Holocaust Remembrance Day Lesson Plan

By Annie Thornton 04.28.2016 blog
holocaust-remembrance

Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial of the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jewish people, as well as another 5 million non-Jewish victims. Help your students understand the importance of remembering the Holocaust with this lesson plan featuring Channel One News videos and slideshow. Please note, this lesson plan is appropriate for grades six and higher.

Watch: Auschwitz Survivor

On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, survivor Eva Mozes Kor recalls her time at the notorious camp and the day of her liberation.

Check for Understanding

  • When did Hitler gain power in Germany?
  • How many people lost their lives at Auschwitz?
  • Why was Eva Mozes spared?
  • What did the Nazis at Auschwitz do as the Soviet army approached? Why?

View Slideshow

Image Credit: Aushwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

On January 27, 1945, Russian troops liberated nearly eight thousand sick and starving prisoners from Auschwitz, a group of camps where Nazis murdered more than a million people, most of them Jews. The soldiers discovered sights that would shock the world, including gas chambers designed to kill 6,000 people a day, and giant warehouses filled with the clothing, hair and teeth of dead prisoners.

Image Credit: National Records and Archives Administration

On November 20, 1945 in Nuremberg, Germany, Nazi leaders responsible for Auschwitz and other camps, where 15-20 million people were imprisoned or killed, were put on trial. The question hanging over the trial: What kind of people could be capable of such evil?

Image Credit: Source Unknown

At his trial, Rudolph Hoess, the Nazi officer in charge of Auschwitz, described what took place there in horrifying detail, but showed no remorse and took no responsibility for his actions. “I thought I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I was obeying orders.”

Image Credit: National Records and Archives Administration

Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command, blamed Jews for Nazi anti-Semitism but claimed not to have known about the mass murders committed in Auschwitz and other camps. “I was always a person who felt the suffering of others,” he told Jewish psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn, whose incredibly difficult job it was to monitor the mental health of the Nazi defendants at Nuremberg.

Image Credit: Israel National Photo Collection

Goering was found guilty at Nuremberg and sentenced to death along with Rudolph Hoess and other Nazi leaders. But Adolf Eichmann, who sent more than 1.5 million Jews to extermination camps, escaped capture and went into hiding. In 1960, Israeli secret service agents tracked him to Argentina and sent him to Israel to stand trial.

Image Credit: Elen33/Bigstock

German-Jewish writer Hannah Arendt attended Adolf Eichmann’s trial. She saw in Eichmann an “almost total inability to ever look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view” and noted that he paid more attention to the twists and turns of his political career than to the events of the war or the murder of millions.

Image Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

During World War II, about 80,000 Germans participated in the murder of Jews. Were they evil or crazy — or just ordinary people who committed monstrous crimes? One thing we know is that certain behavior opens the door to violence. Nazis thought of Jews as inferior, calling them “rats” and “vermin.” When we fail to see the humanity in others, we unlock the worst in ourselves.

Turn and Talk

What excuses did each of the Nazi officers give when they were on trial? Do you think they are valid? Why or why not?

Explanatory Writing

Why is it important to remember Auschwitz? Use details from the video and the Extend slideshow to support your response.

Watch: Auschwitz Guard Trial

Check for Understanding

  • What was Groening’s defense?
  • How is this trial different from previous trials related to German war crimes during World War II?

Discuss

If you were on the jury, would you find Groening guilty or not guilty? Explain your response.

Read

Read “‘Accountant of Auschwitz’ jailed for the murder of 300,000 Jews,” July 15, 2015, from The Guardian, to learn the jury’s verdict.

Turn and Talk

  • Do you agree with the sentence? Why or why not?
  • What does Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor suggest is a more fitting sentence? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Explanatory Writing

Imagine you have a friend who has never heard of the Holocaust. Using information from the videos and the Extend slideshow, write three paragraphs in which you tell this friend what he or she needs to know.

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