No Series: Lessons from the Holocaust

Lessons from the Holocaust

Lesson Objective: Define genocide and identify antecedents through witness testimony
Grade 8 / History / Lesson Plan
14 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Mr. Howard use the "Pyramid of Hate" to engage the kids?
  2. How does he determine whether he is "getting through?
  3. " Mr. Howard delivers a challenge at the end. Does that work?


  • Private message to Daniella Adar

this was beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing this.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Heather Mengert

Hello! Can you share which testimonies you suggest using in class? I have one 45 minute class period. 

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  • Private message to Ariella Getrajhendler
The lesson plan was great. It was good to learn sbout these resourves. To those teachers eho are going to use “the boy in the striped pajamss”” please make sure the students know it is totsl fiction. As a 2g survivor and a teacher i do not recommend that story. There are many non fiction stories to choose from.
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  • Private message to Kate Lynn Lyman
Is there perhaps another location for the videos now? I can't seem to find the location that i used last year and they are not working in my PowerPoint. Thanks so much in advance!
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  • Private message to Ana María González
Congratulations!! It was very inspiring! Thank you..
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  • Transcript for Lessons From The Holocaust

    01:00.00 School
    Francis Parker Junior High School
    San Diego, CA JEREMY:
    How do you tell

    Transcript for Lessons From The Holocaust

    01:00.00 School
    Francis Parker Junior High School
    San Diego, CA JEREMY:
    How do you tell a young person, especially someone who doesn't live in San Diego, one of the largest cities in the United States that nine, fifteen million people died.
    01:00.13 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    How do you-how do you even put your hands around that?
    01:00.18 TOUGH TO TEACH
    01:00.23 School [MUSIC]

    01:00.29 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Those of us in the profession, we, one of the buzz terms is, bringing history alive.
    01:00.30 JEREMY HOWARD
    History Teacher
    Make a connection to their lives. And sometimes on a piece of paper it-it's not so easy to do. And I wanted to create a lesson that meant something to me and also left an indelible, uh, message on the students.
    01:00.42 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Thanks to everybody, it's good to see you again, um, just so you know, to remind you that the lights are off today because we're going to be viewing video testimony of survivors of the holocaust.
    01:00.54 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And so I chose a lesson about those people that do what's right when so many people are doing wrong.
    01:01.14 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And we're going to feed off of what we learned last class. Last class we spoke about personal responsibility and the importance of doing right. Even doing right when so many people chose to do what was wrong.
    01:01.12 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    We've just finished learning about the holocaust essentially. And showing them the history that led up to it.
    01:01.17 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And we're going to start off by defining genocide. You've heard it mentioned on a number of occasions, but we've never really discussed what it is. So Emma, can you read the definition please?
    01:01.29 Emma
    Jeremy Howard EMMA: Genocide as defined by the United Nations in 1948 means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, including ...
    Good job.

    01:01.42 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    So we defined genocide and that then leads us to the pyramid of hate.
    01:01.46 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    So what I'm going to be handing out right now is call the Pyramid of Hate. And this is what we're going to use to make this more, bring it down to a personal level.
    01:01.53 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    On the bottom of the pyramid are prejudice attitudes and then there's acts of prejudice that builds upon that and that's followed by discrimination and then violence and then genocide.
    01:02.04 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Can a pyramid have a point on top without a base?
    No, so the idea is that these different levels lead up to genocide.
    01:02.13 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Because what we're going to do is we're going to watch small clips of holocaust survivors describing something that happened to them, and then the students are going to try to figure out where that person's testimony fits into that pyramid.

    01:02.26 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    We're going to look at the testimonies and these are very short clips. And then what you're going to do on your piece of paper there is I want you to draw an arrow or a line from the person who's speaking to where on the pyramid they're discussing or what it describes on the pyramid. And we're going to use the Shoah Foundation's website to help us a long here.
    01:02.46 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    So I'm a big fan of the Shoah foundation because of the resources that are available. They videotaped about 52,000 individuals and amassed over a hundred thousand hours of video. The Shoah Foundation institute website has not only testimonies available, but also lessons. Pre-made lessons, ideas for lessons, and one of the lessons I did concerning the pyramid of hate, that's where I received the lesson from.
    01:03.09 FEMALE 1 FEMALE 1:
    I saw the massacres, I saw the actions, you know when they were taking Jews together and killing on the spot, the rest they didn't kill, they put on this platforms, on those big lorries and they're taking away. I saw my grandmother taken away on the lorry and she knew that I'm watching. And I was watching through the window, I pulled the curtains and I saw her. And-and she took her hands like this, up, showing me that she knows that I'm watching and then German hits her on the head with-with his rifle. Yeah, this is-this is this grandmother made sweater for me that I was wearing in-in the sewer.
    01:03.56 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    You can see in the, in the survivor's eyes and their voice when their voice cracks up about something that happened sixty years ago, you feel that pain as if it's happening yesterday.
    01:04.07 Student 1 STUDENT 1:
    When you hear someone that experienced it firsthand it then, you're kind of put in that person's shoes.
    01:04.14 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Before we talk about where she fits on the pyramid, what-what did her grandmother make for her?
    CLASS: Sweater.
    JEREMY: It's a sweater that she was wearing when she went into the, uh, at the very end, where did she take, she wore that sweater into where? Did you catch that?
    JEREMY: Into the sewer.
    01:04.31 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    My goal in-in delivering this lesson, it's just to make it more personal for them. For them to carry something away other than just, wow that happened in the 1930's and 40's and it sucks to have been them. It's terrible to have been them. What a bummer, let's move on.
    01:04.46 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    She was born 1935. So she's very young and her grandmother's taken away, probably other members of the family. And somehow, she was taken into, and she survived in the sewer, okay?
    01:04.59 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And then I ask the students, well, where on the pyramid of hate is that person describing?
    01:05.04 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Where does her, uh, story, her testimony fit on that pyramid? Where do you think? Annika.
    01:05.09 Annika
    Jeremy Howard ANNIKA:
    Uh, violence?
    JEREMY: Violence. What was violent?
    ANNIKA: That he, like, hit the grandma on the head with the rifle.
    With a rifle. Yes.
    01:05.17 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    The holocaust is difficult to teach because it is emotional. Look what human beings did to each other.
    01:05.22 Student 2
    Jeremy Howard STUDENT 2:
    They murdered people.
    They murdered people, so it's violence.
    01:05.26 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And not only is it human beings did to each other, but we're talking about Europe at the time.
    01:05.30 Jeremy Howard
    Alex JEREMY:
    Who thinks it's genocide? Alex?
    Why genocide?
    Because they were taking all of them.
    And all of them, in this case, although she doesn't say it, but who do you think all of them were?
    The Jews?
    01:05.45 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    The Jews. Is there a right answer? No.
    01:05.48 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And there really is no right answer. So I'm just trying to get different students to say different things and share different perspectives.
    01:05.54 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Is violence an appropriate answer?
    Can you put genocide? For sure. So what we will do is, for the case of this lady, Mrs. Karen, we're going to, this is pretty neat, we're going to drag her to both.
    01:06.10 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    You can see in the video that I can actually physically drag the person's thumbnail to the pyramid.
    01:06.14 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    So now we're going to listen to a, um, Mrs. Leia, or Leia.
    01:06.19 Mrs. Leia MRS. LEIA
    And one day two little boys came in. And they just stood there and they were looking at my father. Just staring at him. And when he said to them, what are you looking for? Can I help you with something? What are you looking for? He said, the one said, well, we were told when you look a Jew in the eye, you can see the devil in there. He says, I just wanted to see if that's true. A little eight year old kid.
    01:06.48 Female Student 1 FEMALE STUDENT 1:
    Learning about the testimonies of the survivors, it's kind of interesting to hear it from their point of view because lots of people can tell you about things but hearing it from the person themselves, it kind of gives you some perspective on to what's important.
    01:07.02 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    I think it's also important that they leave and they are good people and-and they-they understand empathy and they understand what's going on in the world and people do need help, um, and just to generally be a good person and do what's right.
    01:07.15 MALE 2 MALE 2:
    From my personal experience and to people who are involved in my saving, in saving me, I would like to mention to them that it is written in the Torah whoever saved one life has saved the world.
    01:07.35 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    I chose something about rescuers because I've always been fascinated by those-those people who did risk everything. I have relatives who were rescued. So it's been my little interest group.
    01:07.46 Male 2 MALE 2:
    There was, the boys who warn us not to go back to the ghetto because that meant death.
    01:07.55 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And the enthusiasm that I have for it and the passion, it oozes to the students.
    01:08.00 Jeremy Howard
    Alex JEREMY:
    What's he doing right now? Alex, what's he doing?
    Um, he's describing the story of how he escaped.
    How he survived.
    01:08.09 Jeremy Howard
    Alex JEREMY:
    And did he mention any one person who did something huge to save his life?
    Well, he mentioned the people that saved his life.
    01:08.20 Jeremy JEREMY:
    And then there's that lesson of personal responsibility and choosing to do what's right.
    01:08.25 Female 1 FEMALE 1:
    I'm just going to switch a little bit, why did you decide to help Jews?
    01:08.28 Female 2
    Female 1 FEMALE 2:
    To help Jews?
    FEMALE 1:
    FEMALE 2:
    Because it was, um, how can you not help them? This is a slaughter of human beings.
    01:08.39 Female 2
    Female 1 FEMALE 2:
    But what was it inside you that you were motivated to help Jews?
    FEMALE 1:
    Dignity of it.
    01:08.46 Female Student 2 FEMALE STUDENT 2:
    I just thought it was really interesting that we had all the first person testimonies from eye witness that were there and helped save Jews because even though they were the minority it showed like, what they were up against in society because they kind of risked being ostracized by everyone, even death.
    01:09.02 Female 3 FEMALE 3:
    Those very neighbors that were guests at my mother's dining room table months before peeked through the windows and turned their faces.
    01:09.17 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    There's no grade on this, I don't, it's not on the test. I want them to come in, not worry about that and just absorb and ask questions because if it's a dialog between the students and I, they're going to absorb it, they're going to think about it.
    01:09.32 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    What would be some reasons that these friends, these neighbors wouldn't do anything and let it happen? Eliza?
    01:09.38 Eliza
    Jeremy Howard ELIZA:
    Um, like fear of getting in trouble themselves?
    Good. There's a fact of fear. Maybe they'll get in trouble. Anna?
    01:09.45 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And I ask them, and they-they're right no the mark. They don't say well, she's going to a ghetto, things have been taken away from her family, they base it off the clip and say, well she's upset because her friends, her neighbors are doing nothing.
    01:09.56 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Because you've got to remember, this isn't just one neighborhood in Europe, this is neighborhoods all over, what about if you were somebody in Europe and, why would you not help? Eliza again?
    01:10.05 Eliza
    Jeremy Howard ELIZA:
    Maybe also people didn't really feel like it was their problem.
    Not their problem.
    01:10.13 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    They-they get it. They understand that in man's darkest hour there is that minority that puts everything on the line to do what is right.
    01:10.21 FEMALE STUDENT 3
    Jeremy Howard FEMALE STUDENT 3:
    It's normal like how do you not see why I did this?
    So is he bragging what he did?
    No he's ...
    Does he think it's a big deal?
    Not really, he just sees it as the normal thing to do.
    01:10.30 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    I had a survivor talk to me and she, I mean, it blew me away. I'm like emotional here. I spoke to a room full of survivors telling them what I'm doing. And they thanked me. These are people who were in Auschwitz. Because they tell me, they're not around for much longer and when they're gone, those deniers, they become stronger. And that's why it's important to teach them, teach the students about the Holocaust and to share the testimonies with them. And to show them that it did happen and it can happen again and it does happen again.
    01:11.07 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Do you mean that maybe they don't know what's happening? How about ignorance? Would you say that it's the majority of the people? Do the majority of the people do nothing?
    Was there anybody who did something? Can you give me any examples of somebody or, uh, a group of people or whatnot? Let's go Crissa [PH] again.
    01:11.22 Crissa CRISSA:
    Um, people who hid Jews in their houses to try to help them.
    01:11.26 Jeremy Howard
    Crissa JEREMY:
    Okay, can you think of one person in particular or somebody they might have hidden?
    Um, Anne Frank.
    Very good, right? And for the family that hid Anne Frank.
    01:11.34 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    And I want to read you something. The Chombonet [PH] rejected any labeling of their behavior as heroic. They said, things had to be done and we happen to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.
    01:11.48 Female Student 2 FEMALE STUDENT 2:
    So there's also that sort of depression and sadness that comes when you learn about these horrible things that humanity did. And you think most people didn't come in to help. So you think if I was there, would I have helped?
    01:12.01 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Do people have prejudice attitudes?
    JEREMY: Do people at Parker have prejudice attitudes?
    Are there acts of prejudice?
    Does it happen here?
    01:12.13 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Some people were nodding. Does discrimination happen today in the world or in the United States?
    Where can you make the difference? Where is it, not only where can you make the difference, where's the easiest place to effect change in this pyramid? Where's the easiest place? Jenny?
    01:12.35 Jenny JENNY:
    In the prejudice attitudes.
    01:12.36 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Prejudice attitudes. Once a genocide begins, it's really hard to stop. But prejudice attitudes, that's where you can, and it's so easy. It's so very easy. Next time you have a friend that says something that's intolerant. Next time your friend accepts a stereotype or makes a belittling joke or scapegoats, all you have to say to them is, that's not cool. Now I don't expect you to stand up, you know, get on a chair and say well let me tell you why you shouldn't do this. Because of the holocaust and what happened to the Jews and the Nazis and give a whole tirade of the reasons. All you have to do is say, that's not cool.
    01:13.23 Jeremy Howard JEREMY:
    Are all of them going to not tell a racially motivated joke or-or be prejudice? No, I'm not crazy. I know, this is a couple of days in the life of a young person. But you know what? If it makes a difference in one kid, one day who doesn't bully a kid who's black or homosexual or native American or whatever, it was completely worth it if you ask me.
    01:13.47 With thanks to Jeremy Howard and the staff & students at Francis Parker Middle School

School Details

Francis Parker School
6501 Linda Vista Road
San Diego CA 92111
Population: 1190

Data Provided By:



Jeremy Howard
Social Studies / 8 / Teacher


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