Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans

  Hidden children
Lida Kleinman hid in a Catholic orphanage.
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.

Children in Hiding During the Holocaust 

Bill Younglove
Secondary School Teacher, Retired
California State University Long Beach, California




Children survived the Holocaust under varied sets of circumstances. Those in hiding generally fared much better than those in camps, both in terms of numbers and conditions. Still, the "hiding place" ranged from the "open forest" to the claustrophobic false closet or subterranean floorboards. What did these children take with them? What were their major concerns? How did their hidden existence shape their lives? This lesson helps students begin to understand how child survivors grappled with such factors.

Terminal Objectives

  • Given a journal prompt on going into hiding, students will draw, name, describe, and defend their five item choices.
  • Given nine questions about a variety of hidden children's experiences during the Holocaust, students will, in supportive groups of four, answer all sections of all nine items completely and accurately.
  • Given a three item analysis prompt, students will write a one page, minimum, reflective response that compares and contrasts the relative values of objects and human worth.

Purpose / (CA) Content Standards

Language Arts

  • 2.2 Write responses to literature that demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the significant ideas of literary works.
  • 2.3 Write reflective compositions that draw comparisons between specific incidents and broader themes that illustrate the writer's important beliefs or generalizations about life.
  • 2.4 Deliver oral responses to literature that identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and complexities within the text.

History/Social Science

  • Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons learned.
  • Students show the connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.
  • Students interpret past events and issues within the context in which an event unfolded rather than solely in terms of present day norms and values.

Time Required

Minimum of two class days with additional day for wrap-up.

Curriculum / Grade

English/Social Studies 9-12


  • Overhead (going into hiding/luggage-illusions) writing prompts
  • Overhead of group directions and questions
  • Backpack and luggage background paper, faint enough to be written on
  • At least five brief selection photocopies from the 25 bibliographic works about children in hiding during the Holocaust, listed below.
  • Anne Frank Diary excerpt, five lines from 8 July, 1942 entry
  • TV/VCR and Schindler's List video

 Online Resources 

Procedure / Strategy

Day 1

  1. Display this anticipatory set (a writing prompt) using overhead projector:
    Your family has just told you that all of you are going into hiding within the hour. Nobody knows for sure how long it may be. You just know it will be a place of safety. You can take one small backpack (18" by 12" by 8") with you, holding no more than five items maximum. The total weight will be not more than 35 kilograms. Your food, not usually in the pack, will be 400 grams, a two-day supply of mostly bread. This allowance, set by the Germans (50 kilograms of luggage for adults), was the amount permitted by the French when the Germans were driven out of Alsace-Lorraine during World War I.
  2. Give students directions for the writing prompt. Students will have ten minutes to complete the prompt. Teacher then collects sheets.
    Draw, name, and describe on the backpack the five kinds of things you would select to bring with you telling, in parentheses, why you have chosen to bring each item.
  3. Share with students that fewer than 5,000 European Jewish children survived the concentration camps. Some 50,000 survived by hiding in homes, barns, convents, monasteries, forests, and caves. Collectively, these child survivors (Jewish, Gypsy, institutionalized, and handicapped children) were just 10-11% of their total population.
  4. Note that those who went into hiding often had short notice. There were also orders about how much children and adults could bring. If any of us today faced a sudden, natural disaster (e.g., fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc.), we, too, might have to make rapid choices. Ya'acov Handeli, a child survivor, notes in A Greek Jew from Salonica Remembers, "The most sought after item of all [to go from the ghetto to the camp] was a strong knapsack. People sold their jewelry, gold, and furniture to get these things." (p.49)
  5. Provide the following notes/information to the students on an overhead or poster: We can speak of four general aspects of (types of) hiding experiences:
  1. Hiding in the open by hiding one's Jewish identity. One could be using false papers or living as someone's family member or in a convent.
  2. Being on the run. One moves from temporary shelter to temporary shelter.
  3. Hiding in the forest with, or as, a Partisan (a resistance fighter)
  4. Hiding in a particular place. One hides in a closet, cabinet, behind a false wall, in an attic, cellar, barn or haystack. This can be on someone's property with or without that person's knowledge or help.
  1. Explain that most hidden children experienced more than one aspect of hiding. Each hiding experience was different, of course, depending upon a variety of factors, including whether the person hid with parents, other relatives, or alone; the emotions of the others in hiding; the conditions of the hiding place; the motivations and actions of the hiding person, family, etc.
  2. Group students by fours, giving each group one "Children in Hiding" excerpted piece. See the Bibliography on the Hidden Child below.
  3. Display Directions and Questions on the overhead, reading and discussing each one briefly with the class.
  4. Directions for group work:
  1. Share/read carefully your literature selection in your group.
  2. Discuss the selection with your group, using the following questions as your guide.
  3. Appoint a recorder to take notes.
  4. Appoint a reporter to summarize your experiences and conclusions with the whole class.
  1. Questions  for group work
  1. Which kind of hiding does your piece describe? See four types of hiding above.
  2. What did you learn about this kind of experience?
  3. What were your feelings as you read this piece? Did these feelings enhance (make better) or hinder (make worse) your learning?
  4. What phrase, sentence, or passage made the strongest impression on you? Why?
  5. What sense did you get, if any, of the rescuer who (may have) made this hiding possible? What did you learn about her/him; about his or her motivations? How did this piece cause you to want to know more about rescuing and hiding relationships?
  6. Can you connect this piece to any other piece of literature you have read or film you have seen?
  7. If your piece were written in the first person (I), does that help or hinder your understanding of and interest in the story?
  8. How, if at all, does your story of the hidden person fit into your study of the Holocaust?
  9. Were there any unanswered questions raised by your group; if so, what were they?
  1. After each group has read its excerpted piece (circa 6-7 minutes), hand the sheet with the nine (a-i) questions to the group recorder who is to write the names of the members at the top. Check group progress after twelve minutes, but be prepared to extend time to fifteen to eighteen minutes, if need be.
  2. Ask the reporter to stand visibly in front of the class and share the group members' interpretations of the excerpted piece about children who hid during the Holocaust. Group members can add comments if they wish.
  3. Collect each reporter's response sheet when he/she finishes presenting.

Bibliography on Hidden Child

Adler, David. Hiding from the Nazis. New York: Holiday House, 1997.

Alland, Bronislawa. Memoirs of a Hidden Child During the Holocaust: My Life During the War. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992.

Bishop, Claire Huchet. Twenty and Ten. New York: Viking Press, 1952.

Chenkin, Evelyn. Gathering the Remnants. Ra‘ananah: DocoStory Publishers, 1999.

Cretzmeyer, Stacy. Your Name is Renee: Ruth Kapp Hartz's Story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-occupied France. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Drucker, Malka and Michael Halperin. Jacob's Rescue: A Holocaust Story. New York, N.Y. : Bantam Skylark, 1993.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1952.

Greenfield, Howard. The Hidden Children. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1993.

Isaacman, Clara and Joan Grossman. Clara's Story. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1984.

Marks, Jane. The Hidden Children: The Secret Survivors of the Holocaust. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.

Nir Yehuda. The Lost Childhood: A World War II Memoir. New York: Scholastic Press, 2002.

Orlev, Uri. Island on Bird Street. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.

Orlev, Uri. The Man From the Other Side. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Reiss, Johanna. The Upstairs Room. New York: Harper & Row, 1990

Rosenberg, Maxine. Hiding to Survive: Stories of Jewish Children Rescued from the Holocaust. New York: Clarion Books, 1994.

Segel, Lore. Other People's Houses. New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton, 1994.

Selver-Urback. Through the Wndow of My Home: Recollections from the Lodz Ghetto. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1986.

Shawn, Karen, ed., Three Generations Speak. Englewood, NJ: Yad LaOlalim, the Holocaust Study Center of the Moriah School of Englewood, 1995.

Stein, André. Hidden Children: Forgotten Survivors of the Holocaust. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Suhl, Yuri. Uncle Misha's Partisans. New York: Four Winds Press, 1973.

Toll, Nelly. Behind the Secret Window: A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood During World War II. New York: Dial Books, 1993.

Vos, Ida. Anna is Still Here. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Vos, Ida. Hide and seek. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Weinstein, Frida Scheps A Hidden Childhood: A Jewish Girl's Sanctuary in a French Convent, 1942-1945. New York: Hill and Wang, 1985.

Zapruder, Alexandra. Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Zar, Rose. In the Mouth of the Wolf. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983.

Ziemain, Joseph. The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square. Minneapolis. Minn.: Lerner Publications, 1975.

Day 2

  1. Anticipatory Set. Read the Wednesday, 8 July 1942 entry from The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank:
    “Margot and I began to pack some of our most vital belongings into a school satchel. The first thing I put in was this diary, then hair curlers, handkerchiefs, schoolbooks, a comb, old letters; I put in the craziest things with the idea that we were going into hiding. But I’m not sorry, memories mean more to me than dresses.” 
  2. Teacher redistributes the backpack journal responses from yesterday and asks students, “And what did you put into your backpacks yesterday?”
  3. Using overhead projector, teacher displays sample items that students had listed by category on previous day (e.g., foodstuffs/water, clothing articles, reading/writing materials, documents, medicines, personal pictures/objects, etc.). 
  4. Students give reasons for their choices. 
  5. Teacher confirms and expands upon student input, adding the following background: 
  1. Family pictures were used by many survivors to help locate loved ones during the post WW II displaced person years. The value of an article of clothing was shown by Gerda W. Klein in All But My Life (p. 86) wherein Papa insisted she wear skiing boots during their summer deportation. The boots were taken off her feet after a death march three years later.
  2. Elie Wiesel wrote in Night (p. 27) “The cherished objects we had brought with us thus far were left behind in the train (upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau), and with them, at last, our illusions.”
  1. A five-minute plus excerpt from video Schindler’s List is shown, depicting deportation, the confiscation of the victims’ luggage and baggage by the Nazis, and then the examination and sorting of the victims’ possessions by Jewish prisoners at the train depot.
  2. Teacher distributes either an 8 and 1/2 X 11 inch drawn suitcase or a lightened photocopy of actual stacked suitcases (from USHMM materials or a work such as Tell Them We Remember pp. 96-97). 
  3. Students respond to the following writing prompt by writing their paragraphs on the top of the enlarged suitcases:
    Based upon your reading/study during past days, write a one-page paper, minimum, in which you answer these questions:
  1. What makes a possession “cherished” when one leaves home?
  2. Is hiding from danger ever a realistic choice? Explain your answer.
  3. Elie Wiesel said that the victims’ illusions were left behind when they had to abandon their luggage, too. What does this tell us about the beliefs of many of the victims in hiding and in the ghettos?
  1. As a closure activity, students are given an exit slip with two questions: What did you learn during this lesson series? What question(s) do you still have?
  2. Students are encouraged to inquire if any family members ever had to leave their home(s) suddenly; if so, what they took and what they learned from the experience (worth extra credit points).
  3. Assessment
  1. Each prompt response is worth ten points based upon completeness (five backpack items/three questions addressed) and rationales provided (defense of choices; if any literature referenced).
  2. Each group report (written copy from group reporters) is worth ten points based upon addressing completely as many of the nine questions as feasible.
  3. Completed exit slips are worth two points each. Extra credit is worth up to three points.

Day 3 (Wrap up)

  • Consider shared uses of the exit slip lessons learned/questions asked.
  • Consider student sharing of the (extra credit) home-leaving experiences by family members.
  • Decide whether the one page minimum written analysis should be revised and word-processed into a final draft. If so, consider peer read-around sharing, eliciting the best paper from which to create a class 4-point rubric. The final step would be to have the students then apply that rubric to their own drafts in order to make the final revision.

Thanks to Renee Kaplan, ‘98 Museum Fellow and to Dr. Karen Shawn of The Moriah School of Englewood, NJ and to The American Friends of The Ghetto Fighters’ House for conceptual ideas within this lesson.

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