Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans

  Ghetto children
Children eating in Warsaw ghetto streets.
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Personal Response to the European Ghetto
Stephanie Heintz Wood
North Iredell High School
Olin, North Carolina





This lesson falls at the completion of our studies on the European ghettos during the Holocaust. Students will have read such texts as Images from the Holocaust, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, and We are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers. This lesson represents a culminating assignment that allows students to display a growing knowledge of Holocaust history, while simultaneously personalizing the events of the Holocaust.


  • Students will use historical information to create a visual project based on some aspect of the ghettos.
  • Students will incorporate text, be it prose, poetry, documentary, diary, or photos, as part of their illustrations and presentations.
  • Students will orally present their artwork, sharing personal connections with the themes they have chosen to represent.
  • Students will have the opportunity to have their artwork displayed in the school and in the library as part of a "class museum" at the end of the semester.

Time Required

Three 90-minute class periods, plus the weekend for independent work - one as an introductory, one for library (and web) research, and one for presentations.

Grade Level


Curriculum Fit

Holocaust Literature course. These lessons easily lend themselves to a history or English class. Whereas Holocaust Literature covers each phase of the Holocaust in as much depth as time allows, this particular lesson can be easily adapted to suit the needs of any teacher and class, as well as be adjusted to fit into other time allotments. The only main requirement is that the European ghettos have been studied.

Procedure / Strategy

Day One - As students arrive to class, each will be given a copy of lyrics from the song entitled, "And These are Their Names" by Rachel Averbach (a song of resistance). Students will respond to this song/poem (in writing) in their Reader Response journals--using their knowledge of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the resistance movement as a basis for their responses. Their response should include two parts: a very personal response to the lyrics and their best attempt to make associations between the lyrics and historical events of the Holocaust. After student writing and class discussion, students will be "taken to the USHMM" via the web (using an LCD projector which displays the website for the entire class). We will view many photographs from the archives of the ghettos, including the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, linking these photographs to others categorized under the topic of resistance. Students will be asked to view the photographs critically as we study the people in the photos, as well as their surroundings. Also, part of this process is to familiarize students with how to "maneuver" through the USHMM website so that they may have easier access to materials they may want for their upcoming projects. At the end of class, students receive the project assignment: to illustrate some aspect of ghetto life. See Attachment A.

Day Two - This class period will be totally devoted to student research in the library, using a variety of books purchased mainly for my class (by recommendation of nearly eight Mandel Fellows), as well as time on the library computers for web research. Students will be directed to suggested Holocaust sites such as the following:

Day Three - This "day" will actually take place approximately a week later. Students will present their projects orally to the class, following the guidelines on both Attachment A. and Attachment B. Subsequently projects will be displayed for students to complete a "gallery walk" to better view individual designs.

Materials Used / Resources 

  1. Poem/song by Rachel Averbach entitled, "And These are Their Names…" can be downloaded.
  2. USHMM website exploring photos from archives on topics related to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and ghetto life.
  3. Student research on ghettos and leaders, following the content covered in the course syllabus: Excerpts from Images of the Holocaust Anthology, The Diary of David Sierkowiak, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, We are Witnesses, On Both Sides of the Wall and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (video documentary).

Evaluation / Assessment

In addition to my own grading system, I also use a peer evaluation, wherein approximately three students, in addition to myself, are evaluating any three given projects at any given time. I distribute project grade sheets, with presenter names already filled in, and students anonymously evaluate throughout the presentation period. This method of assessment not only gives the teacher another "set [or three] of eyes," in reviewing each project, but it also insures that creativity and fairness are protected for each student. See Attachment B.

Attachment A

Illustrating the Ghettos - Holocaust Literature

We are nearing the end of our studies on the European ghettos under Nazi rule during the Holocaust. For this assignment, you are to create a visual representation of the ghettos according to the following guidelines:

  1. Choose a theme/themes—i.e. sadness, resistance, family, hunger, chaos, etc.
  2. Select a quote from any of our readings, video, or from a source of your choice (but it has to be taken directly from a Holocaust document) which encapsulates the theme/themes you wish to represent from the European ghettos.
  3. Select a form of presentation that can be viewed—video, poster, 3-D model.
  4. Be prepared to give a brief overview of your project orally to the class, and be ready for questions your peers may have about the "how's" and "why's" of your design.
  5. Be creative, but be truthful to history.

Attachment B

Peer Evaluation Sheet - Holocaust Literature

Project Title:

Student Presenter

Directions for the evaluator: On a scale from 1-10 per category, rate the presenter in each of the following areas:

Creativity of project:

Historical Accuracy:


Personal connection:

Ability to answer questions:

Overall assessment:

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