Lesson Plan

Valley of Tears

Read a poem written by Cantor Joseph Cysner about his experience during one of the first organized deportations of Jewish residents. Students will gain an understanding of the significance memory has on teaching history.

View All Lessons
The Holocaust

Enduring Understanding

Forced deportations of Jewish residents from Nazi Germany was one of many attempts by Hitler to rid Germany of their “Jewish problem.”

Essential Question

  • 1How can writing down one's memories help future generations?


10 Min

Prepare students what they will be reading the work of a victim.

Elie Wiesel famously speaks of the importance of memory and writing down one’s story. Offer the following quote from Wiesel to your students:

“History is a bridge. We are naturally afraid of our memories. We try to forget, and in truth, some things we must forget a little bit, simply in order to function. And yet…if we truly allow ourselves to forget, history may well return to us.”

Give students a few minutes to consider the quote before asking them what it means to them. Specifically pursue the question of how history is a bridge?


15 Min

Read through the poem The Memoirs of Cantor Joseph Cysner edited and published by Key Documents of German-Jewish History.

Before moving on to the Output section, ask students what they think is happening during the poem, what is the context?


25 Min

Have students pick a line or two from this poem that resonates the most with them. Tell students to write down the answers to the questions below on a piece of paper as they focus on their selection.

  1. Why did you choose the line that you did?
  2. Describe the image you see when you read through it.
  3. What do you think is going through the author’s mind during this time?

Give students 1o minutes to create their answers; then ask for volunteers to share what they wrote down.

Finally, return to the quote by Elie Wiesel about memory.

How does the existence of this poem bridge the reader to history?

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.