Lesson Plan

Arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Students will go through testimonies and photographs from the different stages people went through upon deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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Enduring Understanding

Auschwitz-Birkenau is often seen as the symbol of the Holocaust. All phases of getting to, and arriving at, Auschwitz-Birkenau had their own harrowing experiences.

Essential Question

  • 1What did Auschwitz-Birkenau represent?


10 Min
Teacher's Note
It is important to emphasize that Auschwitz was both a concentration and extermination camp. It has become the primary symbol of the Holocaust because of the large number of people murdered there, the fact that Jews were sent there from all over Europe, and because of the industrial character of the killing process.

Begin by asking your students, What was Auschwitz? What does it symbolize? What happened there? You may want to show the class a map of the Auschwitz camp by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ask your students if anyone has visited the site? If someone has, ask them if they would share this experience.
Explain to students that today Auschwitz is a museum and a memorial, therefore when one enters the site today, one will not see the place as it was 60 years ago. Some buildings were preserved and others are gone; there is grass, and so on.


10 Min

Direct students to the resource by Yad Vashem. Take some time to introduce your class to the site. The numbers in the left sidebar will take you to primary sources accompanying the major phases people went through while in Auschwitz. Click through pages 2-6 to show students what to expect on each page.

Divide the class into groups of three to five and assign each group a number 2-6 (number 1 is the Introduction page) and the resource page that corresponds with that number.


30 Min

Provide groups with the questions corresponding to their group and give them the instructions below:
Read through the testimonies and look at the photographs for your designated section.
Prepare a presentation answering the questions that accompany your topic.
If possible, project the page for each group as they present so the entire class can see the images and testimonies that are being discussed. Present in order, having the group for Arrivals start off.

If time permits, end the class by showing students this drone footage of Auschwitz 70 years after it was liberated.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

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