The Holocaust was characterized by the disintegration of families and Jewish life. The memories of many Holocaust survivors are filled with scenes of separation from their parents, siblings and children. Many Jewish children hidden during the war survived the Holocaust only to discover that they were the only surviving family members. The post-war years were spent searching for and learning the fate of lost family members, as well as struggling to re-establish relationships after years of trauma and separation. Through first-hand testimonies, Family explores survivors’ experiences with separation from and loss of family members.



This teaching resource facilitates student engagement with historical context and individual testimonies from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s collection.

For Whom

The activities are recommended for students of grades eight to 12, with adaptations possible for intermediate grades.


An investigation of testimony and primary source material fosters historical and critical thinking skills in students.


The guide complements the VHEC collection of testimonies and is divided into three sections.

The NOW activities introduce students to the theme of the lesson cluster and engage them with selected testimonies. If a teacher only has one class in which to engage with Primary Voices, this is the recommended lesson.

The NEXT lesson deepens students’ engagement with the theme, introducing a greater range of testimonies.

Finally, the BEYOND activities encourage teachers and students to choose their own inquiry questions. They are encouraged to explore the VHEC archives collection in greater depth.



In this lesson, students will first engage in a class discussion regarding the difficulties in taking historical perspectives. Using survivor biographies and video testimonies, as well as students’ background knowledge of the events of the Holocaust, they will complete a W5+H worksheet. Finally, students will share their responses to the testimonies in a post-viewing discussion.


After reading an excerpt from the novel Night by Elie Wiesel, students will share their initial reactions with other students and begin to make inferences about the character’s state of mind. They will then view the testimonies of three survivors and make inferences about the historical perspective of the survivors and cite supporting evidence. In response to the testimonies, students will present a tableau of family separation from the historical perspective of one of the survivors.


Using the Activity Sheet: The Inquiry Cycle as a guide, and incorporating recommended testimonies as a source, students will design a powerful question related to the topic of separation of families during the Holocaust.