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Lesson Plans
In the Shadow of Death
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials

Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson. Preview MEMORIES OF THE NIGHT: A STUDY OF THE HOLOCAUST Teacher's Version for background information on teaching about the Holocaust. Cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Duplicate for each student the Media Interaction Worksheet, Holocaust KWL Chart, and Culminating Activity Guide provided in the Student Materials section.

Introductory Activities

Step 1:

Ask students what they know about the Holocaust. What names, events, or places come to mind when they hear that term? (Students will generate many connections which may include Germany, Hitler, Anne Frank, gas chambers, SCHINDLER'S LIST, etc.)

Tell students that they will be looking at several photographs that will provide a background for their study of the Holocaust. These will be images they may be familiar with, or they may be new to them, but they are related to each other. Distribute the Media Interaction Worksheet (see Student Materials).

Log on TO the picture of the Hollerith Machine at If you can do this at the front of the room and have the image projected, it is helpful. You don't want the students to be able to read the description at first. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to predict what they think this machine is. Students should record their prediction on the worksheet. After students have had time to record their predictions, lead them in sharing their predictions. What is this machine? (An old computer, record player, recording device...accept all answers.) Explain to the class that it is an early type of computer designed to tabulate census data. Instruct the class to read the two paragraphs following the photo on the Web site. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to record on the Media Interaction Worksheet how the Hollerith Machine was used prior to and during the Holocaust and what effect it had on people. (The Hollerith Machine was used to track Jews and manage their processing in labor and death camps. It enabled the Nazis to monitor and track the location of a specific ethnic group.)

Step 2:

To introduce students to another way Jews were identified and managed, they will examine the following photos, which show either samples of the Stars of David required to be worn in France or Germany or images of people with the stars sewn to their clothing. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to do the following: 1) visit each image 2) Predict the reasoning of the Nazis' requirement for Jews to wear the stars, and 3) draw parallels between the requirement of the Jews to wear stars and the Hollerith Machine. Student responses should be recorded on the Media Interaction Worksheet. Give students enough time to consider the parallels and repercussions.

Photo of a Couple Walking

Photo of the Star Required in France

Photo of the Star Required in Germany

Group Portrait

After students have completed these three tasks, discuss their observations. Why did the Nazis require Jews to wear the stars? (They could tell who the Jews were by sight, and intimidation.) What parallels can be drawn between the Hollerith Machine and the requirement of Jews to wear the stars? (Both labeled Jews and allowed them to be easily identified. They both aided in the persecution of Jews and, finally, in the gathering of people to be forced into ghettos and sent to labor and death camps.)

Step 3:

Distribute the Holocaust KWL Chart (see Student Materials) to each student. Instruct students to spend a few minutes filling in the "K" column with information they know about the Holocaust. Ask students to share some of the things they recorded in the "K" column with the class. Elicit some of the basic facts about the Holocaust through questioning. During what time period did the Holocaust take place? (1930s and 1940s.) What other things were going on in the world during that time period? (World War II, End of the Great Depression in the U.S., rise of Fascism, etc.) Students may be adding items to the "K" column of the KWL chart during the discussion.

Step 4:

To provide students with a more in-depth understanding of other events during the Holocaust, instruct students to log on to the Holocaust Museum's Timeline at The timeline is at the bottom of the page. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEIDA INTERACTION, asking them to look at the timeline and raise their hand when they can identify what invasion occurred in the year 1939. (Germany invaded Poland.) What invasions took place in April and May of 1940? (Germany invaded Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg in 1940.) Include additional questions as necessary to help students understand the spread of the Nazis throughout Europe.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to record five different events, practices, or laws that were put in place to persecute Jews between 1930 and 1945 in the "K" column of the KWL chart. (Student responses may include answers like in 1933 Hitler was in power, anti-Semitic laws, 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws, 1939 Night of Broken Glass, 1941-1944 deportation to labor and death camps, as well as many others.) Share as a class the different items students identified. Instruct students to list in the "W" column of the KWL chart the things they want to know about the Holocaust. This may include historical information or questions they have about social issues of the time, anti-Semitism, other groups persecuted, or things they have heard, but are not sure are facts. Explain to students that they will look back at the "W" column after the next few activities to see if they have learned all the things they wanted to.

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Tell students they will be watching some segments from a video to learn more about the Holocaust. In the first segment, they will listen to an introduction by Elie Wiesel. Insert MEMORIES OF THE NIGHT: A STUDY OF THE HOLOCAUST Student Version. CUE the tape to the beginning where you see the words, "A message from Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel," and you hear music playing. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to the introduction provided by Elie Wiesel. What does he want a viewer to learn from this documentary? PLAY until Elie Wiesel says, "...for if they do, they lose their humanity," and the screen goes black. STOP. Ask students to explain what Elie Wiesel was talking about. (Student responses will include that he wants people to know that the survivors of the Holocaust will share tales that are not just about their experiences as Jews, but as humans subjected to horrifying acts. No one else has the authority to claim their experiences. The viewer will see terrible things that humans have done to other humans, and the nobility of the victims who share their stories today.)

FAST FORWARD until after a woman is talking and words appear on the screen that say, "The same day I saw my first Horror Camp...," and there is music playing. (The quote continues in the next screen. The entire quote is, "The same day I saw my first Horror Camp...I visited every nook and cranny...because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda." General Dwight D. Eisenhower, after visiting the slave-labor camp at Ohrduf, Germany, April 12, 1945.) Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students the importance of this quote and why they think it was chosen for the documentary. PLAY tape, and PAUSE when you see the last section noting that Eisenhower said this statement. Students may want to read it again before answering. REWIND back to the beginning of the quote and REPLAY, allowing students to read it a second time. STOP. Ask students why they think this statement was chosen for this documentary. (Student responses may include that survivors are aging and those who were there may not be able to tell their stories much longer, documentaries and recordings like this are becoming more and more important, some people do not believe the Holocaust occurred, to record and remember the events serves as a reminder to never allow them again.)

FAST FORWARD until you see the sculpture of a hand at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and hear music in the background. Then PAUSE the tape so students can look at this sculpture. Explain to students that this is one of the many sculptures at this memorial. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what the hand is symbolic of. What 3 adjectives come to mind when you are looking at the hand? Allow some time for students to consider the sculpture and decide on their adjectives. Ask students to share what they decided on. (Students responses may include power, help, reaching toward God, strength, the experience touching others.)

FAST FORWARD until you see a wall with names engraved on it and you hear, "Another important way to allow students to understand the Holocaust is through the arts." Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to the statements made during this segment and decide why music and the arts are such an important part of understanding the Holocaust. PLAY. When the girl reciting the poem finishes and you see the boy playing the violin again, STOP. Ask students why the arts are important. What are music and poetry of the Holocaust a symbol of? (Student responses may include statements like the ability to work through the pain without focusing on the painful images of the Holocaust.)

FAST FORWARD until you see the cover of NIGHT by Elie Wiesel and there is no narration. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to this passage from NIGHT and pay particular attention to the use of the word "never" and describe why this passage seems so powerful. PLAY. When the boy looks down and there is music in the background, STOP. Ask students to share their thoughts about why the passage is so moving. (Student responses may include that the repetition makes one feel like things will never change and those feelings will always be there--that one will never heal.)

Instruct students to return to the KWL chart they started earlier. Students should add information to the "L" column if they have learned anything new about the Holocaust and its effects on people. Students can also add more things to the "W" column if they have more questions. They can continue to fill in the KWL chart as they complete the Culminating Activity.

Culminating Activitie

Step 1:

This activity gives students the opportunity to investigate their own questions about the Holocaust using the National Holocaust Museum's Learning Center at and the online exhibits at Bookmark these two sites before beginning the Culminating Activity. Instruct students to go to the Web sites listed above. Distribute a Culminating Activity Guide (see Student Materials). Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to choose 1 topic either from the Learning Center or Online Exhibit to visit. Students will explore all aspects of their topic, reading the text material and viewing the images on the site. While they are doing that, they will record their thoughts and the facts they discover on the Culminating Activity Guide.

Step 2:

After they have visited the Web site and completed the Culminating Activity Guide, pair students. Provide each pair with basic art materials (paper, glue sticks, markers, etc.). With their partner, students will create a collage expressing their feelings after their study of the Holocaust. Students may use images from the Web sites they visited, create their own art or poetry to express their feelings, use language from their study, or any other creative measures to complete their collage. After the pairs have completed this task, each pair should present and explain their depiction of the Holocaust to the class. Then display all of the collages together on a wall in the classroom as a compilation of the project so students will have the opportunity to view each other's work.

Cross-Curricular Activities

Have students write a compare-and-contrast essay answering the following quote from The DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. "In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart."

Conduct interviews with older relatives or community members about their memories of WWII and the Holocaust.

Community Conections

  • Conduct an online or in-person interview with a Holocaust survivor. Interviews can often be arranged through a synagogue, Jewish Museum, community center, or historical society in the community.

  • Schedule a visit to a Holocaust museum or memorial in your community.