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 Holocaust and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.

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  • Students will likely have a general understanding of what is meant by “the Holocaust,” but that understanding may come primarily from movies and a few assigned readings. Determine what students know about the Holocaust and how they have come to possess that knowledge.

  • It is best to learn about the Holocaust from a combination of diverse sources, both primary and secondary. The Holocaust is one of the most documented events in human history and students are encouraged to analyze and compare varied accounts and perspectives. Survivor testimonies are an extremely personal and important source of learning, as are the diary entries, photographs, and other personal documents of Jews and non-Jews who experienced the Holocaust. The perpetrators produced much of the evidence of the Holocaust, and official Nazi documents are available for examination. Likewise there are many Allied documents and accounts, and also post-war records from the trials of Nazi criminals. Together these sources will help students bring complex topics into sharper focus.

  • Many students will be unfamiliar with the medium of first-person, visual history testimony, and will react in different ways. This range of responses should be expected and welcomed. It may be necessary for students to view a particular testimony clip more than once in order to feel comfortable with the medium and to process the information presented by the interviewee. Throughout Echoes & Reflections lessons, students are asked to record their observations and reactions to testimonies using the graphic organizer, Testimony Reflections, in order to deepen their understanding of and connection to this content. For additional information, refer to Using Visual History Testimony in the Classroom.

  • Teachers are strongly discouraged from using simulations when teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides, and from asking students to assume the voice of someone who experienced the Holocaust (e.g., writing a diary entry from the perspective of a ghetto resident). There is a danger that students might be excited by the power of the perpetrators, demonstrate a morbid fascination for the suffering of the victims, or become traumatized by being required to occupy the mind space of someone who experienced or perpetrated atrocities. To build empathy, it may be more useful for students to take on the role of someone from a neutral country responding to events, for example a journalist writing an article or a concerned citizen reaching out to a politician. In addition to deepening understanding of historical events, such activities can highlight possible courses of action that students can take in response to issues that concern them in the world today.

  • The second lesson in this unit (“Prewar Jewish Life”) honors the memory of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust not by remembering how they died, but how they lived. It is important for students to understand that the Jews who lived in the 1920s and 1930s did not have the ominous shadow of the Holocaust hanging over them – they were just living their lives.

  • Teachers should note that Jewish communities in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s were diverse in their customs, practices, and experiences. The majority were more assimilated and less religious than the stereotypes that many students may hold of European Jews in this period. Many – especially the younger generation – were struggling with notions of traditional identity, which often conflicted with their desire to become part of the modern world. These are important and universal themes that can help middle and high school students connect to this history and the individuals that they will meet in this unit.

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This unit introduces students to the Holocaust by providing a vocabulary for studying the Holocaust and establishing a rationale for the importance of learning about instances of mass atrocity and genocide. Students explore the value of examining different types of source material when studying the Holocaust, with a special emphasis on visual history testimony. Before delving into the Nazi era in subsequent units, students spend time exploring prewar Jewish life in order to appreciate the rich diversity of the Jewish world. Students consider who the Jews of Europe were before persecution by the Nazis, and the commonalities they share with young people from different times and places.

Essential Questions:
  • Why do we study the Holocaust and instances of mass atrocity and genocide?
  • What sources of information can provide a balanced and accurate understanding of the Holocaust?
  • Who were the Jews of Europe before they were persecuted, and why is it important to understand their lives prior to the devastation of the Holocaust?
  • What were the major trends taking place in Jewish communities before World War II?
  • How did antisemitism impact prewar Jewish life?
Students will:
  • Identify prior knowledge about the Holocaust and the sources of their knowledge.

  • Define Holocaust and genocide, and compare several definitions of the Holocaust.

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary source material and explain why each is important when studying historical events.

  • Investigate the diversity of prewar Jewish society through the voices of teenagers of that era.

  • Describe trends and challenges in the prewar Jewish world.

  • Reflect on visual history testimony from Jewish survivors and others who witnessed the Holocaust.

  • Explain why it is important to study the Holocaust and instances of mass atrocity and genocide.

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

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Testimony Reflections View More »


90 minutes

LESSON 1: Building a Foundation for Studying the Holocaust


In this lesson, students identify what they know and want to learn about the Holocaust, and distinguish between primary and secondary sources of information. They compare different definitions of the Holocaust and begin to develop a vocabulary for discussing this subject matter. Students are introduced to visual history testimony as an important source of learning about the Holocaust, and view testimonies that develop their understanding of why this is a critical topic of study.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Students learn that they will embark upon a study of the Holocaust. They are introduced to the Testimony Reflections handout, found at the beginning of this unit, and learn that visual history testimonies of people who survived and bore witness to the Holocaust will be a core aspect of their investigation.  pin1

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2Students watch testimony clips from individuals – a Jewish survivor and a liberator – who share their personal reasons for giving testimony and educating about the Holocaust: [L]Roman Kent[/L] and [L]Leon Bass[/L] . As they watch the clips, students take notes on the handout, Testimony Reflections, found in “About this Unit” above, beside “Introduction.”

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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: pin1
  • What emotions did Roman Kent and Leon Bass exhibit as they described their reasons for speaking out about the Holocaust and against bigotry? What feelings did they stir in you?

  • What motivations do you think these two men share? What might a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland and a Black man from Philadelphia have in common?

  • How do you think Leon’s experience of racism at home (including serving in a segregated military) shaped the way he viewed antisemitism abroad?

  • What examples of what Leon calls “the evil” do you see in your community or the wider world today? Based on Leon’s and Roman’s comments and your own experiences, what are the keys to fighting this “evil”?

  • What examples can you provide to demonstrate Roman’s claim that even in the midst of atrocities there is goodness? How did it make you feel when he said, “You have the right to be good, you should be good”?

  • Based on these testimonies and your own prior knowledge, why do you think the Holocaust is an important topic for us to study?

4The following prompt is posted on the board: “Roman Kent described the Holocaust as ‘the atrocities which happened…because…the world stood by and did nothing.’ What do you actually know about the Holocaust?” In small groups, students discuss and record (on large chart paper) what they know about the Holocaust, their sources of information, and what they want to learn during their study of the Holocaust. When they are done, groups post their charts and take a brief “gallery walk” in order to see what their classmates have noted. The class discusses any key observations or items that require immediate clarification.  pin1

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5The class discusses the following questions: “How would you categorize the sources listed on the charts? What are the different types of sources?” The distinction between primary and secondary sources is highlighted, using the following definitions as needed:
  • Primary sources are accounts of an event or a period in time by people who experienced them firsthand. Examples include diaries, letters, interviews, speeches, photos, and audio and video recordings
  • Secondary sources interpret primary sources. They are at least one step removed from the actual event or period and provide a secondhand account. Examples include books, articles, documentaries, and many of the handouts and textbook accounts used in schools.
6Students return to the charts created in step 4 and label the sources they listed as ‘P’ (primary) or ‘S’ (secondary). They note any additional sources they might use in their study of the Holocaust. The class discusses why using primary sources – particularly visual history testimony – to learn about the Holocaust is valuable, and what they can learn from this type of source material that they cannot from a textbook or other secondary source.
Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
7In pairs or small groups, students review and discuss the handout, Holocaust Definitions, which includes overviews from three different organizations. They take notes and answer the questions on the handout, Holocaust Definitions: Sorting It Out. As a class, students discuss their observations and responses in order to discover common threads among the definitions and better understand the language used to define the Holocaust. pin1
    OPTION: Students form small groups and each group reviews one definition of the Holocaust. Groups report back on their findings and students discuss similarities and differences as a class.

    Holocaust Definitions View More »

    Holocaust Definitions: Sorting It Out View More »

    What was the Holocaust?
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    Genocide View More »
    8The handout, Genocide, is projected and students read this definition together. The following questions are discussed:
    • How does the definition of genocide correspond with the Holocaust definitions you read?

    • What other examples of genocide are you aware of? (Student examples are listed on the board.)

    • How are all of these examples connected? What common themes lie at the core of them all?

    • Why do you think it’s important for us to learn about the Holocaust and other examples of genocide?

    9As a summative task, students identify three reasons why the Holocaust is an important historical topic or time period to study, and write them on individual index cards. They are encouraged to think specifically about the persecution of Jewish people and also make connections to other examples of injustice. Students’ cards can be collected to check for understanding of lesson concepts.
    10As a follow-up to this lesson, students work in small groups to sort and synthesize the reasons they identified in the summative task until they come up with a manageable list. Their reasons are written on a class chart, which is posted prominently and serves as a rationale for the class’ study of the Holocaust.


    120 minutes

    LESSON 2: Prewar Jewish Life


    In this lesson, students investigate who the Jews were before they were persecuted in the Holocaust. The centerpiece of the lesson is the profiles of six teenagers from different countries and walks of life, expressed in their own words through diary entries and other primary and secondary source material. This glimpse into their worlds allows students to see them as individuals, creating empathy and deepening understanding of the diversity of prewar Jewish life. Supplemental videos and texts provide additional information.

    Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
    1To begin the lesson, students think about one photo of themselves, or one physical “artifact” they have – a trophy, a locket, a drawing – that best represents them. They complete a journal entry or free-write in response to the following prompts, making sure to incorporate a discussion of the photo or artifact:
    • How do I define and express my identity?

    • How does my identity influence my life?

    • How do I feel when people challenge my concept of myself?

    • Have I ever experienced judgements or assumptions about my identity from others?

    OPTION: Prior to this lesson, students are assigned to bring in a photo or artifact representing their identity. The physical object can be used to inspire the free-write and can be shared with classmates.

    2Students watch the Yad Vashem video, Glimpses of Jewish Life Before the Holocaust. As they watch the clip, students reflect on what they imagined prewar Jewish life was like. After viewing the clip, students participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
    • What did you see that caught your eye?

    • What surprised you?

    • Based on this brief video, how was prewar Jewish life different from what you imagined it to be?

    3In small groups, students are assigned to read and discuss one profile of a teenager who lived before the Holocaust. Groups are provided with copies of their assigned profile from the handout, Profiles of Teenagers in Prewar Europe, or given access online. The map, Jewish Communities in Europe Before the Nazis Rise to Power, is either distributed or projected.
      NOTE: The handout, About Jews and Judaism, is included as an optional reading to provide students with context on their teenager’s life and to deepen their understanding of the history of the Jewish people.

      Profiles of Teenagers in Prewar Europe View More »
      MAP: Jewish Communities Before the Nazis Rise to Power
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      About Jews and Judaism View More »
      Reflections on Teenagers in Prewar Europe View More »
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      4Groups receive copies of the graphic organizer, Reflections on Teenagers in Prewar Europe. Together they add notes and reflections to the handout as they review the profile and map. When they have completed their notetaking, groups choose one sentence from the profile that was particularly meaningful to them and record it on the handout.  pin1
      5When students have completed their analysis, they form new groups that contain a mix of students who have focused on different profiles. On the map of prewar Jewish communities, students indicate where their subject lived with a pin or a sticker. They then share highlights from their notes and other significant thoughts and ideas. In their groups or as a whole class, students discuss some of the following questions:
      • Why do people adhere to their traditions?

      • What are your thoughts about identity and how people maintain identity?

      • Have people ever assumed something about you because of how you look or how you express your identity?

      • Did you assume that all Jews were basically the same? Have you changed your opinion? Explain.

      6Students return to their original groups. Groups receive copies or online access to the handout, Epilogues. They read the epilogue for the teenager whose profile they reviewed earlier, and learn their fate.  pin1

      Epilogues View More »
      7Students process and share their feelings about the fate of the teenagers in the profiles by discussing some of the following questions:

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      What was Jewish life like before the Holocaust?
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      • What connections did you feel to the teenager you learned about?
        How did you feel to learn their fate?

      • What comforting or consoling ideas can you take from learning about these young people?

      • Why do you think there are photographs of some, but not all, of the teenagers?

      • What are your thoughts now about Jewish stereotypes you may have heard in the past?

      • Why is it important to understand the lives of Jewish people – like these teenagers – before the tragedy of the Holocaust?

      Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
      8Individually or in pairs, students read the handout, A Picture of Jewish Life in Europe Before WWII, containing information about the diversity of Jewish life and trends that swept the prewar Jewish world. Students annotate the handout with their thoughts and questions.

      A Picture of Jewish Life in Europe Before WWII View More »
      9As a class, students report back on their findings regarding prewar Jewish life in Europe. They discuss some of the following questions, citing evidence from the text to support their responses:
      • What were the significant changes going on in Europe in the prewar period? How did they affect the Jews?

      • What was the connection between the economic situation for Jews and the trend toward assimilation?

      • What were the connections among nationalism, antisemitism, and Zionism?

      • What were the major challenges Jews faced in the prewar period?

      10As a class or in their small groups from Part I, students watch testimony clips of at least three Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, who discuss their prewar life in Europe: [L]Penina Bowman[/L], [L]Bernard Broclawski[/L], [L]Ivan Deutsch[/L], [L]Regina Eisenstein[/L], [L]Vera Gissing[/L], and [L]Pinchas Gutter[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the handout, Testimony Reflections, found at the beginning of this unit.  pin1

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      OPTION: As time allows, students view all of the above testimonies in small groups or as a whole class in order to deepen their understanding of prewar Jewish life.

      11After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
      • How do the text on prewar Jewish life and the testimonies together help you understand the experiences of the teenagers and survivors you learned about?

      • Both the testimonies and the profiles are primary sources (or based on primary sources). How are the post-war testimonies of adults who survived the Holocaust different than the accounts written by teenagers in real-time, who had no idea that the Holocaust was approaching?

      • What were some of the challenges faced by Jews in prewar Europe? What examples did you hear of the tension between time- honored traditions and modern life?

      • Which of these challenges do you relate to even though they happened to teenagers on a different continent a century ago?
        Which would you say are universal?

      12As a summative task, students write a brief response to the quotation below using the following prompt to guide their work:

      It has been said that “To understand the tragedy of the Holocaust, we must first understand what we lost.” Consider what you have learned about the experiences of Jews in the period before World War II and write a paragraph responding to this quote. Support your response with at least three specific facts from the profiles, testimonies, or handouts that serve as evidence for your ideas.


      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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      1The life story of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter provides many insights into what Jewish life was like in Poland prior to the Nazi invasion on September 1, 1939. Using the Dimensions in Testimony interactive technology, students can learn more about Pinchas and Jewish life in Lodz by conducting their own interview with Pinchas in the Echoes & Reflections-created IWitness activity, Prewar Jewish Life: The Story of Pinchas Gutter.
      2Leon Bass served in a segregated military unit in World War II. He and thousands of other Black Americans faced racism and discrimination at home even as they fought for freedom in Europe. The Langston Hughes poem, “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943,” explores this contradiction by setting Nazi persecution abroad against race riots that took place in Beaumont, Texas and Detroit, Michigan in 1943. Read the poem and write an essay in which you explore some of the following questions:
        • What comparisons does Langston Hughes make between Nazism and Jim Crow racism? What is he trying to say by associating the two, even though there are many significant differences between them?
        • How do you think it felt for Black servicemen and their families to sacrifice for their countries during World War II when Jim Crow racism was widespread in the U.S.? 
        • What do you think it was like for Black servicemen to return to the U.S. after helping to liberate Europe? How might their perspectives and their expectations have changed?
        • How do you view the struggles of people like Leon Bass and Roman Kent in light of current challenges related to race in the U.S. and the Black Lives Matter movement? How are they all connected?
        3This unit uses diaries and autobiographies to explore the worlds of Jewish teenagers and their fates. Another way to investigate the prewar world is through the use of artifacts. Refer to Yad Vashem’s online exhibition “Don’t Forget Me: Children’s Albums from the Holocaust” for some of these artifacts. In particular, Lydia Hönig’s autograph book gives a glimpse into the prewar life of this girl who lived in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. After studying Lydia’s autograph book, answer these questions: What does Lydia’s autograph book tell you about her? What do her photos tell you about the type of life she lived before WWII? 
        4The start of WWII marked the end of an era for Jews, and the almost complete destruction of the Jewish way of life in small towns or shtetls, such as the one in which Esther lived. Research shtetl life and write a reflection in which you discuss why it is important to study these communities that no longer exist, and what they tell us about the people who lived in them and their way of life.
        5This lesson references languages spoken by the Jews before the Holocaust, including Yiddish, Esperanto, Hebrew, and the local languages of the countries Jews lived in. Research the role of Yiddish, Esperanto, or Hebrew in Jewish prewar culture. Prepare a short dictionary that includes a brief history of the language, how the language is still used today, and some key phrases that you can teach to your classmates.
        6The biography of Victor “Young” Perez introduces us to the notion of Jewish sports organizations. Research the Maccabi World Union and the Maccabiah to understand the role that these sports clubs played in the lives of Jews in different places. In addition, refer to Yad Vashem’s exhibition, Jews and Sport before the Holocaust: A Visual Retrospective. Choose one athlete or one sport that interests you. Prepare and share an oral or multimedia report on your findings.
        7The autobiography of Jakub introduces us to the concept of youth movements. Research the rise of youth movements in 19th century Europe, and the different Jewish youth movements that sprang up. Refer to Yad Vashem’s description of some of these movements, as well as its exhibits on youth movements in the cities of Vilna and Mir. Prepare and share an oral or multimedia report on the role youth movements played in the lives of Jews in various cities in Europe.
        8YIVO’s Beba Epstein: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Girl explores East European Jewish life in the 20th and 21st centuries through the true story of Beba as a teenage girl. It is an excellent educational resource to learn about the Jewish experience in Eastern Europe pre-World War 2, the Holocaust and post war America:
        KEY WORDS
        Bat Mitzvah  
        British Mandatory Palestine
        concentration camp
        European Jewry
        Jehovah's Witness
        Nazi racial ideology
        Protocols of the Elders of Zion
        United Nations
        visual history testimony
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        RIGHT COL