Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Amy Krajewski
Global Studies
Time Frame:
This lesson will use three-four classroom periods
Declaration Of Human Rights

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • The students will analyze primary sources, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They will apply this information to historical circumstances of human rights violations in a written piece.

  • This lesson will help students to understand the circumstances that led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and help students apply the Declaration to current circumstances.

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

  • NYS Social Studies Framework-10.10 HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: Since the Holocaust, human rights violations have generated worldwide attention and concern. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights has provided a set of principles to guide efforts to protect threatened groups and has served as a lens by which historical occurrences of oppression can be evaluated. (Standards: 2, 5; Themes: ID, TCC, SOC, GOV, CIV)
  • CCRS- RH.9-10.2, 4, & 8
  • CCWS-WHST.9-10.2, 4, & 5

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Text Book may be used to provide background information on the Holocaust, the purpose of the United Nations, and to help students with vocabulary.

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

1. Pictures from the Holocaust found at the Truman Library website



  2. Oral History Interview with J. Maktos http://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/maktosj.htm

 Focusing on pages 2-5, and 30-34


3. History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights



4. Letter from E. Roosevelt regarding the process of writing the Declaration



5. Full Text of UN Declaration on Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

(in addition there is a plain text version and translations of  the declaration at this website)




Supplemental Documents for additional research.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/displayimage.php?pointer=2731  pic prisoners



http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentdate=1944-08-29&documentid=C107-10-54&studycollectionid=&pagenumber=1 jew press report on pope view



http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentdate=1945-00-00&documentid=C107-3-2&studycollectionid=&pagenumber=1  charges

Full description of activity or assignment.

Day 1

  • The Teacher will make sure that the students are familiar with the necessary vocabulary for this lesson. This includes but is not limited to the following: genocide, Holocaust, human rights,
  • The Teacher will introduce the lesson by asking the following open ended warm-up question- “What would violate someone’s human rights?” The Teacher will lead a short discussions based on the student responses to this question.
  • The Teacher may wish to introduce the thematic assessment to the students at this time to help the students focus on important information during the note taking process.
  • The Teacher will print pictures and the transcripts of the interview from Resource 1 and 2 or the teacher may wish to have the students research the documents on their own. The students will use the attached Document analysis form as they look at the documents. This activity may be done in pairs or as a small group.
  • The students will answer the following as a ticket out the door assessment- “How did the Nazis violate the human rights of the Jewish people during WWII?”



Day 2

  • The Teacher will introduce the lesson by asking the following open ended warm-up question- “What should people do if they know others are doing something that violates the human rights of others?” The Teacher will lead a short discussion based on student responses to the question.
  • The students will read the “History of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights” (document three) and the letter from E. Roosevelt (document four). This may be done in pairs. The students will take two-column (Cornell Notes) as they re-read the information. If the students do not have access to the internet the Teacher will print this information.
  • The students will answer the following ticket out the door assessment- “Why was drafting (writing) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights considered such a historical event?”


Day 3


  • The Teacher will introduce the lesson by asking the following open ended warm-up question-“What rights do you think all people should be guaranteed?” The teacher will lead a short discussion based on the student responses to the question. The Teacher should record these rights somewhere that is visible to all students.
  • The students will work in pairs reading the Declaration. As the students read the will choose three of the rights guaranteed in the Declaration that are similar to the rights that were discussed previously. The teacher may wish to abridge the document or highlight passages that will help the students focus. The students will explain the rights they have chosen and add this information to the notes taken the previous day. The students will research examples of Human Rights violations that have occurred throughout history up to modern day and working in pairs decide how the Declaration could apply to these human rights violations. The teacher may wish to supply the students with examples from the text book or from independent research. The students will continue to take notes. The students will write a thematic essay that addresses the following:




Directions: Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs addressing the task below, and a conclusion.


Theme: Human Rights


Task: Throughout history, there have been many examples where groups of people have been denied their human rights. Individuals, groups, and governments have attempted to end many of these human rights violations although they have not always been successful.


  • Explain the historical circumstances that led to creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Describe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how it was created
  • Discuss how the Declaration applies to a human rights violation that has occurred throughout history





Report, "Criminal Conspiracy, Charge One: Persecution of the Jewish Religion and Culture (Campaign Against Judaism), Part II", Records of the World Jewish Congress, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives




Universal Declaration
of Human Rights
Plain Language Version


When children are born, they are free and each should be treated in the same way. They have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner.

Everyone can claim the following rights, despite
- a different sex
- a different skin colour
- speaking a different language
- thinking different things
- believing in another religion
- owning more or less
- being born in another social group
- coming from another country
It also makes no difference whether the country you live in is independent or not.

You have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety.

Nobody has the right to treat you as his or her slave and you should not make anyone your slave.

Nobody has the right to torture you.

You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere, and like everyone else.

The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all.

You should be able to ask for legal help when the rights your country grants you are not respected.

Nobody has the right to put you in prison, to keep you there, or to send you away from your country unjustly, or without good reason.


If you go on trial this should be done in public. The people who try you should not let themselves be influenced by others.


You should be considered innocent until it can be proved that you are guilty. If you are accused of a crime, you should always have the right to defend yourself. Nobody has the right to condemn you and punish you for something you have not done.


You have the right to ask to be protected if someone tries to harm your good name, enter your house, open your letters, or bother you or your family without a good reason.


You have the right to come and go as you wish within your country. You have the right to leave your country to go to another one; and you should be able to return to your country if you want.


If someone hurts you, you have the right to go to another country and ask it to protect you. You lose this right if you have killed someone and if you, yourself, do not respect what is written here.


You have the right to belong to a country and nobody can prevent you, without a good reason, from belonging to a country if you wish.


As soon as a person is legally entitled, he or she has the right to marry and have a family. In doing this, neither the colour of your skin, the country you come from nor your religion should be impediments. Men and women have the same rights when they are married and also when they are separated.
Nobody should force a person to marry.
The government of your country should protect you and the members of your family.


You have the right to own things and nobody has the right to take these from you without a good reason.


You have the right to profess your religion freely, to change it, and to practise it either on your own or with other people.


You have the right to think what you want, to say what you like, and nobody should forbid you from doing so. You should be able to share your ideas also—with people from any other country.


You have the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in meetings in a peaceful way. It is wrong to force someone to belong to a group.


You have the right to take part in your country's political affairs either by belonging to the government yourself or by choosing politicians who have the same ideas as you. Governments should be voted for regularly and voting should be secret. You should get a vote and all votes should be equal. You also have the same right to join the public service as anyone else.


The society in which you live should help you to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to you and to all the men and women in your country.


You have the right to work, to be free to choose your work, to get a salary which allows you to support your family. If a man and a woman do the same work, they should get the same pay. All people who work have the right to join together to defend their interests.


Each work day should not be too long, since everyone has the right to rest and should be able to take regular paid holidays.


You have the right to have whatever you need so that you and your family: do not fall ill or go hungry; have clothes and a house; and are helped if you are out of work, if you are ill, if you are old, if your wife or husband is dead, or if you do not earn a living for any other reason you cannot help. Mothers and their children are entitled to special care. All children have the same rights to be protected, whether or not their mother was married when they were born.


You have the right to go to school and everyone should go to school. Primary schooling should be free. You should be able to learn a profession or continue your studies as far as wish. At school, you should be able to develop all your talents and you should be taught to get on with others, whatever their race, religion or the country they come from. Your parents have the right to choose how and what you will be taught at school.


You have the right to share in your community's arts and sciences, and any good they do. Your works as an artist, writer, or a scientist should be protected, and you should be able to benefit from them.


So that your rights will be respected, there must be an 'order' which can protect them. This ‘order’ should be local and worldwide.


You have duties towards the community within which your personality can only fully develop. The law should guarantee human rights. It should allow everyone to respect others and to be respected.


In all parts of the world, no society, no human being, should take it upon her or himself to act in such a way as to destroy the rights which you have just been reading about.



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

The formative assessment will consist of the ticket-out-the-door on a daily basis. The summative             assessment will be the final draft of the thematic essay. The rubric for the essay is attached


Document analysis - http://www.trumanlibrary.org/educ/amy-document-analysis.pdf


Rubric - http://www.trumanlibrary.org/educ/amy-thematic-rubric.pdf