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Reading for a Better World: Voices from the Holocaust in Young Adult Literature

Author: Stacia Parker


Parkway West High School

Year: 2011

Seminar: Children's Literature

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Holocaust, Literature, prejudice, racism, stereotypes

School Subject(s): English

The purpose of this unit is to use reading as a lens for teaching students to be responsive and not reactive when confronted with prejudice, racism, or stereotypes. Too often, when these issues are encountered in text, or in the real world, students’ first reaction is –anger. By using children’s and young adult literature to address the theme of social injustice, teenagers have the opportunity to connect with characters and “others” who share similar experiences and range of emotions. However, students will also encounter examples of people who exemplify grace, dignity, and courage in the face of their oppressors. This unit is designed to have students study a variety of primary and secondary sources as they develop empathy, caring, and an alternate point-of-view about issues they believe are only relevant to them.

Reading through a social lens will raise students’ awareness and understanding of the “people” who were killed and the “people” who survived the Holocaust. Perpetrators, collaborators, and bystanders all played a role in one of the worst genocides our nation has ever witnessed. Young adult literature makes these and other issues surrounding the Holocaust very accessible to these impressionable young minds. In fact, by reading first hand accounts of letters, riots, diaries, and studying photographs students will become adept at analyzing and synthesizing information needed to answer document based questions.

At the end of the unit, designed for high school English courses, students will have gained a deeper level of purpose, interest and inquiry in reading beyond the comprehension questions.

Download Unit: 11.01.14.pdf

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Full Unit Text

“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist…then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller’s quote emphasizes the belief that many religious leaders had been complicit in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people. How had so many witnessed Jewish people being removed from their homes, corralled onto trains and imprisoned in concentration camps? The witnesses were silent! The silence was so loud that witnesses seemed to be rooted in shock, fear, and disbelief about events that were happening to “other” people right in front of them. One would wonder what would cause someone to standby and witness the merciless killing of babies, innocent people, the elderly, the sick, and the frail. There is not a single correct answer, however; we have learned that evil triumphs when good men are silent. Nowhere has this idea been more illuminated than in the multitude of letters, journals, diaries, and semiautobiographical accounts in literature that chronicle the atrocities committed by one human being on millions of others. At the core of man’s inhumanity to man is a complex set of beliefs, biases, and bigotry that are used to promote and justify mass genocide based on race, ethnicity, and geographical location. Thus, it is critical that when students read these texts they understand that they are not reading for pleasure; instead, they are reading to become transformed by the writers’ experiences. In other words, students are reading to become socially responsible. Leading educational expert Berman has defined social responsibility as “a personal investment in the well being of people and the planet including basic civic responsibilities.” In explicitly connecting reading and social responsibility, students see that reading has a “real” purpose.

Students’ lack of seeing the connection can be directly attributed to why they believe they read in school. When asked, students often say they read at the request of their teacher, to complete an assignment, or to get a good grade. Never do they mention that they read to learn a skill, read to stay informed of current events, or read to expand their political, moral, or cultural beliefs. In fact, when I surveyed students in my freshman classes, many of them said they only enjoyed reading stories that had characters and language that mirrored their own! Stories that present characters, conflict, setting, and dialogue that are different from their “norm” were deemed boring and irrelevant to their personal life. What a sad commentary from young citizens who have not yet begun to participate in our democracy. Perhaps a portion of their view of reading stems from the universal presentation of reading as the sole means of learning content knowledge across the curriculum. While it is true that authors do not write books for readers to answer comprehension questions or to apply reading strategies they do want readers to think about the importance of their ideas. This is especially true when reading primary sources such as autobiographies, letters, journals, pictures, and diaries. Whether reading primary or secondary sources, a skilled and passionate teacher can bring the author’s ideas to life. This is truly a teachable moment for students to see that reading has a purpose beyond improving reading skills and preparing students for their future employment.

This issue was clearly acknowledged in 2007 by Wolk when he says, “the aims of school must not be so focused on preparing workers.” I concur. The Industrial Age required a nation of workers that could read; yet, the Information Age requires a nation of workers that do read. To participate widely in our nation’s civic endeavors, schools must help students learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to participate daily in the discourse of our nation. Therefore, it is very important in the 21st century for schools and teachers to inform students about their basic duties as citizens in a democracy. Reading to develop intellectual curiosity and believing in the good of man are at the core of this duty. Teaching citizenship is not the sole domain of one class, or one teacher. It is the responsibility of all educators to work to integrate this essential knowledge into their classroom curriculum. As a nation, we have witnessed war in Afghanistan, human rights violations in China, and domestic and global acts of terrorism; therefore, we must awaken students’ consciousness to act and defend the indefensible. Teaching with young adult literature is one of the best ways to accomplish this feat.

This unit will be taught in my ninth grade English 1 course. The primary goal of this unit is to use literature to teach both reading and social responsibility. The secondary goal is to challenge students to grapple with and fully comprehend moral dilemmas and ethical predicaments they encounter in written texts. Finally, students must learn how to recognize and respond positively to unconscious and overt racism, stereotypes, and prejudice presented in literature and presented in life. This unit will be anchored with two essential questions: “When a bystander witnesses oppression of another is he responsible for the person’s condition when he remains silent?” and “How can fear be used as an instrument of control?” Since these questions do not have single correct answers the groundwork is laid for students to become immersed in thinking critically about issues raised in a set of texts that depict unimaginable pain and suffering. While Night, by Elie Wiesel, is the anchor text of the unit, it is just one of the sources used. Supporting the novel thematically are The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson, and The Jacket, by Andrew Clements. Additional shorter texts such as newspaper and magazine articles, song lyrics, essays, speeches, poetry, photographs and oral histories will reveal the voices of perpetrators, collaborators and bystanders.


The majority of the English 1 Core Curriculum is not organized around historical or biographical literature that explores similar themes. Instead, the complete focus for the year demands teaching a wide array of literary elements using short stories, poetry, and on occasion, a nonfiction article. Also, students are not asked to read one complete novel, novella, or graphic novel in class during the course of the entire school year. Absent from this picture is a systematic approach to classifying and teaching novels thematically or by genres often encountered in English classes. Interestingly, students are assigned the novel Night, as independent reading over a six-week time frame. This curriculum unit is necessary to frame students’ thinking about a period in history that is totally foreign to their way of thinking and being in the 21st century. Many students have heard the term Holocaust from the Diary of Anne Frank but they do not know what it symbolizes or its actual meaning. Night is a complex text that requires teaching a lot of historical, social, and political background information. Without teaching this critical information, students are unable to grasp the significance of this historical time period or the atrocities committed at the command of one man, Adolph Hitler. Moreover, the vocabulary provides a stumbling block for many of my students who arrive from middle school with limited vocabularies and limited exposure to other religious or cultural communities. My students are further confused by the European geographical references and “how” people were able to remove citizens (based on religion) from their homes without neighborly, police or government intervention. To address this gap in their learning it is necessary to use various and varied grade -level texts as a springboard for inquiry based learning where students can gain multiple perspectives and a comprehensive understanding of a time period and experience that witnessed the extinction of 6,000,000 human beings.

By introducing complex ideas in simple stories, students are better able to grasp an author’s story and allow themselves to become part of a world unknown to them. Children and young adult literature is the ideal vehicle for inviting students to feel, react, consider and eventually reconsider how others lived. It is not enough, however, to just have students read these books. In the words of teacher-researchers Friedman and Wilhelm, “teachers can turn books into experiences of authentic inquiry.” To begin this process scholar teacher Muldoon asserts, “it is necessary that literature not be taught as a body of knowledge to be conveyed, memorized, and repeated.” By shifting the traditional teaching paradigm, which requires students to read, make predictions, use a graphic organizer, and answer questions, students will observe that the novel and its contents combine to present real world problems that need real world solutions. Students who participate in this inquiry-based process will gradually realize that they must believe they are socially responsible for citizens and the planet to create effective solutions to persistent real world problems.

How do students become socially responsible? Researcher Wolk contends that students will not automatically become responsible, caring, and courageous citizens. He declares, “teachers make this knowledge an explicit and essential part of our classrooms” by understanding the habits of mind needed for a socially responsible citizenry. To enable students to develop their social responsibility lens, they must understand the concepts of caring and empathy, social problems and social justice, government and the Constitution, power and propaganda, historical consciousness and historical empathy, global awareness, and multicultural communities. Of course, not all of these concepts are covered in this unit. Nonetheless, students will definitely have mini lessons on caring, empathy, social problems, and multicultural communities. Lessons on these topics will serve as the adhesive to connect students “purpose” for reading and responding to multiple texts. In responding to written and unwritten texts, students move beyond answering simple comprehension, plot, setting, and character questions to role-playing ideas gleaned in class discussions, journaling diary entries, and writing film photograph critiques. Typically, these activities are completed in less than an hour, and involve discussion or debate in small groups, and are integral to the inquiry process and learning social responsibility.

This year reading and writing across the curriculum is the theme Parkway West High School will focus on implementing with interdisciplinary teaching connections. Thus, this unit will also serve to introduce the Nazi Holocaust as preparation for the BosniaHerzegovina and Rwandan genocides that students will subsequently study in their freshman World History course. I believe students will build essential skills (empathy, courage, social responsibility) for understanding and responding to a complex set of problems by the conclusion of this unit. An important byproduct of the inquiry process is that it allows students to acquire the complex skill of analysis. This is the single most common skill that students are asked to master in high school across the curriculum.


Adolf Hitler

In Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, historian Bullock gives the following account of Hitler’s formative years. Adolf Hitler was born April 20, 1889 in Braunau am Inn, Austria. He grew up in Austria (Linz and Vienna) and did not move to Munich, Germany, until May 1913 to ostensibly avoid military service. In Munich, a year later Hitler was rejected “for military or auxiliary service on the grounds of poor health.” Bullock characterizes Hitler as awkward, moody, and nursing “a passion of hatred and fanaticism” that was revealed through diatribes and monologue. Though Hitler had yet to succeed at any past endeavors he firmly believed in his own superiority and resented others for his shortcomings.

While Hitler was rejected for military service he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria, asking to be allowed to volunteer in World War I. Bullock, captures the excitement behind Hitler’s request: “I opened the document with trembling hands; no words of mine can describe the satisfaction I felt…within a few days I was wearing that uniform which I was not to put off again for nearly six years.” Hitler had finally found purpose and passion to pursue one of his greatest interests—his love of his country— Germany.

Throughout World War I, Hitler was a messenger who carried correspondence between Company and Regimental headquarters. Bullock chronicles the danger of Hitler’s position and the wounds he obtained fulfilling his duties. Hitler was rewarded for his bravery. Bullock states, “as early as December, 1914, Hitler had been awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class, and the Iron Cross, First Class in 1918.” Overall, Hitler regarded the comradeship, discipline, and excitement of life in war as preferable to the aimlessness that would plague Germany after being defeated in World War I.

It was after Germany’s defeat that Hitler began his political career. In 1920 Hitler devoted his political ideologies to building up the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. It was also called the Nazi Party, a shortened version of its name taken from the German pronunciation of the word national. The party had only a few hundred members when Hitler became its president in 1921.

Initially, Hitler’s success as a politician was not much better than his other endeavors. In 1922, he served a few months in prison at the hands of the Bavarian government for breaking up a meeting in which a rival politician was to speak. It was during this incarceration that he began the writing of Mein Kampf. Bullock crystalizes Hitler’s struggle when he writes Mein Kampf, “expounded Hitler’s fascist political philosophy, condemned democratic government, and expressed his hatred and fear of Jews. The stage was set for Hitler’s rise to national power and the manifestation of his hatred.

During the 1920’s, Hitler and his Nazi Party gained strength. In 1932, he lost the presidential election to General Paul von Hindenburg. However, in 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor. In The Nazi Movement, author Theodore Abel informs us that Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich, January 30, 1933. In this position, Hitler was able to merge the position of Chancellor and President; this move left him accountable to no one but himself.

Secure now within Germany, Hitler turned his attention to foreign policy. His “new order” for Europe called for the genocide of entire communities; the Jews were the most numerous groups singled out, but gypsies, the mentally and physically ill, and the Polish and the Russians were also targets. Throughout World War II, Hitler remained committed to the restoration of Germany as a “pure Aryan nation” when he declared in his marriage vows that he and his wife were pure Aryans.

Alas, when World War II was ending and Germany’s defeat became inevitable, Bullock gives the following description of events leading up to and including Hitler’s death. On the morning of April 30th, 1945, Hitler received reports on the Russian position and discovered the troops were only a few blocks from where he was living. He ate lunch at 2:00 p.m. and then said farewell to a few friends and shot himself through the mouth. His new bride, Eva Braun, was discovered to have swallowed poison and was dead too. Hitler committed suicide. It was not the fate Der Fuhrer had predicted for himself or his Third Reich, ten days after his fifty-sixth birthday.

Hitler’s Major Achievements

(As noted in researcher David Nicholls, Adolf Hitler: A Biographical Companion, encyclopedic guide)

Economic recovery – Under his leadership, Germany went from massive unemployment to full employment. The shift from poverty to prosperity caused an increase in national pride.

Military recovery – By 1938, Germany was the strongest military power in Europe. This amounted to a repudiation of the hated Versailles Treaty.

National unity – A vast majority of Germans came to support Hitler as Fuhrer. School children were taught to see him as a national savior.

National expansion – Lebensraum led to the incorporation of Austria and the Sudetenland as parts of Germany.

Collective Organization – Hitler “socialized” people by forming and encouraging groups such as the Jungvolk for children, Hitler Youth, and the German Women’s League, as well as a variety of groups centered on occupations, hobbies, and sports.

Hitler’s Destructive Decisions

(As noted in researcher David Nicholls, Adolf Hitler: A Biographical Companion, encyclopedic guide)

Determination to annihilate European Jews – Hitler’s violent anti-Semitism caused the death of an estimated six million Jews. Open pursuit of this goal began in 1938 with organized killing and terrorizing people. Jews were later transported en masse to concentration camps, where they were forced into slave labor, tortured, killed, or used for medical experimentation. This annihilation is often referred to as the Holocaust. This mass murder made reconciliation with the United States, France, and England impossible. It also divided German energies and removed the once helpful financial support of the German Jews.

Wrecking Europe – Hitler was not a constructive statesman. He lacked the patience and diplomacy needed to turn conquests into real national gains. Besides Jews, many millions of other Europeans, especially Poles and Russians, were also killed. In 1945, near the end of the war, Hitler ordered all residents of the western part of Germany to walk eastward in what would be a virtual death march. The Germans lacked food, clothing, and a destination. He also ordered the destruction of all German assets. Fortunately, these two orders were only partially carried out. Hitler’s impulsive and erratic actions, especially in the last year of the war, caused the East-West division of Europe.

Destruction of the German political system – Hitler reduced German government to the person of Fuhrer himself. There was no system of checks and balances. By absorbing all power and responsibility into the Fuhrer’s role and by failing to make provisions for a Germany without himself, he left the country a political wasteland.

Hitler’s Henchmen – a group of men that forcibly carried out Hitler’s orders that wreaked devastation on everyone they came in contact with. The infamous henchmen were: Martian Bormann, Adolf Eichmann, Herman Goering, Rudolf Hess, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Ley, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, and Julius Streicher.


From 1933 to 1945, Adolf Hitler’s approach to Jews shifted from ostracism to impoverishment to expulsion, and finally, to extermination.

Crystal Night (Kristallnacht) – November 9, 1938-brought pogroms (organized killings and destruction) that began in Munich and spread throughout Germany and Austria. Hundred of Jewish shops, homes, and synagogues were destroyed: people were killed and seriously injured. According to Holocaust researcher Nora Levin, an eyewitness gave the following account:

Jewish dwellings were smashed into and the contents demolished or looted. In one of the Jewish sections, an eighteen-year -old boy was hurled from a threestory window to land with both legs broken on the streets littered with burning beds and other household furniture…. Jewish shop windows by the hundred were systematically and wantonly smashed throughout the city at a loss estimated at several millions of marks…. The main streets of the city were a positive litter of shattered plate glass.

This night of violence initiated the period of intense persecution of Jews.

By the end of the war, there were more than a thousand concentration camps, six of which (Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Maidarek, Sobibor, and Treblinka) were officially designated mass extermination camps. Some of the main camps were the following:

Auschwitz – this camp, located in Poland, is usually considered the worst. It was both an extermination camp and a labor camp. Over two million Jews died there. Beginning in the summer of 1942, mass extermination was carried out using Zyklon B, a poisonous gas.

Belzec – also in Poland, this too was a mass extermination camp. Unlike Auschwitz, it was almost exclusively a death center for Jewish prisoners only. Carbon monoxide was used. There is only one known survivor of this camp.

Buchenwald – located near Weimar in Germany, this is considered one of the worst camps before the war.

Chelmno – located in Poland, this camp was similar to Belzec. About a quarter of a million people died there, and there are very few survivors.

Dachau – like Buchenwald, this camp is considered one of the worst before war. It is located near Munich, Germany

Maidanek – located in Poland, this extermination camp also used Zyklon B.

Mauthausen – this infamous concentration camp was located in Austria. “We’ll send you to Mauthausen’’ was a powerful threat.

Ravensbruck – as many as 92,000 woman and children were killed in this camp near Brandenburg, Germany.

Sobibor – very few survived this death center, located in Poland. Nearly all of its prisoners were Jewish.

Theresienstadt – this camp in Czechoslovakia was promoted as a ghetto for the old and for special cases. Of 15,000 children sent there, only 100 survived.

Treblinka – Like the other extermination centers, this one was located in Poland. It was used almost exclusively as a killing center, and nearly all of its prisoners were Jewish. Few survived.

A German official (testimony of Kurt Gerstein) visited Belzec and described events he witnessed there:

…Forty-five cars arrive with more than six thousand people; two hundred Ukrainians assigned to this work flung open the doors and drove the Jews out of the cars with leather whips. A loudspeaker gave instructions: “Strip, even artificial limbs and glasses. Hand all money and valuables in at the “valuables” window. Women and young girls are to have their hair cut in the “barber’s hut” (an SS Unterfuhrer told me: “From that they make something special for submarine crews.”)

Then the march began. Barbed wire on both sides, in the rear two-dozen Ukrainians with rifles. They drew near. Wirth and I found ourselves in front of the death chambers. Stark naked men, women, children and cripples passed by. A tall SS man in the corner called to the unfortunates in a loud minister’s voice: “Nothing is going to hurt you! Just breath deep and it will strengthen your lungs. It’s a way to prevent contagious diseases. It’s a good disinfectant!” They asked him what was going to happen and he answered: “The men will have to work, build houses and streets. The woman won’t have to do that. They will be busy with housework and the kitchen.”

This was the last hope for some of these poor people, enough to make them march toward death chambers without resistance. The majority knew everything; the smell betrayed it! They climbed a little wooden stairs and entered the death chambers, most of them silently, pushed by those behind them.

SS men pushed the men into the chamber. “Fill it up,” Wirth ordered; seven to eight hundred people in ninety-three square meters. The doors closed. Then I understood the reason for the “Heckenholt” sign. Heckenholt was the driver of the diesel, whose exhaust was to kill their poor unfortunates. Heckenholt tried to start the motor. It wouldn’t start! Captain Wirth came up. You could see that he was afraid because I was there to see the disaster. Yes, I saw everything and waited. My stopwatch clocked it all: fifty minutes, seventy minutes, and the diesel would not start! The men were waiting in the gas chambers, you could hear them weeping. The diesel engine started up after two hours and forty-nine minutes by my stopwatch. Twenty-five minutes passed. You could see thorough the window that many were already dead, for an electric light illuminated the interior of the room. All were dead after thirty-two minutes.

Elie Wiesel is a survivor of the Holocaust. As the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, he said in a speech (Commemorative Address at the National Civic Commemoration) in 1984:

…Laws are to serve humanity and not to destroy it. Laws are given to human beings to perfect life and not to profane it. Laws, too, became corrupt once upon a time…

As a son of the Jewish people, as a citizen who is proud to be a member of the American people, I live with a memory of Jewish children and their parents. It has been our task; it will remain our task, to maintain that memory alive. But then we remember not because we seek vengeance; we don’t believe in it. We only seek justice. We do not aim to hurt, only to sensitize. We believe that by retelling our tales we might help our contemporaries by making them aware of what could happen to human beings when they live in an inhuman society surrounding and penetrated by indifference. That is why I allow myself at times to see in the Holocaust an analogy only to itself; meaning that nothing should be compared to it but that everything must be related to it. It is because of what we endured that we must try to help victims everywhere today: the Bahais in Iran who are being murdered by the dictatorship in Iran; The Miskito’s on the border of Nicaragua; we must help the Boat People who are still seeking refuge; the Cambodian refugees; and the prisoners, so many of them in Communist jails…

Describing the effects of chemical warfare- including cyanide, mustard gas, and the nerve gas Tabun- used by the government of Iraq on hundreds of towns and villages of Kurdish minority and killing thousands in August 1988, Time magazine reporter Jill Smolowe reported:

First, one detects an odd odor, something like the scent of garlic. Then the burning sets in, blurring vision as the eyes begin to smart and itch. Uncontrollable bouts of sneezing and coughing follow, often attended by nausea and vomiting. As the hours crawl by, the inflammation slowly spreads. When it reaches the respiratory tract, swelling the internal lining, the breath shortens and the chest tightens. The skin darkens to a sickly purplish color, the armpits and other cavities turning almost black. Excruciating blisters appears on the neck, chest and thighs, causing patches of skin to fall off. Large lesions discolor the genital area. For some, the blisters and the terror eventually fade, although side effects like bone – marrow or gastrointestinal problems for years to come may plague them. Others perish quickly, the silenced victims of a silent killer.

The staff report to the U.S Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, entitled Chemical Weapons Use in Kurdistan: Iraq’s Final Offensive stated:

Legislation passed by the U.S Senate…describes Iraq’s conduct in Kurdistan as genocide. Under the Genocide Convention, the crime is defined as the destruction of a distinct religious, ethnic, or racial group. Iraq’s policy of killings, gassings, and relocations does seem designed to destroy Kurdish culture, the Kurdish identity, and the Kurdish way of life.

Wiesel’s speech and other reports remind us that genocide has continued long after the Holocaust and we must not stand silently by or have an attitude of indifference.


By the end of this unit students will be able to analyze and interpret works of literature that discuss an element of the Nazi Holocaust or genocide. They will be able to discuss major issues surrounding Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent systematic mass murder of European Jews. By the end of this unit students will also compare their levels of caring, empathy, social justice, and ideas of social responsibility to how they felt and thought before beginning this unit. This will require them to revisit their anticipation guides to determine if they still agree/disagree with the statements about racism, prejudice, and bias presented in the beginning of the unit. Finally, by the end of this unit students will have built their writing skills and will easily see that reading has a purpose beyond answering comprehension questions.

Students will express a full understanding of the concept of the Holocaust and recognize that silence and indifference to others in any society perpetuates the problem. Students will analyze how a work of literature is related to its historical period by examining the institutions that govern a society. Ultimately students will know that the Holocaust was not an accident in history. Through their social responsibility lens they will evaluate if it occurred because individuals, organizations and governments made choices that legalized discrimination and allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately mass murder to occur. Students will utilize their new information to verbally acknowledge that one groups pain, suffering, and loss should never be compared to another genocide. This level of sensitivity is the penultimate goal in developing responsible citizens who voices are needed to solve problems in a democratic society.


Give one, Get One – This strategy was developed by Kate Kinsella. I have modified it a bit. This collaborative procedure serves two purposes: it increases students’ awareness about the relevant content knowledge they already have and it increases that knowledge. The process generates a web of interconnected ideas, knowledge, and experience to help students consider what they will subsequently learn from the text.


  • Have students fold a piece of paper lengthwise to form two columns and write Give One at the top of the left-hand column and Get One at the top of the right hand column.
  • Have students brainstorm a list of all the things they already know about the topic they will be studying (or have been studying), writing things down in the left column.
  • After they make the list, have them talk to other students about what is on their list
  • Have students write any new information they get from these discussions in the right column of their lists, along with the name of the person who gave them the information
  • Once everyone has given and received information, have the whole class discuss the information students have listed
  • Again, have students write any new information they get from this discussion in the right column of their lists

Literature Circles – This strategy requires the participation of everyone in a collaborative small group. It also ensures that students remain on topic with their discussion since no one person can adequately fulfill all roles. Since there are no single correct responses it forces students to provide consistent textual evidence for all of their opinions.

Discussion Director:

Your role demands that you identify the important aspects of your assigned text, and develop questions your group will want to discuss. Focus on the major themes or “big ideas” in the text and your reaction to those ideas. What interests you will most likely interest those in your group. You are also responsible for facilitating your group’s discussion.

Sample Questions

  • What were you thinking about as you read?
  • What did the text make you think about?
  • What do you think this text/passage was about?
  • How might other people (of different backgrounds) think about this text/passage?
  • What one question would you ask the writer if you got the chance? Why?
  • What are the most important ideas/moments in this text/section?
  • What do you think will happen next—and why?
  • What was the most important change in this section?
  • How and why did it happen?


You find passages your group would like to/should hear read aloud? These passages should be memorable, interesting, puzzling, funny, or important. Your notes should include the quotations but also why you chose them, and what you want to say about them. You can either read the passage aloud yourself or ask members of your group to read roles.

Sample Questions

  • What were you thinking about as you read?
  • What did the text make you think about?
  • What do you think this text/passage was about?
  • How might other people (of different backgrounds) think about this text/passage?
  • What one question would you ask the writer if you got the chance? Why?
  • What are the most important ideas/moments in this text/section?
  • What do you think will happen next—and why?
  • What was the most important change in this section?
  • How and why did it happen?


Your role is to draw what you read. This might mean drawing a scene as a cartoonlike sequence, or an important scene so readers can better understand the action. You can draw maps or organizational trees to show how one person, place, or event relates to the others. Use the notes area to explain how your drawing relates to the text. Label your drawings so we know who the characters are. Make your drawing on a separate sheet of paper.

Sample Queestions

  • Ask members of your group, ―What do you think this picture means?
  • Why did you choose this scene to illustrate?
  • How does this drawing relate to the story?
  • Why did you choose to draw it the way you did?
  • What do we see—i.e, who and/or what is in this picture?
  • What, if anything, did drawing it help you see that you had not noticed before?
  • What did this quotation/passage make you think about when you read it?


Your job is to connect what you are reading with what you are studying or with the world outside of school. You can connect the story to events in your own life, news events, political events, or popular trends. Another important source of connections are books you’ve already read. The connections should be meaningful to you and those in your group.

Sample Questions

  • What connections can you make to your own life?
  • What other places or people could you compare this story to?
  • What other books or stories might you compare to this one?
  • What other characters or authors might you compare to this one?
  • What is the most interesting or important connection that comes to mind?
  • How does this section relate to those that came before it?

Word Watcher:

While reading the assigned section, you watch out for words worth knowing. These words might be interesting, new, important, or used in unusual ways. It is important to indicate the specific location of the words so the group can discuss these words in context.

Sample Questions

  • Which words are used frequently?
  • Which words are used in unusual ways?
  • What words seem to have special meaning to the characters or author?
  • What new words do you find in this section?
  • What part of speech is this word?
  • What is the connotative meaning of this word?
  • What is the denotative meaning of this word?


Prepare a brief summary of the day’s reading. Use the questions to the right to help you decide what to include. In some cases, you might ask yourself what details, characters, or events are so important that they would be included on an exam. If it helps you to organize the information, consider making a numbered list or a timeline.

Sample Questions

  • What are the most important events in the section you read?
  • What makes them so important?
  • What effect do these events have on the plot or the other characters?
  • What changes—in plot, character, or tone—did you notice when you read?
  • What questions might appear on an exam about this section you read?
  • What might be a good essay topic for this section of the story?

Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a strategy that works well when important complex information needs to be read and disseminated. In, Night, each group (three) will be assigned to read a particular chapter. Each group will prepare to lead a discussion or make a presentation that takes the class through a chapter we have not read. Additionally, each group will think about ways to make their presentation interactive via handouts, collaborative activities, etc. Encourage creativity.

Reciprocal Teaching Guidelines – Everyone in the classroom takes turns assuming the ―teacher role. Each student will lead the class discussion at some point.

To organize the discussion, four comprehension practices will be used: summarizing, clarifying, questioning, and predicting.

To prepare for class discussion, read the text and compose questions in each of the four areas:


  • What happened?
  • What is essential to tell?
  • What is the outcome?
  • Who is involved?
  • Why does this happen?
  • What is the main point?
  • What does the author want me to remember or learn from the passage?


  • What was confusing?
  • What words or phrases did you need more information on?
  • What strategies can you use to clarify your understanding?


Write three kinds of questions:

  • Questions of Fact
    • Focus on details from the text
    • Ask about people, places, and things.
    • Create questions that can be answered by looking back in the text
  • Questions of Interpretation
    • Create questions that require explanation and elaboration.
    • Ask about symbols, themes, literary elements, and underlying messages.
    • Ask student’s to analyze a portion of text
  • Open-Ended Questions
    • Ask questions that are debatable
    • Ask questions that require student’s to discuss implications of ideas in the text


  • What will happen next?
  • Why do you think what you do?
  • What effects will events in what you have read have on the plot or the characters?

Point-of-View Guide – (Wood 1988)

A point-of-view guide helps students view an event, person, or situation from a different perspective. Students are given the opportunity to take on the role of a person, place, or even a thing through a series of structured interview questions. Student responses to the questions are written from the first-person point of view of the persona chosen or assigned.

Often students are challenged to make connections to the content they are studying. For many, the lack of interest or background knowledge can make the events, people, and places seem irrelevant to their learning and their lives. A point-of-view guide enables student’s to make a strong connection to someone or something in the context of what is being studied. This strategy has several positive effects:

  • Students are more likely to remember the material because they have to process it in multiple ways in order to respond to interview questions from another perspective.
  • Students are challenged to think more deeply about the content because they are making their own elaborations by adding details.
  • Students expand their vocabulary knowledge when they use language that that would have been used by the person whose persona they are assuming.

Point-of-View-Guide Guidelines

  • Decide on the critical knowledge or experiences you would like students to remember from the content.
  • Brainstorm perspectives from which students could “see” and tell about the people, place, or event. The perspective can range from a well –known figure to an observant bystander.
  • Create a series of interview questions that could be asked of this person, place, or thing.
  • Design a format: interview questions to a single person, interview questions to a group/panel, interview questions addressed to a visual, or interview questions that elicit questions from the person or thing being interviewed, thus starting a dialogue.

Classroom Activities

Lesson 1 – Studying the Holocaust

Rationale: This lesson provides an opportunity for students to discuss the value and importance of studying human catastrophes, in general, and the Holocaust, in particular. The lesson also provides an opportunity for students to consider the importance of examining both primary and secondary source material when studying historical events.


  • Students will develop vocabulary for studying the Holocaust.
  • Students will differentiate between primary and secondary source materials and consider the importance of both types when studying the Holocaust.
  • Students will examine primary and secondary source material through an introduction to Kristallnacht

Time: four class periods


  1. Begin this lesson by writing the word “catastrophe” on chart paper. Ask students to define the term and identify what factors they believe make an event a catastrophe. Have students give examples of both natural and human catastrophes. Chart student responses under the following headings: Natural/Human
  2. Discuss the difference between natural and human catastrophes. Emphasize that natural catastrophes are most often out of people’s control, whereas human catastrophes are the direct result of actions that people take.
  3. Divide the class into pairs or small groups and have each group select a recorder. Direct student’s to answer the following questions:
    1. Who is likely to study human catastrophes (e.g., historians, social scientists, theologians) and why?
    2. What kind of questions would people studying human catastrophes want to answer?
    3. How would the questions be different from questions that might be asked about natural catastrophes?
  4. Have each group select a reporter to share its idea with the whole class
  5. Explain to students that they will be studying a time in history in which a great human catastrophe occurred. This catastrophe, the Holocaust, which occurred in Europe from 1933 to 1945, resulted in the death of approximately six million Jews; around 250,000 people with mental/physical disabilities, thousands of homosexuals, Communists, and Jehovah Witnesses. Ask students to volunteer possible reasons why this period of history is studied. Assist students understanding by having them consider that this period in history is studied because it is an important part of world history and because many of the underlying causes and effects of the Holocaust have had a profound influence on later historical events.
  6. Display the definition of the holocaust used by three different organizations. Review the definition with students. Have students compare and contrast the definition and consider possible reasons why the definitions are not all exactly the same.
  7. Write the word “genocide” on the board or on chart paper. Ask students for their thoughts on what the word means or in what contexts they have heard the word used. Ask students for examples of genocide based on material they may have studied in other classes or know from current events (e.g., Native Americans, Armenians, Tutsi, Darfurians).
  8. Help students develop a definition of genocide that includes the instigator (e.g., the state), the targeted group (e.g., an ethnic, racial, tribal, national, or religious group) and the intent (deliberate). Present the United Nation’s definition of genocide and have students compare their definition to the London, U.K. definition. Have students consider which definition they think best fits the Holocaust and consider why the Holocaust fits the definition of genocide.
  9. Ask students what they already know about the Holocaust and to identify whenever possible their source or sources of information. List responses on the board or chart paper. Examples: – Some Jews went into hiding (source: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl) – Some non-Jews tried to rescue Jews (source: Schindler’s list) – Allied troops liberated the concentration camps (sources: textbook, a survivor of the Holocaust, a relative who fought in World War II)
  10. Review the list of sources that was developed. Help students understand the difference between the primary sources and the secondary sources on the list, and have them consider sources not on the list that might also be useful in studying the Holocaust. Review how the many types of sources (e.g., diaries, letters, historical fictions, written and visual history testimony, autobiographies, textbooks) may differ in the type of information included. Initiate a discussion on the accuracy of such sources and reasons why source materials must be scrutinized for accuracy.
  11. Explain that throughout this study of the Holocaust, students will examine many primary and secondary sources materials. Explain that the Holocaust is one of the most documented events in human history and that perpetrators produced much of the evidence. The Holocaust occurred in modern times, and the Nazi system was a highly bureaucratic one. When the historian wants to know what happened, when, and why, there is a sea of official records, private papers, and first -person accounts ready to be investigated. Naturally, sources must be studied carefully, and all will need interpretation. The documents included in this curriculum highlight the historian’s tools and task, and bring the topics incorporated into these lessons into sharper focus.

Part 2: Primary and Secondary Source Materials

  1. Tell students that they will be studying several documents related to the same event in order to compare and contrast sources material. To prepare them for the assignment, provide students with some or all of the background on the Kristallnacht pogrom provided in the appendix.
  2. Divide the classes into six small groups and have each group select a recorder. Distribute one of the documents listed in (Appendix A) to each group, and instruct students to discuss what they can learn about the Kristallnacht Pogrom from studying the material.
  3. After allowing ample time to discuss the documents, instruct students to pass their documents to another group. Group members should again discuss what they learn about the topic from studying the material. Continue this process until all groups have had an opportunity to analyze all documents.
  4. Have students share their thinking bout the documents in the whole-group discussion. Following are suggested questions:
    1. Which of these materials are primary source documents? Which are secondary source documents?
    2. What did you learn from studying two photographs (Google)?
    3. How are studying photographs different from studying other types of material?
    4. What kind of information did you learn about the Kristallnacht Pogrom by reading Heydrich’s instructions?
    5. What arguments does Margarete Drexler use in her letter to the Gestapo to try to get her money returned? Why is this information important to know?
    6. How does the description of the riot in Dinslaken make the story of Kristallnacht Pogrom a “human story?”
    7. How does the textbook description of the Kristallnacht Pogrom add to your understanding of the event?
  5. Explain to the students that another source of information about the Holocaust is survivor and witness testimony. Survivor and witness testimonies, unlike documents or words from a book, communicate the crucial told of the individual’s experience and his or her stories. The interviewees in these testimonies are not “simply” Holocaust survivors and other witnesses. They are students, teachers, brothers, sisters, friends, and family members. They tell stories that recount anger, frustration, humor, surprise, relief, and fear. Viewing first person, visual history testimony in a personal experience- no two people react to hearing a particular clip of testimony exactly the same way.

Homework: Write a persuasive paragraph describing the benefits of consulting a variety of sources when studying a historical event. Read the Foreword in Night.

Lesson 2 Guided Reading of Night and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Rationale: The purpose of this lesson is for students to understand the effects of the Holocaust on its most innocent victims—children—since targeting babies and children was an important step in the attempt by the Nazis to erase the Jews and their future.


  • Students will read and discuss a memoir and young adult literature.
  • Students will use reciprocal teaching strategies (summarizing, clarifying, generating questions, and predicting).
  • Students will work collaboratively to explore and discuss readings.
  • Students will present and discuss information orally.

Time: seven to ten class periods.

Procedures (Part 1):

  1. Outline the four reciprocal teaching strategies on the board or chart paper: summarizing, clarifying, generating questions, and predicting.
  2. Ask students to provide explanations of each of the strategies. Work toward establishing basic definitions, recording students’ comments on the board or on chart paper as they share.
  3. Explain that the class will apply these strategies to the text you are about to view/read.
  4. View Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Elie Wiesel.
  5. Lead class discussion of the interview using the four reciprocal teaching strategies:
    1. Summarizing: Ask students to summarize the information from the interview.
    2. Clarifying: Ask students to share words or ideas from the interview that need to be clarified for them.
    3. Generating Questions: Ask students questions that touch on facts from the interview, interpretations of the interview, and deeper issues that go beyond the interview.
    4. Predicting: Ask students to predict how Wiesel will talk about the Holocaust in his memoir.
  6. As you work through the questions, make connections to the basic definitions students shared.
  7. Pass out the reciprocal teaching guidelines (See Strategies), and read through the information. Again, connect to the basic definitions that students have provided.
  8. Pass out or display the discussion question guidelines (See Appendix A) for Night and discuss the different kinds of questions.
  9. Pass out copies of the reciprocal teaching notes (See Appendix A) and ask students to use the format for the discussion starters that they composed for the reading.

Homework: ask students to re-read the Preface and Foreword to Night and create discussion starters for all four categories (summarize, clarify, question, and predict).

Procedures (Part 2):

  1. Review the reciprocal teaching guidelines (See Strategies) and answer any questions that students have about the process.
  2. Arrange students into small groups, and ask them to discuss the homework reading, using their format to record details on their discussion. Emphasize that each person in the group should contribute questions and comments to the discussion.
  3. Ask students to expand the discussion on any topics that emerge from the notes they made in preparation.
  4. Once the groups finish, ask them to choose two questions that sparked discussion within the group to share with the whole class.
  5. When all groups are ready, gather the class and ask each group to share the two questions that they have chosen. Ask the entire class to respond.
  6. Collect students’ reciprocal teaching notes (See Appendix A), so that you can provide support and feedback that will improve the large and small group discussions over the course of the lesson.

Homework: Assign the next portion of the reading, and ask students to prepare for class discussion using the reciprocal teaching notes format.

Procedures (Part 3):

  1. Depending upon your class schedule and students’ reading speed, repeat this session for each day of further discussion.
  2. Return students’ reciprocal teaching notes. Discuss any trends or issues that you noticed in the overall work from the previous session.
  3. Answer any questions students have about the process or the feedback.
  4. Ask students to return to their groups from the previous session to discuss the homework reading, using their reciprocal teaching notes format to record details on their discussion.
  5. Once the groups finish, ask them to choose two questions that sparked discussion within the group to share with the whole class.
  6. When all groups are ready, gather the class and ask each group to share the two questions that they have chosen. Ask the entire class to respond.
  7. Collect student’s reciprocal teaching notes, so that you can provide support and feedback that will improve the collaborative activities over the course of the lesson.

Homework: Assign the next portion of the reading, and ask students to prepare for class discussion using the reciprocal teaching notes format.

After Reading Procedures:

  1. After finishing the entire memoir, assign chunks or chapters of the memoir to each group. Draw parallels between the memoir and the chapter book.
  2. Ask each group to use the reciprocal teaching notes format to compose discussion questions that focus on themes, events, and symbols in the section or the entire memoir and chapter book.
  3. Encourage students to return to their reciprocal teaching notes from previous sessions for ideas and examples.
  4. After students have gathered questions for their sections, ask each group to lead whole class discussion of their segment and video segments.
  5. Ask students to make observations that connect the different sections of the book.
  6. To reflect on their group experience and the reciprocal teaching activity, ask students to complete and hand in the self-reflection chart.
  7. Ask students to submit all of their reciprocal teaching notes, including those from this class session, with their self-reflection chart so that you can provide feedback on their work.

Lesson 3 – Creating a Persuasive Podcast

Rationale: The purpose of this lesson is to give student ―voice‖ to the genocide that is occurring globally in foreign countries. Persuasion is important because it helps students develop other key skills, including problem solving, communicating, comparing, analyzing, and evaluating. High School is a fertile ground to refine these skills -at this age, students are adamantly questioning world events and deciding what’s important to them.


  • Students will access prior knowledge by discussing the elements of persuasion
  • Students will improve comprehension by researching current events
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively organize and synthesize information to create content for a podcast
  • Students will develop oral presentation skills by creating short, persuasive podcasts

Time: five class periods


  1. Explain that each student will research a local, state, national, or international issue of his or her choice with the intention of creating a two-minute persuasive podcast.
  2. Briefly discuss persuasive speaking or writing. Ask students what comes to mind when they hear the term persuasive. (Answers may include: strong opinion, strongly stated, good arguments, well thought out, and convincing ideas.) Then ask what role research plans in creating a persuasive opinion piece. (Answers may include: uncovers facts, supports opinions, strengthens arguments, illustrates point of view.) Invite students to list examples of current events or other topics of interest that students might consider using for their podcasts. Prompt them to offer both broad and specific ideas. (Ideas may include: recycling, economic policy, war in Iraq, local traffic congestion, community curfew for teens, saving endangered species, school board elections, national healthcare, a state Supreme Court decision.)
  3. Briefly discuss podcasting. Invite one or two volunteers to describe podcasts they have heard. Then have students answer the question, “What is a podcast?” Write responses on chart paper or the chalkboard. (Answers should include: audio or video file available on the Internet; “Pod” is an acronym for “Portable and OnDemand”; a play on the word broadcast because many people use them on iPods, the most popular MP3 player.)
  4. Have students listen to a podcast you selected earlier. Mention that it’s an example of persuasive speech and ask students to listen for any elements of persuasion. Afterward, ask, “What are the benefits of using the podcast format?” (Answers may include: convenient, fun, something new, you can listen to a podcast as many times as you like, podcasts can reach a wide audience, some people process audio messages better than print messages, free to create, anyone can do it.)
  5. For the remainder of the session, give students time to select and research topics for their podcasts (approximately 60 minutes). If necessary, engage students in a brief review of the research process previously followed in class. Steps you may wish to cover include choosing and evaluating sources (both print and online), taking notes, and organizing and evaluating information. Offer to briefly meet with students having difficulty making a final topic selection. Suggest ideas based on your knowledge of those students’ interests.

Homework: Have students continue to research their topic as needed. Before the final recording, each student should have selected his or her topic and gathered enough information to create a two-minute opinion piece. Tell students to aim for a writing goal of 250-300 words.

Works Cited

Teacher Resources

Berman, S. 1997. Children’s Social Consciousness and the Development of Social Responsibility. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 15.

Bullock, A. 1962. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row, p. 48-49.

Friedman, A. A. 2000. “Nurturing Reflective Judgment Through Literature-based Inquiry.” English Journal, 89(6), p. 96-104.

Muldoon, P.A. 1990. “Challenging students to think: Shaping questions, building community.” English Journal, 79(4), p. 34-40.

Niemoller, M. Circa 1946-1950. Pastor and poet, “first they came for….” Nicholls, D. 2000. Adolph Hitler: A Biographical Companion, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.

Pew Research Center. 2007. What Americans know: 1989-2007. Retrieved from

Smolowe, J. 1988. “Chemical Warfare.” Time Magazine, Aug 22, 46.

Tovani, C. 2000. I read it, but I don’t get it: Comprehension strategies for adolescent readers. York, ME: Stenhouse

Wiesel, E. 1984. Commemorative Address at the National Civic Commemoration, in Days of Remembrance, Washington, D.C. Chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, p. 66-67.

Wilhelm, J.D. 2007. Engaging readers & writers with inquiry: Promoting deep understandings in language arts and the content areas with guiding questions. New York: Scholastic.

Wood, K. 1998. “Guiding Students Through Informational Text,” The Reading Teacher 41: p. 912-920.

Wolk, S. 2007. “Why go to school?” Phi Delta Kaplan, 88(9), p. 648-658.

Student Resources

Boyne, J. 2006. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York: David Fickling Books, Random House.

This is the story of two boys who lose everything they hold dear, yet the reality of their loss is completely different. Bruno’s life is changed when his father is given a new job and they move from their five-story home in Berlin to a new home in the country that is only three stories tall. He has lost his 3 best friends in life, and his home with the banister and the attic window that looks out over all of Berlin. His new bedroom window looks over small huts in a fenced-in area where everyone wears striped pajamas. One day while being rebellious and doing what he should never do, he walks along the fence and meets a boy with whom he shares a birthday. Shmuel and Bruno meet most days and sit on the opposite sides of the fence and talk. One day Bruno slips into striped pajamas to see where Shmuel lives in (Out-With).

Clements, A. 2002. The Jacket, New York: Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster.

After wrongly accusing a boy–an African American boy—of stealing his brother’s jacket, Phil–a white boy–has some hard thinking to do. And a tough question for his mom: “How come you never told me I was prejudiced?” This seemingly small school incident turns into a painful, but ultimately satisfying, learning opportunity for the sixth grader, as he explores the myriad influences in his life and the way his thought patterns have formed… and finds a new friend in the process.

Frank, A. 1953. The Diary of Anne Frank, New York: Doubleday, Random House.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is an inspirational story of the hardships of World War II in the viewpoint of a 13 year old Jewish girl in hiding during The Holocaust. In her diary, Anne shares her thoughts, feelings and insights about the many issues and conflicts in the warehouse where her own family and another family hid for two years.

Wiesel, E. 1960. Night, New York: Hill & Wang.

In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel’s lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.

Woodson, J. 2002. The Other Side, New York: G. Putnam’s Sons.

Woodson lays out the story like a poem, its central metaphor a fence that divides blacks from whites. Lewis’s (illustrator) watercolors lay bare the personalities and emotions of her two young heroines, one African-American and one white. As the girls, both instructed by their mothers not to climb over the fence, watch each other from a distance, their body language and facial expressions provide clues to their ambivalence about their mothers’ directives. Intrigued by her free-spirited white neighbor, narrator Clover watches enviously from her window as “that girl” plays outdoors in the rain. And after footloose Annie introduces herself, she points out to Clover that “a fence like this was made for sitting on”; what was a barrier between the new friends’ worlds becomes a peaceful perch where the two spend time together throughout the summer.


Student Handouts
Lesson 1- Handout #1

Background on Kristallnacht Pogrom

In the first half of 1938, numerous laws were passed in Germany restricting Jewish economic activity and occupational opportunities. In July 1938, a law was passed requiring all Jews to carry identification cards. Later that year, 17,000 Jews of Polish citizenship, many of whom had been living in Germany for decades, were arrested and relocated across the Polish border. The Polish government refused to admit them so they were interned in ―relocation camps‖ on the Polish frontier.

Among the deportees was Zindel Grynszpan, who had been born in western Poland and have moved to Hanover, Germany, were he established a small store, in 1911. On the night of October 27, Grynszpan and his family was forced out of their home by German police. His store and the family’s possessions were confiscated and they were forced to move over the Polish border.

Grynszpan’s seventeen-year-old son, Herschel, was living with the uncle in Paris. When he received news of his family’s expulsion, he went to the German Embassy in Paris November 7, intending to assassinate the German ambassador to France. Upon discovering that the ambassador was not in the embassy, he shot a low ranking diplomat, Third Secretary Ernst Vom Rath. Rath was critically wounded and died two days later, on November 9.

Grynszpan’s attack was interpreted by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler Chief of Propaganda, as a direct attack against the Reich and used as an excuse to launch a pogrom against Jews. This pogrom has come to be called Kristallnacht, “Night of the Broken Glass.”

On the nights of November the 9 and 10, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes, and their places of work and worship. Almost 100 Jews were killed and hundred more injured; approximately 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes were damaged and looted; 1,400 synagogues were burned; cemeteries and schools were vandalized; and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Lesson 1- Handout #2

Holocaust Definitions

Imperial War Museum, London, UK

Under the cover of the Second World War, for the sake of their ―new order,‖ the Nazis sought to destroy all the Jews of Europe. For the first time in history, industrial methods were used for the mass extermination of a whole people. Six million were murdered, including 1,500,000 children. This event is called the Holocaust. The Nazis enslaved and murdered millions of others as well. Gypsies, people with physical and mental disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, trade unionists, political opponents, prisoners of conscience, homosexuals, and others were killed in vast numbers.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, USA

The Holocaust refers to a specific genocidal event in twentieth-century history: the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims — 6 million were murdered; gypsies, the handicapped, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny.

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel

The Holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. Between the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Nazi Germany and its accomplices strove to murder every Jew under their domination. Because Nazi discrimination against the Jews began with Hitler’s accession to power in January 1933, many historians consider this the start of the Holocaust era. The Jews were not the only victims of Hitler’s regime, but they were the only group that the Nazis sought to destroy entirely.

Lesson 1 – Handout #3

Heydrich’s Instructions, November 1938


Copy of Most Urgent telegram from Munich, of November 10, 1938, 1:20 A.M.


All Headquarters and Stations of the State Police All districts and Sub-districts of the SD

Urgent! For immediate attention of Chief or his deputy!

Re: Measures against Jews tonight

Following the attempt on the life of Secretary of the Legation vom Rath in Paris, demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected in all parts of the Reich in the course of the coming night, November 9/10, 1938. The instructions below are to be applied in dealing with these events:

  1. The Chiefs of the State Police, or their deputies, must immediately upon receipt of this telegram contact, by telephone, the political leaders in their areas Gauleiter or Kreisleiter − who have jurisdiction in their districts and arrange a joint meeting with the inspector or commander of the Order Police to discuss the arrangements for the demonstrations. At these discussions the political leaders will be informed that the German Police has received instructions, detailed below, from the Reichsfuehrer SS and the Chief of the German Police, with which the political leadership is requested to coordinate its own measures:
    1. Only such measures are to be taken as do not endanger German lives or property (i.e., synagogues are to be burned down only where there is no danger of fire in neighboring buildings).
    2. Places of business and apartments belonging to Jews may be destroyed but not looted. The police is instructed to supervise the observance of this order and to arrest looters.
    3. In commercial streets particular care is to be taken that non-Jewish businesses are completely protected against damage.
    4. Foreign citizens even if they are Jews are not to be molested.
  2. On the assumption that the guidelines detailed under paragraph 1 are observed, the demonstrations are not to be prevented by the Police, which is only to supervise the observance of the guidelines.
  3. On receipt of this telegram Police will seize all archives to be found in all synagogues and offices of the Jewish communities so as to prevent their destruction during the demonstrations. This refers only to material of historical value, not to contemporary tax records, etc. The archives are to be handed over to the locally responsible officers of the SD.
  4. The control of the measures of the Security Police concerning the demonstrations against the Jews is vested in the organs of the State Police, unless inspectors of the Security Police have given their own instructions. Officials of the Criminal Police, members of the SD, of the Reserves and the SS in general may be used to carry out the measures taken by the Security Police.
  5. As soon as the course of events during the night permits the release of the officials required, as many Jews in all districts, especially the rich, as can be accommodated in existing prisons are to be arrested. For the time being only healthy male Jews, who are not to old, are to be detained. After the detentions have been carried out the appropriate concentration camps are to be contacted immediately for the prompt accommodation of the Jews in the camps. Special care is to be taken that the Jews arrested in accordance with these instructions are not ill treated.

Signed Heydrich,

SS Gruppenfuehrer

Lesson 2 – Handout #4

Reciprocal Teaching Notes

Prepare for discussion of the reading each day by completing this sheet. Record the questions you will share with the group in each of the specific areas as well as ideas that come up as a part of the discussion.

    1. Questions of Fact
    2. Questions of Interpretation
    3. Questions That Are Open Ended
    1. On the back of this sheet, add notes on your group’s discussion and work. You can include notes regarding the reading as well as comments about group dynamics.


Book Title:

Pages Read:

Lesson 2 – Handout #5

Discussion Question Guidelines

For our class discussions, you will develop your own questions based upon your reading for the day. During discussions days, you will ask the others in your group your questions and discuss anything that comes from the questions. Once your groups finish, choose two questions that sparked discussion within the group to share with the whole class. Compose six questions for each reading section, two of each kind. The sample questions below are for the Prologue and Introduction to Night.

Questions of Fact

  • Focus on details from the text.
  • Ask about people, places, and things.
  • Choose surface questions for others to answer.
  • Examples:
    • Why did Wiesel have trouble finding a publisher for Night?
    • What two reasons does Wiesel give for writing this book?
    • What does Mauriac say first drew him to Wiesel?

Questions of Interpretation

  • Focus on meanings that the text communicates.
  • Ask about symbols, themes, and underlying messages.
  • Choose deeper questions for others to answer.
  • Examples:
    • Why did Mauriac find it impossible to imagine what happened to the Jewish children his wife saw?
    • Why does Mauriac believe that the dream conceived in the 18th century dies with the trainloads of Jewish children?
    • How do Wiesel and Mauriac think that reading Night can help ensure that the Holocaust will never happen again?

Questions That Are Open Ended

  • Focus on moving beyond the text.
  • Ask about future effects and implications.
  • Choose open-ended questions for others to answer