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



The following points are intended to help educators consider the complexities of teaching about Nazi Germany and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.

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  • Studying about the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany inherently requires students to reflect on the importance of preserving and protecting democratic values and institutions and to consider the role of a responsible citizen in that process. Students may have the impression that the Holocaust was inevitable. Whenever possible, help students recognize that the Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act. Begin to set the stage for this understanding in this unit. The Weimar Republic was a fragile democracy. This unstable democracy paved a path for the Nazi Party. However, it is essential for students to understand that German people did not have to vote for the Nazis in the 1932 election; this was a choice they made.

  • Students learn about Nazi concentration camps in this unit. The Nazis initially built these camps to control and subdue political opposition and, over time, the camp system expanded to imprison millions based on religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other factors. The concentration camp system was not established as part of the “Final Solution”; however, as the policy of murder took hold, the concentration camps played a role in it. The “Final Solution” unit provides information about the many kinds of camps that were established during the Holocaust.

  • In this unit learners are introduced to the Kristallnacht Pogrom that took place November 9-10, 1938 across Germany, Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The Kristallnacht Pogrom should be understood as part of the progression of Nazi antisemitic activity rather than as an isolated or spontaneous event. The Kristallnacht Pogrom demonstrated that the Nazis could wield brutality without consequence, and conditions for Jews grew increasingly more intolerable after that point. The events of the Kristallnacht Pogrom present an opportunity for learners to consider complicity and choice in the face of hate.

  • Help students understand that the Nazis used language to influence and manipulate the populace. Kristallnacht, for example, literally means “Crystal Night” (also often translated as “Night of Broken Glass”), a description that hardly captures the devastation and demoralization that Jews faced. Among the numerous other examples of this twisting of language that the Nazi regime would later introduce are Sonderbehandlung (“special treatment”) for the murder of primarily Jewish victims and Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Makes You Free”) over the entrance to some concentration and extermination camps.

  • When using the “Pyramid of Hate” to study the Holocaust, caution students not to think that there was a methodical progression from one stage to the next, ultimately resulting in genocide. The atmosphere of the German state was chaotic, and there was an experimental nature to the Nazis’ actions. Not only is it important to keep that in mind when trying to understand Nazism, but also when trying to understand the reactions of Jewish people and other victims to Nazi policies.

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The purpose of this unit is for students to learn about the Weimar Republic’s fragile democracy between 1918 and 1933 and to examine historical events that allowed for the complete breakdown of democracy in Germany between 1933 and 1939, which led to the unfolding of anti-Jewish policies. Students will also investigate primary source materials in order to understand how legislation, terror, and propaganda isolated German Jewry from German society.  Students also have an opportunity to consider the role and responsibility of the individual in interrupting hate and the escalation of violence.

Essential Questions
  • What factors can lead to the breakdown of democracy in a society?
  • How were German Jews isolated and demonized by the Nazis?
  • In what ways can prejudice escalate when it is left unchecked?
  • What is the role of individuals and groups in interrupting hate?
Students will:
  • Describe the Weimar Republic and its fragile democracy, and reasons for the rise of Nazism.

  • Explain features of democracy and the role of the individual and government in sustaining democratic practices.

  • Identify Nazi policies and practices between 1933 and 1939 that intensified antisemitism and isolated Jewish people.

  • Interpret primary source materials—including visual history testimony—that represent a range of Jewish experiences and responses to Nazi-German state policies.

  • Summarize the causes and effects of the Kristallnacht Pogrom based on analysis of primary and secondary source materials.

  • Analyze our responsibility to interrupt the escalation of hate and violence, as individuals and members of societal groups and organizations.

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

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Testimony Reflections View More »

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90 minutes

LESSON 1: Weimar Republic and Rise of the Nazi Party


In this lesson students explore factors that lead to the erosion of rights in a democracy. After reflecting on rights that are personally important to them, students view visual history testimonies of individuals who discuss changes in the Weimar Republic that ultimately led to a loss of rights in that society. Students analyze maps and read a text on the emergence of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, and identify reasons why German society was vulnerable to the rise of Nazism.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Students review the What Rights Are Most Important to Me? handout and rank the choices in order of importance from 1 (most important) to 11 (least important). In pairs or small groups, they share how they ranked the rights and the rationale behind their decisions. Students are encouraged to think about the interdependence of rights and their own inner conflict in having to create a hierarchy of rights.

What Rights Are Most Important to Me? View More »

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2In their pairs or small groups, students create a T-chart with one column labeled “How rights in a democracy are protected” and the other “Factors that can lead to the loss of rights.” Students consider the right they ranked as most important on their handout and list ideas on the Evaluating Rights T-chart handout specific to that right. As time allows, they consider and record thoughts on other rights.

Evaluating Rights T-chart View More »
3As a class, students discuss some of the following questions:
  • What systems or mechanisms exist in democracies to protect people’s rights?

  • How easy or hard is it to lose rights in a democracy? What are some ways this might occur?

  • What might allow an extreme party or group to undermine rights in a democracy and even take over?

  • Can you think of any examples of rights being taken from a group of people in a democracy? Have you or people you know ever personally experienced a violation of rights?

4Students watch testimony clips from two individuals who discuss some of the changes that took place in the Weimar Republic leading to the breakdown of democracy: [L]Alfred Caro[/L] and [L]Frank Shurman[/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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5After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
  • In the testimony, why does Alfred Caro say democracy broke down in German society?

  • What example does Frank Shurman share to illustrate the “insecure situation” that Germany was facing in the early 1920s? How does Frank say that Hitler took advantage of the situation?

  • Based on what you heard from Alfred and Frank, how confident do you think the German people were with the status of the government?

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
6Before analyzing the maps, Europe Before/After 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles, students activate prior knowledge using the following prompts in small groups:



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  • How can maps help us to understand events in history or changes in the world?

  • What countries can you name in Europe, especially Eastern Europe?

  • What changes do you know about that took place in this region between 1914 and 1919?

7Students view the maps, Europe Before/After 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles, projected on a large screen. In small groups, they discuss and record responses to the questions below. Their ideas are shared as a whole class and the NOTE on the Treaty of Versailles is used to fill in information as needed.pin1
  • What changes do you notice took place in Europe in 1919? What occurred prior to 1919 that led to these changes?

  • What was the Treaty of Versailles? What conclusions can you draw about its provisions from studying the maps?

  • How do you think these changes might have affected the German people on different levels, e.g. economically, socially, and emotionally?

  • What questions do you have as a result of viewing the maps?

8Individually or in small groups, students read the handout, The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party and take notes on the corresponding graphic organizer. As they review, students annotate the text and record information that helps them to answer the supporting question.

The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party View More »

Democracy Crumbled? Why was German society vulnerable to the rise of Nazism?
here »
9While students work, the following headings are posted on the board or chart paper: Political Reasons, Economic Reasons, Social Reasons, Cultural Reasons. Groups are invited to add one idea to each category without repeating ideas. When groups have completed work, the class gathers for a discussion using some of the following prompts:

The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party Graphic Organizer View More »
  • What political, economic, social, or cultural factors do you think were most pivotal in setting the stage for the rise of the Nazi Party?

  • What were the conditions under which the Weimar Republic was formed? How do you think ordinary German citizens felt about this government?

  • How did the above factors contribute to a fragile form of democracy in German society? (Think about what Alfred Caro and Frank Shurman shared in their testimonies.)

  • What principles in the Nazi Party platform do you think were particularly dangerous? Why?

  • What principles in the platform do you think appealed to German people in the 1930s? Why did Nazi ideology engender support even though it went against democratic values?

10As a summative task, students journal in response to the following prompt/quote: Write at least a paragraph in response to the quote below from novelist Margaret Atwood. Discuss two to three ways individuals and groups can work to protect a democracy. Comment on reasons for the erosion of democracy in the Weimar Republic during the Nazi era, citing at least two pieces of evidence from the sources used in this lesson. “The fabric of democracy is always fragile everywhere because it depends on the will of citizens to protect it, and when they become scared, when it becomes dangerous for them to defend it, it can go very quickly.”


120 minutes

LESSON 2: Anti-Jewish Policy in 1930s Germany


In this lesson students explore how the Nazis used legislation and propaganda to isolate Jews, influence German society, and escalate antisemitism. Students view visual history testimonies to learn how Jewish people were impacted by the Nuremberg Laws and rising antisemitism. They read about anti-Jewish policy and research examples of rights stripped from Jewish people. Students also examine texts on the formation of the Hitler Youth and concentration camps, and analyze Hitler’s 1939 Reichstag speech to better understand the extreme ideology that ultimately led to genocide.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Students watch testimony clips from two individuals who discuss how they were affected by the Nuremberg Laws and growing antisemitism in Nazi Germany: [L]Herman Cohn[/L], and [L]Margaret Lambert[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.

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2After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
  • How do Margaret and Herman say things changed in Germany after 1933? What were they forced to give up?

  • What rights were taken from Margaret and Herman? How does this relate to the What Rights Are Most Important to Me? exercise?

  • What is the effect when people who feel very much a part of society are stripped of their rights and citizenship?

  • What does Margaret say motivated people to shun Jews after 1933? What role did the forces of social and peer pressure play during this period?

  • What did you notice about Margaret’s
    emotional response when she described
    the antisemitism she faced? What
    personal toll do you think persecution and
    isolation took on young people like
    Margaret and Herman?

3Students read the handout, Nazi Germany and Anti-Jewish Policy, and annotate with a focus on the lesson supporting questions. They also view the photographs in the handout, Anti-Jewish Signs in Germany, depicting anti-Jewish signs displayed on roads and in towns. After reading and viewing, students engage in a follow-up activity:

Nazi Germany and Anti-Jewish Policy View More »

Anti-Jewish Signs in Germany
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Examples of Anti- Jewish Policy in Nazi Germany, 1933- 1938 View More »
  1. Sentence strips are posted, each containing a different right taken from Jewish people and noted in the reading (see Examples of Anti-Jewish Policy in Nazi Germany, 1933- 1938).
  2. Pairs or small groups are each assigned one right to research further using the Echoes & Reflections Timeline of the Holocaust (1933-38) and other online sources. They take notes on what they learn.
  3. The class reconvenes and pairs/groups each report back on one significant finding. As they do, they pull down the corresponding sentence strip, physically representing the “stripping” or loss of rights for Jewish people.
  4. As students pull down the strips, they reflect on how each right corresponds with the rights they identified during the What Rights Are Most Important to Me? exercise.
4As a whole class, students discuss the effects of anti-Jewish policy and the cumulative stripping of rights of German Jews using some of the following questions:
  • What were the main purposes of the Nazi antisemitic laws and policies? How did they evolve over time?

  • How was the idea of race infused in the laws and policies?

  • How did actions taken by individuals and communities add force to Nazi policies?

  • What overall impact do you think these laws had on Jews? On German society
    more broadly?

  • What other system of laws do you know about that has dehumanized people, whether or not it led to genocide (e.g., Jim Crow Laws, apartheid in South Africa)?

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
5Individually or in pairs, students read and annotate the handouts, Hitlerjugend and Concentration Camps. They create a one-page summary that captures key ideas in response to the supporting question. The one-page summary includes three elements – a graphic or illustration, a quote, and a question. Students share and discuss their work in small groups or by circulating around the room and engaging in several brief partner shares. As a whole group, students discuss some the following questions:

Hitlerjugend View More »

Concentration Camps View More »
  • What methods do you think were most effective in conditioning young people to accept antisemitic ideas? Why?

  • How did indoctrination in Hitler Youth groups replace or overtake education in schools and homes?

  • What groups of people were imprisoned in concentration camps? Why were they targeted?

  • How do you think the camps influenced both targeted groups and German society in general?

  • Though very different, how did youth groups and concentration camps both reinforce antisemitic ideology and escalate hate? How did they contribute to an environment in which genocide could be possible?

6Students watch a testimony clip from an individual who discusses her experience with the Hitler Youth: [L]Julia Lentini[/L]. As they watch the clip, students take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.
7After viewing the testimony clip, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
  • Why did Julia Lentini want to be a part of the Hitler Youth? How do you think forces such as group loyalty and peer pressure were used by the Nazis to influence children like Julia?

  • Why do you think the Nazis instituted groups like the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls? How did these groups reinforce Nazi antisemitic policies?

  • Julia says that it “was no big situation…it’s how it all got started.” What does she mean by this? What does it tell you about the escalation of hate in a society?

8Students receive the handout, Hitler’s Reichstag Speech, and review the introduction and directions as a class. In pairs or small groups, they analyze the excerpts and work together to complete the task. As time allows, students share their thinking with the larger group and engage in a class discussion about the things the Nazis did that supported their extreme antisemitic ideology and provided fertile ground for genocide to unfold. (Students can view video of Hitler delivering the speech here.)

Hitler’s Reichstag Speech View More »
9As a summative task, students complete a “quick write or draw,” referring back to the lesson supporting questions. They fold a sheet of paper in half and label one side 1933 and the other 1939. They write or sketch at least three ideas/representations in each column that convey how the situation in Germany changed and escalated for Jewish people during the six-year period. Students should use evidence from lesson sources to arrive at their representations. As time allows, students share their writing/illustrations with a partner. Student work can be collected to check for understanding of concepts.


90 minutes

LESSON 3: The Kristallnacht Pogrom – “Night of Broken Glass”


In this lesson students learn about the Kristallnacht Pogrom and consider how this pivotal event was both a culmination of Nazi antisemitic policy and a turning point that changed the course of future events. Students engage in a photo analysis and view visual history testimonies that provide background on the pogrom. They then engage in a station activity in which they analyze several primary sources that help deepen their understanding of the Kristallnacht Pogrom.

Supporting Question 

How was the Kristallnacht Pogrom both a culmination of antisemitic Nazi policy and a turning point in the antisemitic campaign against the Jewish people?

NOTE: Do not review the supporting question with students until after Step 2 so that the topic of the photo analysis is not revealed prematurely.

1The following photograph is projected (without revealing the title or identifying information): Frankfurt, Germany, Burning of the Boemestrasse Synagogue, Kristallnacht, November 1938. In small groups, students complete the See-Think-Wonder exercise by discussing the photograph and recording their responses on the handout.

  Frankfurt, Germany, Burning of the Boemestrasse Synagogue, Kristallnacht, November 1938

See-Think-Wonder View More »
The Kristallnacht Pogrom View More »

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2The photo title and context – the Kristallnacht Pogrom – are revealed to students and they share any prior knowledge about the topic. Information from The Kristallnacht Pogrom handout is communicated as needed to fill in gaps. As a whole group, students share significant ideas from their photo analysis and discuss some of their questions in the ‘Wonder’ column. Students also consider the following:
  • Based on what you have learned, what actions during the period 1933-1938 made the Kristallnacht Pogrom possible? What led to the escalation of violence to this degree?

  • What was the significance of the destruction of cultural institutions, such as synagogues? What message did this communicate to Jewish people? To German society more generally?

  • What do you imagine the people in the photograph might be thinking or doing? Explain.

  • What would you title this photograph and why?

3Students watch testimony clips from individuals who discuss their experiences with the Kristallnacht Pogrom: [L]Esther Clifford[/L] and [L]Kurt Messerschmidt[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.

Info Quest: Kurt Messerschmidt
here »
4After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a discussion in
response to some of the following questions:
  • After listening to the testimonies of Esther Clifford and Kurt Messerschmidt, what picture do you begin to create in your mind about their experiences during the Kristallnacht Pogrom? What do they say they saw and felt?

  • In what way was the Kristallnacht Pogrom a culmination of Nazi anti-Jewish policy and action? In what way was it a turning point for Jews in Germany?

  • Kurt says that some of the witnesses to an act of violence he encountered were disapproving, “but their disapproval was only silence and silence is what did the harm.” Why do you think the onlookers chose not to act? What do you think enabled Kurt and his friend to help when so many others seemed unable or unwilling?

5Students participate in a station activity in which they analyze several sources about the Kristallnacht Pogrom in order to deepen their understanding and compare different accounts and perspectives:

Heydrich’s Instructions, November 1938 View More »
Letter By Margarete Drexler To The Gestapo View More »
Description of the Riot in Dinslaken View More »


Document Analysis View More »

Info Quest: Kristallnacht
here »
  1. Copies of six primary and secondary sources are placed at different stations. Five primary source documents are included here and a textbook account of the Kristallnacht Pogrom should be added for the sixth station.
  2. Copies of the Document Analysis handout are placed at each station. Alternatively, students can create chart paper-sized versions of the handout to record their work.
  3. Groups are each assigned a station to begin. They read or observe the source and fill out the information at the top of the Document Analysis handout. Students continue to review and discuss the source, adding information to the chart in response to the prompts at the top of each column.
  4. When groups have completed their review, they rotate to a different station. After reviewing the new source, they add information to the chart, trying not to duplicate ideas already recorded. (Students can underline ideas from previous groups that resonate for them rather than repeating them.)
  5. Work continues in this way until groups have read all sources (or as many as time allows).
6Students return to their original station and review the completed chart. Alternatively, the charts can be displayed so they are visible to all. The whole group participates in a discussion of some of the following questions:
  • What stood out to you about the way in which the Kristallnacht Pogrom was planned and executed? How did it reflect the build-up of Nazi antisemitic policy over previous years?

  • What different information and feelings did you take away from the photos as opposed to the texts? The primary source materials versus the secondary (i.e., textbook account)?

  • Which sources offered a personal account? How did they remind you of Esther’s and Kurt’s testimonies? How did these “human stories” influence your understanding and feeling about the Kristallnacht Pogrom?

  • What did you notice about the individual choices people made during the Kristallnacht Pogrom (e.g., did they incite, comply, resist, ignore, etc.)? What factors may have influenced these choices?

7As a summative task, students reflect on the lesson supporting questions and participate in the following exercise, entitled “The Kristallnacht Pogrom as Culmination and Turning Point”:
  1. The terms culmination and turning point are defined (culmination is the highest point of something; turning point is a time at which something changes direction).
  2. The class is divided in half – one group is the ‘culmination’ group and the second is the ‘turning point’ group.
  3. On an index card, students write at least three ways that the Kristallnacht Pogrom reflected the anti-Jewish policies of the prior five years (culmination group) or how it changed the future course of events (turning point group). They draw on lesson sources (including the Echoes & Reflections Timeline of the Holocaust) to come up with their three ideas.
  4. Students form concentric circles (the outer circle is the culmination group and the inner circle is the turning point group). Partners face each other and share the ideas they have recorded, then rotate and continue to share as time allows. (If space doesn’t allow for circles, any form of partner sharing can be used.)


90 minutes

LESSON 4: A Model for the Escalation of Hate


In this lesson students reflect on actions that can lead to the escalation of hate in a society, and what responsibility individuals have in interrupting the cycle of hate. Students view visual history testimonies exploring the impact of escalating hate on Jewish people, and how one person took action in response. Using the “Pyramid of Hate” model, students identify examples from unit sources that represent how antisemitic prejudice escalated to violence in 1930s Germany. They then reflect on a well-known quote in order to investigate the role of individuals in standing against hate.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Students watch testimony clips from individuals who discuss how the situation in Germany had escalated for their families: [L]Esther Clifford[/L] and [L]Alfred Gottschalk[/L]. As they watch the clips, students take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.

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2After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a discussion in response to some of the following questions:
  • Why did Esther’s mother say she’d “go to the jungle and live on bread and water”? How did countries around the world respond to Jews trying to leave Germany?

  • Discuss the significance of Alfred Gottschalk’s statement, “Nothing Jews had done for their country made any difference.”

  • According to these testimonies,in what ways did life for German Jews become
    more desperate from 1933–1938?

  • What evidence is presented in the testimonies that demonstrates the escalation of hate against Jews in Nazi Germany?

3Students are introduced to the Pyramid of Hate handout and review the sections as a class. In pairs, students identify unfamiliar vocabulary and use the Echoes & Reflections Online Glossary and other sources to record definitions and examples on the Understanding Terms in the Pyramid of Hate handout.

    Pyramid of Hate View More »
    Understanding Terms in the Pyramid of Hate View More »
    4As a class, students consider how prejudiced attitudes might, if left unchecked, eventually lead to violence and share examples that illustrate the progression through each part of the pyramid.

    How Does Hate Escalate? An Examination of the Past & Present
    here »
    5In small groups, students replicate the Pyramid of Hate model on large sheets of chart paper. They work together to identify at least three examples for each section of the pyramid using information from the visual history testimonies they have viewed, the Nazi Germany and Anti-Jewish Policy handout, and other unit source material, including the Echoes & Reflections Timeline of the Holocaust. Students write each example on a sticky note and place on the appropriate section of the Pyramid. Students may have different perspectives on the placement of examples and may decide to include the same example on more than one part of the Pyramid – they should discuss their thought process as they work toward a consensus.

    Nazi Germany and Anti-Jewish Policy View More »
    6After completing their pyramids, students post them around the room and participate in a silent gallery walk, reviewing and reflecting upon the examples their peers have identified. Students use sticky notes to post reactions or outstanding questions they may have. The class then discusses some of the following questions:
    • Which parts of the pyramid primarily reflect acts by individuals? Which reflect official acts by government or state-sponsored actors?

    • Do events on the pyramid always follow an upward progression or are they nonsequential (e.g., do acts of discrimination always precede violence or does the order vary?) Explain your thinking.

    • Describe an event that demonstrates the escalation of anti-Jewish acts. How does the pyramid model explain the ways in which antisemitic hate accelerated in Nazi Germany?

    Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
    7Students reflect on a time they did not stand up for someone in need by extending the following prompt: “I didn’t speak up because…” This can be done as a silent reflection, through individual journaling, or as a think-pair-share.
    8Students are introduced to Reverend Martin Niemöeller and his poem using the handout They Came For and further consider the role of the individual in interrupting cycles of bias or hate. Students react to the poem, making connections to their personal experiences, their study of the Holocaust, and other local or world events. They discuss some of the following questions:

    They Came For View More »
    • Why do you think Reverend Niemöeller did not initially “speak up” when Hitler’s government began its persecution of various groups in Germany?

    • What other factors may have motivated people’s choices to be passive or complicit in response to hate?

    • Did non-Jews have a responsibility to interrupt escalating antisemitism, as individuals or members of community groups and organizations? Why? What actions could they have taken?

    • What are the risks involved in standing up against injustice? What are the costs involved in not standing up?

    9Students watch a testimony clip from an individual who took action in response to Nazi injustice: [L]Ellen Brandt[/L]. As they watch the clip, students take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.
    10After viewing the testimony clip, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:
    • How did Ellen Brandt respond to what was happening around her in Germany at the time? What do you think enabled her to stand up in the face of such violent opposition?

    • What does Ellen mean when she says, “Traffic didn’t stop for us, but we marched”? What personal qualities does it take to persist when others seem indifferent?

    11As a summative task, students reflect on the lesson supporting questions and journal in response to the prompt below. When they are finished, they participate in a “silent pass.” Students trade their writing with a partner, silently read, and add comments using sticky notes that highlight connections to the lesson’s themes. Students’ writing can be collected to check for understanding of concepts.

    Write your own version of the Niemöeller text expressing your feelings about a current-day situation related to the escalation of bias or hate. The topic can be a personal experience or a reflection on a community, national, or global event. Start with “I/we/they didn’t speak up because…” Consider the following as you write:

    How do events you learned about German society during the Weimar Republic relate to the present-day situation you are considering?

    What is the role of the individual in interrupting the escalation of bias or hate?



    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 learn more about the topics covered in this unit, including the Nuremberg Laws, the Kristallnacht Pogrom, and life in 1930s Germany.
    2In 1821, Heinrich Heine wrote, “Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.” Consider what Heine meant by this statement. Write an essay in which you explore the following questions: What is the danger of burning books? How, if at all, does burning books jeopardize human life? [Note: Heinrich Heine was a noted German author who converted to Christianity from Judaism in the nineteenth century. According to the Nuremberg Laws, Heine would have been considered a Jew; therefore, his books were also burned and forbidden.]
    3Research and prepare a graphic that shows the immigration of German and Austrian Jews from 1933–1939. The graphic might include the number of Jews who relocated to Israel (then known as Palestine), the United States, Canada, Latin American countries, Shanghai, Spain, and other areas of Europe; quota systems that were in place in various countries; what was needed to emigrate from Germany and Austria, etc. Be prepared to explain your findings.
    4Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel, drew nearly 400 political cartoons for the New York daily newspaper PM between January 1941 and January 1943. In the cartoons, he expressed his support for the war against Hitler while criticizing the slow-to-act American political bureaucracy and organizations/politicians that were opposed to the war. Select one or more of these political cartoons, which can be found online or in Dr. Seuss Goes to War (New Press, 2001) and determine the artist’s point of view or purpose in creating the cartoon; analyze both the message and the medium; and comment on the overall effectiveness of the cartoon.
    5Research a group targeted by the Nazis other than Jewish people (e.g., homosexuals, Sinti- Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people with disabilities, political dissidents). Prepare a written, oral, or multimedia report on your findings. Consult multiple sources from diverse media, such as the Echoes & Reflections Timeline of the Holocaust, as part of your research.
    6Desecrating or destroying places of worship is an all-too common form of violence in both historical and contemporary times. In the United States, the burning down of African-American churches across the South in the mid-1990s, vandalizing of mosques in the Midwest following 9/11, and recent attacks on Jewish synagogues, such as in Pittsburgh and Poway, are but a few examples. Research why places of worship are so often the targets of hate. Cite examples of recent incidents, the impact they had on local communities, and discuss the significance of this type of violence.
    7Write about a time when you spoke out against a rule or policy that you believed to be unfair. What was the situation? What caused you to act? How did others view your actions? How did the situation end? How did you feel about what you had done?
    concentration camp
    Hitler Youth/ Hitlerjugend  
    Kristallnacht Pogrom  
    Nazi racial ideology
    Nuremberg Laws
    SD (Security Service)
    SS (Protection Squadron)
    Second Reich
    Treaty of Versailles  
    Weimar Republic