Holocaust Survivors Fleeing Ukraine Find a New Home in Germany

In Ukraine, elderly Jewish citizens threatened by the war with Russia are being evacuated. As children, they escaped the Nazi invasion. Now some are finding refuge in a most unlikely place: Germany.

As children in Ukraine, they fled the invading German army during World War II, surviving extermination in the Holocaust by bullets, which took the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Ukranian Jews. Today, as a devastating Russian invasion drives millions of Ukrainians from their homes, these elderly Holocaust survivors, many of them medically fragile, have again been dislocated by war.

Through a complex rescue mission led by the Jewish Claims Conference and supported by other aid agencies, many of these survivors are finding new homes in nearby countries. Some have taken a journey fraught with irony. Having survived the Holocaust, they are being evacuated to Germany. Nursing homes across the country, with the backing of the German government, have opened their doors to house the survivors.

Retro Report’s short documentary, made with PBS Newshour, traces this perilous journey to safety and confrontation with the past.

“In 1941 we fled from the Germans,” said Larissa Dzuyenko, who was evacuated from Kiev in March and now resides in a nursing home in Frankfurt. “Now we’ve come to the Germans so they will protect us. This is the paradox,” she told Retro Report. “So maybe there is no such thing as permanent friends, or permanent enemies.”

Educators, click below for this video’s accompanying lesson plan.

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For teachers
  • Producer: Rebecca Liss
  • Editor: Brian Kamerzel
  • Editor: Cullen Golden
  • Senior Producer: Kit R. Roane
  • Senior Producer: Karen M. Sughrue

For Educators


This eight-minute video delves into how elderly Jewish citizens in Ukraine threatened by the war with Russia are being evacuated to a most unlikely place: Germany.

In September 1941, as part of the Axis powers invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, German forces occupied Kyiv and encircled the Red Army. In response, the Soviets planted explosives around the city targeting German officials. Claiming retaliation, the German commanders then decided to exterminate the city’s Jewish population. Over 33,000 Jews were killed in the first two days of the massacre. In the following months, over 100,000 people were killed and buried in the Babyn Yar ravine just outside Kyiv. During the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Holocaust survivors and the Holocaust Memorial at Babyn Yar are threatened.

This film and lesson were produced in partnership with the WNET Exploring Hate Initiative and the Pulitzer Center.

Lesson Plan 1: Holocaust Survivors Fleeing Ukraine Find a New Home in Germany

Students will examine the history of the Holocaust in Ukraine, and compare and contrast the current crisis in Ukraine.


Students will:

  • Examine the history of the Holocaust in Ukraine.
  • Compare and contrast the current crisis in Ukraine to the Holocaust.
  • Analyze the current situation in Ukraine and evaluate whether war crimes are being committed.
  • Formulate an argument about who should be responsible for Ukrainian refugees/evacuees.
Essential questions
  • Who should be responsible for civilian evacuations during war?
  • What obligation do countries – both those directly involved and those not involved – have to protect the health and welfare of civilians during wartime?
  • What should the response be to potential war crimes taking place in Ukraine?
  • Common Core State Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1:Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH9-10.2:Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH9-10.3:Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH11-12.1:Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH11-12.2:Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH11-12.3:Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
    • D1.4.9-12.Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.
    • D2.Civ.5.9-12.Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
    • D2.Geo.7.9-12.Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.
    • D2.Geo.12.9-12.Evaluate the consequences of human-made and natural catastrophes on global trade, politics, and human migration.
    • D2.His.1.9-12.Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
    • D2.His.2.9-12.Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.
    • D2.His.5.9-12.Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.
    • D2.His.12.9-12.Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.
    • D2.His.16.9-12.Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.