Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

War Crimes
Pamela Blevins
US or World History
Time Frame:
1-2 days
Nazi Germany
Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This is a cumulative lesson on the Holocaust. This lesson will be used towards the end of the Holocaust Unit. Students will have a thorough knowledge of the Holocaust. This lesson may be used before or after the lesson on the Nuremberg trials.


To have students study, not only the atrocities commited during WWII, but the consequences of these, and the judicial processes used to administer justice

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • Standard 1: Vocabulary - The student will expand vocabulary through
    word study.
  • Standard 2: Fluency: The student will identify words rapidly so that attention is directed to the meaning of the text
  • Standard 3: Comprehension: the student will interact with the words and concepts in the text to construct an appropriate meaning.
    Sections 1, 2,3
  • Standard 5: Research and Information: The student will conduct research and organize information.
    Sections 1, 2

    Speaking: The student will express ideas and opinions in group or individual situations.
    Visual Literacy: The student will interpret, evaluate, and compose visual messages.


    2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

    6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

    7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)


    KANSAS STANDARDS (High School-World History)

    Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the Era of World War (1914-1945).

    3. (A) examines the nature of totalitarianism in fascist Germany and communist Soviet Union (e.g., one party rule; systematic violation of human rights, secret police, state supremacy over individual rights, role of private property, class structure).

    4. (A) analyzes the causes and immediate consequences of WWII (e.g., German, Italian, and Japanese aggression; failure of the League of Nations; appeasement; development of American, British-Soviet alliance; Holocaust; Nanjing; introduction of nuclear weapons; war crime trials).

    Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

    1. (A) analyzes a theme in world history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

    2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in world history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

    3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in world history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, forming conclusions about its meaning (e.g., use provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

    Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

    Materials needed:

    • Handout of Nuremberg charges - Handout 1(All three handouts are in pdf format.)
    • Handout of Nuremberg defendants - Handout 2: Outcome of International Military Tribunal
    • Handout of overview of other 12 trials - Handout 3: The Subsequent Nuremberg Trials: an Overview
    • Reference books about the Holocaust and Nuremberg from class library and library- will vary with room, school, and public library.
    • Chart of Nuremberg war crimes that students create
    • Paper for students to make their own charts
    • Sticky notes

    Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
    Full description of activity or assignment.

    Students will brainstorm what war crimes are and as a class come to a consensus of which of the crimes could be prosecuted. They would make charts of their war crimes.

    In groups of 2-3 students will use resource books and websites (specific ones) to decide which 2 people they have studied they would charge with war crimes, what charges, and why. They would put their person on a sticky note with the charges and rationale. They would put their person on the war crimes chart.

    Using handouts or websites, students will discuss the Nuremberg charges and defendants. Students will be given a partially filled out chart on Nuremberg charges. Students will fill in the chart as we discuss topic.

    Students will move their people to the correct charge on the Nuremberg list.
    Students will discuss why their person was left off and why others were charged.

    Students will look at the other trials lists of defendants to see if their person was ever charged or not and discuss why or why not.

    Students will watch a film clip from Auschwitz, part 6 on why not everyone was tried.

    Students will predict how each of the defendants was judged, the ultimate charge and sentence. They will fill in their chart of war crimes.

    Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

    Students will be graded on a rubric for working as a group.
    Student discussion will elicit whether or not students understand the concept of war crimes and their significance.
    Teacher observation