Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

1-2 blocks

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

SOC.6.1.12.D.11.d – Compare the varying perspectives of victims, survivors, bystanders, rescuers, and perpetrators during the Holocaust.

SOC.6.2.12.D.4.i – Compare and contrast the actions of individuals as perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers during events of persecution or genocide, and describe the long-term consequences of genocide for all involved.

LA.RH.11-12.7 – Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem.

LA.RH.11-12.9 – Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

Just as Jewish victims of the Holocaust were forced to wear the Star of David to identify themselves, homosexual victims wore pink triangles (‘die Rosa-Winkel’).  Gay victims of the Holocaust, however, were largely ignored until the late 1970s, when testimonies of these victims began to appear, albeit sparingly. Now, the pink triangle is more widely recognized not just as a mark of the Third Reich’s oppression, but as a symbol of unity within the gay community, and of protest against the oppression of homosexuals in places like Chechnya. 

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)

Why are the experiences of homosexual victims of the Holocaust largely missing from the larger narrative of this genocide?

Enduring Understanding(s)

In the decades after the Holocaust, homosexuality was often criminalized and met with social stigma. As a result, homosexual victims of the Holocaust rarely shared their stories.

Potential Misconceptions

It is imperative for students to understand that, while six to seven million Jews died during the Holocaust, another five to six million victims died as well, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies (Roma and Sinti), asocials and homosexuals.

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:


  • understand and discuss why homosexuals were targeted as victims during the Holocaust.
  • Assess factors that hindered homosexual survivors from sharing their stories and testimonies in the decades following the Holocaust.
  • Analyze and discuss how and why lesbians were treated differently than gay men by the Reich.
  • Identify specific homosexual victims and survivors and detail their experiences during the Holocaust.


Today we will be working on…understanding why the experience of homosexual victims of the Holocaust is often absent from lessons about this genocide.

What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

Recently, we…discussed how and why Jews were identified as the primary victims of the Holocaust.

Turn and talk to a partner about…other groups that were persecuted by Hitler and the Third Reich.  Why were they targeted?

You are really beginning to understand the concept of ‘other’ as it related to the master ‘Aryan’ race desired and sought after by the Third Reich.  Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus.  This focus is…homosexual victims of the Holocaust.  Why were gays targeted by the Reich? How did they challenge the notion of Aryan superiority?

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?
How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?
  • Students will understand that the horror of the Holocaust extended beyond Jews to other victim groups.
  • Students will see that homosexuals were persecuted by the Nazis, but that homosexual men were treated differented than gay women.  
  • In the decades following the Holocaust, both criminalization and social stigma impeded homosexual survivors of the Holocaust from sharing their stories.  Further, homosexuals were not categorized or acknowledged as actual victims of the Holocaust. This is a misconception will be uncovered. 
How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?
  • At the end of the lesson, students should reflect on their learning by writing or journaling on the following:
    1. When a victim of genocide is forced into silence and still labeled as ‘other’ – even after the genocide is over – how does that impede their ability to heal and to move on?  Why is it important to allow all victims of genocide to tell their stories?
How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?
  • Follow all IEP/504 plan modifications.
  • Introduce key vocabulary before the lesson.
  • Work in small groups.
  • Level texts according to ability.
  • Provided guided notes, written instructions and/or scaffold outline.
  • Use visual aids.
How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction

  1. Model
    1. Students will begin class by reviewing how and why Jews became the primary target of the Third Reich during the Holocaust.  This can be handled through a ‘Do Now’ style writing assignment or through class discussion. Once completed, students should work with a partner to identify other victims of the Holocaust and ascertain why these various groups were targeted by the Nazis.  Students will then discuss their findings with the class, comparing evidence.
    2. As students discuss the other victims of the Holocaust, the teacher should discuss why less is known about these victims, ultimately introducting the topic of the pink triangle and the experience of homosexuals during the Holocaust.  The teacher should provide a brief overview of the pink triangle, utilizing USHMM resources, and discuss why so little is known about the gay victims of the Holocaust.
  2. Guided Practice
    1. Students should work in small groups to continue their research of homosexuals during the Holocaust.  They should seek to answer the following questions:
      1. How did the treatment of homosexuals change before, during and after the Holocaust?
      2. What is the significance of Paragraph 175?
      3. How did the experiences of homosexuals differ, specifically in the camps, from other victims of the Holocaust?
    2. Working in small groups, students will complete a PBL-style assignment.  Each group should be assigned topic in order to study some aspect of the pink triangle in greater detail.  Students should create a poster about their assigned topic. The posters will then be hung around the classroom, similar to a gallery walk, allowing students to appreciate how each poster is a like a chapter in a story, providing details and facts that support what comes before and after it. Once the posters are completed and hung, student groups will present on their topics, similar to museum docents, and answer questions from both the teacher and their peers.
      Topics could include:

      1. how and why were lesbians treated differently than gay men
      2. why so little know about the homosexual victims survivors of the Holocaust
      3. prominent gay victims of the Holocaust
        1. Heinz Heger (Josef Kohout)
        2. Robert Oelbermann
        3. Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim
        4. Karl Gorath
  3. Independent Practice
    1. To end the lesson, students should read How the Nazi Regime’s Pink Triangle Symbol Was Repurposed for LGBTQ Pride (Time, 5/31/18) and The Pink Triangle: From Nazi Label to Symbol of Gay Pride (History, 6/3/19), and reflect on how the pink triangle evolved from relative obscurity to a symbol of both pride and demonstration.
      1. How did various LGBTQ movements and demonstrations change the narrative of the pink triangle?  
      2. Why is this important to the legacy and memory of those victims who wore the pink triangle?

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)
  • While introducing the lesson and material, a Socratic (Q&A) method can be employed to check for understanding and encourage higher-level thinking and evaluation of the material.
  • As students work on their projects, the teacher should circulate from group to group, helping students as they conduct their research – specifically with the identification and evaluation of appropriate sources.  
  • The teacher should ask questions of each group to guide their research and their work, and to help them think critically about the task at hand.
  • During the presentations, students should be encouraged to ask questions of one another, to seek clarification on the information being presented.
Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)

Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)

The guided practice portion of this lesson is based on a PBL model and should be evaluated using a PBL rubric, such as the one found here.


Students can discuss their thoughts on the self-reflection assignment, allowing the opportunity to connect the experiences of pink triangle victims and survivors with modern LGBTQ rights movements, as well as the current plight of homosexuals in places like China and Chechnya.

Supplemental Resources: 

Download Lesson Plan PDF:


The Pink Triangle 93.79 KB 9 downloads

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