About the Series Learning Resources
auschwitz: inside the nazi state
Learning ResourcesIntroduction Teaching Guide Surprising Beginnings Orders & Initiatives Factories of Death Corruption Murder & Intrigue Liberation & Revenge Community Guide Timeline Biographies Glossary Web Resources Organizations Bibliography

Teaching Guides: Introduction

How to Use the Teaching Guides


This section consists of six teaching guides, one for each one-hour episode of the series. The guides are directed primarily to high school social studies and English teachers and are organized as follows:

Download: pdfIntroduction (pdf) | *Adobe Reader required

Overview: summarizes the program's themes and identifies the individuals interviewed in the final segment of the episode.

Target Audience: where the program is most likely to fit into the curriculum.

Student Learning Goals: what students could achieve if they watched the entire program and completed all the follow-up discussion and activities. In most cases, teachers will want to focus on those goals that best meet their local curricula and the learning needs of their students, rather than using the entire guide for any particular episode.

Content Synopsis: a more in-depth, segment-by-segment summary of the hour, including the length of each segment.

Learning Resources:

  • Timeline: Sets the events depicted in Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State in the context of the larger history of the period 1917 to 1963.
  • Biographies: Identifies the historical figures featured in the series and individuals interviewed who were witnesses of Auschwitz, both survivors and perpetrators.
  • Glossary: Definitions of key words used in the series and on the website.
  • Readings: Each teaching guide has four readings that either provide additional background information or are literary works about the content. It is expected that teachers will choose from among these depending on their discipline, learning objectives, and the reading level of their students. A PDF of each reading is provided.

Before Viewing the Film: resources teachers will want to obtain before screening the program, pre-viewing discussion ideas, or information students will need to fully understand the program to be screened.

Post-Viewing Discussion: discussion prompts, some of which connect to readings. Teachers are advised to select from among these ideas discussion prompts that will help achieve local curriculum objectives, rather than to see these as a sequence of activities that must be completed.

First Steps

  1. Tape the series off the air. The series has one-year, off-air recording rights for educators. You may use these tapes at no cost for one year from the time of initial broadcast. DVDs of the series are available for purchase beginning March 29, 2005. To order, call 1-888-607-2999. The retail cost is $34.98. A 10% discount is available to educators. Sales tax will be added to all California orders and S&H will be applied to all orders. Payments must be by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express).
  2. Read the Interview with Lawrence Rees, series executive producer and writer, for insight on how he approached production of this series. You might also want to obtain a copy of the Rees's companion book, Auschwitz: A New History (Public Affairs, 2005). To order, call 1-888-607-2999. The retail cost is $30.00. A 10% discount is available to educators. Sales tax will be added to all California orders and S&H will be applied to all orders. Payments must be by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express). (ISBN 1-58648-303-X). It provides more intensive background information on the content of the series.
  3. Preview the series. Although the producers have taken considerable effort to select images that tell the story but are not sensational, teachers are advised to view the series in its entirely to see if there is any material they think is inappropriate for students.
  4. Read the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust. This is particularly important if you have never participated in any teacher training workshop or course on teaching the Holocaust. It will help you put the series in a pedagogical context and provide some support and suggestions about how to handle the tough issues that are likely to emerge in a classroom discussion.
  5. Find out what students know about the Holocaust and how they know it. For example, ask if they have heard of Auschwitz and what it is. You may find that students have as much misinformation as facts. At the least, you will get a feeling for the depth of their knowledge. This is also a good opportunity to have students articulate the questions they have about the Holocaust and to store these questions as a framework for later discussions.
  6. Review (or present) an overview of the period between World War I and World War II in Europe. Among the issues to explore: What kind of lives did Jews in Europe lead before World War II? Who was Hitler? How did he come to power? What were the goals of the Nazi Party and how was the party organized? By the outbreak of World War II, what changes had the Nazi Party already instituted in Germany and how did these changes marginalize the Jews? Who were Germany's allies? Why and when did Hitler invade Poland? In what other periods of history were Jews persecuted? By whom? Why?
  7. Make sure students know the difference between a documentary scene (a film of real people, places, or events as they were taking place )and dramatizations (recreations of real events with actors playing historical roles). In this series, people in dramatizations always speak in German and the scenes have English subtitles. The dramatizations are always based on specific research findings and the sources of the information are mentioned in the narration. Encourage students to listen carefully for source information.

Special Note

In addition to the discussion prompts and activities in the teaching guides, the following teaching suggestions and strategies apply to the series as a whole.

  • The series contains some very powerful material and is sure to evoke strong emotions among viewers. Some will want to talk about how they feel immediately, but many may prefer an opportunity to process their thoughts privately or discuss them in a small-group setting.
  • After providing a brief period for processing, it is important to establish what students actually saw and heard. Divide the class into small discussion groups of four or five students each. Have each group write down as many things from the program as they can remember , both in terms of images and commentary. Use some of the following questions for probes: Who did you see and what were they doing? What were they wearing? Where were they? What was happening? What information did you learn from the segment? Have each group report out and as they do, build a picture of the segment on the board. You might end the lesson by having each group write a brief summary of the segment or extend the lesson with specific discussion prompts selected to best support your curriculum, such as: What are some of the themes that emerge from the film? What specific things did you hear or observe that support your theme?
  • When discussing any particular segment, encourage students to tell exactly what they observed. What was the setting? Who was involved? What were they doing? What they were wearing? What could you tell about their emotions?
  • Finally, there is no more powerful way for students to learn about the Holocaust than for them to hear directly from survivors. To find out if there are survivors in your community, contact the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO) or the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

Curriculum Connections

This Teaching Guide for Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State has been developed for use primarily in high school social studies and English language arts. Each guide includes both discussion prompts and readings that will help you achieve national standards in social studies and English. Following are related standards from the following two national professional organizations:

National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Teachers of English

National Council for the Social Studies Standards


  • analyze and explain the ways groups, societies and cultures address human needs and concerns;
  • interpret patterns of behavior reflecting values and attitudes that contribute or pose obstacles to cross-cultural understanding;
  • demonstrate the value of cultural diversity as well as cohesion within and across groups.

Time, Continuity and Change

  • systematically employ processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and reinterpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, and searching for causality;

People, Places, and Environments

  • refine mental maps of locales, regions and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size and shape;
  • describe and compare how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, government policy and current values and ideals as they design and build specialized buildings, neighborhoods, etc.

Individual Development and Identity

  • examine the interactions of ethnic, national or cultural influences in specific situations or events;
  • analyze the role of perceptions, attitudes, values and beliefs in the development of personal identity;
  • describe the ways family, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status and other group and cultural influences contribute to the sense of self;
  • compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of altruism and other behaviors on individuals and groups;
  • analyze how attitudes, values and beliefs influence development of personal identity;
  • compare and evaluate acts of altruism and other behaviors in individuals and groups.

Individuals, Groups and Institutions

  • apply concepts such as role, status and social class in describing the connections and interactions of individuals, groups and institutions in society;
  • analyze group and institutional influences on people, events and elements of culture in both historical and contemporary settings;
  • describe the various forms institutions take, and explain how they develop and change over time;
  • identify and analyze tensions between expressions of individuality and efforts used to promote social conformity by groups and institutions;
  • describe and examine belief systems basic to specific traditions and laws in contemporary and historic movements;
  • describe the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change;
  • evaluate the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change.

Power, Authority and Governance

  • examine persistent issues involving the rights, roles and status of the individual in relation to the general welfare;
  • analyze and explain ideas and mechanisms to meet needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, establish order and security, and balance competing conceptions of a just society;
  • compare different political systems (their ideologies, structure, institutions, processes and political cultures) with that of the United States, and identify representative political leaders from selected historical and contemporary settings;
  • compare and analyze the ways nations and organizations respond to conflicts between forces of unity and forces of diversity;
  • analyze and evaluate conditions, actions and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among nations;
  • evaluate the role of technology in communications, transportation, information-processing, weapons development or other areas as it contributes to or helps resolve conflicts;
  • evaluate the extent to which governments achieve their stated ideals and policies at home and abroad.

Production, Distribution and Consumption

  • describe relationships among the various economic institutions that comprise economic systems such as households, business firms, banks, government agencies, labor unions and corporations;
  • compare how values and beliefs influence economic decisions in different societies.

Science, Technology and Society

  • examine and describe the influence of culture in scientific and technological choices and advancements, such as in transportation, medicine and warfare;
  • identify and describe both current and historical examples of the interaction and interdependence of science, technology and society in a variety of cultural settings;
  • analyze how science and technology influence the core values, beliefs and attitudes of society, and how core values, beliefs and attitudes of society shape scientific and technological change.

Global Connections

  • explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation and interdependence among groups, societies and nations;
  • analyze the relationships and tensions between national sovereignty and global interests, in matters such as territory, economic development, nuclear and other weapons, use of natural resources and human rights concerns.

National Council for Teachers of English Standards

  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.