Lesson Plan

Everything is Forbidden

Students will learn about cultural/spiritual resistance in the ghettos from video testimonies.

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Enduring Understanding

Resistance for many Jews was extremely difficult. With the effort it took to survive, many did not have the strength. However, many still found ways of resisting- both with armed/active resistance and with cultural/spiritual resistance.

This lesson is adapted from Jewish Resistance by Echoes & Reflections. The full unit can be found here.

Essential Question

  • 1What is cultural/spiritual resistance?


15 Min

Have students think about the term “resistance” in the context of the Holocaust. Have them consider and respond to the question, “What are Jews resisting during the Holocaust?”

Explain to your students that despite the risk of harsh and fatal punishments, many Jews still chose to resist in any way they could. Ask students for possible reasons for why some Jews could not resist. (Hunger, sickness, isolation, lack of weapons, care for children, parents, or other family members). Record their answers on the board.

In addition to the term “resistance,” have students think of the term “survival.” Take a few minutes to discuss how these terms are similar and how they are different. Share the official definitions of resistance and survival with the class.

Resistance: the refusal to accept or comply with something: the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
Survival: the state of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.

  • Is survival a form of resistance?

Write down the heading, “Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust” and below write the subheadings “Cultural/Spiritual Resistance” and “Active/Armed Resistance.” Ask a student volunteer to write down key ideas for each form of resistance under the appropriate heading.

Explain that spiritual resistance can often be seen as an attempt to maintain one’s previous way of life and his or her unique identity. The terrible reality in which Jews lived was expressed by the teacher, Chaim Kaplan who lived in the Warsaw ghetto: “Everything is forbidden to us, but we do everything.”


15 Min

Play the video testimonies for Roman Kent and Helen Fagin to the class. There will be a few questions specific to each testimony, so you may choose to play one at a time and have the students answer the questions corresponding to the video before moving on to the second one. Ask the questions in an open discussion with the class.

Questions on Roman Kent:

  1. What are specific examples of resistance Roman Kent shares in his testimony?
  2. Roman wants people to understand that contrary to what some may thing, Jews did resist the Nazis during the Holocaust in a variety of ways. Why do you think he feels it is important for people to understand this?

Questions on Helen Fagin:

  1. How would you characterize the activities Helen Fagin initiated in the ghetto?
  2. What purpose does the Gone with the Wind story serve for the students in Helen’s “clandestine school”?


12 Min

Have the students take 10 minutes to reflect and write out how their understanding of resistance has changed over the course of the lesson.

Take the time you have left to ask students to share what they wrote down in response to the prompt.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

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