Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Atrocities on Trial
Derek Frieling
US History
Time Frame:
Two weeks
Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will determine which war crime trials were the most heinous during World War II and use evidence to build a case to convict the guilty.

  • Students will evaluate primary source documents and media.
  • Students will write and defend a thesis and develop critical thinking skills.
  • Students will practice public speaking skills.

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

  • 3aX:  Examine the wars of the 20th century pertinent to US history
  • 6L:  Analyze how the roles of class, ethnic, racial, gender and age groups have changed in society
  • 6N:  Predict the consequences that occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups and fail to carry out personal responsibilities
  • 6O:  Determine the causes, consequences and possible resolutions of cultural conflicts
  • 7A:  Distinguish between and analyze primary sources and secondary sources
  • 7C:  Distinguish between fact and opinion and analyze sources to recognize bias

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



Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will be provided four folders of primary documents.  Each folder contains primary source document evidence of atrocities committed in World War II.  Each folder contains evidence from a distinct country.  Students will be told they are on a war tribunal and must determine which of the countries committed the worst atrocities and will be brought to trial before the tribunal.  Students will not be allowed to choose multiple countries; therefore, they must evaluate which of the offenders were the most heinous.

            After choosing a country, the students will build a case against that country to argue in trial.  Students will then argue that case in class, time permitting.

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

Tribunal Scoring Guide









Historical Accuracy:

Clearly demonstrates comprehension of information and use of primary sources

Somewhat demonstrates comprehension of information and use of primary sources

In part demonstrates comprehension of information and use of primary sources

Little demonstration of knowledge of information or use of primary sources

Does not demonstrate knowledge of information and use of primary sources

Effectiveness of Building the Case:

Clear message, exceptionally interesting, no grammatical errors, very creative and attractive

Somewhat clear message, interesting, few grammatical errors, somewhat creative and attractive

Not real clear message, somewhat interesting, some grammatical errors, not very creative and attractive

Distracting message, not interesting, several grammatical errors, not creative and attractive

Message not received, boring, several grammatical errors


                                                                                                                        Points Possible:  50


                                                                                                                        Points Received:_____