High School – Nazi slave labor, cooperation, and opposition among occupied peoples of the Soviet Union: Two Regimes – Witness to War

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Two Regimes: Witness to War

The purpose of this lesson is for students to examine life under Stalinist Soviet Union, before, during and after World War II using  primary and secondary sources.

Support Materials 

All support materials for this lesson can be found at this Google Link:


Support Materials which are included in the above link are listed below.
NOTE:  Be sure to preview all materials before using with your students

    1. Background Summary 1917-1939 a Word document
    2. Mini Lecture 1941-1945 a Word document
    3. Mini Lecture ppt a PowerPoint presentations
    4. Holocaust Hyperlinked Resource Material

    Printouts of:

    1. Map Exercise – PDF
    2. Two Regimes Worksheet #1 – Word document
    3. Two Regimes Worksheet #2 – Word document
    4. Teodora background sheet – PDF
    5. Excerpts from TWO REGIMES – A MOTHER’S MEMOIR OF WARTIME SURVIVAL by Teodora Verbitskaya – PDF
    6. Two Regimes Collaboration paper – Word document 

Florida: Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.912.W.1.3World History Benchmark: Interpret and evaluate primary and secondary sources.

  • SS.912.W.7.8 Benchmark: Explain the causes, events, and effects of the Holocaust (1933-1945) including its roots in the long tradition of anti- Semitism, 19th century ideas about race and nation, and Nazi dehumanization of the Jews and other victims.
  • 912.W.7.11World History Benchmark: Describe the effects of World War II.
  • FS 1003.42 Required Holocaust Education Mandate Public School Instruction


Dr. Jonathan Grant

Formative Assessment

Assess student knowledge about the Soviet Union. Teacher may ask such questions as: What do you remember about the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union, or Bolsheviks/Communists? What can you recall about Vladimir Lenin or Josef Stalin? If necessary, teacher can provide background from the background sheet. This should take about 5 minutes. 


After giving the PowerPoint lecture World War II on the Eastern Front 1941-1945, the teacher should give the Quick Quiz to assess student understanding of WWII on the Eastern Front.

NOTE:  Be sure to preview all materials before using with your students

Feedback to Students

The students will receive feedback initially after their quick quiz is graded.  The teacher will also give feedback in class during Day Two as students are relaying their answers to the worksheets.  The teacher will provide verbal feedback after the worksheets are completed to ensure that students are working in the right direction in preparation for completing the response paper.

Summative Assessment

Summative Assessment Task:

Students should be able to demonstrate their understanding of World War II by accurately responding to the writing prompt using the excerpts from the memoir as supporting evidence.  They should have accurate notes from the worksheets to help them prepare for the writing assignment.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Students will be able to explain how the German invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II affected the subject populations.
  • Students will be able to describe the living conditions for the civilian population in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II.
  • Students will be able to summarize the important events and effects of World War II

Guiding Questions

  1. Why would anyone cooperate with the Nazi German occupiers in Ukraine?
  2. What motivated people to collaborate with the Germans?
  3. How important were factors such as patriotism, fear and terror, propaganda, or support for/opposition to communism and the Soviet system in determining a person’s actions and relations towards the Germans?

Prior Knowledge

Prior to completing this assignment, students should understand the causes and factors leading to the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the Russian Civil War 1918-1920, the establishment of communist rule in the Soviet Union, and the building of socialism under Josef Stalin.  Russia’s poor performance in the First World War aggravated existing social and political problems in tsarist Russia, most notably the peasantry’s demand for land and educated society’s desire to end autocracy and the incompetent rule of Tsar Nicholas II.  The overthrow of the tsarist system brought the Provisional Government to power in March 1917, but that government’s determination to continue the war opened the way for the Bolshevik Party (Communists) under Vladimir Lenin to capitalize on growing anti-war feeling to seize power in November 1917 and establish the Soviet state.  Lenin’s repression provoked anti-Bolshevik opposition and led to the Civil War in which anti-Bolshevik forces (dubbed “Whites’) fought the communists (“Reds’).  The Civil war caused more Russian deaths than the First World War.  Red victory meant that the Soviet Union emerged as a new country, replacing tsarist Russia.  Lenin died in 1924, and following a period of economic recovery Josef Stalin initiated the ‘Building of Socialism” in the Soviet Union beginning with the implementation of the first Five-year Plan in 1929, policies that caused the deaths of 5 to 10 million Ukrainians known as the Holodomor 1932-1933.  Stalin established a centrally planned economy that used the forced collectivization of agriculture to control the country’s supply of food.  Students should also have familiarity with Nazi Germany, the Gestapo, and the SS.

Teaching Phase

Day One:

  1. After reviewing the background, the teacher should review the objectives and guiding questions with students, while also explaining the lesson’s summative assessment will require them to write a 3-4pp response to the writing prompt.
  2. The teacher will then present lecture material providing an overview of the World War II on the Eastern Front 1941-1945 using the powerpoint provided.
  3. Lead students in discussion/review of the content, clarifying any misconceptions, and then proceed with Guided Practice.
  4. Have students take the Quick Quiz following the lecture.

Guided Practice

  1. After discussing the information presented in the lecture, distribute copies of the memoir excerpts from Two Regimes – A Mother’s Memoir of Wartime Survival by Teodora Verbitskaya and the Teodora background sheet.
  2. Divide the class into groups of three-four students and have them read through pp. 62-87 in class using worksheet #1.
  3. Walk around and briefly guide students who may be confused about the events/details in the memoir.

Independent Practice

Have the students complete any unfinished portion of the worksheet as homework.  Also, students should read the excerpts from the memoir and prepare worksheet #2 as homework.  They should also prepare the Map assignment.


Teaching Phase: 

Select students to go through the worksheets and share their answers to the questions.

Guided Practice

Refer back to the guiding questions.  Ask students to identify examples from the memoir of people from the Soviet Union who cooperated with the Gestapo or the SS and those who seemed to oppose the Germans. The teacher should ask students what they consider cooperation or collaboration, and why they think the individuals in the memoir acted as they did.


Give the students the writing assignment and have students begin to plan out how they will use the examples as evidence to support their arguments in the paper.


Successful completion of the passages worksheet will help students focus on specific events/details that should be used as supporting evidence in writing the paper.

Some students may need more time completing the writing assignment and may need more time at home.

Some students may have trouble keeping straight when and where events in the memoir happen.  The teacher should review the timeline and geography as needed.


To further extend this lesson: 

The teacher may ask students to search for other primary or secondary sources concerning World War II and the Soviet Union.  These new items could be used to refute or buttress the interpretation from the memoir.

Further Recommendations

Provide recommendations concerning the preparation or implementation of your resource.


Short Summary

This lesson will expose students to a primary source memoir written by a Ukrainian woman who lived under the Stalinist Soviet Union, survived the Holodomor 1932-1933, experienced the invasion and occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany, witnessed the roundup of 7,500 Jews (who were then murdered and buried outside the city limits), and then was deported with her daughters to work as a slave laborer in Nazi Germany.  Students will analyze excerpts from her memoir to assess the motives and means of cooperation or not with Nazi authorities.  As a culminating assignment, students will write a 3-4pp response to the writing prompt using examples from the memoir as evidence.


Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture and the Foundation for Leon County Schools.