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 Jewish resistance during the Holocaust and to deliver accurate and sensitive instruction.

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  • It is best that this unit be taught in sequence, after students have learned about life in the ghettos (Unit 4) and the “Final Solution” (Unit 5) and have an understanding of the brutal repression under which European Jews existed during the Holocaust. Without this critical context, students may not appreciate the perilous risk involved in even the smallest acts of defiance, the daring and resourcefulness it took to plan armed revolts, and the significance of spiritual and cultural acts of resistance, such as holding a concert in the ghetto or fasting on a high holiday in a concentration camp. It is only once students understand the circumstances surrounding these acts of resistance that they can truly understand how incredible they were.

  • It is important to address the myth of Jewish passivity during the Holocaust. In his manifesto distributed to residents of the Vilna ghetto, Abba Kovner urged his fellow Jews to “not go like sheep to the slaughter.” Over time, this entreaty has been misrepresented to claim that “Jews went like sheep to the slaughter.” In fact, Jews resisted in myriad and untold ways, from sabotage and armed revolt to spiritual forms of resistance that allowed them to preserve their humanity in the face of unimaginable degradation.

  • Active or armed resistance refers to acts of opposition, defiance, or sabotage, often using weapons and various forms of attack. Examples include uprisings, bombings of Nazi facilities, destruction of train tracks, forging false papers, and smuggling supplies. Spiritual resistance refers to acts of opposition rooted in culture, traditions, and moral behavior to undermine Nazi power, preserve human dignity, and inspire hope. Examples include clandestine schools, concerts, underground newspapers, documenting ghetto and camp history, sharing food rations, and maintaining religious customs.

  • Rather than describing resistance in binary terms – armed or spiritual – encourage students to see resistance as a nonhierarchical spectrum or range of behaviors. While examples of armed revolt are dramatic and inspiring, most Jews – children, the aged, the sick, the injured, and caretakers of all of the foregoing – could not take part in this type of uprising. Nor could most inhabitants of the ghettos who were suffering from starvation and overcrowding, or those who had been subjected to oppression and dehumanization over the course of months and years. During the Holocaust, spiritual resistance was often the only possible way to oppose Nazi tyranny. Such resistance should be considered “active, ” as even choosing to keep a diary or ignore a command constituted conscious action.

  • Throughout this unit, help students understand that resistance required great courage and at times physical strength. Those who chose to resist had to grapple with many dilemmas including the possible price of disobeying Nazi orders, the possible effect of their resistance on their families and communities, and the punishment they might have to endure for resisting. Those who were immobilized by fear, hunger, disease, or other hardships and did not participate in direct forms of resistance should be viewed with compassion as students attempt to imagine the impact of extreme terror and violence on any human being.

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

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This unit provides an opportunity for students to explore resistance efforts made by some Jews during the Holocaust, from the establishment of the ghettos through the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Students define resistance and investigate a wide range of examples, from cultural and spiritual resistance in the ghettos to armed revolt by partisans and concentration camp prisoners. Through analysis of visual history testimony, examination of primary source documents, and independent research, students consider how these forms of resistance demonstrate the capacity of Jews during the Holocaust to preserve their humanity in the face of extreme violence and inhumanity.

Essential Questions:
  • How did some Jewish people resist Nazi oppression?
  • What forms did resistance take during the Holocaust?
  • What is the relationship between resistance and human dignity?
  • Why did many choose to resist even when defeat or death was certain?
Students will:
  • Define resistance within the context of the Holocaust.

  • Describe the various forms of resistance that some Jewish people engaged in during the Holocaust, including spiritual, cultural, and armed resistance.

  • Investigate the range of resistance efforts that took place in the Warsaw ghetto.

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

  • Conduct independent research on an example of resistance during the Holocaust.

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


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Testimony Reflections View More »


90-120 minutes

LESSON 1: What is Resistance?


In this lesson, students define resistance and investigate wide-ranging examples of resistance by some Jews during the Holocaust. As they view visual history testimony and analyze primary source documents, students expand their understanding of resistance and consider the power of spiritual, cultural, and moral resistance in addition to physical and armed revolt.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1In pairs or small groups, students discuss the meaning of resistance and situations in which resistance is necessary. Based on their discussions, students record their definition of this term.
2Students watch the Video Toolbox from 0:49-1:43 and then view the testimonies of Jewish survivors who participated in resistance activities during the Holocaust: [L]Helen Fagin[/L], [L]Ruth Brand[/L], and [L]Itka Zygmuntowicz[/L]. As they watch the clips, students consider how each survivor resisted and take notes on the Testimony Reflections handout.  pin1

Testimony Reflections View More »
3After viewing the testimony clips, students journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:

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How did Jews resist Nazi persecution?
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  • What purpose did the Gone with the Wind story serve for the students in Helen Fagin’s clandestine school?

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

  • Why did Itka Zygmuntowicz and her mother refuse to betray their neighbor, despite torture and possible death?
    What did Itka learn from this experience?

  • The video noted that many people ask why Jews didn’t resist during the Holocaust. How would you respond to this question?

  • What different types of resistance were reflected in the stories of these women? Did their testimonies change your understanding of what resistance is? If so, how?

4In their pairs or small groups (formed in step 1), students consider which of the testimonies fit within their original definition of resistance. They revise their definitions to reflect new understandings. The class discusses their insights, including the limitations of thinking of resistance in purely physical terms. The following definitions from the Echoes & Reflections Audio Glossary are introduced as needed: resistance, armed resistance, spiritual resistance, cultural resistance.
Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
5The handout Jewish Resistance is distributed. In their small groups, students fill in their definition of resistance at the top. They begin to take notes in response to the other questions based on the testimonies they viewed and their prior knowledge.  pin1

Jewish Resistance View More »

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6In their groups, students read and analyze the documents below, representing different forms of resistance. They continue to add information and ideas to the Jewish Resistance handout and to refine their definitions of resistance.
  • Pronouncement by Abba Kovner: This call to armed resistance is among the first to recognize that Hitler was planning to kill all European Jews. Students should think about who Kovner was speaking to and the central rationale of his message – that it is better to die fighting than to live at the mercy of Nazi oppressors.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Resistance: These excerpts demonstrate the spiritual, cultural, and moral ways in which Jews resisted. Students should reflect on the sense of agency demonstrated by Jewish people, even in the face of unimaginable cruelty and repression.

Pronouncement by Abba Kovner View More »

Cultural and Spiritual Resistance View More »
7The class gathers to view the testimony of Jewish survivor [L]Roman Kent[/L]. Students add information and ideas to their Jewish Resistance handout one last time. They then journal and/or participate in a whole group discussion in response to some of the following questions:  pin1

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  • Do you agree with Abba Kovner’s assertion that “It is better to die as free fighters than to live at the mercy of murderers”? What were Kovner’s arguments in favor of armed resistance?

  • Why were most Jews who participated in armed revolts youth? Why were others less able to resist physically?

  • What are examples of other forms of resistance, as highlighted by Roman Kent and in the written excerpts?

  • What does Roman Kent mean by, “Sometimes the easiest resistance is with a gun and a bullet”? Do you agree with him? Explain.

  • How do you interpret Chaim Kaplan’s statement, “Everything is forbidden to us, and yet we do everything”?

  • Why did Jewish people risk their lives to sustain customs and traditions, such as religious practice?

  • How is cultural expression – such as music and writing – a form of resistance?

8As a summative task, students write reflectively in response to the following prompt: “How, if at all, has your understanding of resistance, especially as it pertains to the Holocaust, changed over the course of this lesson?” Students draw upon their Jewish Resistance handout and evidence from lesson sources to support their ideas.


120 minutes

LESSON 2: Case Study – Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto


In this lesson, students investigate the Warsaw ghetto as a site of resistance. They explore the factors leading to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and its significance to Jewish residents of Warsaw. Using texts, video, and visual history testimony, students examine other examples of spiritual, cultural, and armed resistance and consider how these forms of resistance were interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
1Prior to learning about resistance efforts in the Warsaw ghetto, students share their prior knowledge about the formation of and conditions in the ghetto. The Warsaw Ghetto handout is either projected or distributed, and the class reviews this brief background. Students learn that they will study the Warsaw ghetto as a site of resistance, and examine some of the many ways in which the Jewish residents fought for their dignity and their lives.  pin1

The Warsaw Ghetto View More »

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2The handout Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto is distributed. Students watch the Video Toolbox segment on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, from 7:52-13:50. As they view, students add notes to the handout. Following the video, the class discusses some of the following questions.

Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto View More »

Armed Resistance in the Ghettos and Camps View More »

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  • What factors led to the understanding among ghetto residents that death was certain?

  • How was the deportation of July 1942 a turning point? How did it change those who remained in the ghetto?

  • Sol Liber quotes an underground leader as saying, “I know we’re not going to win, but we’re not going to go anymore.” If the Jews knew winning was impossible, what were they fighting for?

  • The narrator asks if the youth movements had the right to decide the fate of all ghetto residents by choosing to fight. How would you answer this question?

  • What was the “choiceless choice” that ghetto residents faced?

  • What was your reaction to the description of the girl throwing grenades and Molotov cocktails from the roof? What feelings do you think actions like this inspired in ghetto residents?

  • What was the significance of the Polish and Jewish flags being raised in the ghetto?

  • What was destroyed along with the Great Synagogue on May 16, 1943?

OPTION: Instead of or in addition to the Video Toolbox, students read the handout Armed Resistance in the Ghettos and Camps.  pin1

Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
3Students continue to investigate examples of resistance in the Warsaw ghetto. Stations are set up as indicated in the Warsaw Ghetto Stations handout and a copy of the handout is placed in each area for student reference. In small groups, students visit at least two stations. For each, they continue to work with their Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto handout introduced earlier in the lesson, or receive a new copy for this portion of the lesson.

Warsaw Ghetto Stations View More »

Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto View More »
4New small groups are formed that contain a mix of students who visited different stations. In those groups, students share highlights and insights from their investigation, and discuss the following questions:
    • What drove the Jewish people of Warsaw to resist?
    • What did you find to be most extraordinary about these resistance efforts? Explain your reaction.
    5As a summative task, students reflect on Vladka Meed’s quote in the handout A Chain of Resistance. The handout is projected and read aloud. Individually, students journal in response to the following prompt: “What is the relationship between physical and spiritual resistance? How are they connected like links in a chain?” Students draw upon lesson sources as evidence for their ideas. As time allows, students share and discuss their reflections in pairs, groups, or as a class.  pin1

    A Chain of Resistance View More »

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    90 minutes

    LESSON 3: Independent Research on Resistance


    In this lesson, students engage in independent research to deepen their understanding of Jewish resistance efforts during the Holocaust. In groups, students examine visual history testimony, primary source texts, and other resources on a topic, and create an artifact that represents what they have learned. Students gather their artifacts into a class exhibit and consider the meaning and impact of the actions taken by Jews to preserve their lives and humanity.

    Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
    1In pairs, students discuss the following prompt: “What is an artifact? What is the role of an artifact in studying history?” Pairs share their thoughts with the larger class. The following ideas are highlighted:
      • Artifacts are objects made by people that have cultural or historical meaning.
      • Artifacts are essential parts of particular times or places that bring memory to life and make history real.
      • Artifacts tell stories and provide evidence that can help people to understand the past.
      2Students learn that they will complete an independent research project on a topic related to Jewish resistance, and create an artifact that represents what they have learned. The artifacts will be gathered into a class exhibition on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. The handout Artifacts of Resistance is distributed and reviewed by the class.

      Artifacts of Resistance View More »
      3Students form small groups and select a research topic from the Research Topics and Sources handout. In class and/or at home, they review the source material for their topic, record notes, and design their artifact and accompanying object descriptions. Students are encouraged to consult additional sources as needed to better understand their topic.

      Research Topics and Sources View More »
      Post the supporting question above for students as you begin this part of the lesson.
      4Groups’ artifacts are gathered into a class exhibit. The Artifact Reflection handout is distributed. Students participate in a “gallery walk” as follows: Half of the groups stand by their work and provide a brief tour or explanation of their artifacts to the other half, who circulate and observe; students then switch roles so that the tour guides become the observers. Students observe at least three artifacts in this way, completing the Artifact Reflection for each.

      Artifact Reflection View More »
      5Following the gallery walk, the class debriefs using the following questions:
      • What is one story or example of resistance that made a lasting impression on you? Explain why.

      • What was the immediate effect of resistance efforts? What was the long term impact?

      • Beyond survival or revenge, what conclusions did you reach about why Jews resisted during the Holocaust?

      • Holocaust survivor and scholar, Elie Wiesel, once wrote: “The question is not why all the Jews did not fight, but how so many of them did. Tormented, beaten, starved, where did they find the strength—spiritual and physical—to resist?” How would you answer this question?

      6As a summative task, students imagine they are preparing an informational brochure and write a “Fact” to counter the “Myth” below. Their fact should explain why the statement is false and convey at least three ways in which Jewish people resisted during the Holocaust, drawing upon unit sources for evidence.
        Myth: Jewish people were passive during World War II. They didn’t fight back or actively resist their own destruction.

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

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          1Visit IWitness ( for testimonies, resources, and activities to help students learn more about survivors and liberators during the Holocaust.
          2During the Holocaust, many Jews resisted culturally by keeping their customs and traditions alive. Think about the role culture, traditions, and customs play in your life. Write about one or more traditions that are particularly important to you, explaining why they are important and how they have shaped – or continue to shape – your identity.
          3On November 20, 1942, Dolek Liebeskind, a commander of the Jewish underground in the Kraków ghetto, famously said: “We are fighting for the sake of three lines in history, [if only to show that] Jewish youth did not go like sheep to the slaughter. For this we find it worth our while even to die.” These words were spoken at a Sabbath dinner that Liebeskind’s group called “the Last Supper,” because they understood they were greeting the Sabbath together for the last time. The phrase became a rallying cry. Write a reflection on what you understand this statement to mean and how studying about resistance efforts during the Holocaust has influenced your understanding of these words and the sentiment they express.
          4Throughout history, music has been used as a form of resistance. During the Holocaust, Jews secretly composed and performed music to uphold traditions, escape their harsh existence, and document ghetto life. One composition, “Never Say,” created by Hirsh Glick, became the official song of the partisans. It was translated into several languages and was well known in both the ghettos and concentration camps. Review the “Never Say” lyrics (see the handout) and listen to the audio recording. Identify specific words, phases, or lines that reveal Glick’s intended audience and message(s). Research one additional song that was part of the Jewish resistance and write a brief report summarizing the language, mood, and message of the song. Sources include: Heartstrings (Yad Vashem), Music of the Holocaust (Yad Vashem), and Music of the Holocaust (USHMM).
          5Imagine you are a film critic for a local media outlet assigned to review one of the films below about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. After watching the film, write a review and recommend whether people should see it or not. The review might comment on areas including acting and directing, but the focus of the review should be on whether the film is historically accurate based on what you have learned in this unit and through additional research on the topic addressed in the film.
          6Using a variety of print and digital sources, research additional examples of underground movements or partisan resistance during World War II: Italian, Slovakian, Polish, French, Yugoslavian, and others. Prepare a written, oral, or multimedia presentation summarizing your findings and identifying how the movement was both different from and similar to the Jewish resistance movements.
          7Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources about resistance efforts by enslaved African Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries or interned Japanese Americans during World War II and prepare a multimedia presentation. Include information about different types of resistance (e.g., armed, spiritual, and cultural) and feature a variety of source materials (e.g., news articles, photographs, interviews).
          KEY WORDS
          armed resistance
          British Mandate
          concentration camp
          cultural resistance
          death march
          extermination camp
          Molotov Cocktail
          Oneg Shabbat Archive  
          spiritual resistance
          Star of David
          Warsaw ghetto
          Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
          Yom Kippur
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          RIGHT COL