Yom Kippur at Metz – Historical Resources


This is a lesson plan provided by the National Library of Israel.

In our post-Holocaust world it’s hard to imagine that there was a time, not long before the Nazi rise to power, that a fiercely loyal German Jewry fought side by side with their non-Jewish compatriots for the glory of the “fatherland”. This lesson’s primary sources depict the observance of Yom Kippur at the 1870 Battle of Metz, captures the fierce nationalistic patriotism of Germany’s Jews at that time.  How did they commemorate Yom Kippur while on the front line? How has this moment been recorded in history?  What do these artistic renderings convey about Jewish identity and the relationship between non-Jewish and Jewish Germans?  Learners will analyze different renderings of the battle, and delve into how painted representations of history can be tweaked to reflect the desired messages and perspectives of the artist.  As a culminating activity, students will reflect upon different elements of their own Jewish identities through the creation of a “choose your own ending” story in which the character confronts a conflict between two competing parts of their identity.

The learner will:


  1. understand how one’s Jewish identity in the modern world can be complex
  2. know how pre-Holocaust German Jewry navigated between their identities as Jews and their simultaneous national patriotism and loyalty to Germany
  3. be able to critically inspect historical materials and identify different depictions of the same event and be able as well to reflect on what comprises their own Jewish identities
About the National Library and its educational materials:

The mission of the National Library of Israel is to provide a home for items of national, historic or cultural significance. Each of these primary sources serve as unique entry points into the collective memory of the people of Israel as well as the Jewish people worldwide.

The education department at the library curates the collection of primary sources and uses them as windows into the past; to foster a deeper understanding of Jewish history, and to enable learners to personalize and connect to earlier events.


When you click on the National Library of Israel resource link featured above, you will find the following educational building blocks for the creation of a lesson plan:


  1. A group activity to open the lesson and engage the learners.
  2. Discussion ideas and/or questions that are designed to get the learners thinking more deeply about the content.
  3. A creative activity that gives students the opportunity to go beyond learning and analyzing, to crafting something new, that personalizes how they relate to the  primary sources featured in the resource.
  4. The primary sources in this resource have individual links (listed in Expand your horizons below) that provide expanded information. In addition there are nuanced discussion questions that will enable students in small groups to engage independently and effectively in the process of  observing, interpreting, and connecting to the primary sources.

    Link to the lesson plan:
    Yom Kippur at Metz – Historical Resources


Student handouts, computer, projector

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