Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans


Life and Death in the Camps
Rosemary Conroy
St. Luke School
Shoreline, Washington


  Electrified fence, gate at Auschwitz I camp
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives


This lesson is taught in the middle of our study of the Holocaust. The students have already been exposed to pre-war culture, the rise of National Socialism, the pre-war deprivation of rights, and ghettoization. It is built around primary source documents (Goring's order to Heydrich and Protocols of the Wannsee Conference) and its purpose is to help students gain an understanding of the mechanics involved in the implementation of the Final Solution.


  • To enable students to differentiate between concentration camps and death camps. 
  • To provide an overview of what life in the camps was like.
  • To define the final solution.
  • To enable students to visualize the magnitude of 6 million deaths. 

Time Required

1-2 days

Grade Level

Middle school or high school

Curriculum Fit

Social Studies

Materials Used / Resources

  1. The Auschwitz Album from Yad Vashem, including a photographic presentation of the album.
  2. Göring, Hermann. Order to Reinhard Heydrich to prepare a final solution. The primary source document is available from Yad Vashem.
  3. Killing Centers and Concentration Camps from Holocaust Encyclopedia.
  4. Levi, Primo. Oral history interview.
  5. Nazi Camps Animated Map
  6. Protocol of the Wannsee Conference January 20, 1942. Primary source from The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.
  7. USHMM. Maps including camp locations.

Teacher Directed Activity

  1. Differentiate between concentration camps and death camps. Define and discuss the Wannsee Conference and the "Final Solution" using the primary sources. Explain that mobile killing squads (Einsatzgruppen) were already murdering Jews in the Soviet Union.
  2. Discuss deportation by truck and train from the ghetto. Read "The Journey" to students. Point out that the six death camps were all located in Poland (Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Beizec, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Majdanek). Discuss the train ride, arrival at camp, selection for labor, selection for death.
  3. Examine life in the camp conditions, survival tactics. Use posters to initiate discussion. Discuss the process of using the gas chambers to kill as efficiently as possible.

Student Activities

  1. Students should write in their journals (10 minutes).
  2. In order to gauge the magnitude of 6 million deaths, do the following calculations:

  • Suppose you decide to observe a minute of silence for each of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. If you begin your silence now, when would you speak again?

  • If you listed 100 names on a page, how many pages would it take to list the names of the 6 million who died? 

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