Lesson Plan

Operation Barbarossa

Introduce students to the Einsatzgruppen and methods of extermination during the Holocaust.

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Enduring Understanding

Mobile killing squads massacred over one million Jews in the first years of the war.

Essential Question

  • 1Why did the Nazis consider it strategically important to murder civilians?


5 Min

Begin by asking your students how many Jews were murdered during the Holocaust?
Then, ask them where those people died? Was death isolated to specific areas like camps?
Finally, ask them if they can imagine why killing civilians would have been considered strategically important?


35 Min
Teacher's Note
Make sure students read the title section of this article. A lot of valuable information is in the header.

Prompt students to read the article, Einsatzgruppen: An Overview, from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia.

Use the 3Ps method to dig into the reading in a critical manner. Ask students to take notes on what they find a) Powerful b) Puzzling and c) Propelling. Give approximately 10 minutes for this exercise.

In order to familiarize yourself, and your class with this model, please look over this guide: 3Ps: A Critical Reading Guide.

Then, split the class into groups of four students.

Distribute the two maps from this reading, death camps and mass shooting sites.

Ask the students to compare and contrast the two maps. Note that the number of people killed at the sites identified in each map are approximately equal. Ask each group to respond to the following prompts.

  1. What are the major differences between these two forms of violence?
  2. What do you suppose the impact would be on the communities in these areas?
  3. What are the main differences between these two geographies of violence?
  4. What was your Puzzling question? Does this answer the question you had?

After 15 minutes ask for group responses and broaden into a large class discussion.


10 Min

Finally, return to the 3Ps that they recorded at the beginning of the lesson and share their Profound or Propelling comments, adding additional context to their comments.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

Teacher Primer

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