Lesson Plan

World Leaders Hesitate

Examine a detailed video about the international response to growing evidence of Nazi war crimes and learn about the effect that public pressure can have on the decisions of governments.

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Enduring Understanding

International leaders were slow to respond to the evidence of the mass murder of Jews by the Nazi regime.

Essential Question

  • 1Why are heads of state hesitant to intervene, even when there is evidence that atrocities are occurring?


15 Min

Prompt students to do a bit of pre-writing about the subject. Ask them to reflect briefly on the motivations of the Allied forces of World War II. Specifically, prompt them to see if the likes of Great Britain, the USA and France were focused on stopping the Holocaust. After a few minutes, ask students to voice their answers and orient them to the predominantly political nature of the conflict.


15 Min

Before showing the video, anticipate some of its content by asking students to pay close attention to the following questions:

  1. When was the information about the Holocaust revealed?
  2. Who received this information?
  3. What did the recipients of this information do with it?
  4. Did nations change their approach to war, in light of evidence about the Holocaust?
  5. What groups were responsible for initiating action?

Then, show the first 8:20 of the video, Did the world remain silent? produced by Tel Aviv University.

After the video, see if your students can answer the five questions listed above.


20 Min

After establishing the facts around these international responses, split the class into three groups, each of whom will respond to a different troubling fact discussed in the video. Ask each group to tackle these questions in depth, thinking about the context of the situation as much as they can.

Group 1: At 1:42, the speaker suggests that the Russians saw evidence of the Holocaust in early 1942, but concealed the fact that murders were taking place specifically against Jews. Why?

Group 2: At 5:08 the speaker mentions that even at the end of 1942, ‘no concrete action’ to stop the Holocaust was mentioned by the Allies, despite mounting evidence of the murders. Why would the Allies not develop a plan to stop the atrocities?

Group 3: At 5:28, the speaker mentions that the War Refugee Board, which helped save the lives of thousands of Jews, was created as a result of public pressure. What does this say about your role as a citizen?

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