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Course: Holocaust and Genocide Studies

School: Charlotte Catholic High School

Teacher: Donna Tarney 

Lesson Objective:

            Students will gain a basic understanding of the resistance movement in Poland during the Nazi occupation. Students will also explore the ethical and moral ideologies that motivated the Polish people to act as they did. The class participants will evaluate their own experiences and (decide) what it would take for them to fight back in the face of injustice.


            The Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World  by Jan Karski

                            Question handout for chapters to be covered   

            “Messenger from Hell” short film about Jan Karski, found at


Method and Duration of Lesson:

  1. Students read the assigned chapters and answer the questions provided before meeting as a class.
  2. Socratic discussion of the answers, emphasizing the choices and decisions that shaped the experiences of the people involved. Address any further questions raised by the reading and discussion. Students complete the additional activities as desired by the teacher.
  3. After finishing Chapter 22, wrap up the lesson by watching the short film “Messenger from Hell”

Additional Activities: (Optional)

  1. Research the Polish Government in exile. Compile a report of the effectiveness of such a system of governance and the impact on the Polish nation post WWII.
  2. Research the actions of President Roosevelt as they relate to the information given to him by Jan Karski. Why did Roosevelt choose not to address the destruction of the Jews in concentration and death camps?
  3. Research Jan Karski’s later life. When did he move to the US? Where did he end up living? What was his main occupation? What did he accomplish? What was his main regret? How do you feel about the way he talks about his life?
  4. Research the “Righteous Among the Nations”. Who are these people? What does it take to be recognized as one? Where is the main memorial site? When was it started? Are members still being added?