Lesson Plan

At the Gates of Death

Students will watch videos and testimonies to learn about people’s experiences at Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

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Enduring Understanding

Although the primary goal of the killing centers was that- to kill- there was still a selection process where a small ratio of people were sentenced to work. The selection process and being separated from one’s family left victims traumatized.

Essential Question

  • 1How can uncertainty and fear influence how someone reacts in a given situation?


5 Min

Explain to students that there was a very distinct process that the Nazis developed to optimize the efficiency of arrivals at the camps. Ask students if any of them are aware of what this was like? Have they heard anything about the selection process before?


30 Min
Teacher's Note
Videos can be found, saved, and downloaded through USC Shoah Foundation iWitness.

Watch this video by Yad Vashem to get an overview of the structure and layout of Auschwitz. Then show students video testimonies from Ellis Lewin and Eva Kor by USC Shoah Foundation iWitness.

Ellis Lewin Questions:

  1. How does Ellis describe the experience of arriving at Auschwitz?
  2. What does Ellis say about the pace at which things were happening?
  3. Why didn’t Ellis’s father want Ellis to hang on to him?

Eva Kor Questions:

  1. How does Eva describe her surroundings when she got off the train?
  2. Why did Eva’s mother hesitate when she was asked if the girls were twins? Explain to students that, alongside the other horrible things done to people in the camps, some were chosen for medical experiments. Twins were often selected for genetic experimentation.
  3. How did Eva react when the SS tried to tattoo her arm?


10 Min

Survivors often describe their arrival at the killing centers as a chaotic time filled with fear and uncertainty. How did listening to these two testimonies contribute to your understanding of this?

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

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