Make your own free website on

Ms. Leserman's Internet Classroom

Home | Catch Up On Homework | Book Reports | Traducción en español | HOMEWORK PAGE | Literary Humor | Cheap Tix for Students | Shakespeare | WebQuests | REFERENCES | Relax.... | Classroom Policy

Genocide Lessons: 2

Justice and Denial

Utilizing Newspaper Articles about a Nazi SS Death’s Head Guard, a Mexican Bank Robber/Murderer, and a Rwandan Genocide Slaughterer, All Being Brought to Justice


With terrible predictability, those who perpetrate acts of outrageous evil typically deny what they have done, often for decades., sometimes going to extreme lengths to involve other people in their cover-up and deceit.  Just as predictably, however, society demands that some form of justice be visited upon those who commit such extreme acts of inhumanity. This is a lesson plan that helps students evaluate the characteristics of perpetrator genocide/murder denial against the overwhelming need of society to prosecute its worst villains.    

Students evaluate three different news articles describing men who have committed heinously brutal acts of murder of innocent people, including women and children.  Each of the men later made an effort to continue their lives as though they were blameless, and denied responsibility for their actions in various ways.  People around them, including family members, also reject the reality of their loved ones’ responsibility to some extend, though it is obviously undeniable.

A problem with older teenagers is that they tend to believe that any situation they read about represents a single, isolated event, and is far-away, and removed from them.  In particular, it is to be expected that lower-middle-class urban teenagers will find events of the Holocaust and Rwandan genocides, which occurred either before their birth or early in their childhoods and to people they cannot relate to, to be much too remote to be relevant to their lives.  In theory, comparing the experience of a fugitive SS guard being brought to justice, and a Rwandan machete murderer fearfully confessing his crimes in hopes of leniency, with a Mexican child-murdering bank robber who has hid out in South Gate while raising his own family and disguising himself with cosmetic surgery – will aid in discussion of issues relating to guilt, justice, denial, responsibility, and the way communities deal with offenders even decades past their criminal activity.


This is primarily a language-arts curriculum, but incorporates elements of the social-studies standards suitable for teaching holocaust and genocide studies for the State of California, both of which can be downloaded at

Materials for Instructors:

a)       “Rwanda: Do Scars Ever Fade,” (60-70 minutes over two class periods, instructor may skip some material)      Presents the complex and riveting history of Rwanda, providing an in-depth look at the propaganda campaign that's crucial to understanding how genocide leaders got ordinary citizens to participate. In 1994, the small African country was awash in blood. An estimated 75% of the Tutsi minority was slaughtered, and in just 100 days, more than 800,000 were killed. And, at least 50,000 politically moderate Hutus also perished. We explore the 1994 genocide and post-genocide period, and grapple with the question: How does a country recover from its haunted past? Unfolding through firsthand experiences of Rwandans who lived through the genocide, we document stories of survivors, perpetrators, and government officials, and sort through the difficulties of balancing justice with reconciliation.

b)       Reproducible maps and worksheets, attached with this lesson plan.

c)       Set of four newspaper articles: 

·         “A Nazi’s Day of Judgement: Josias Kumpf, 80, faces deportation. The former SS Soldier denies killing Jews. ‘I was a good boy,’ he says – but tell that to a death camp survivor.” From LA Times, July 12, 2005. 

·         US Hands Top Fugitive to Mexico: Alfredo Rios Galeana, whoescaped 20 years ago, was arrested in South Gate and faces charges in 26 bank heists and six homicides.” Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2005 (only one day after the previous article).

·         “Valentina’s Nightmare: The Rwandan Girl Who Refused to Die,” Frontline’s reprint of a Sunday Times article, April 1, 1997.

·         Transcript of film, “Valentina’s Nightmare,” including interview with Denis Bagaruka, who committed atrocities against his own children’s classmates, and Froduard Karamira, who led and encouraged the genocide but denied it was a massacre, or even a crime. (text highlighted by me)

d)   Instructor support if you need to brush up on Rwandan and Holocaust genocide information:

·         Background support on Nazi Holocaust is available at: Particularly recommended for instructors are the “Related Links” and “Related Articles” at the bottom of the page.

·         Background support on Rwandan genocide for instructors is available at: .  A great deal of material, but very useful.  A dramatically abbreviated, but also useful site can be:

Method: Each student receives a full set of all four articles, and of handouts including maps, anticipation guide, and movie study guide. 

Vocabulary – These words should be defined/explained adjacent to the text where they appear in order to keep reading fluent.

1)       Vocabulary for the week includes terms appropriate for the study of genocide, including: (Article One) genocide, holocaust, fugitive, slaughter, massacre, deportation, prosecute, prosecutor, concentration camp, deposition, truncheon, lax, visa, coup de grace, exterminate, commission, Shema Israel, misrepresented, murky. 

2)       (Article Two) notorious, depiction, exploits, allegedly, homicide, anonymous, ruse, magnitude. 

3)       (Valentina’s Nightmare) Apparition, anesthetic, militiamen, immensity, interminable, replete, wavering, impending, erosion, opposition, extremists, pretext, perimeter, decapitate, enthusiastic, evasive. 

4)       (Transcript) Rationalize, guerrilla, jettison, repression, phraseology,

Instructors have class periods that vary from 50-75 minutes, so the lesson plan strategy below is broken down into four units relating to each chunk of information, and the associated support materials provided.  The entire lesson closes with a long-term writing project, following evaluation of various criteria shared by all three perpetrators studied, and the circumstances under which they committed their crimes. 

“Monkey in the Middle” is a spontaneous debate strategy that is very effective in classrooms of older teenagers.  Once students are arguing passionately on any issue that has two sides, the instructor indicates that people holding one point of view go to the right, people holding the other point of view go to the left, and those undecided remain in the middle.  Thereafter, each side (except the voiceless middle) takes a 30-second turn trying to persuade classmates to their side’s point of view, with the object being to see how many people are on that side/opinion by the end of the period.  Winners are declared when the bell rings.

Content Component

Affective Component

Literacy Elements

Writing Skills

Support Materials

The Holocaust

Frontline’s Video “Memory of the Camps”

LA Times newspaper article about fugitive SS Death’s Head Guard Josias Kumpf, now 80

Daily prompts before class, vocabulary list (provided)

1)  “Justice and Denial” Anticipation Guide

2)  Instructor reviews all maps provided

3) Backstory: Holocaust

4) Film Lecture Completion Notes to keep students on task during viewing

Mexican Child-Murdering Fugitive

“Monkey-in-the-Middle” debate (described above)

LA Times newspaper article about fugitive Mexican bank robber Alfred Galeana, recently caught

Daily writing prompts before class, vocabulary list (provided)

Article provided

Rwandan Genocide

Film of Rwanda: Do Scars Ever Fade”

Two PBS Articles: “Valentina’s Nightmare,” and longer transcript of the film of “Valentina’s Nightmare which includes perpetrator testimony of both denial, and guilt.

Daily writing prompts in preparation for essay, vocabulary list (provided)

1)  Backstory: Rwanda reviewed before film

2)  Film Lecture Completion Notes to keep students on task during viewing


Review of Holocaust and Rwandan Genocide

Discussion questions relating to the significance of pursuing justice

Introduction of research criteria for compare/contrast essay

Three-week-long essay assignment, attached

Justice and Denial Essay Table


Assessment:  1)  Classroom participation in both discussion and reading aloud;

                        2)  Film lecture completion notes;

                        3) optional quizzes on vocabulary, backstory, and lecture completion notes (not provided);

                        4) Long-term essay, completed after the unit.