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Lesson Overview

Essential Questions

  • How was Terezín a typical Nazi ghetto and how was it unique?
  • How did the Nazis use Terezín as a propaganda tool to achieve their goals?
  • What is the significance of the International Red Cross visit to Terezín?

Lesson Objective

Students will examine the characteristics of Terezín and the International Red Cross’ visit there in order to develop an understanding of how the Nazis used it as a propaganda tool to deceive the world about their treatment of Jewish prisoners and the larger effort to murder all the Jews of Europe.


CSS.ELA-Literacy.RH9-10.1:  Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH9-10.2:  Determine central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Getting Started

Module 2 (Social Studies II) aligns well with the following subjects/themes:

  • Social Studies or History:
    • Teaching about Nazi ghettos to express the complexity of the Nazi ghetto/concentration camp system
    • Propaganda during the Holocaust
    • The history of the Red Cross
  • Government/Social Studies: Teaching about propaganda in current or past events
  • English Language Arts:
    • Reading memoirs or novels with themes of resistance
    • Reading memoirs or novels that reference Terezín

Pre-teaching recommendations

Social Studies II is designed for teachers and students working at an intermediate level. It is most suitable in the context of a full unit on the Holocaust or a semester-length elective.

If your students are new to studying the Holocaust, we highly recommend beginning with Social Studies I and using the pre-teaching resources provided. Social Studies I can work as a companion to Social Studies II.

Additional recommended pre-teaching resources:

For propaganda in historical or contemporary context:

For the role of ghettos within the Holocaust:

For the role of Terezin:

For definitions of Holocaust terms, please visit Echoes and Reflections Audio Glossary

For a complete list of resources related to Defiant Requiem, please visit the Resources page.

Quick History Facts

  • On June 23, 1944, a delegation from the International Red Cross visited Terezín to ensure that prisoners were being treated humanely as stipulated in the Geneva Convention of 1929. *Note that the names Terezín and Theresienstadt refer to the same ghetto and can be used interchangeably.
  • In advance of the Red Cross visit, the Germans undertook a massive effort to beautify the camp, hide evidence of hunger, mistreatment and suffering, and present Terezín as a “model ghetto” where prisoners were well-treated and engaged in intellectual, physical, and creative activities.
  • Rafael Schächter and his chorus performed the Verdi Requiem before an audience of German officers and members of the International Red Cross delegation.
  • The Germans were successful in convincing the International Red Cross that there was nothing amiss in Terezín.
  • The day after the visit, the Germans resumed deportations to the killing centers. Schächter and most of his chorus were deported from Terezín to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Schächter perished, as did the majority of the chorus.
  • The words of Verdi’s Requiem take on new meaning when considered in the context of Jewish annihilation. Survivors from Terezín who sang in that concert recall that, in their desperation, they felt singing these words to the Germans was a form of defiance and singing them to the International Red Cross was a plea for understanding and help.

Lesson Materials

Lesson Sequence: Part I

1. Begin by having students closely examine the article, “Ghettos” from the Holocaust Encyclopedia, including watching the embedded film and interview clips. Discuss the following questions as a class and create a list or idea web that displays the collective information gathered.

  • What was a Nazi ghetto in the context of the Holocaust?
  • What were the primary functions of the ghettos and how did the Nazis use them to help carry out the murder of the Jews of Europe?
  • What were the living conditions like in the Nazi ghettos?

2. Next, students will participate in a gallery walk to learn more about the ways in which Terezín was a typical Nazi ghetto. The following “stations” should be created for the gallery walk.

Direct students to examine the sources provided in the gallery walk and respond to the questions provided in the Gallery Walk Graphic Organizer

3. Once students have had a chance to visit each station and record information on their Gallery Walk Graphic Organizer, debrief to ensure they have identified relevant and accurate information.

Part II

1. Screen Defiant Requiem (use password: survivingevil). Direct students to fill in the Defiant Requiem Graphic Organizer with specific evidence/details that show how Terezin was unique and how the Nazis used it as a propaganda tool.

2. After viewing the film, allow students to share the notes from their graphic organizer to discuss how the film demonstrates both the unique characteristics of Terezín.

3. Engage students in a discussion about how the Germans concealed the typical elements of Terezín and highlighted its unique characteristics to use it as a propaganda tool.


To provide a deeper understanding of the visit of the International Red Cross to Terezín, have students read Embellishment and the Visit of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Terezin, 23 June 1944 and complete the Red Cross Visit Guiding Questions using information gathered both from the film and the article.

Allow students to choose from one of the following prompts and write a reflection about it, using information they learned from the module.

  1. In the film Defiant Requiem, Marianka May described the Germans’ cover-up of the reality of Terezín during the Red Cross visit saying, “Deception is not the right word. There must be worse words for that.”  What does she mean by this? How would you describe the significance of the deception that the Germans used to cover up the reality of Terezín?
  2. Eva Rocek, a survivor who sang the Verdi Requiem before the International Red Cross said, “We were hoping that the Red Cross will see that something is wrong, that this is not a group of people entertaining [them], but I think our feeling was that they didn’t get it. They saw what the Nazis wanted them to see.” Historians and others now believe that the Red Cross should have known the truth, especially since it was so late in the war and information about the genocide of Europe’s Jews had reached official circles. Reflect on the consequences of the International Red Cross’ failure to recognize what was happening in Terezín. Can you think of other instances in which societies have failed to recognize human rights abuses?