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 legacy of the Holocaust, the pursuit of justice, and how memory and memorialization impact our understanding of history.

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  • Following the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, the leaders of the Allies met at what became known as the Potsdam Conference to discuss postwar peace in Europe from July 17 to August 2, 1945. Part of the agreement reached between the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union was to conduct postwar trials for Nazi aggression and war crimes. This laid the foundation for the International Military Tribunal, also known as the Nuremberg Trials. Legal precedent, new laws, the codification of the crime of genocide, and hundreds of trials followed, some of which are still occurring today.

  • This unit seeks to ask difficult questions about the concepts of justice, the impact of trauma, memory, and memorialization. Students should come into this unit with considerable knowledge of the history of the Holocaust and be willing and encouraged to explore these abstract concepts. Challenge students to delve into these important topics and cultivate their curiosity and critical thinking skills.

  • The Holocaust and the lessons that were learned and not learned from it have impacted nearly every aspect of life. Psychological and sociological studies were inspired by the actions of human perpetrators during the Holocaust and those studies into human behavior continue today. Motivate students to ponder the actions of individuals, their role in the Holocaust, what it teaches us about human behavior, and inspire them to make connections to understanding how people act in today’s society.

  • Actions of memory and memorialization affect how we understand history, its place in our current world, and the impact it can have on our future. Help students recognize that memory and memorialization of the Holocaust also teaches us about the society in which memorials are created and in the communities in which this memory exists.

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The purpose of this unit is for students to explore the concepts of justice, trauma, memory, memorialization, and human behavior. With a firm understanding of the events of the Holocaust, students are now tasked to understand the lasting effects the Holocaust has had on our understanding of human actions and how the way we remember the Holocaust impacts how we comprehend its meaning. This unit challenges students to find value in the study of the Holocaust and empower them to contribute to its memory today and in the future.

Essential Questions
  • What is justice? Is punishment necessary to achieve justice? How does the pursuit of justice build or rebuild important values in society?
  • Is there a difference between justice and accountability? Is it possible to achieve justice when much of society has been damaged, particularly when crimes against humanity are committed?
  • How did the trauma of the Holocaust impact the lives of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, the whole Jewish community, and the world?
  • How did the Holocaust shape our understanding of humanity, including its influence on many academic subjects such as psychology, sociology, authority, medical ethics, and others?
  • How have the creation of memorials and museums impacted our understanding of the Holocaust and what can these sites of memory teach us about the communities in which they were created?
  • Investigate the concept of justice through the lens of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the effects of subsequent trials in the codification of crimes against humanity and genocide

  • Analyze the response to justice by Nazi perpetrators through the transcript and memoir of Nazi perpetrator Rudolf Hoess

  • Acknowledge the effect that trials had on motivating survivors to share their experiences of the Holocaust

  • Examine the effect of trauma through the artistic expressions of survivors in artwork and poetry

  • Interpret visual history testimony and other primary sources to foster empathy and gain understanding of these victims of trauma

  • Recognize the tremendous impact of the Holocaust on all facets of human life, from academic studies in psychology and sociology to culture and our understanding of human nature

  • Encounter various ways in which the Holocaust is remembered and how that memory shapes how we understand this catastrophic event

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

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Testimony Reflections View More »


90-120 minutes

LESSON 1: War Crimes Trials


In this lesson, students investigate the concept of justice through multiple perspectives. They examine justice through a legal lens in the postwar criminal trials of Nazi perpetrators such as Rudolf Hoess and whether the legal system can adequately provide justice to the victims of the Holocaust. Through primary sources and video testimony, students recognize the complexity and work that is required for legal mechanisms to function and perhaps achieve justice. Lastly, students ponder the effects of the postwar trials on the victims and in larger society.

1A study of the Holocaust brings more questions than answers. Students participate in a brainstorm to explore the introspective and transformative questions the Holocaust asks, using one or more of these questions: pin1
    1. How was it possible to go forward after the Holocaust?
    2. How did individuals cope with the past while seeking new beginnings in light of the Holocaust?
    3. How did nations and society at large come to terms with their respective roles in the Holocaust?

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    2Students create a concept map with their ideas of justice on chart paper. Their work is posted on the classroom wall for the entirety of this unit. Students consider these leading questions to inspire critical thinking:
      1. What is justice, including who is justice for: the dead, the survivors, society?
      2. What is required to achieve justice, including punishment?
      3. Can justice ever be meted out for the crimes of the Holocaust?
      4. Is there a statute of limitations for when justice can be served? Should trials of perpetrators of the Holocaust be continuing today?
      3Students review the War Crimes Trials handout and answer the questions that follow. [Optional: This can be assigned for homework beforehand or students read and discuss the questions in small groups.]

      War Crimes Trials View More »
      4Students watch the testimony of [L]Edith Coliver[/L] and discuss the following questions:
        1. Her father directed Edith to “Go to do justice, be just.” What does this mean? Why is it necessary for those seeking justice to do so in a just manner?
        2. How does Edith’s small contributions to the Nuremberg Trials as an interpreter impart justice on the Nazi perpetrators? What do her contributions teach you about justice?
        3. Do you think justice was achieved by the deaths of Hitler, Goebbels, and other Nazis who committed suicide rather than face trials?

        Testimony Reflections View More »
        5The Rudolf Hoess handout is distributed and students read it together as a whole group. Students discuss some or all of the following questions, citing textual evidence to support their answers:  pin1

        Rudolf Hoess View More »

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        • In the handout there are two different sources. What are they? How are the two sources different? Might those differences influence what Hoess says in each? If so, how?

        • What was Hoess’s role in the “Final Solution”?

        • How did Hoess describe the process of gassing at Auschwitz? Based on his choice of words, how would you characterize his tone as he described this process? What does this suggest about his attitude toward his crimes?

        • What was Hoess’s explanation for why he went through with the murders, despite admitting to feeling sympathy for the victims?

        • Does Hoess express any moral reservations about the murder of the Jews? Why does he say that he thinks they were wrong? What does that say about his beliefs?

        • In your opinion, what was the objective of the postwar criminal trials? After reading Hoess’s testimony, do you think these aims were achieved? Explain your response.

        6Students consider the perspective of the victims and whether justice can ever truly be delivered. Students read “Draft of a Reparations Agreement” by Dan Pagis. In pairs or small groups, students discuss the following questions:

        Draft of a Reparations Agreement View More »
        • Describe the tone of the poem. How does this poem convey the emotions of the victims who sought justice for the crimes perpetrated against them?

        • The poem reads, “look, you will have your lives back, sit in the living room, read the evening paper. Here you are. Nothing is too late.” Consider: Is this too late? Is this true? Can the payment of reparations allow victims to return to normal lives? What does not go back to normal for survivors?

        • How does Pagis utilize references to the body to convey the inability of survivors to return to what life was like before the Holocaust? Use textual evidence to support your answer.

        • List the images present in the poem. Juxtapose those images with the title: “Draft of a Reparations Agreement.” Analyze the relationship between these two entities. Can justice for the Holocaust ever truly be achieved?

        7Students are reminded of the Definition of Genocide that was codified in 1948 by the United Nations in response to the Holocaust. Students learn that several international laws, courts, and legal precedents have been established since the Nuremberg Trials. Next, students view the testimony of [L]Belle Zeck[/L] and discuss the following:  pin1

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          BELLE ZECK
        • What are some of the emotions you notice from the testimony of Belle Zeck? Why do you think she feels so strongly about the need to prosecute genocidaires regardless of how long it takes?

        • Do you agree with her view? Should we continue to prosecute Nazi perpetrators and other perpetrators of genocide decades after the events?

        • Why is the rule of law and its use in prosecuting perpetrators important?

        • Since the Holocaust, there have been many other genocides. Have these international laws done any good in preventing genocide?


        60-90 minutes

        LESSON 2: Living with the Memory of the Holocaust


        In this lesson, students grapple with the effects of trauma on Holocaust survivors and their courage, bravery, and willingness to share their stories, particularly after the arrest, trial, and execution of Adolf Eichmann in 1961-62. Students are confronted with various academic studies that were inspired by the Holocaust to seek to understand human behavior and the propensity for individuals to conform to the evil intentions of others.

        1Students learn about the growing documentation of the Holocaust through the testimonies of survivors. Students view the first two minutes of this short video of renowned scholar Deborah Lipstadt talking about how the Trial of Adolf Eichmann was based on the testimonies of survivors and became a catalyst for survivors to share their stories widely.

        Adolf Eichmann View More »
        2Students watch the testimony of [L]Fritzie Fritzshall[/L] and discuss the testimony of Holocaust survivors with the following questions:
        • Why would a survivor want to tell their story?

        • How might telling such a traumatic story impact a survivor and their families?

        • What are the challenges, benefits, and detriments to sharing their stories?

        • Consider: What does hearing survivors’ testimony add to our knowledge of the Holocaust?

        3In small groups or in pairs, students read the Understanding Trauma handout. They highlight important phrases and annotate the handout with their thoughts and reactions. They discuss these with their partners or groups.

        Understanding Trauma View More »
        4In small groups, students analyze the Artwork of Holocaust Survivors handout as a mode of expression to describe, cope, and survive through the trauma inflicted upon the victims and consider these questions to discuss each work of art:
        • Students participate in a See-Think-Wonder for each image.
        • What emotions are conveyed in the artwork?
        • What is missing from each work of art? How does this help convey its message?
        • How does each work of art demonstrate the persistent trauma with which survivors contend?

        Artwork of Holocaust Survivors View More »

        See-Think-Wonder View More »
        5Students watch [L]Sam Gottesman[/L] and discuss these questions:
        • How did the death of Sam’s father affect him? How did it force Sam to confront the loss of his family from the Holocaust?

        • Describe some of Sam’s medical ailments. What was causing them?

        • How is Sam’s determination and resilience to work through his trauma demonstrated?

        • Emotion can be a powerful source of knowledge. What have you learned from Sam’s emotions and your own while watching his testimony?

        6Students consider the effect of the Holocaust and how its history affected and continues to affect our understanding of human behavior thorough the Studies of Human Behavior Inspired by the Holocaust handout. Utilizing the case studies and quotes within the handout, in pairs or in small groups, students create a diagram / graphic organizer / visual chart that seeks to understand the actions of individuals and groups and the responsibilities of said individuals / groups / governments.
          1. Students conduct a think-pair-share and discuss their response to the final reflection: How do we preserve hope in the midst of humanity’s failure in a world where the Holocaust was perpetrated?

          Studies of Human Behavior Inspired by the Holocaust View More »


          60 minutes

          LESSON 3: The Memorialization of the Holocaust


          In this lesson, students are asked to investigate the aspects of memory and memorialization. Specifically, why and how the Holocaust has been remembered and memorialized. They should be challenged to ponder how the way we as a society remember an event in history impacts the way we understand that history, provides information on the society that created memorials to an event in history, and impacts the way society functions in the present and in the future.

          1Students engage with this quote from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Britain, that is posted: “There is a profound difference between history and memory. History is his story – an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story – something that happened to me and is part of who I am. History is information. Memory, by contrast, is part of identity.”
            In small groups or as a class, students discuss the following questions to think more deeply and philosophically about the nature of memory and building memorials:
              1. Why do communities/states/nations build memorials?
              2. What is accomplished by constructing a memorial?
              3. How does a memorial inform us about the people who built it and the time period in which it was constructed?
              4. What roles do memory, museums, and memorials play in our world today?
              5. How do memorials seek to inform future generations’ understanding of a particular history or event?
              2In small groups, students analyze one or more of the memorials in the Holocaust Memorials in Europe handout. Students consider these questions for each memorial:  pin1
                1. What do you see in the memorial? What is understated, ignored, or perhaps missing from it? Why do you think the creator made those decisions?
                2. What thoughts / emotions / feelings are evoked by viewing the memorial? Do you think that was its intent?
                3. What does the memorial teach you about the Holocaust? What can you infer about the memorial’s message to its citizens?
                4. How does this memorial impact the way we remember the Holocaust?

                  STUDENT HANDOUT
                Holocaust Memorials in Europe View More »
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                3As a summative task, students create a poster or other visual representation that addresses how we should remember and memorialize the Holocaust. What message do they hope to convey in their artwork? Students view and/or present their artwork to the class and discuss the following questions as a final reflection:
                  • How will memory be affected once survivors of the Holocaust are gone?
                  • Why do we have to remember or understand the past in order to move into the present/future, and what does it mean to confront history?
                  • Does actively remembering the Holocaust and working to improve society for the better provide justice for the victims?

                    IWITNESS ACTIVITY
                  Why Do We Remember?
                  here »


                  15-30 minutes

                  LESSON 4: Has the World Learned Anything from the Holocaust?

                  1Students watch the testimonies of [L]Jan Karski[/L] and [L]Joseph Berger[/L] and discuss the following questions:
                    1. Jan Karski states that “great crimes start with little things” and then goes on to give examples of things people should not do. How does the memory of the Holocaust inspire us to oppose the little things Karski warns us about?
                    2. The lessons of the Holocaust continue to impact public and private life. How will its lessons shift with the passage of time? Will they?
                    3. What from your study of the Holocaust will you remember most and why?
                      JAN KARSKI
                      JOSEPH BERGER
                    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 ( to access additional testimonies, resources, and learning activities about other genocides and campaigns of mass violence that have occurred since the Holocaust. Utilize our Examining the Stages of Genocide resource to better understand the mechanisms that perpetrate genocide, how it occurs, and how Denial is the final and ongoing stage. Consider if the world has learned anything from the Holocaust.
                    2Research other Holocaust and World War II era memorials and the communities that created them using resources such as The National War Memorial Registry and Jewish Virtual Library. Where is the Holocaust in their memorialization? What does the creation of the memorial teach you about the community that constructed it and what does it tell you about what that community values today?
                    3Read the excerpts from Rudolf Hoess of his Farewell Letters to his wife and his children after he was found guilty and before he was executed in 1947. Questions to consider:
                      1. How did his experience being caught and found guilty change his worldview?
                      2. Do you find his acknowledgement of accountability genuine?
                      3. Would he have felt this way without receiving justice and punishment?
                      4. What advice does he give his children?
                      5. How can this help us understand the responsibility of those guilty of perpetrating genocide?
                      6. How can these letters help us understand human behavior and what motivates an individual to act?

                        STUDENT HANDOUT
                      Farewell Letters View More »
                      4Many communities have museums, centers, memorials, or survivors and refugees who can share their personal experiences with human rights violations and genocides in addition to the Holocaust, thereby promoting awareness on a range of topics and often encouraging civic action. Such resources are often representative of a particular community’s history and/or immigration experience. For example, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland ( reflects the large Japanese-American population in the Pacific Northwest and their experience with internment during World War II. Identify such resources in your local area and consider the effect it has on your community. Engage with the leaders of that resource to elevate their voice with your peers and in your school. Plan a visit, explore their museum, or host a speaker that can share their experiences.
                      5To provide an opportunity for students to learn more about individuals who survived genocide and human rights violations, help them create a book club to meet on a regular basis either in person or online. Share selected titles with book club members, but let the students come to consensus on which book to read. Students should also decide when they will meet, how much of the book they will have read prior to meeting, and the role they will play in the discussion (e.g., decide if there will be a discussion leader for each title). Teachers are encouraged to help facilitate book club meetings, but resist turning the club into an extension of the academic day. Some options could include:
                        1. Maus (Art Spiegelman)
                        2. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz (Rena Kornreich Gelissen)
                        3. Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo (Zlata Filipovic)
                        4. First They Killed my Father (Loung Ung)
                        5. I’m Not Leaving (Carl Wilkens)
                        6. The Girl who Smiled Beads (Clemantine)
                        7. Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir (Peter Balakian)
                        8. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Your Families: Stories from Rwanda (Philip Gourevitch)
                        9. Farewell to Manzanar (Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston)
                        10. Hidden Roots (Joseph Bruchac)
                        KEY WORDS
                        concentration camp
                        crimes against humanity
                        Eichmann Trial
                        extermination camp
                        Holocaust denial
                        Nuremberg Trials, 1945-46
                        Potsdam Conference
                        Reich, Third Reich  
                        United Nations (UN)
                        V-E (Victory in Europe) Day
                        war crimes trial
                        Yad Vashem
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