Lesson Plan

What is a Nazi Concentration Camp?

Combining a lesson from the UCL Center and the USHMM resources, students will gain an understanding of what concentration camps were like between 1939-42.

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Enduring Understanding

Unlike a typical prison system, concentration camps held people with no regard to legal basis for arrest and imprisonment.

Essential Question

  • 1How did concentration camps develop over time?


10 Min

Provide students with a blank A5 piece of paper (postcard sized) and a pencil. Give students just 2-3 minutes to sketch what they think a Nazi concentration camp looked like. Assure them that their artistic skills are not the main focus, rather this exercise seeks to visualize their prior knowledge and understanding of concentration camps.

In groups of four, ask students to create a gallery with the images they created. Ask them to talk about the similarities and differences between the sketches.


10 Min

Direct students to the resource, Concentration Camps, 1939-42 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Read through the first two sections, “Expansion of the Camp System” and “Establishment of New Camps” as a class.

Direct student attention to the list of camps: Gusen, Neuengamme, Gross-Rosen, Auschwitz, Natzweiler, Stuffhof, and Majdanek. Click on one of the camps on the list to show students what type of information can be found for each one. Scroll to the bottom of the page to show where the discussion questions will be.


30 Min

In the same groups that they are already working with, assign each group one of the camps from the list. Have students prepare a brief presentation about their assigned camp answering the questions below.

Provide students with the following instructions:

  1. When was the camp established?
  2. How many prisoners were held there?
  3. What type of people did they imprison there?
  4. What work were the prisoners doing there?
  5. Name one thing you found that surprised you about this particular camp.
  6. Answer one of the discussion questions found at the bottom of the page.
  7. Compare the sketches you made at the beginning of the lesson to what you now know about the camps.

Reconvene as a class. Ask students some new things they learned about concentration camps. Compared to their sketches and what they know now, what would they have changed in their drawing?

Tell students that (as they may now realize) that all camps were different. There is no such thing as a “typical” concentration camp. Different camps had different functions and they changed over time.

Wisconsin Academic Standards

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

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

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