Lesson Plan

Unworthy to Live

Learn about the infamous T4 program, the Nazi regime’s first foray into organized mass murder, whose victims were identified by their failure to fit into the concept of an ideal Aryan.

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The Holocaust
Final Solution

Enduring Understanding

Euthanasia was the term the Nazis gave to their practice of killing individuals that they deemed ‘unworthy of life’ and was carried out by the Nazi regime as a precursor to larger policies of mass murder.

Essential Question

  • 1How does what we call something make a difference in how we see it? Why did the Nazis call their system of killing people with disabilities against their will "euthanasia"?


10 Min

Ask students if they have ever heard of the term euthanasia. If so, ask them to explain their understanding.
Define it for them by providing them with the text–on screen, a chalkboard or other shared space: ‘the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.’
Then ask them what ‘mercy’ means and under what conditions must mercy be shown?


15 Min

Have students read the whole document Unworthy to Live by Facing History and Ourselves. Give 10-15 minutes for this task, prompting students to take note of questions they have about the text.


20 Min

Then, divide the class into five groups, assigning each group to one of the discussion questions. As they split into groups, give the following instructions:

  1. Go through all members’ questions about the text and help one another figure out the message of this document.
  2. Then, address your assigned discussion question. Be sure to take notes so that you can share your thoughts with the whole group.
  3. Finally, ask an additional question that comes out of your reflections. This question should attempt to generate conversation between you and your classmates.

Lastly, bring it back to the basics. Return to the defnition of Euthanasia. How could the murder of millions of people be couched as ‘merciful’ by the Nazi regime? What does this say about how they feel about what they’re doing?

Teacher Primer

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