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The Holocaust's Legacy


Three class periods



World History

Audrey Carangelo, free curriculum developer.


Students will understand the following:

1. More than half a century after the Holocaust, people are still studying it and forming opinions about it.

2. Hate among human beings did not fade away with the end of the Holocaust.


For this lesson, you will need:

Computer with Internet access
Books, articles, and editorials concerning freedom of speech and hate groups in the United States
Index cards for note taking

1. Call to students' attention that despite the atrocities committed during World War II by the Nazis in Germany, there are still people today who support the Nazi Party and its beliefs. Further acknowledge that many observers argue that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the actions and speech of hate groups.

In this two-part assignment, students will first investigate contemporary hate groups and then participate in a debate on tolerating their existence.

2. Assign students to groups in which they will conduct research, with each member checking different resources. In the debate, later in this activity, half of the groups will support the premise that hate groups must have freedom of speech, and the other half will support the premise that hate groups should not have freedom of speech. During the research phase, they should not know what side they will be asked to argue. That is, they should collect arguments on both sides of the question.

Have students use print and Web resources to identify one or more contemporary hate groups. They may share strategies for locating resources about hate groups.

3. Direct students, working in their groups, to find answers to the questions listed below. One significant source of information is http://www.adl.org, the Web site of the Anti-Defamation League.

Suggest that during their research into hate groups students use index cards to take notes. When they come across an opinion or argument in favor of or against granting hate groups the freedom of speech, they should write that argument on a note card and identify the source of the argument. Tell them to keep index cards in support of tolerance in one pile and cards in opposition to tolerance in another pile.
Here are some of the questions students should research individually and then share responses to with other members of their group:
What kinds of beliefs are espoused by the hate groups you located in your research?

What kinds of actions have these hate groups been known to take? What kinds of public statements have they made?

What are some landmark court cases that have involved these hate groups?

What arguments have you come across for and against tolerating the existence of hate groups in the United States?

4. When their research in print and Web sources is complete, students may want to go to friends, relatives, and even Holocaust survivors to solicit opinions about tolerating hate groups in the here and now.

5. After students have finished collecting arguments for and against tolerating hate groups in the United States, review with them the following points regarding the nature of a debate:
Debaters on each side will alternate presenting arguments to support their case.

After all students on both sides have spoken, any member of the group may offer arguments in rebuttal, or in opposition, to the argument made by a debater on the opposite side. The side that has been rebutted gets another chance to defend its position.

At the end of the debate, one person from each side will present a summary of that side's argument.

After the summaries, each member of the audience will vote for the side he or she thinks has presented the most convincing argument.

6. Pair groups, and tell them which group will argue for and which group will argue against tolerance for hate groups. Give each side time to review its notes and determine what specifics each person on that side will present to the audience and who will present the summary.

7. Allow time for each pair of groups to debate each other and for the audience to vote.

8. Lead a class discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of students' research and debates.

Instead of assigning research and debates, you can present to students the arguments that have surfaced as Americans have had to deal with hate groups. Encourage class discussion about facts and opinions cited by each side on this issue.

1. What factors led to Hitler and the Nazi Party taking power in Germany? Why do you think the German people supported their actions?
2. The Holocaust was a human tragedy on a global scale. Millions of lives were exterminated by Hitler and the Nazis, and many more people died trying to stop them. Do you believe it's possible that a similar tragedy could still happen in the world today, even though the human race has already experienced it before? Why or why not? Are similar, smaller events going on right now (and in the recent past)? If so, why do you think they are happening?
3. Imagine what it would have been like to be a German person your age during World War II. Do you think you would have been able to resist the propaganda and not join one of the many Hitler youth programs? Explain your response.
4. Anne Frank is famous for her statement that, despite her experiences during World War II, she still believed in the goodness of people. Knowing what you know about the events that transpired in Nazi concentration camps, do you have the same belief? Discuss the argument that the Nazi soldiers “were following orders” when they committed these war crimes. Discuss other factors that might also have contributed to their behaviors, such as propaganda and mob psychology.
5. Which do you think is a more effective way to learn about the Holocaust—through a careful analysis of historical facts or through listening to a wide selection of stories told by survivors? Does one of these methods offer a more realistic portrait of history? Explain your response.
6. It is said that we must learn about the past in order not to relive it. At the same time, however, we are told not to dwell in the past. How do you think these adages should or should not be applied to the Holocaust? Is one of them more applicable than the other? Can they both be true? Explain and defend your answers.

You can evaluate your students on their group's performance using the three-point rubric:

- Three points:substantial facts; well-organized presentation; logical, persuasive arguments

- Two points:more research needed; well-organized presentation; clear arguments

- One point:few facts, disorganized presentation; weak arguments

You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining how many facts should be required and what constitutes a well-organized presentation.

Holocaust Stories

One of the most well known stories of life during the Holocaust is the one we piece together from Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girland its related materials. Ask your students to use the Internet, films, and print resources to research another person who either survived the Holocaust or, like Anne Frank, died during it; as an alternative, they may want to interview someone they know personally who lived through the Holocaust.

When their research is complete, have each student prepare a presentation about the person they researched. (You may want to ask students to create a multimedia presentation using HyperStudio or Power Point.) When the students have shared their presentations with the class, lead a discussion about the stories they have heard. What common elements did they hear? What lessons can be learned from the lives of those who survived and those who perished?

Positive Propaganda

During World War II, propaganda played a huge role in convincing the German people that the intolerance of Jews was acceptable. Have your students research the science of propaganda.

- What kinds of images and words does propaganda often make use of?
- What kind of rhetoric is involved?
- How can a poster be persuasive enough to generate abhorrent ideas?

When students have completed their research, ask them to create their own propaganda materials that support the tolerance of a diverse society. They might want to create posters, pamphlets, billboards, slogans, scripts for radio or television, and print advertisements. Students should view one another's finished products and discuss which are most effective and why.

Conclude with a discussion about whether propaganda—even positive propaganda—is ethically right. Does it help people make up their own minds, or does it encourage them to subscribe to a position without thinking it through for themselves?

The Hidden Children: The Secret Survivors of the Holocaust

Jane Marks. Fawcett Books, 1995.

This book depicts firsthand accounts of 22 survivors of the Holocaust. All survivors hid from the Nazis as children, and their compelling, honest, well-written experiences tell a tale of human courage.
Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries

Laurel Holliday, ed. Washington Square Press, 1996.

This is an anthology of diaries from 23 girls and boys ages 10 to 18 who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. This is an excellent resource for teenagers to hear the story of the Holocaust and World War II through the voices of others their age.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America's national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history.

Holocaust Memorial Day

This site is dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust victims and serves as a reminder ofwhat human beings are capable of doing to one another.

The Mechelen Museum of Deportation and the Resistance

During World War II the barracks in this Belgian town were occupied by the Nazis and used as a gathering camp for the Jews prior to deporting them to the death camps.

Museum of Tolerance Online Multimedia Learning Center

This site offers a comprehensive resource on the Holocaust and World War II, with over 3,000 text files, and tens of thousands of photos.

Welcome to Yad Vashem on the Internet

This site was established to serve as the “Holocaust heroes and remembrance authority. Yad Vashem is the pioneer of Holocaust commemoration in the world, housing the collective memory of the Jewish people.”

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

The content of A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust is presented from three perspectives: Timeline, People, and The Arts.



Knowledgeable of something, especially through personal experience.


The people who designed the Nazi death camps were cognizant of the intended use of the facilities.


To weaken the morale of; to upset or destroy the normal functioning of.


Concentration camp prisoners were forced to complete difficult and pointless tasks in order to discourage and demoralize them.


A political philosophy, movement, or regime that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.


Fascists believe in placing one's nation and race before oneself.


A quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.


Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to live in ghettos.


A member of a German fascist party controlling Germany from 1933 to 1945 under Adolf Hitler.


The fascists who ruled Germany under Hitler were known as the Nazi Party.


The spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.


Propaganda convinced many Germans that Hitler's lies about Jews were reality.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

world history


Understands the causes and global consequences of World War II.


Benchmark:Understands the Holocaust and its impact on Jewish culture and European society.

Benchmark:Understands the overall effect of World War II on various facets of society.

Benchmark:Understands the rise of Nazism and how it was received by society.

Benchmark:Understands the climax and moral implications of World War II.
Grade Level:

7-8, 9-12

Subject Area:

historical understanding


Understands the historical perspective.


(7-8):Understands that specific individuals and the values those individuals held had an impact on history.

(7-8):Analyzes the influence specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history.

(7-8):Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and views expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, magazine articles, newspaper accounts, and hearsay).

(9-12):Knows how to perceive the past with historical empathy.

Copyright 2001 Discovery.com.

Teachers may reproduce copies of these materials for classroom use only.

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