High School – Repression, Holodomor, Holocaust, and Forced Labor: 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 1917-1941 a Word document
    2. Background Lecture a PowerPoint presentation

    Printouts of:

    1. Teodora Background Sheet – PDF
    2. Map Exercise – PDF
    3. Passages Worksheet  – Word document
    4. Two Regimes Writing Assignment – Word document
    5. Excerpts from TWO REGIMES – A MEMOIR by Teodora Verbitskaya – PDF
    6. Holodomor 1932-1933 – At a Glance
    7. Holocaust 1033-1945 – At a Glance

    Also Available

      1. Holocaust Hyperlinked Resource Materials
      2. Nadia Werbitzky Biographical Information

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.
  • WORLD HISTORY SS.912.W.7.5 Benchmark: Describe the rise of authoritarian governments in the Soviet Union, Italy, Germany, and Spain, and analyze the policies and main ideas of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Francisco Franco.
  • WORLD HISTORY SS.912.W.7. 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.
  • LAFS 1112.RH1.1Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.2.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
  • 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. 


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

Feedback to Students

The students will receive feedback initially after their map exercise is completed.  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 the Holodomor, World War II, and the Holocaust 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 describe the living conditions for the civilian population in Ukraine during the Holodomor 1932-1933 under Stalin.
  • 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 evaluate the memoir excerpts as a primary source by assessing potential biases and determining the reliability of the memoir by comparing the accounts in the memoir with those in several secondary sources.
  • Students will be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Guiding Questions

  1. How do we know if a primary source is accurate?
  2. What is the Holodomor 1932-1933?
  3. What is the Holocaust 1933-1945?
  4. How did repression in the Soviet Union under Stalin differ from the repression of Nazi Germany?
  5. Were there any similarities in the repression of the two systems?
  6. How can we generalize a common historical experience from a unique personal account such as a memoir?

Prior Knowledge

Students should be familiar with the following vocabulary words/concpets/ket figures:

Bolshevik/Communist, Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Soviet Union, Gulag, NKVD, Reds vs. Whites, Russian Civil War

Prior to completing this assignment, students should understand the causes and factors leading to the Russian Revolutions of 1917. Assess student knowledge about the Soviet Union. Teacher may ask such questions as: Who has heard of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union, or Bolsheviks/Communists? What do you know about Vladimir Lenin or Josef Stalin?


Students might have prior knowledge of 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:  Provide a background lecture about the Soviet Union from 1917-1941 (See attached lecture)  35 minutes

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. Also distribute the Holodomor 1932-1933 – At a Glance and the Holocaust 1033-1945 – At a Glance informational sheets.
  3. Then have students perform the map exercise in class to have students locate the key places in her memoir.    10 minutes
  4. Walk around and briefly guide students who may be confused about the events/details in the memoir.

Independent Practice

The teacher should assign students the excerpts of TWO REGIMES to read over the weekend.  The teacher should handout the two-page memoir worksheet also at this time. The teacher should instruct the students to answer the questions on the worksheet by taking notes with page number and quotes in preparation for the in-class discussion.


Teaching Phase: 

The teacher should use the entire class period to lead a class discussion of the memoir using the worksheet questions as a guide.   Select students to go through the worksheets and share their answers to the questions.



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 the Holodomor, World War II, the Holocaust and the Soviet Union.  These new items could be used to refute or buttress the interpretation from the memoir.

Further Recommendations

Ideally, this lesson will be started on a Friday so that students will have the weekend to complete the reading of the memoir for Day 2 classwork on the following Monday.


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 her memoir to assess the role of Ostarbeiters as slave laborers.  As a culminating assignment, students will write a 3-4pp response to the writing prompt using examples from the memoir and the secondary source websites 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.