Resistance in the Holocaust Lesson

Download a PDF of the Lesson here

Overview: Resistance comes in a variety of forms, both violent and non-violent. Students will consider the many factors which may lead an individual or group to resist an oppressive regime. This should follow already covered content on the early oppressive acts of Nazi Germany on Jews and an overview of the Holocaust in general of life during the Holocaust.
Grade Level: Grades 9-12

Subject: Multidisciplinary, English, Social Studies

Duration: 90 minutes

NC Standards Addressed:


RI 1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

RI 2: Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Social Studies:

WH.H.1.3: Use Historical Analysis and Interpretation to: 1. Identify issues and problems in the past. 2. Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past. 3. Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causations. 4. Evaluate competing historical narratives and debates among historians. 5. Evaluate the influence of the past on contemporary issues.

WH.H.1.4: Use Historical Research to: 1. Formulate historical questions. 2. Obtain historical data from a variety of sources. 3. Support interpretations with historical evidence

Essential Questions:

  1. How did the Jews resist Nazi oppression during the Holocaust?
  2. How effective was Jewish resistance during the Holocaust?

Learning Objectives:

After the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the various ways people resisted and rebelled against the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
  • Explain why these actions of resistance and rebellion were important, no matter the cost.

Previewing Vocabulary:

Musselmen– slang term used among captives of World War II Nazi concentration camps to refer to those suffering from a combination of starvation and exhaustion and who were resigned to their impending death.

Partisans– a member of an armed group formed to fight secretly against an occupying force.

Guerrilla Warfare– a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.

Sabotage– a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction.

Ghetto- a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.

Sonderkommando- a group of prisoners assigned to collect belongings and dispose of the bodies of other prisoners who had died or been killed.

Righteous– morally right or justifiable; virtuous.


  1. Have student pre-read the Resistance Google Slides presentation ahead of time for homework.
  2. Have students watch the USHMM Animated Map on Resistance (2:23) (also embedded on this page at the bottom) to give them an overview of the different types of resistance during the Holocaust. (5 min)
  3. Introduce Discussion Questions by cutting out the questions on the handout and giving each student one question. Then, have them stand and pair up with another student in the room who has a different question and tell them to have a discussion for two minutes (one minute per question). Then, have them move and find someone else with a different question. Do this five times for a total of ten minutes. Debrief with the students, getting one or two to share what surprised them while reading. (15 min)
  4. If you are able to schedule a traveling exhibit from the NC Council on the Holocaust, have pre-set up in classroom or in the hall, the “Women in Resistance” travelling exhibit from the NC Council on the Holocaust, pass out a printed copy of the questions and instruct students to check out each poster and find the answers to the questions on their sheet as a sort of scavenger hunt. If you are not able to get the exhibit, continue the lesson with the next task. (30 min)
  5. Pass out the two stories provided by the NC Council on the Holocaust of Simone Weil and Gizella Abramson. Pair up students and after having them answer the pre-reading reflection question on the handout, have each student in the pair read one of the stories and fill out the chart to answer the questions for their person. Then, students will share with each other about their person and completely fill out the chart. They then answer the three questions at the end either individually or alone to reflect on what they learned. (30 min)
  6. Still keeping students in pairs, give students The Last Words of Mordechai Anielewicz handout and have them read the letter out loud to each other and discuss the questions at the end. Debrief as a class. (10 min)
  7. Introduce students to five more stories of resistance through the USHMM Curator’s Corner videos on this Google Slide presentation. You can either share the presentation with students on a platform like Google Classroom and have them complete it individually (they will need headphones) in class on a device or use the presentation in a whole class format, playing the videos and having whole or small group discussions after each one. The Curator’s Corner series from the USHMM explores the importance of artifacts and the stories that they tell, and each of these stories is focused on a different way that people resisted during this time period. Most of them are 4-6 minutes long. (30 min)


Using either a computer, Chromebook, or a phone, have students fill out the Google form exit ticket to answer three short questions, including one of the essential questions. (5-10 minutes)

E-Learning Adaptation:

You could have students pre-read the PowerPoint notes and create however many critical thinking questions to utilize in an online class discussion.

You can also share all documents via Google Classroom or whatever platform you may use for students to complete. There are various online exhibits available through the NC Council on the Holocaust that you can utilize. You can create a scavenger hunt questions list for students to answer as they “tour” the exhibit like the one utilized above. Visit this link to see even more resources from the NC Council on the Holocaust.


As a follow up lesson or resources that you can use to extend student learning on this topic, have students either read Resistance Packet information digitally or have it pre-printed for them and have a printed copy of the questions for each student. A suggestion would be to divide students into teams of seven and have one student answer questions for each letter section of the packet. (15-20 minutes for individual work) Then have students share out their findings to each of the other members of their team to write their answers down and discuss. (20-30 min for group share)

You can also follow this lesson by watching the sixty minute film, The Power of Good about Nicholas Winton and his rescue of children from Czechoslavakia:

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