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Lessons and Curricular Resources

getting started

overview of the holocaust (PDF)

Lesson length: One class period
Organized around a Museum-produced 38-minute documentary, The Path to Nazi Genocide, these materials and discussion questions provide students with an introduction to the history of the Holocaust.


Lesson length: Flexible
To provide historical context, this lesson includes relevant content cards to be discussed and displayed visually in the classroom on the following topics: Years of the Holocaust, Personal Testimonies, Nuremberg Laws, WWII and the Holocaust, and World Response.

Why didn't they just leave? (PDF)

Lesson length: One class period
Students will explore the documents necessary for emigration and immigration in the 1930s and read diary passages that personalize the challenges of seeking refuge. This lesson utilizes the following additional resources: The Path to Nazi Genocide, animated maps, and Salvaged Pages by Alexandra Zapruder.

teaching by topic

The United states and the Holocaust

Americans and the Holocaust: Exploring the Online Exhibition

Lesson length: One to two class periods
By exploring the Americans and the Holocaust online exhibition, students will examine the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped American attitudes and responses to the threats of Nazism and the Holocaust during the 1930s and 1940s. Students will learn about actions taken at all levels of society—by the government, the media, other organizations, and individual citizens—and how opportunities for action changed over time. This lesson promotes reflection and critical thinking about various factors that shaped attitudes and actions during that time and the factors that influence us today.


Lesson length: Two to three class periods
Students investigate what information about the Holocaust was available in their communities by doing original research using historic newspapers found online or in a local library. Through an analysis of their discoveries, they better understand American responses to the Holocaust within the socio-economic and political context of the United States during the 1930s and 1940s.

Interpreting News of World Events 1933–1938

Lesson length: One to two class periods
By examining news coverage around three key events related to the early warning signs of the Holocaust, students will learn that information about the Nazi persecution of European Jews was available to the public. They will also consider the question of what other issues or events were competing for Americans’ attention and concern at the same time. Despite the many issues that were on their minds during the period 1933–1938, some Americans took actions to help persecuted Jews abroad, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Immigration and Refugees: A Case Study on the Wagner-Rogers Bill

Lesson length: One or two class periods
Through an examination of the Wagner-Rogers Bill of 1939, students consider how Americans debated the country’s role as a haven for refugees during the 1930s and 1940s. They identify economic, social, and geopolitical factors that influenced Americans’ attitudes about the United States’ role in the world during the critical years 1938–1941. Using primary-source documents, students identify and evaluate arguments that different Americans made for and against the acceptance of child refugees in 1939. The lesson concludes with reflection on questions that this history raises about America’s role in the world today.

Isolation or Intervention? A Case Study on the Lend-Lease Act

Lesson length: Two class periods
In this lesson, students will identify multiple economic, social, and geopolitical factors that influenced Americans’ attitudes about the United States’ role in the world from 1939–1941, when people in the United States were deeply divided about what actions, if any, America should take in defense of countries threatened by German military conquest. Through an examination of primary source documents, students will identify and evaluate arguments that different Americans made for the provision of military materiel to Britain in 1940. Ultimately, students will reflect on questions that this lesson raises about America’s role in the world today.


History of Antisemitism and the Holocaust

Lesson length: One to two class periods
This lesson focuses on the history of antisemitism and its role in the Holocaust to better understand how prejudice and hate speech can contribute to violence, mass atrocity, and genocide. Learning about the origins of hatred and prejudice encourages students to think critically about antisemitism today.

Collaboration and Complicity

Ethical Leadership

Lesson length: One class period
These educational modules explore how challenges to ethical behavior and leadership played out in the context of the Holocaust and pose larger questions about how they confront us today. This lesson was designed for college level, but is adaptable for secondary level.

Oath and Opposition: Education Under the Third Reich

Lesson length: One to two class periods
This short video and discussion guide are paired with case studies and survivor testimony to examine the role of the teachers, students, and schools during the Holocaust.

Deconstructing the Familiar: Photo Activity

Lesson length: One class period
By examining historical photographs, students consider the pressures and motives that influenced the behaviors of ordinary people during the Holocaust.

Collaboration and Complicity during Kristallnacht

Lesson length: One to two class periods
This online activity  examines the actions of ordinary people through primary photographs and survivor testimony. It was created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the the USC Shoah Foundation’s iWitness project and poses the question, “How did the actions of ordinary people shape the events of Kristallnacht?”



Lesson length: Teaching unit containing six lessons
This unit will increase your students’ abilities to critically analyze messages presented in both traditional and new forms of media. As students learn about the consequences of propaganda during the Holocaust, they will better value the importance of media literacy in a democracy.

Teaching with archival film footage

Three Minutes in Poland

Lesson length: One class period
Students view archival film footage documenting Jewish life in a small town in Poland before the German invasion in September 1939. They then explore how the community changed during the Nazi occupation.

contemporary genocide

Defying Genocide Study Guide (PDF)

Lesson length: One class period
This lesson helps students understand the context of the genocide in Rwanda. Students will examine the actions of a few individuals, like Damas Gisimba, who saved lives. Watch the video of his story online or request a free DVD (available only the US or Canada).

Curricular Resources

The Holocaust: History and Memory Virtual Field Trip

The Holocaust: History and Memory provides students with a new way to learn about Holocaust history. Developed in cooperation with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and powered by Google Expeditions, this field trip and accompanying lesson plan allow educators to virtually tour their students through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Teaching Using Survivor Testimony (PDF)

One of the most powerful ways to teach about the Holocaust is to bring the voices of survivors to your students. Precisely because they portray people in the fullness of their lives and not just as victims, first-person accounts add individual voices to a collective experience and help students make meaning out of the statistics. As you teach about key historical topics, incorporating survivor testimony personalizes the history, emphasizes its impact on individuals, and highlights the diversity of individual experiences.

Identification Cards

The sheer number of victims in the Holocaust challenges easy comprehension. When visitors enter the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition, they receive an ID card telling the true story of a person who lived during the Holocaust. Using these individual profiles, show your students that behind the massive statistics are real people—children and parents, neighbors and friends—and a diversity of personal experience. The collection is browsable by gender and age. Printable copies are available for download.

Holocaust History Animated Maps

Teach about the scope and impact of the Holocaust using animated maps which illustrate topics in Holocaust history, including Auschwitz, Dachau, Lodz, Warsaw, World War II and the Holocaust, resistance, rescue, liberation, the voyage of the St. Louis, and the aftermath of the Holocaust.

An Overview of the Holocaust: Topics To Teach

We recommend that you introduce your students to these topics even if you have limited time to teach about the Holocaust.