Lesson Plan

The First Concentration Camps

Students will analyze primary sources from 1933-1939 during the early usage of the concentration camp system. Students will learn about the different types of prisoners that suffered in the camps.

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Enduring Understanding

Early concentration camps tested what the Nazis could get away with. They were also a place where SS and SA officers could be groomed to act out violently towards prisoners.

Essential Question

  • 1How did the early use of concentration camps set the stage for their expanded use in the Final Solution?


5 Min

Ask students what they know about concentration camps. Do they know when they started? What kind of people were imprisoned in them?


20 Min

Read through the resource, Early Camps by the BBC with the class. Then go back and demonstrate how to get to the primary sources by clicking on the red lettering in the text and then clicking on “Read Document” that comes up.

Dissect the first resource, “mass arrests” as a class. Use the following guidelines to help go through it:

  1. First, identify where the source is coming from.
  2. Summarize the resource.
  3. What assumptions can be drawn from it?
  4. Lastly, come up with a question that comes out of your reflections. The question should attempt to generate conversation between you and your classmates.


25 Min

Divide the class into groups of three or five and assign each group one of the eight other primary sources. Some sources are longer than others, so you may decide you want to have larger groups analyze those. The longer resources are the ones labeled: ‘no mercy’, ‘murders’, ‘left-wing prisoners’, and ‘German Jews’.

Have them repeat what you did as a class in their groups with their assigned resource. Ask each group to present their resource to the class verbally. If possible, project each resource for the class as the group goes over it.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

Before you teach, use our teacher primer to freshen up on your content knowledge.