedagogy for Instruction

Lesson Plans

I. Studying the Holocaust

II. Antisemitism

III. Nazi Germany

IV. The Ghettos

V. The “Final Solution”

VI. Liberation

VII. Jewish Resistance

VIII. Rescue and Righteous Among the Nations

IX. Complicity and Responsibility

X. Justice, Life, and Memory After the Holocaust

XI. Gringlas Unit on Contemporary Antisemitism

XII. Teaching About Genocide

Digital Student Activities

Podcast for Students

Timeline of the Holocaust

Audio Glossary

Upper Elementary Guidelines

Schindler's List

Classroom Poster Series

We Share The Same Sky Companion Resource


Our Lesson Plans provide a unique experience for educators to teach about the Holocaust effectively and interactively. The modular design of the lessons found within each unit allow for adaption and customization to specific grade levels and subject areas. The integration of rich content 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
If you are new to teaching about the Holocaust, we encourage you to participate in one of our online course offerings to support instruction ahead. As well, for teachers with limited instructional time seeking a starting point, we offer a sample One Day Lesson Plan, as well as a sample Day Two Lesson Plan for a 2nd class period of instruction.
For more information, questions or concerns please contact us.


December 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, which depicts the true story of Oskar Schindler—a man who saved the lives of more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. It was Spielberg’s experience making this film that inspired him to collect and preserve the testimonies of over 54,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses, a pursuit which ultimately led to the creation of what is now USC Shoah Foundation.

In honor of Universal Pictures’ rerelease of Schindler’s List, Echoes & Reflections has created a short, classroom-ready Companion Resource, that will help educators to provide important historical background and context to the film, as well as explore powerful true stories of rescue, survival, and resilience with their students.

Additionally, the following videos, recorded at Yad Vashem, feature Schindler survivors who speak of the impact Oskar Schindler had on their lives.

Eva Lavi was the youngest survivor from Schindler’s list. She was two years old when the war began.
Nahum Manor met and fell in love with his wife, Genia, in Schindler’s factory. Watch him read a letter at Schindler’s gravesite, expressing what he meant to them.

Visit the IWitness page commemorating the 25th anniversary of Schindler’s List for numerous additional resources to support teaching with this film.

Echoes & Reflections is excited to announce that our poster series: Inspiring the Human Story, is now available in PDF format, free of cost.

The posters feature the powerful words and experiences of Holocaust survivor and memoirist Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor Kurt Messerschmidt, and Anne Frank rescuer, Miep Gies. Each poster promotes meaningful conversation and reflection in the classroom, whether in person or in a virtual setting, and inspires students with powerful human stories of the Holocaust that can continue to guide agency and action as a result of studying this topic.

To support you in these efforts, we have also compiled several suggested classroom activities from teachers in our network that may be of use and interest.

Please fill out the form below to access and download your PDF posters.


USC Shoah Foundation’s first podcast, We Share The Same Sky, seeks to brings the past into present through a granddaughter’s decade-long journey to retrace her grandmother’s story of survival. We Share The Same Sky tells the two stories of these women—the grandmother, Hana, a refugee who remained one step ahead of the Nazis at every turn, and the granddaughter, Rachael, on a search to retrace her grandmother’s history.

A self-portrait of Rachael while she is living on a Danish farm that is owned by the granddaughter of Hana’s foster mother from World War II. Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2017

In order to enhance its classroom use, USC Shoah Foundation and Echoes & Reflections have created a Companion Educational Resource to support teachers as they introduce the podcast to their students. This document provides essential questions for students, as well as additional resources and content to help build context and framing for students’ understanding of the historical events addressed in the podcast.

Access to the podcast, as well as additional supporting materials—including IWitness student activities, academic standards alignment, and general strategies for teaching with podcasts—can all be found at the We Share The Same Sky page in IWitness.

Note: Due to the subject nature, the podcast is appropriate for older students, grades 10-12. As always, teachers should review the content fully in advance to determine its appropriateness for their student population.

After many years of research and digitizing the archive her grandmother left behind, Rachael set out to retrace her grandmother’s 17 years of statelessness. Her intention was to travel via the same modes of transportation and to live similar style lives as to what her grandmother did during the war and in the years after. That meant that when she got to Denmark, she moved to a farm. Rachael moved in with the granddaughter of her grandmother’s foster mother from World War II and traded her labor for room and board as Hana once did. This picture is from that first visit in the winter of 2015. Since this time, Rachael has spent many more months living on this farm. It is owned by Sine Christiansen and her family. Sine is the granddaughter of Jensine, one Hana’s foster mother from World War II. Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2015

A self portrait of Rachael overlooking the exact spot in Southern Sweden where her grandmother’s refugee boat came to shore in 1943. Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016



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 the ghettos and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.

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Students may be accustomed to thinking about the concept of a ghetto within the context of U.S. history and African American civil rights. Throughout this unit, help them to distinguish between this understanding of a ghetto and the different reality for Jewish people during the Holocaust. Both notions of ghettos reflect the idea of an unjust separation. In the U.S., ghetto was first used to designate slum areas occupied by poor and immigrant groups, and later – due to African American migration and “white flight” – to describe poor, urban, mostly black communities. Segregation in these communities was not mandated by law, but imposed by poverty and racist policy. Jewish people during World War II were forcibly imprisoned in more than 1,100 ghettos using brutal means of control. These ghettos, which grew from Nazi racial policy and served to isolate and weaken the Jewish populace, were sites of mass suffering and death.


The ghettos in central Poland were established at the outset of World War II, before the “Final Solution” was planned and extermination camps were built. Their principal purpose was to temporarily isolate Jews, pending the formulation of a more definitive solution to the so-called “Jewish problem.” Some Sinti-Roma people were also incarcerated in ghettos in Eastern Europe after they were deported from greater Germany. When the ghettos were formed, a detailed blueprint for carrying out mass murder did not yet exist; rather, death was a side effect of the starvation, disease, and overcrowding in the ghettos. For instance, more than 80,000 Jews died in the Warsaw ghetto alone. It was only in 1941, with the invasion of the Soviet Union, that the Nazis began murdering Jews in a systematic mass fashion, and a project for murdering all Jews began to coalesce.


Students often ask why more Jews did not escape from the ghettos. It is important for students to remember the extenuating circumstances that made it nearly impossible for the vast majority of Jews to flee.

  • While we know the ultimate fate of Jews during the Holocaust, Jews themselves did not know (especially during the early years of World War II) that later they would be shot, sent to extermination camps, or worked to death. Nazi policies of persecution were still evolving in the early years of the war and the Nazis continuously employed many different means to camouflage their actions.

  • The Nazis’ brutal methods of control and the severe conditions in the ghettos depleted Jews physically and emotionally.

  • The Holocaust created a world of “choiceless choices.” Every action had a consequence, which, in many cases, became a matter of life and death. For instance, while many Jews may have wished they could escape, they felt a strong responsibility to take care of family members living with them, especially young children and elderly parents. Escape would have meant abandoning these people.

  • The Germans also commonly imposed collective punishment on those who were left behind; prospective escapees understood that their actions could endanger the lives of others.

  • Even if there was a way to escape, frequently there was no place to go. Non-Jews living outside the ghetto walls were mostly unwilling to help. Some held antisemitic beliefs and others were reluctant since hiding Jews was cause for severe punishment, even death. In addition, Jews who attempted to emigrate from Nazi- dominated Europe faced tremendous obstacles, due to the global depression, strict barriers to immigration, and, far too often, antisemitic attitudes. Overall, most Jews in Europe were trapped at that time.

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This unit provides students with an opportunity to learn about the ghettos established throughout Nazi Europe and understand that the ghettos were one phase in the continuum of Nazi racial policies that sought to solve the so-called “Jewish problem.” Students investigate the conditions in ghettos and how those conditions severely limited Jewish life and led to immense suffering. Using primary source material, students discover that despite severe overcrowding, starvation, disease, and grief, Jews still did their utmost to conduct their lives and retain their human dignity.

Essential Questions
  • What were the goals of the Nazis in creating the ghettos?
  • How did the Nazis isolate and dehumanize the Jewish people in ghettos?
  • How did residents respond to the kinds of choices forced upon them in the ghettos?
  • How did the Jewish people seek to maintain their humanity in the face of the extreme dehumanization of ghetto life?
Students will:
  • Explain the aims of the Nazis in establishing ghettos.

  • Identify tactics used by the Nazis to control, isolate, and weaken Jewish people in the ghettos.

  • Describe what life was like for Jews imprisoned in ghettos.

  • Identify ways that Jews forced to live in ghettos sought to maintain their dignity and previous ways of life.

  • Interpret primary source documents—including clips of visual history testimony—that represent the experiences and responses of those forced to live in ghettos, with particular emphasis on the Lodz ghetto.


Academic and SEL Standards View More »
School Library Standards View More »

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Testimony Reflections View More »


90-120 minutes

LESSON 1: Establishment of the Ghettos and the Jewish Response


In this lesson, students are introduced to the concept of a ghetto and distinguish between historical and contemporary conceptions of ghettos. Through informational texts, photos, visual history testimonies, and other primary source material, students explore the aims of the Nazis in establishing ghettos during the Holocaust, what daily life was like in the ghettos, and how Jewish people responded to the brutal and dehumanizing conditions that they faced.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1In groups of three, students engage in a “write-around” in response to the phrase, “A ghetto is…” On a sticky note, each student finishes the phrase and passes the note to another group member. Students add to their peers’ notes and continue passing until they get their own note back. The class then discusses the different notions of a ghetto and what this term means within the context of their study of the Holocaust.pin1

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2Students watch testimony clips from individuals who discuss how their lives drastically changed after being imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland: [L]Joseph Morton[/L], [L]Leo Berkenwald[/L], and [L]Ellis Lewin[/L]. As they watch the clips, students reflect on ways in which ghettos during the Holocaust differ from their contemporary understanding of the term. In addition, students take notes on the handout, Testimony Reflections, found at the beginning of this unit. pin1

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Information Quest: Ellis Lewin
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3After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
  • What images or feelings emerged for you in response to Ellis Lewin’s comment, “It was the beginning of the end of survival”?

  • How did life in Lodz change for Joseph Morton, Leo Berkenwald, and Ellis Lewin after being confined to the ghetto? What fears and uncertainties did they and others forced into the ghetto face?

  • What stood out for you about the living conditions in the ghetto? How do you think hunger, confinement, overcrowding, and other features of ghetto life impacted the residents?

  • Ellis says, “The instant change and brutality was like the door shutting on you.” How were the residents of ghettos “shut out,” on both physical and emotional levels?

4The photograph, Jews Crossing the Bridge in the Lodz Ghetto, is projected (without the caption). A volunteer recounts Joseph Morton’s description of the bridge in his testimony. In pairs or small groups, students use the See-Think-Wonder handout to record their ideas about the photo. Students share their observations with the class and discuss what they think the Jewish people crossing the bridge were thinking and feeling as they looked down upon the scene below. Students’ “WONDER” questions are posted on a sheet of chart paper and revisited throughout the unit as students learn more about the experiences of Jewish people in the ghettos.


See-Think-Wonder View More »
Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
5The handout, The Ghettos, is distributed and the map, Ghettos in Europe, is either distributed or projected. Students form small groups and each group is assigned one of the following categories: (a) The Nazis’ purpose in establishing ghettos; (b) Daily life and conditions in the ghettos; and (c) The Jewish response – how residents coped with ghetto life. Students read the handout and study the map. They annotate and take notes according to their assigned category.

The Ghettos View More »

6When students have completed their analysis of the handouts, they form new groups that contain a mix of students who have focused on different categories. In their new groups, students share highlights from their notes and other significant thoughts and ideas. In their groups and/or as a whole class, students discuss some of the following questions:
  • The Germans were specific in where they located ghettos – in Eastern Europe, in cities, and near railroad junctions. What do you think was the purpose in concentrating them together in central locations, especially those near railway transports?

  • In his 1939 order, Reinhard Heydrich wrote, “For the time being, the first step toward the final goal is the concentration of the Jews….” What do you think he meant by “for the time being” and “the final goal”?

  • What were some of the dilemmas that Jews faced on a daily basis in the ghettos?

  • What were some ways that Jews attempted to keep their dignity and sanity in the ghettos?

  • Why did the Germans establish a Jewish Council, or Judenrat, in each ghetto? How might this have given the Jewish residents a false sense of security?

  • What does it mean that the “ghettos were a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves”?

7The handout, Diary Entry from the Lodz Ghetto, is projected and students read it independently. The excerpt was written by Josef Zelkowicz, a journalist who documented ghetto life and who perished in Auschwitz in 1944. In triads, students contemplate the question posed by Zelkowicz: “Do you have any children at all in the ghetto?” Each group member chooses a quote from the diary entry that they find meaningful and that speaks to Zelkowicz’s question. They take turns sharing their quote and interpreting Zelkowicz’s question. As a class, students discuss the following: pin1

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Diary Entry from the Lodz Ghetto View More »
  • How would you contrast what childhood is supposed to be with the reality for children in the ghetto? How does the vast difference between the two make you feel?

  • What word or phrase in the diary entry most captured for you the misery of ghetto life for children? What images did it bring to your mind?

  • How do you think ghetto existence changed children? What did it do to their families?

8As a summative task, students respond to the Lodz Ghetto photo by Mendel Grossman, depicting the harsh reality of ghetto life for children. The NOTE is used to provide background on Grossman and the image. Students use the following prompt to guide their work:
Josef Zelkowicz wrote that the soup pot was a “symbol of the ghetto.” Study the photo carefully. Think about how difficult life was for children in the ghetto and what the boy in this photo might have been thinking or feeling. Then list at least three ways in which the soup pot and/or other imagery in the photo symbolize life in the ghetto. Refer to information from lesson sources as evidence for your ideas. pin1

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  Lodz Ghetto


120-150 minutes

LESSON 2: Role of the Ghettos - The Lodz Ghetto as a Case Study


In this lesson students investigate the ways in which the Nazis used ghettos to control, isolate, and weaken the Jewish population. They also consider how Jews responded to this oppression and sought to maintain their humanity in the face of severe brutality. Students focus on the Lodz Ghetto in Poland as a case study. They analyze an informational text as well as primary source documents – including diary entries, poems, and testimonies – from Lodz residents.

Note: This lesson uses the Lodz ghetto as a way to tell a larger story. While each ghetto was unique, this lesson uses Lodz as a prism to try and understand why the Nazis confined Jewish people in such an inhumane manner, what methods were used to control them, and how Jewish people responded to the brutality. What happened in Lodz and the decisions made by people who established the ghetto sheds light on larger decisions that were being made elsewhere, even though the Lodz ghetto had its own uniqueness and special historical circumstances.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Based on their understanding from the first lesson, students write one word on a sticky note that they think best reflects the objectives of the Nazis in establishing ghettos. They post their notes on the board. The class works together to organize the notes by theme into a concept map and to discuss the significance of each theme. For example, see below (For remote instruction, consider using Jamboard, or similar free applications, as shown here).
    2Students learn that they will focus on one ghetto in this lesson as a case study – the Lodz ghetto in Poland – and that they will apply three themes as they investigate: control, isolate, and weaken. These terms, reflecting core Nazi objectives, are clarified as needed. Students collaborate to create symbols that represent each, which will be used throughout the lesson as they examine sources.
    OPTION: Students choose three terms from among those they generated in the concept map exercise to use throughout the lesson; the terms track closely with the core themes of control, isolate, and weaken.
    3Students watch testimony clips from individuals who discuss how conditions in the Lodz Ghetto grew dire after confinement there: [L]Milton Belfer[/L] and [L]George Shainfarber[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the handout, Testimony Reflections, found at the beginning of this unit. They reflect on the themes of control, isolate, and weaken, and use the symbols they created to annotate their observations.
    4After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
    • How did the Nazis control, isolate, and weaken the Jewish population in the ghettos?

    • According to Milton Belfer, what means did the German soldiers use to confine and instill fear in the Jewish population of the ghetto?

    • What role did food – especially bread – play in George Shainfarber’s experience in the ghetto? How were families affected by competition over food?

    • How do you think Milton and George felt sharing these memories? How did you feel listening to them?

    5Individually or in pairs, students read The Lodz Ghetto handout. They use different colored highlighters to underscore the lesson themes (control, isolate, weaken) and add the symbols they created where relevant. They annotate the handout with their thoughts and questions about ghetto life.

    The Lodz Ghetto View More »
    6As a class, students report back on their findings regarding ways in which the Nazis controlled, isolated, and weakened the Jews of the Lodz ghetto. They discuss some of the following questions, citing evidence from the text to support their responses:

    What was life like in the Łódź Ghetto?
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    • Why were the city inhabitants especially hostile to Jews in the Lodz ghetto? What challenges did this present?

    • How did the Nazis set up the Judenrat to intentionally create tension? What were the effects?

    • Why did Chaim Rumkowski encourage ghetto residents (including children) to work in factories? Do you think his “salvation through labor” approach was understandable based upon what was known at the time? Why?

    • The text says, “The struggle for survival was a daily, uphill battle.” What examples of this struggle most struck you?

    • How did the Jews of the Lodz ghetto preserve their previous ways of life and “create meaning in the hopeless ghetto reality”? What does this say about their spirit and outlook?

    Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
    7Students watch testimony clips from individuals who reflect on scarcity and being forced to work as children in the Lodz Ghetto: [L]George Shainfarber[/L] and [L]Eva Safferman[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the handout, Testimony Reflections, found at the beginning of this unit. They reflect on the themes of control, isolate, and weaken, and use the symbols they created to annotate their observations.
    8After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
    • What additional examples did you notice about how the Nazis controlled, isolated, and weakened the Jewish population in the ghettos?

    • Why did George Shainfarber and Eva Safferman – at ages 12 and 11 – have to give up school for work? How do you think this affected them physically and emotionally?

    • What role did scarcity play in George’s life and the lives of others in the ghetto? How did George’s mother and other families try to cope with the conditions in the ghetto?

    • Eva describes her narrow escape from a Nazi soldier. What do you think was the emotional toll of living in constant fear of being taken away? How does Eva’s story relate to Ellis Lewin’s comments about being constantly kept inside and Joseph Morton’s reflection on always living in fear?

    9The handout, Excerpts from the Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, is distributed and the class reads the introduction together. Individually or in pairs, students read and annotate the excerpts, highlighting ideas related to the themes of control, isolate, and weaken and adding symbols where relevant. In addition, students reflect on other themes explored throughout the unit, including education, hunger, despair, and hope. In small groups, students share their reactions to the diary excerpts and participate in “The Last Word” exercise as follows: pin1
    • Each group member independently selects one sentence or brief passage from the diary entries that they found particularly meaningful
    • The first group member reads their sentence aloud and the other members alternately describe why they think their peer chose that particular piece. The reader goes last, explaining their choice (they have the LAST WORD)
    • The process repeats until all group members have had a chance to share their sentences.

    Excerpts from the Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak View More »
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    10As a class, students discuss some of the following questions about Dawid Sierakowiak’s diary entries and support their responses using specific references to the text.
    • What did going to school mean to Dawid? What role did education play in the lives of children in the ghetto?

    • What is your reaction to Dawid’s observation, “Humiliation inflicted by force does not humiliate”?

    • Dawid wrote, “long live humor.” How did he exhibit humor in his diary? How do you think it is possible for people to keep a sense of humor during unthinkably difficult times?

    • What are things that many young people take for granted, but young people in the ghetto learned to cherish?

    • What adult roles did children in the ghetto have to take on? How do you think this affected families?

    • Dawid expressed both hope and despair in his diary. What specific events caused him to feel one way or the other? Did you notice any patterns in his outlook as time progressed from 1939 to 1943?

    • Do you think keeping a diary was an act of resistance for young people in the ghettos? Do you think Dawid would have viewed his diary in this way? Explain your thinking.

    11As a summative task, students respond to one of the following poems: Poem by an Unknown Girl or Poem by Avraham Koplowicz. The poems and background information are read together as a class, and students identify the differences in tone and outlook between the poems (e.g., past vs. future orientation, limited vs. limitless view of time, literal vs.figurative language, despairing vs. hopeful feeling). Students write about one poem using the following prompt to guide their work:
    Choose one poem. Write at least a paragraph in which you describe the poet’s outlook and why you think she or he may have wanted to express these particular feelings. Consider what you have learned about the experiences of Jews in the ghettos. Support your response with specific words or phrases from the poem and at least two facts from lesson sources that serve as evidence for your ideas. pin1

    Poem by an Unknown Girl View More »
    Poem by Avraham Koplowicz View More »
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    Making Connections

    The ideas below are offered as ways to extend the lessons in this unit and make connections to related historical events, current issues, and students’ own experiences. These topics can be integrated directly into Echoes & Reflections lessons, used as stand-alone teaching ideas, or investigated by students engaged in project-based learning.

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    1Visit IWitness ( for testimonies, resources, and activities to help students learn more about life in the ghettos.
    2The establishment of ghettos marked the end of freedom of movement for Jews. Write about what freedom means to you in your life and what you think it would mean to lose it.
    3In challenging times, the importance of remaining hopeful and the belief that one’s situation will improve is crucial. However, this outlook is difficult to maintain over time. Write a reflection in response to the following questions: Do you believe there is a certain point when people begin to lose hope? If so, what do you think that point is? Do you think it is the same for everyone? Has the loss of hope ever happened to you? Have you witnessed it in others? How does a person restore hope?
    4Use the Echoes & Reflections Timeline of the Holocaust to align events happening in Europe and other parts of the world with Dawid Sierakowiak’s diary entries. Create an overlapping timeline that presents key events in the format of your choice. You can refer to The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak (Oxford University Press, 1996) for additional diary entries.
    5Artifacts from the ghettos help us to better understand what life was like for the people who lived there. Study the image of the Monopoly Game from the Theresienstadt Ghetto in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Identify another artifact through online research. Write a brief essay in which you answer the following questions:
    • Who created the artifacts? What was their purpose?
    • What role did the artifacts play in the lives of ghetto residents?
    • What insights do these artifacts give about life for Jewish people in the ghettos?
    • How was the experience of studying an artifact different from studying a text or other source material?

    Monopoly Game View More »
    6Research the role that music played in the lives of Jews forced to live in one of the following ghettos: Kovno, Vilna, or Lodz. Refer to Yad Vashem’s Heartstrings exhibition as well as other sources. Prepare and share an oral or multimedia report on your findings.
    7The book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly (Schocken Books, 1993) is a collection of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in Theresienstadt, a ghetto and transit camp in Czechoslovakia. Read Pavel Friedman’s “The Butterfly,” and study the painting by Liz Elsby that is paired with this poem (or analyze a poem and piece of art of your choosing). Write an essay in which you explore the following questions:
    • What is the tone or mood of the poem? How do specific words or phrases convey this tone?
    • How does the artwork relate to the poem? What techniques does the artist use to express a feeling?
    • What insights do the poem and art give you about life for children in the ghetto?
    • Why do you think the collection is titled “I never saw another butterfly”? What is the significance of this phrase?

    The Butterfly View More »
    concentration camp
    extermination camp
    "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"
    Lodz ghetto  
    Warsaw ghetto