11th Grade Inquiry ChallengeNorth Carolina

The Holocaust and Bystanders

This 2016 Inquiry Challenge winner leads students through an investigation of the actions made by ordinary people during the Holocaust: to participate, to help, or to stand by. By investigating the compelling question “Are bystanders guilty too?” students evaluate the different routes of action/inaction, as well as the associated risks. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students recognize different perspectives in order to better understand the ways in which everyday people had choices to either help or be complicit in persecution. Students create an evidence-based argument about whether bystanders should be seen as guilty after considering the actions of persecutors and rescuers, and assessing viewpoints concerning bystander responsibility in a totalitarian regime.


Compelling Question:

Are Bystanders Guilty Too?

Staging the Question:

Read the Martin Niemöller poem, “First they came…” and discuss the possible consequences for individuals who stand up to bullies.

Supporting Question In what ways did perpetrators persecute the victims of the Holocaust?

Formative Task Create a graphic organizer that lists and describes perpetrator groups and their actions towardHolocaust victims.

Sources Source A: “Some Were Neighbors,” Timeline
Source B: “Some Were Neighbors” Online Exhibit


Supporting Question How did ordinary people act as rescuers for the persecuted groups?

Formative Task Write a summary that describes the actions of different types of people who rescued persecuted groups.

Sources Sources from SQ 1
Source A: “Rescue: Holocaust,” Database
Source B: “Righteous Among the Nations” Database


Supporting Question What responsibilities do bystanders have?

Formative Task Write a claim and counter-claim, supported by evidence, about the responsibility of bystanders.

Sources Sources from SQs 1 and 2
Source A: Excerpt from Primo Levi’s The Reawakening
Source B: Excerpt from The Altruistic Personality
Source C: “When There are No Bystanders”

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Are Bystanders Guilty Too? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that discusses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Create a “Crash Course” style video that addresses the experiences of these four groups: perpetrators, rescuers, bystanders, and victims.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Identify and research a modern ethnic or religious persecution campaign (i.e., the genocide of the Yazidis by ISIL).
Assess: Evaluate the policies taken by the international community and ordinary citizens to address the persecution.
Act: Create an educational video addressing the persecution that considers the role of ordinary citizens.