Lesson Plan

Mapping Stories of Extermination

Explore an interactive map and tap into first-hand accounts from various sites of massacre across Eastern Europe, a space that came to be known as the Bloodlands.

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Enduring Understanding

Mobile killing squads massacred over one million Jews in the first years of the war and were aided by the neighbors of the victims.

Essential Question

  • 1Why were some people willing to turn their neighbors and friends over to the Nazis or take part in murder themselves?


5 Min

Explain to students that one of the tactics used by the Nazi regime in their attempt to mass murder was the use of Mobile Killing Units, or the Einsatzgruppen. Under the cover of war, these groups marched into territories where they targeted and killed over half a million people, primarily Jews.


15 Min
Teacher's Note
This lesson is best used after an introduction to the SS through other lesson plans within this topic, so make certain that your students know what the Einsatzgruppen are.

Navigate the Yahud-in Unum map. The map is dotted with red and blue marks, each indicating a site of a massacre committed by the SS. It is recommended that you and your class familiarize yourself with navigating the map–zooming, dragging, clicking in and out of the sites.

Then, select a single country to focus on as a class. Centering attention in this way helps generate a sense of greater accomplishment at the end of the lesson.


40 Min

After selecting a country, refer to the map of SS movements. Note which SS groups would have been in the country and when–how long has this community been suffering from war? What might be their level of fear, hunger, or desperation when the SS show up?

Now, divide the class into groups of 3.

Each group must:

  1. Choose a site that is documented online (red).
  2. Examine all of the information available (text, pictures, videos, testimonials, etc.) and select the most significant and interesting information about the events that happened here.
  3. Create a presentation for the class using a selection of the materials provided by Yahud-in Unum. The presentation should attempt to answer the following questions:
      1. How does this local story contribute to our understanding of the Holocaust?
      2. What does this location teach us about intolerance? Indifference? Power?
      3. What is the importance of discovering these buried stories?

As the groups present, collect their answers to the major questions. These lessons can then become touchstones for continued discussion and inquiry about the Holocaust, about intolerance and about exploring the past.

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

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