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Death Marches in the Holocaust Commonlit Answers

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  • 10th Grade
  • Lexile: 1300

Source: Death Marches in the Holocaust by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
Which statement best identifies the central idea of the text?Evacuations of concentration camps became known as death marches that led to the brutal deaths of thousands of people.
Which quotation best explains one of the SS’s motivations for evacuating prisoners?“SS authorities did not want prisoners to fall into enemy hands alive to tell their stories to Allied and Soviet liberators” (Paragraph 2)
PART A: How does paragraph 7 contribute to the development of ideas in the text?It proves how desperate the SS was to hide their crimes because it went to extreme means to kill prisoners.
PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?“the number who died of exhaustion and exposure along the routes increased dramatically.” (Paragraph 7)

The article lists three reasons for the evacuations of concentration camp prisoners in paragraphs 2-4. What do these three reasons have in common? Consider the overarching objectives of the SS.

The three reasons for the evacuations of concentration camp prisoners listed in the article—preventing prisoners from telling their stories to liberators, maintaining armaments production, and using prisoners as hostages for bargaining—share a common overarching objective of the SS: to protect the interests and survival of the Nazi regime in the face of imminent defeat.

Each reason reflects a strategic attempt to manipulate the circumstances and outcomes of the war to the Nazis’ advantage, whether by silencing potential witnesses to their atrocities, exploiting prisoners for labor to sustain their war efforts, or attempting to negotiate a favorable position in the conflict’s conclusion.

These motivations underscore the SS’s desperate efforts to control the narrative, outcomes, and consequences of their actions during the final stages of World War II.

Discussion Answers

The text discusses a variety of reasons for the evacuations and marches that concentration camp prisoners were subjected to – what do you think was the Nazi Party’s ultimate goal?

The Nazi Party’s ultimate goal with the evacuations and death marches of concentration camp prisoners was multifaceted, aiming to erase evidence of their war crimes, prolong their capacity to resist the Allies through forced labor, and manipulate the endgame of the war to their advantage, even as defeat loomed.

However, at the core of these actions was the desire to maintain control and avoid accountability for the genocide and atrocities they committed.

By attempting to eliminate witnesses (the prisoners who could testify to the horrors they experienced) and by trying to use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations, the Nazis sought to mitigate the consequences of their actions and preserve whatever remnants of power and ideology they could.

These measures were desperate attempts to influence the outcome of the war in their favor or, at the very least, to negotiate a more favorable position for themselves in the post-war order. The evacuations and death marches, therefore, can be seen as the ultimate expression of the Nazi regime’s inhumanity and its relentless pursuit of its goals, even in the face of imminent defeat.

The preservation of the regime’s interests, the avoidance of justice for their crimes, and the attempt to continue their policies of extermination until the very end were all intertwined in these final acts of brutality.


In the context of the article, what can we learn from tragedy? The SS disregarded the lives of prisoners until the very end of the war – what does this say about how the SS viewed Jewish people? How could this blatant disregard for human life been avoided or prevented? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

From the tragedy detailed in the article, several profound lessons emerge about human rights, the dangers of dehumanization, and the importance of historical memory and vigilance.

How the SS Viewed Jewish People and Others Deemed “Inferior”: The SS’s actions, as described in the article, reflect an extreme dehumanization of Jewish people and other groups persecuted by the Nazi regime.

The systematic and brutal treatment of prisoners, characterized by forced marches leading to the deaths of thousands from exhaustion, exposure, and outright murder, demonstrates a complete disregard for human life.

This dehumanization was rooted in Nazi ideology, which propagated the belief in the racial superiority of the Aryan race and depicted Jews, Romani people, disabled individuals, and others as subhuman. The SS’s conduct reveals a chilling belief system in which the lives of certain groups were considered expendable and unworthy of basic human dignity.

Preventing Such Disregard for Human Life: Avoiding or preventing the kind of disregard for human life exhibited by the SS necessitates multiple, interconnected approaches:

  1. Education and Awareness: Comprehensive education about the Holocaust and other genocides is crucial in fostering an understanding of the consequences of hatred, bigotry, and racism. This education should not only detail the events themselves but also emphasize the ideological and societal mechanisms that enabled such atrocities to occur. Learning about the dangers of dehumanization and scapegoating can help prevent similar patterns of thought from taking hold in the future.
  2. Promotion of Human Rights: Strengthening and enforcing international human rights laws and norms is essential. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in response to the Holocaust, represents a global commitment to the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings.
    Supporting institutions that uphold these principles can contribute to a world in which the rights of individuals are protected, regardless of their background or beliefs.
  3. Vigilance and Action: History teaches that vigilance against the rise of authoritarianism, xenophobia, and hate speech is necessary to protect democracy and human rights. Civil society, including individuals, organizations, and governments, must be prepared to speak out and act against these threats. The lessons of the Holocaust underscore the importance of not being bystanders in the face of injustice.
  4. Cultural and Artistic Expression: Literature, art, and historical documentation play vital roles in commemorating the victims of atrocities and educating future generations. Works such as Anne Frank’s diary, Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” and Primo Levi’s accounts offer personal insights into the Holocaust’s horrors, serving as powerful reminders of the human cost of hatred and intolerance.

The article highlights the catastrophic consequences of dehumanization and extremism. Learning from such tragedies requires a committed, global effort to promote education, human rights, and vigilance against the ideologies that fuel such disregard for human life.

Only through collective memory, education, and action can society hope to prevent the recurrence of such atrocities.


In the context of the article, how do people face death? How did the members of the SS who led the death marches view the deaths of prisoners? How did prisoners face the prospect of death during these brutal evacuations? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

In the context of the Holocaust and the death marches specifically, the facing of death by both the perpetrators (members of the SS) and the victims (prisoners) starkly contrasts in perspective, motivation, and humanity.

Members of the SS and Their View on the Deaths of Prisoners: The SS, as detailed in the article, viewed the deaths of prisoners not only as inconsequential but as a desired outcome of the death marches. This perspective is rooted in the dehumanizing ideology of the Nazi regime, which classified Jewish people and others as subhuman.
The SS’s orders to kill prisoners who could no longer walk or keep pace, and the implementation of forced marches under conditions ensuring high mortality rates, reflect a systematic approach to extermination.
The SS’s actions demonstrate a chilling indifference to human life, viewing the prisoners as objects to be disposed of in the regime’s final days.

Prisoners Facing the Prospect of Death: The prisoners’ experience, in contrast, represents a spectrum of human resilience, despair, solidarity, and the struggle for survival in the face of unimaginable brutality. Accounts from survivors and historical records, such as those by Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, often speak to the constant presence of death during the Holocaust.

Yet, even within this shadow, many fought to maintain their humanity through acts of kindness, maintaining faith, and the preservation of dignity under conditions designed to strip them of it. The term “death march” itself, likely coined by the prisoners, signifies not only the literal journey towards death but also a form of resistance by naming and thereby acknowledging the reality of their situation.

Comparative Literature, Art, and History: Literature and art offer profound insights into how individuals face death in extreme circumstances. For example, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” explores the psychological resilience of Holocaust survivors, emphasizing the search for purpose even in the bleakest situations.

The artwork produced in concentration camps, often clandestinely, serves as a testament to the human spirit’s endurance and the need to bear witness.

The historical accounts of other atrocities, such as the Rwandan Genocide or the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, similarly reflect a range of responses to the prospect of death, from acts of incredible bravery and self-sacrifice to the depths of despair.

Across these contexts, the victims’ responses to imminent death often reveal a profound commitment to preserving their identity, dignity, and humanity.

In summary, the SS’s handling of the death marches and the prisoners’ responses underscore a fundamental conflict between the oppressors’ inhumanity and the victims’ enduring spirit.

The contrast in facing death between the SS and the prisoners highlights not just the horror of the Holocaust but also the capacity for human resilience and the importance of remembering and honoring those who suffered.


In the context of the article, how are we changed by war? How were people’s understandings of right and wrong altered during World War II? How does the treatment of Jews exemplify this? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

War fundamentally alters societies, individuals, and the collective understanding of morality, often blurring the lines between right and wrong through the lens of national security, survival, and ideological fervor.

World War II, with its unparalleled scale of destruction, genocide, and the Holocaust, serves as a stark illustration of how deeply war can impact moral compasses and ethical standards.

Altered Understandings of Right and Wrong: World War II challenged global perceptions of morality, as evidenced by the systematic dehumanization and extermination of Jews by the Nazi regime. The Holocaust was not merely a byproduct of war but a meticulously orchestrated genocide rooted in perverted notions of racial purity and national superiority. The Nazis’ treatment of Jews, as detailed in the article about death marches, exemplifies the extreme moral degradation that can occur under the guise of war.

The SS’s brutal treatment of prisoners, viewed as a necessary and justifiable act within the Nazi ideological framework, showcases a horrifying shift in moral judgment, where mass murder and cruelty became institutionalized and mechanized.

Impact on Individuals and Societies: Individuals and societies are profoundly changed by war through the loss of life, the trauma experienced by survivors, the destruction of communities, and the erosion of ethical norms. The Holocaust forced the world to confront the depths of human cruelty and the capacity for evil, leading to a post-war reevaluation of human rights, international law, and the mechanisms for preventing genocide.

The Nuremberg Trials and the establishment of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were direct responses to the moral questions raised by the war and the Holocaust.

Reflections in Literature, Art, and History: Literature and art post-World War II often grapple with the changed understandings of morality and the human condition.

Works such as “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Night” by Elie Wiesel, and “Survival in Auschwitz” by Primo Levi offer personal reflections on the moral abyss of the Holocaust, challenging readers to consider the capacity for both evil and resilience within the human spirit.

The visual arts, including the works of survivors and post-war artists, explore themes of loss, memory, and the indelible impact of war on human consciousness.

Historically, the war prompted a global reckoning with the concept of “crimes against humanity,” leading to a more robust international legal framework designed to prevent such atrocities from occurring again.

However, subsequent conflicts worldwide have shown that World War II lessons are not always heeded, underscoring the ongoing struggle to uphold the moral and ethical standards that emerged from the war’s aftermath.

War changes us by exposing the fragility of civilization and the thin veneer that separates order from chaos. World War II, particularly through the lens of the Holocaust, demonstrates how rapidly societal norms can be overturned and how crucial it is to maintain vigilance against the erosion of moral standards.

The treatment of Jews during the Holocaust exemplifies the darkest potential of human society when warped by ideology and war. It serves as a reminder of the need for constant reflection, education, and commitment to human rights to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated.

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