Lesson Plan

A Poem for the Victims

Create a poem based on letters written by Holocaust victims sent to family members from home, hiding, ghettos, prisons, and concentration camps.

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Enduring Understanding

Letters help to tell the individual stories and restore the names and faces of the victims of the Holocaust.

Essential Question

  • 1How do we honor the memory for those who have passed?


5 Min

Tell students that the letters that they will look through in this exhibit were sent from the Czech lands, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and the Ukraine and that they were written by victims of the Holocaust.

Not all authors of these letters understood their fate. Some letters may depict uncertainty, some optimism, and others may show that the author knew exactly what awaited them. There were also cases when people were coerced to write letters saying all was well, when the reality was far more grim.


15 Min

Direct students to the handout “Creating a Found Poem” by Facing History and Ourselves. Read over the instructions as a class before directing students to the Yad Vashem exhibit, “Last Letters From the Holocaust:1944”.

Each letter is accompanied by some background information on the sender and receiver; students should read these as well.

Create a poem together as a class in order to give students an idea of what to do. Use the short letter, “Dear Papa” as an example. Ask students to brainstorm ideas on how to write the poem. Remember, you can reuse words to help make the poem longer than the postcard. Be creative!


35 Min

Have students look through the Yad Vashem exhibit and choose a letter to write their poem from. Allow your students some time to complete their poems. When it appears that everyone is done, get the conversation flowing by asking the following questions:

  1. How did it feel reading these letters?
  2. Did you feel a connection to the person whose story you wrote about?

Let students have the opportunity to take their poems home to keep working on them for the next day or two. Collect the poems at the end of the class (or week if you decide to give more time). Keep them as a class project that you can use as an example in doing this lesson with other classes. Ask for volunteers to read their poems aloud to the class.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Teacher Primer

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