Teaching Holocaust and Human Behaviour (UK)

Social Studies


Designed for UK classrooms, this unit consists of fifteen lessons and leads students through an examination of the catastrophic period in the twentieth century when Nazi Germany murdered 6 million Jews and millions of other civilians during the Second World War.

It draws upon and adapts resources from the book Holocaust and Human Behaviour and its related media collection, and it follows the Facing History and Ourselves scope and sequence. Students begin with an examination of the relationship between the individual and society, reflect on the way humans divide themselves into ‘in’ groups and ‘out’ groups, and consider both the Weimar Republic and the Nazi Party’s rise to power in Germany. Students then bear witness to the human suffering of the Holocaust and examine the range of responses from individuals and nations to the genocidal mass murder of the Nazi regime. In the later lessons, students draw connections between this history and the present day, weighing questions like how to achieve justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of atrocities, how painful histories should be remembered, and how this history educates us about our responsibilities in the world today.

Learning Goals

Students will:

  • Recognise the human tendency to create ‘in’ groups and ‘out’ groups, and the consequences of that behaviour for a society’s universe of obligation.
  • Understand the particular historical context in which the Nazi Party established a dictatorship in Germany, marginalised Jews and other minority groups within German society, and ultimately committed genocide under the cover of war.
  • Wrestle with the choices that individuals, groups, and nations made in response to the Nazi dictatorship and the violence and terror it caused, as well as the aspects of human behaviour that contributed to those choices.
  • Make connections between universal themes related to democracy, citizenship, racism, and antisemitism that this history raises and the world they live in today.
  • Understand their responsibilities as active young citizens to make choices that help bring about a more just and compassionate world.


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This unit overview gives you a brief summary of all of the lessons in the unit and lists the materials needed alongside the main activities.


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Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 15

Introducing the Unit (UK)

Students develop a contract establishing a reflective classroom community as they prepare to explore the historical case study of this unit.

Lesson 2 of 15

Exploring Identity (UK)

Students identify the social and cultural factors that help shape our identities by analysing a story and creating personal identity charts.

Lesson 3 of 15

Single Stories (UK)

Students examine the human behaviour of applying categories to people and things, gaining an understanding of 'single stories' and stereotypes.

Lesson 4 of 15

Universe of Obligation (UK)

Students learn a new concept, universe of obligation, and use it to analyse the ways that their society designates who is deserving of respect and protection.

Lesson 5 of 15

The Roots and Impact of Antisemitism (UK)

Students explore the long history of discrimination against Jews and come to understand how anti-Judaism was transformed into antisemitism in the nineteenth century.

Lesson 6 of 15

The Weimar Republic (UK)

Students reflect on the idea of democracy as they analyse the politics, economics, and culture of Germany during the period of the Weimar Republic.

Lesson 7 of 15

The Rise of the Nazi Party (UK)

Students examine how choices made by individuals and groups contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lesson 8 of 15

Dismantling Democracy (UK)

Students examine the steps the Nazis took to replace democracy with dictatorship and draw conclusions about the values and institutions that make democracy possible.

Lesson 9 of 15

Youth in Nazi Germany (UK)

Students learn about the experiences of young people in Nazi Germany through a variety of firsthand accounts and identify the range of choices that they faced.

Lesson 10 of 15

Kristallnacht (UK)

Students learn about the violent pogroms of Kristallnacht by watching a short documentary and then reflecting on eyewitness testimonies.

Lesson 11 of 15

Race and Space (UK)

Students examine the Nazi ideology of “race and space” and the role it played in Germany’s aggression toward other nations, groups, and individuals.

Lesson 12 of 15

The Holocaust - Bearing Witness (UK)

Students are introduced to the enormity of the crimes committed during the Holocaust and look closely at stories of a few individuals who were targeted by Nazi brutality.

Lesson 13 of 15

The Holocaust - The Range of Responses (UK)

Students deepen their examination of human behaviour during the Holocaust by analysing and discussing the range of choices available to individuals, groups, and nations.

Lesson 14 of 15

Justice and Judgement after the Holocaust (UK)

Students grapple with the meaning of justice and the purpose of trials as they learn how the Allies responded to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Lesson 15 of 15

How Should We Remember? (UK)

Students both respond to and design Holocaust memorials as they consider the impact that memorials and monuments have on the way we think about history.

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