The Diary of Anne Frank Background Knowledge for Teachers

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Teaching the Background of The Holocaust

There are several ways to teach background for the Holocaust, but many students do not bode well to long PowerPoints full of information, or huge passages of facts that they must read and regurgitate at once. The Holocaust has so much information pertaining to its topic, and as a teacher, you may find it very difficult to decide what information is the “most important” when it comes to selecting what you want to share with your students.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website (USHMM) is an excellent resource for locating and finding information. Using this website, you can break down the information you share with your students by “stations” and have them rotate from table to table, gathering background information about the Holocaust, but remaining engaged in collaborative learning.

What Holocaust Topics Should You Teach?

It is up to you what resources you want your students studying for background knowledge of the Holocaust, but I will share with you the important themes I want my students to know before we begin reading The Diary of Anne Frank Play:

  1. Hitler’s rise to power in Germany
  2. Nazi Propaganda
  3. The Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, and the Pyramid of Hate
  4. The Jewish Ghettos
  5. Deportation and the mass transfer of Jews to Poland
  6. Concentration Camp Life
  7. Liberation
  8. The Nuremberg Trials

I cover the eight topics listed to give my students a diverse and well-rounded background on the origins of the Holocaust and the events preceding the mass murders and the after math of the fall of the Nazi regime.

Teaching the Holocaust should not be about shocking images of death and starvation. Students must know the process of how the Nazi murder machine gained momentum (and earned a semblance of acceptance among bystanders) and was allowed to continue for as long as it did.

Now that you have a better understanding on what to teach, learn how to set up the stations for learning as well as the materials you will need.

Set Up Station Rotations for Learning

If you are lucky enough to have tables in your room versus desks, then this activity will require little to no set up. However, if you have desks, you will need to arrange them so you have four to five desks grouped together to make a table. You will need to make a total of four groups set up so that they are not close together to allow movement around the room when it is time to rotate.

Label the stations as colors; for example, GREEN STATION, BLUE STATION, RED STATION, PURPLE STATION, etc. This seems to be less confusing than numbering the stations. Depending on the size of your room, it also helps to create two of each station, so that when one group finishes at the green station, they can easily find an open station of another color.

Depending on the resources I select, I also make a master question sheet that has questions pertaining to the documents or videos the students are reading and watching at each station. I also label the questions in groups according to their station color, but the students know that their group (they must remain in the original group of four or five that you assign them) can complete the station questions in any color order.

Lesson Plan Materials

  • Manila or file folder for each station
  • Laptops or desktop computers that connect to the internet
  • Teacher-created questionnaire and copies for each student
  • Music to play during rotation time

Using the United States Holocaust Memorial website, I will show you how to select information for each station in my next article, “Collaborative Learning Stations: Teaching Background for The Diary of Anne Frank Play”.


  • Teaching experience.

This post is part of the series: Anne Frank and Holocaust Lesson Plans

Lessons that help teach about the Holocaust, Anne Frank and other aspects of World War 2

  1. Use a Dramatic Reading Circle When Teaching The Anne Frank Play
  2. Holocaust Background Knowledge for The Diary of Anne Frank Play
  3. Collaborative Learning Stations, Part One: Historical Background to The Diary of Anne Frank
  4. Teach Middle School Students About the Holocaust and Anne Frank