Life in Shadows Lesson Plans

  Nesse Godin

Hidden Children and the Holocaust: A Lesson and Pledge for Action
Scott Durham and Margaret Lincoln
Lakeview High School
Battle Creek, Michigan



Nesse Godin addresses group in Hall of Witness
(photo provided courtesy of speaker)


This lesson provides an opportunity for students to explore personal accounts of young people and hidden children during the Holocaust by means of USHMM Identification Cards and the online exhibition Life in Shadows and to relate difficult historical circumstances to their own lives today. 

Goals for Student Understanding

  • Students will develop a personalized understanding of the human characteristics expressed in the individual accounts of Holocaust victims and survivors.
  • Students will develop an empathetic understanding of the choices, risks, and hardships faced by children in hiding during the Holocaust.
  • Students will develop an enduring understanding of the importance of taking action and of how individuals in the Holocaust, from victims and rescuers to perpetrators and collaborators, were capable of doing great good and great harm.


  • Students will develop a list of special human characteristics shared among Holocaust survivors and victims portrayed in the set of USHMM Identification Cards.
  • Students will research background information about the fate of Jewish children during the Holocaust by means of the USHMM online exhibition Life in Shadows and supplemental resources.
  • Students will analyze primary documents, photographs and artifacts presented by the online exhibition.
  • Students will critically examine the account of a hidden child and describe how they may be able to identify with the story of this child.
  • Students will synthesize their comprehension of the meaning of the Life in Shadows exhibition and its implications for today’s world by creation of a Holocaust Remembrance Pledge.

Time Required

Three class periods on block schedule

Grade Level

Grades 8-12 

Curriculum Fit

World at War: Global Conflict in the 20th Century (Social Studies Elective)

Pedagogy / Teaching Strategies

Day 1: Introduction

This lesson begins by urging students to think about historical figures not as names in a textbook or images on a screen but rather as real people. The challenge is to bring human characteristics to people from the past. How can students identify with individuals whom they will never meet?

By examining the USHMM set of Identification Cards, students begin to regard victims of the Holocaust, especially children, as real people, with real names, with real families, with real experiences. The class is divided into six groups and each group receives a complete set of Identification Cards. Students are told that approximately half of the people described on the Identification Cards were Holocaust survivors. These individuals may have been hidden, may have taken on false identity or were rescued so as to survive the ghetto experience or internment in camps. The remaining Identification Cards represent people who died in the Holocaust.

The task for each group is to determine 10 people among these 37 whose experiences made a particularly vivid impression on the students. Group members consider the human characteristics that caused them to identify with the individuals portrayed on the Identity Cards. Students complete the “Holocaust Identification Card Analysis” sheet and list the names of these 10 individuals in any order, associating one or more human characteristics with each individual. Examples of such characteristics might include intelligent, willing to help others, musical, having a sense of humor, etc. Each group should also briefly note the circumstance of a particular challenging ordeal faced by the individual. In preparation for this part of the lesson, students will have completed chapter 13 on the topic of “Rescuers” in Life Unworthy of Life.

Students transfer to the front board their list of 10 individuals and accompanying characteristics. A class discussion follows based on the questions suggested below. The teacher circles any names that are repeated in the six lists and begins referring to the individuals on the board by their names so as to best model an effort to treat the individuals as real people.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which common characteristics are shared by the people on the board?
  2. Do any characteristics make a life seem more worthy?
  3. What was the most difficult challenge you faced when selecting 10 people from the set of Identification Cards? The easiest?
  4. Are any of these characteristics lacking in young people of today?

After this class discussion, each student individually completes Part I of the “Personal Reflection” sheet, the portion relating to the Holocaust Identification Cards. This sheet will be used in the culminating activity of the lesson.

The concluding activity of Day 1 involves a preview of the exploration of the online version of Life in Shadows that will take place on Day 2. The library media specialist, a frequent visitor to the classroom, briefly introduces the Website to students and shares supplemental print resources that are available in the school library. Although students are not required to do any additional reading in connection with the present lesson, many are quite motivated to check out these titles following the book talk. Students receive an annotated bibliography of the supplemental print resources and the additional Websites.

Day 2: Exploration

  1. The second day of the lesson allows students to take a virtual tour of the online version of Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust and continue to work together in the same six groups that were formed on the previous day. If possible, Day 2 of the lesson should take place in the regular classroom equipped with a set of laptop computers having Internet access. This arrangement facilitates more face-to-face contact among students and more cooperative learning. If necessary, however, the lesson may be conducted in the computer lab.
  2. There are six main sections in the online exhibition. Several of these sections feature sub-sections. This design offers a convenient way for the teacher to pre-assign various portions of the exhibition to the six groups of students so that collectively, the class is better able to explore Life in Shadows in its entirety. Students complete the “Life in Shadows Exploration” sheet.

Day 3: Reflection and Action

The concluding portion of the lesson allows students to reflect on the previous day’s activities involving Identification Cards and the online exhibition and to begin to synthesize their learning in the form of a pledge for action.

The teacher begins this day by reading aloud Chaim Rumkowski’s “Give Me Your Children” speech while students follow along with a written copy. Students break into their six work groups and address the question “Would you give up the child whose story and special photograph/artifact you explored yesterday in section IV of Life in Shadows?” Each group then makes a short presentation to the class, displaying their hidden child and artifact/photograph from the online exhibition site and offering a rationale for protecting or giving up the child. Approximately 30 minutes should be allotted to the Rumkowski speech activity.

The next step is to prepare students for the culminating activity of the lesson. Students are provided with background on the genocide in Sudan and given the text of a brief speech delivered by Holocaust survivor Nesse Godin in the Hall of Witness at USHMM in 2004. In her comments, Nesse Godin simply and eloquently called upon us to make a pledge to make this world a better place where all people, regardless of how they pray or look, can come to live freely. Students will respond to five open-ended questions concerning the fate of children in the Holocaust and our world today. These questions are found in Part II of the “Personal Reflection” sheet. Drawing upon their responses to these questions and their thoughts recorded previously in Part I of the “Personal Reflection” sheet in the section about the Identification Cards, students will be asked to compose their own pledge for action. Students are asked to declare their own responsibility to take action when confronted with hatred, prejudice or antisemitism. Complete instructions for this culminating activity can be found on the “Holocaust Remembrance Pledge” sheet. This assignment will be completed as homework.

During the remaining portion of this final day, students view the classroom videotape version of the film Weapons of the Spirit (approximately 35 minutes). This documentary chronicles the hiding and rescue of 5,000 Jews (including many children) by residents of the small village of Le Chambon, France. The film’s creator Pierre Sauvage was himself a hidden child in Le Chambon. We choose to conclude the lesson by giving students the opportunity to watch this moving and very uplifting story. Students recognize that uncelebrated individual and collective acts of good will and righteousness existed even throughout the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Materials Used / Resources

  • Student assignment sheets/handouts with instructions for all lesson activities:
  1. Holocaust Identification Card Analysis
  2. Personal Reflection
  3. Life in Shadows Exploration
  4. Holocaust Remembrance Pledge
  5. Bibliography
  • Bolkosky, Sidney M. A Holocaust Curriculum: A Life Unworthy of Life. Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Center for the Study of the Child, 1987. This 18-lesson instructional unit includes a comprehensive teacher guide, student booklets and an accompanying videotape with documentary film and survivor testimony. The curriculum can be used in its entirety or individual lessons (each timed for one class period) can be selected.

  • USHMM set of 37 Identification Cards    

  • USHMM online exhibition Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust

  • Chaim Rumkowski’s speech “Give Me Your Children”

  • Sauvage, Pierre. Weapons of the Sprit. Waltham, MA : National Center for Jewish Film, 2000. This videotape recounts the story of a village in France, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, that took in and sheltered 5000 Jews from Nazis, as told by Jewish filmmaker, Sauvage, who was himself born and protected in that defiantly peaceful community. The classroom edition contains follow-up interview between Pierre Sauvage and Bill Moyers.

  • Transcript of Nesse Godin’s comments during Bearing Witness for Darfur program in USHMM Hall of Witness, June 24, 2004.

Evaluation / Assessment

The learning objectives of this lesson are largely affective and therefore may be difficult to assess. Our goal is to try to encourage every student to obtain full credit by turning in the completed “Life in Shadows Exploration” and “Personal Reflection” sheets along with the “Holocaust Remembrance Pledge.” If the pledge is well thought out and demonstrates that adequate time and effort have been put forth, the student will successfully fulfill the requirements for the lesson. 

Young people may feel uncomfortable in doing the type of self-analysis that this lesson entails. With proper skill and guidance, however, the teacher may be able to instill a form of learning and introspection that the student has not often experienced. It is also beneficial to both the teacher and student to schedule a short individual conference outside the regular class period. Feedback on the lesson can thus be shared and students feel more confident in discussing the impact which this study of the Holocaust has had on their lives.


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