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Decision-Making in Times of Injustice

A unit to supplement Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior

A FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES PUBLICATION


Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development
organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination
of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more
humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust
and other examples of genocide, students make the essential connection between history
and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. For more information about Facing
History and Ourselves, please visit our website at www.facinghistory.org.

Copyright © 2009 by Facing History and Ourselves Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

Facing History and Ourselves® is a trademark registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark
Office.

Cover art photos: (from left to right) “Exposure” Oil painting by Samuel Bak. Courtesy of
Pucker Gallery; “Boy Held at Gunpoint,” © Institute of National Remembrance in
Warsaw.

Cover description: Samuel Bak created a series of paintings called “Icon of Loss” based on
the well-known photograph of a young boy being held at gunpoint in the Warsaw ghetto.
While working on this series, Bak reflected on “the countless millions of children that
perish in man’s senseless conflicts, wars, and genocides—past and present.” For ideas
about how to use the cover images to deepen students’ understanding of the Holocaust,
refer to Lesson 14 in this curriculum.

To download a PDF version of this curriculum, please visit


www.facinghistory.org/decisionmaking.

Facing History and Ourselves Headquarters


16 Hurd Road
Brookline, MA 02445-6919
Contents

Part I: Introduction
What Is Facing History and Ourselves? ...........................................................................5
Core Elements of a Facing History and Ourselves Journey ......................................6
Why Teach About the Holocaust and Human Behavior?.................................................9
Journals in a Facing History Classroom .........................................................................11
Questions to Consider When Using Journals in the Classroom ..............................12
Suggestions for Using Journals in the Classroom.....................................................13
Developing Vocabulary in a Facing History Classroom .................................................15
Glossary of Key Terms Related to a Study of Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior ..............................................................................16
How to Use This Curriculum ........................................................................................19

Part II: Lesson Plans


Lesson 1: Introduction to the Unit ............................................................................24
Lesson 2: A Scene from a Middle School Classroom .................................................34
Lesson 3: Identity and Place ......................................................................................43
Lesson 4: Those Who Don’t Know: Identity, Membership, and Stereotypes..............51
Lesson 5: Us and Them: Confronting Labels and Lies...............................................59
Lesson 6: The Nazi Party Platform ............................................................................76
Lesson 7: The Weimar Republic: Historical Context and Decision-Making ..............89
Lesson 8: The Fragility of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power..................................114
Lesson 9: Obedience................................................................................................127
Lesson 10: The Nazis in Power: Discrimination, Obedience, and Opportunism .......142
Lesson 11: The Nazis in Power: Propaganda and Conformity ...................................158
Lesson 12: Life for German Youth in the 1930s:
Education, Propaganda, Conformity, and Obedience............................................172
Lesson 13: Kristallnacht: Decision-Making in Times of Injustice ...............................196
Lesson 14: The Holocaust .........................................................................................220
Lesson 15: The Holocaust: Bystanders and Upstanders .............................................255
Lesson 16: Justice After the Holocaust.......................................................................283
Lesson 17: Remembrance, Participation, and Reflection............................................301
Acknowledgments

Primary writer: Elisabeth Fieldstone Kanner

We greatly appreciate the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc., for its support of “Decision-
Making in Times of Injustice,” a unit developed to support teachers’ use of the resource
book Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. These materials use
the history of the Holocaust to help students strengthen their capacity for critical think-
ing, empathy, and ethical decision-making. This curriculum was originally written for
Memphis 7th grade middle schools.

We acknowledge the valuable support we’ve received on this project from administrators
in the public school systems in both the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County
Schools. With much gratitude, we acknowledge from the Memphis City Schools: Dr.
Kriner Cash, Superintendent; Dr. Carol R. Johnson, former Superintendent; Brenda
Cassellius, former Academic Superintendent for Middle Schools; Marilyn Taylor, Social
Studies Coordinator; and Shelby Low, Social Studies Specialist. From Shelby County
Schools: Dr. Bobby G. Webb, Superintendent; Dr. Reo D. Pruiett, former Director,
Middle and Secondary Education; and Relzie Payton, Instructional Specialist, Social
Studies. We also offer special thanks to our most experienced teachers who helped in the
creation of the curriculum: Traci Erlandson, LeAnne Fryman, Nancy Parrish, and Rachel
Stafford, who are from the Memphis region; and Chris Rettig and Sarah Manz from New
England.

We rely on collaboration with scholars to maintain the highest historical accuracy of our
resources. Paul Bookbinder, Associate Professor of History at the University of
Massachusetts, thoughtfully reviewed this manuscript, and we greatly appreciate his guid-
ance. We also value the efforts of our own staff in producing and implementing the unit.
We are especially grateful to our core editorial team on this project: Margot Stern Strom,
Marc Skvirsky, Marty Sleeper, Adam Strom, Susan Snodgrass, Rachel Shankman, Michele
Phillips, Phredd Matthews-Wall, and Elisabeth Fieldstone Kanner.

Developing this unit required the efforts of individuals throughout the organization. We
would like to call special attention to the following members of the Facing History com-
munity for their assistance with this project: Steven Becton, Jennifer Gray, Stephanie
Hawkins, Rachel Murray, Catherine O’Keefe, Tracy O’Brien, Maria Hill, KC Swope, Doc
Miller, Laura Tavares, Anna Romer, Dennis Barr, Jan Darsa, Mary Johnson, and Phyllis
Goldstein.

Acknowledgments • 4
Introduction

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to
choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.1
— Franklin Roosevelt

I. What Is Facing History and Ourselves?

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional develop-


ment organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an
examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development
of a more humane and informed citizenry. Our program is guided by the belief that edu-
cation can be an effective means of preparing youth for their role as active, thoughtful,
socially responsible citizens and can serve as a preventative tool against intolerance, dis-
crimination, and violence. Our materials and pedagogy challenge students to confront
moral dilemmas that arise in history and in their own lives, reflect upon choices made,
and “choose to participate” in creating democratic communities. Since its inception in
1976, Facing History and Ourselves has reached millions of students throughout the
United States and in several other countries. More than 80 studies of Facing History’s
impact support the following findings:

Facing History’s impact on students:


• Reduced racist attitudes, increased awareness of antisemitism, and more interest in
and appreciation of other ethnic groups
• More engagement in learning
• Advanced social and moral development
• Increased knowledge of history, including the events that led to the Holocaust and
other examples of collective violence
• Increased motivation to read and write; increased ability to think critically about
history and one’s social and civic responsibility
• Increased relational maturity, including the capacity to stand in another’s shoes and
to resolve differences with others
• Heightened social concern and increased sensitivity to the plight of others
• Reduced fighting behavior

Facing History’s impact on teachers:


• Revitalized interest and satisfaction with teaching and introduced them to new and
effective methods
• Promoted their capacity and motivation to promote students’ awareness of racism,
antisemitism, and other forms of bigotry in themselves and others
• Increased commitment, confidence, and capacity to address complex social, civic,
and ethical issues in their classrooms

The Facing History journey is different for each class and each setting. At the same time,
each journey is built around a core of common elements, described as follows.

Introduction • 5
Core Elements of a Facing History and Ourselves Journey
1. Connections between history and students’ lives
Educators are always looking for ways to engage students. Through decades of experience,
we have learned that students are engaged when classroom material is rooted in the con-
cerns and issues of adolescence: the overarching interest in individual and group identity,
in acceptance or rejection, in conformity or non-conformity, in labeling, ostracism, loy-
alty, fairness, and peer group pressure. A Facing History and Ourselves student said, “I
faced history one day and found myself,” articulating one of the main objectives of our
materials. Rather than explore moral dilemmas and concepts of human behavior through
hypothetical situations, Facing History selects particularly powerful moments in history
that can be mined for ethical choices that are relevant to adolescents’ lives and their
emerging responsibilities as members of a local, national, and global community.
Accessing the past through the voices of real people, especially the voices of young peo-
ple, helps students connect with the material in a more personal way. Our materials guide
students through the process of identifying universal themes among events, while recog-
nizing the specific context and particular choices that make every event unique. In Facing
History’s pedagogy, history becomes a tool that helps students understand their own deci-
sions, ideas, and contexts; at the same time, students’ experiences become a tool to help
them better understand history. Our goal is to help students develop the habit of con-
necting the past and the present so that they can make informed decisions in the future.

2. Teachers as learners: Materials are professional development tools for teachers


Facing History and Ourselves professional development efforts support teacher efficacy in
four interrelated domains: teaching for understanding; making the curriculum accessible
and relevant for the diversity of students they teach and differentiating instruction appro-
priately; creating safe, inclusive learning communities; and promoting deliberation that
fosters emotional and ethical growth and civic agency. In addition to providing work-
shops, individual follow-up, print publications, and online resources, Facing History and
Ourselves develops lesson plans and units, like this Holocaust and Human Behavior unit,
as another way to support teachers’ use of our materials in the classroom. Informed by
the best practices we have culled from decades of work in classrooms, we offer lesson
plans and units to educators as a vehicle for their own learning. We trust teachers as cre-
ative intellectuals and believe these lessons will be used to stimulate their own curriculum
development. The joy and brilliance of teaching often comes from following up on stu-
dents’ unanticipated reactions and questions, so we do not expect teachers to follow our
lesson plans as a prescriptive set of instructions. We know that students’ interests, prior
knowledge, skill level, and misconceptions uniquely shape each classroom, even those in
the same school. Therefore, we expect teachers will diverge from our lesson plans as
needed, creating their own pedagogical rationale in dialogue with their students. Our
lesson plans always provide several options, including suggestions for ways to extend
students’ thinking through incorporating additional resources, discussion questions, or
activities.

3. Facing History’s scope and sequence


The Facing History and Ourselves “scope and sequence” is a framework for teaching his-
tory and human behavior that connects the study of the past to adolescents’ social and
moral development. It was first designed to support students’ cognitive and moral growth
as they explored our core case study—the events leading up to the Holocaust. Yet, teach-
ers have found that the scope and sequence, also referred to as the Facing History jour-
ney, is a useful organizational structure for the study of any history.
Introduction • 6
The journey begins with a study of identity—the forces that shape who we are, how the
labels that we are given impact how we think about ourselves, how the multiple identities
we might assume influence who we think we are, and how we see others. It then moves
to questions of membership: how groups that individuals consider themselves a part of—
whether they are peer, ethnic, religious, or national—define themselves and how these
groups are also defined by others. Then students apply these concepts to their exploration
of a critical period in history. In this unit, they will study the events leading up to the
Holocaust. As students learn about the choices
made in the years before the Holocaust, they come
to understand the fragility of democracy and dis-
cover how history is not inevitable. Next, students
move to judgment—considering questions of
responsibility, justice, punishment, reparations,
legacy, and memory. The final stage of this journey
asks students to reflect on their own role as a par-
ticipating member in a larger local, national, and
global society. Our years of experience in the field
have demonstrated that as students move through
this journey, their historical knowledge, self-aware-
ness, and moral sophistication deepens.

4. The Pedagogical Triangle of Historical Understanding:


Ethical reflection, intellectual rigor, and emotional engagement
To serve as a touchstone for curriculum planning, we have created the “Pedagogical
Triangle of Historical Understanding.” Facing History and Ourselves believes that histori-
cal understanding is strengthened when classroom materials are intellectually rigorous,
engage students emotionally, and invite ethical reflection. Working together, these com-
ponents foster students’ sense of civic agency: their belief that they can play a positive role
in their peer groups, schools, communities, and the larger world, and their ability and
willingness to “make history” by acting on that belief.

Introduction • 7
Emotional engagement: Students find learning more meaningful when it touches both
their hearts and their heads. To teach history to adolescents, teachers need emotionally
compelling materials that resonate with students’ own experiences. Stories of inclusion
and ostracism, conformity and individuality, peer pressure and independent judgment,
obedience and resistance have particular resonance with young adults.

Intellectual rigor: Informed judgment is possible when students can apply a deep under-
standing of the past to choices being made today. Our resources prioritize depth over
breadth. Additionally, we place a tremendous premium on historical accuracy; the sources
we select are reviewed by prominent scholars and primary sources are privileged over sec-
ondary sources. To help students wrestle with the complexity and uncertainty of history,
rather than reach for simple answers, Facing History’s lesson plans and units include
activities to help students engage in different historical thinking skills, such as:
• identifying the significance of events, decisions, ideas and documents;
• recognizing how multiple causes impact historical outcomes;
• explaining how historical context influences why and how people acted in the past;
• using multiple pieces of evidence representing different perspectives, often from the
viewpoints of victims, bystanders, perpetrators, and upstanders;
• discerning the similarities and differences between the past and today.

Ethical reflection: To help students develop their ability to make moral decisions, students
need to go beyond simple explanations when interpreting choices made in the past and
the present. Therefore, Facing History materials encourage students to think about vari-
ous issues that influence why individuals and groups made particular choices, and the
implications of their actions. The goal of Facing History and Ourselves is not to promote
moral relativism but to help students understand the factors that influence decision-
making. In addition to analyzing the choices made by individuals and groups in the past,
Facing History materials ask students to think about their own decisions and their role as
participants in society.

5. Reflective classroom community


A Facing History and Ourselves classroom is in many ways a microcosm of democracy—
a place where explicit rules and implicit norms protect everyone’s right to speak; where
differing perspectives can be heard and valued; where members take responsibility for
themselves, each other, and the group as a whole; and where each member has a stake
and a voice in collective decisions. Facing History calls these spaces reflective classroom
communities. Our pedagogy is designed to nurture such environments by creating a sense
of trust and openness, encouraging students to speak and listen to each other, making
space and time for silent reflection, offering multiple avenues for participation and learn-
ing, and helping students appreciate the points of view, talents, and contributions of less
vocal members. A review of our suggested teaching strategies reveals an emphasis on jour-
nal writing and on multiple formats for facilitating large and small group discussions.

6. Literacy development
Facing History and Ourselves is committed to helping students develop as readers, writ-
ers, and thinkers because we believe that an informed, active citizenry requires advanced
literacy skills. In our materials, primary sources are privileged over secondary sources.
Students read the actual words of experts in their fields (i.e., historians, psychologists,
political scientists, etc.) as well as first-hand accounts written by people, especially young
adults, who lived through particular historical moments. We know that comprehending
Introduction • 8
and analyzing text that has not been explicitly written for a youth audience can be chal-
lenging. Therefore, Facing History’s units and lesson plans include strategies aimed at
helping teachers make difficult texts accessible for students of varying reading levels. Our
materials also help students learn to evaluate the sources of information, in terms of per-
spective, validity, and credibility, so that they can develop the media literacy skills
required of citizens in this information age.

Facing History lessons generally adhere to a specific structure (opener, main activity, and
follow-through) that reflects best practice for developing students’ literacy skills.
“Openers” activate students’ personal experience with decision-making and/or their prior
knowledge with the material they will be studying. In the main activities, students are
often asked to suspend their judgment as they explore a text or texts (of various media)
from multiple perspectives. Activities are structured so that students have support in com-
prehending and making meaning of material. Authentic understanding happens when
students are able to take an idea and make it their own. Therefore, the purpose of the
follow-through section is to provide students with the opportunity to deepen their grasp
of material explored in the lesson by reflecting on how these ideas resonate with their
own lives and issues they see in their world today.

7. Interdisciplinary
The Facing History and Ourselves curricular framework is interdisciplinary. It builds
upon the methods of the humanities and social sciences: inquiry, analysis, interpretation,
empathic connection, and judgment. To help students explore history from multiple per-
spectives, our lessons incorporate texts and ideas from various disciplines including politi-
cal science, history, geography, literature, fine arts, science, and psychology. Additionally,
because we respect and celebrate different learning styles, the teaching strategies we sug-
gest encourage students to learn and express themselves through different modalities,
such as writing, speaking, drawing, and movement.

Sources:
Betty Bardige, “Facing History and Ourselves Core Ideas in Brief: A Series of Conversations Among Theory,
Research and Practice“ (Brookline: Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, forthcoming).
Facing History and Ourselves, “Bill Moyers Interviewed: Lessons to Be Learned from Studying the Holocaust
and the Nuremberg Trials,” Newsletter, Fall 1986.
Margot Stern Strom, “Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior,” Moral Education
Forum (Summer 1981).
Margot Stern Strom, “Facing Today and the Future: Choosing to Participate,” Moral Education Forum 14,
no. 3 (Fall 1989): 1–6.

II. Why Teach About the Holocaust and Human Behavior?

In 1976, Facing History and Ourselves began as a 12-week unit for eighth graders, a cap-
stone for their American History and Civics sequence. Its first teachers, Margot Stern
Strom and William Parsons, teamed up during a workshop that urged the inclusion of
the history of the Holocaust in the middle and high school curricula. At the time, this
history was scarcely taught in U.S. schools. It was represented—if at all—by a paragraph
or at most a few pages near the end of the commonly used history and civics texts. As
they thought about the failures that led to the Holocaust, they realized how important it
was for students to understand the fragility of democracy. They wanted their students to
think about the use and abuse of science, technology, propaganda, and state power, as

Introduction • 9
well as about the possibilities for international cooperation to prevent the recurrence of
genocidal violence. They wanted their students to be keenly aware that history was not
inevitable, and that the decisions of ordinary citizens and those they chose or permitted
to lead could change its direction. They wanted to ensure that their students learned how
to do what too many in Germany and throughout the world had failed to do—to distin-
guish between patriotic loyalty and blind obedience and to stand up to hatred and injus-
tice. Through teaching their own students about the events leading up to the Holocaust,
Strom and Parsons discovered how this history was crucial to any teaching about the
importance of civic participation and social responsibility.

Strom left the classroom in 1980 to begin the initial dissemination of the methods and
materials that were inspired by her work with students and colleagues. This work, sup-
ported by a federal grant, led to the founding of the nonprofit organization Facing
History and Ourselves.

With the support of the dissemination grant, the content of the program was continually
enhanced by the advice and testimony of psychologists and psychiatrists, Holocaust sur-
vivors and scholars, teachers and students, and experts in the emerging fields of moral
development and moral education. This collective wisdom became the resource book
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. Millions of students around
the world have used the resources in this book, enabling us to learn about the impact of
studying the events leading to the Holocaust. Over the past 30 years, we have amassed
convincing evidence that an in-depth study of the choices made by individuals, groups,
and nations that resulted in the Holocaust is one way to help students develop as moral
decision-makers and thoughtful community members. These findings are summed up by
the reflections of former Facing History student and current Facing History teacher,
Rafael Castillo:

When I took the Facing History course back in 8th grade, it helped me understand
that history was a part of me and that I was a part of history. If I understood why
people made the choices they did, I could better understand how I make choices and
hopefully make the right ones. By studying the Holocaust, the result of ordinary
choices by ordinary people, I realized that similar choices could present themselves to
me and that I needed to act differently from the way people did then. But if I wanted
things to turn out differently, it wouldn’t be enough for me alone to act differently—I
had to help others do the same. That is why I decided to become a teacher. My goal is
not to tell my students what they must do. My goal is to make sure that they can
think and care.2

Facing History and Ourselves has helped educators around the world recognize the
importance of teaching students about the events leading up to the Holocaust. While the
context of Germany from 1920–1945 was certainly unique, in this history we can still
find themes that are familiar to us today—themes such as peer pressure, obedience, fear
and self-preservation, opportunism, and prejudice. When students have a deeper under-
standing of how these factors influenced the choices made by individuals, groups and
nations during the Holocaust, as well as the years that preceded this horrific tragedy, they
gain a tool that can help them navigate their own moral universe. Henry Zabierek, the
director of social studies in Brookline, Massachusetts, answered the question, “Why study
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior?” in this way:

Introduction • 10
This curriculum is about more than the Holocaust. It’s about the reading and the
writing and the arithmetic of genocide, but it’s also about such R’s as rethinking,
reflecting, and reasoning. It’s about prejudice, discrimination and scapegoating; but
it’s also about human dignity, morality, law, and citizenship. It’s about avoiding and
forgetting, but it’s also about civic courage and justice. In an age of “back to basics”
this curriculum declares that there is one thing more basic, more sacred, than any of
the three R’s; namely, the sanctity of human life.3

As you embark on this Facing History journey with your students, we invite you to create
your own rationale that inspires and guides the unique way you choose to incorporate
our materials and methodology into your teaching practice.

III. Journals in a Facing History


Classroom*

Philosopher Hannah Arendt, herself a


refugee of the Holocaust, asked, “Could the
activity of thinking . . . be among the con-
ditions that make men abstain from evil-
doing or even ‘condition’ them against it?”4
A study of Nazi Germany reveals the danger
that can befall a society that is conditioned
not to critically examine the world around
them. Adolf Hitler remarked, “What luck
for leaders that men do not think.”5 His
belief that people “do not think” (or that
people could be conditioned to not think)
gave him confidence that he could push
through his racist agenda without much
resistance. Indeed, the Nazis built an educa-
tion system that force-fed knowledge and
propaganda and discouraged questioning
and individual thought. They also prohib-
ited free speech and free assembly, and kept
their citizenry so busy with state-required
A Facing History student writes in his journal. tasks and meetings that there was “no time
to think.” Just as dictatorships like the
Third Reich rely on an unthinking popu-
lace to maintain control, healthy democracies depend on a citizenry capable of critical
thinking in order to support institutions such as a free press, an evenhanded judicial sys-
tem, and fair and open elections.

Facing History and Ourselves is committed to helping students develop their ability to
critically examine their surroundings from multiple perspectives and to make informed
judgments about what they see and hear. Keeping a journal is one tool that Facing

*Our ideas about the importance of journals in a Facing History and Ourselves classroom have been informed by decades
of experience listening to teachers and students as well as by academic research, especially the following studies: Lisa Colt,
Fanny Connelly, and John Paine, “Excerpts from Student Journals in Response to the Curriculum Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.” Moral Education Forum, Summer 1981.

Introduction • 11
History has found instrumental in helping students develop these skills. A journal might
be defined as any place where thoughts are recorded and stored. Loose-leaf and bound
notebooks both make excellent journals. Many students find that writing or drawing in a
journal helps them process ideas, formulate questions, and retain information. Journals
make learning visible by providing a safe, accessible space for students to share thoughts,
feelings and uncertainties. In this way, journals are also an assessment tool—something
teachers can review to better understand what their students know, what they are strug-
gling to understand, and how their thinking has changed over time. In addition to
strengthening students’ critical thinking skills, journal writing serves other purposes as
well. Journals help nurture classroom community. Through reading and commenting on
journals, teachers build relationships with students. Frequent journal writing also helps
students become more fluent in expressing their ideas in writing or speaking.

Students use their journals in different ways. Some students may record ideas throughout
class while others may only use it when there is a particular teacher-driven assignment.
Some students need prompts to support their writing, while other students feel more
comfortable expressing their ideas without any external structure. Just as students vary in
how they use their journals, teachers vary in their approach to journal writing as well.
While there are many effective ways to use a journal as a learning tool in the classroom,
below are six suggestions that we offer based on decades of experience working with
teachers and students.

Questions to Consider When Using Journals in the Classroom


1. What is the teacher’s relationship with students’ journals? Students are entitled to know
how you plan on reading their journals. Will you read everything they write? If they
want to keep something private, is this possible? If so, how do students indicate that
they do not want you to read something? Will their journals be graded? If so, by
what critieria? (See more on grading journals below.) For teachers at most schools, it
can be impossible to read everything students write in their journals; there just is not
enough time in the day. For this reason, some teachers decide to collect students’
journals once a week and read only a page or two—sometimes a page the student
selects and sometimes a page selected by the teacher. Other teachers may never col-
lect students’ journals, but might glance at them during class time or might ask stu-
dents to incorporate quotes and ideas from their journals into collected assignments.
You can set limits on the degree to which you have access to students’ journals. Many
teachers establish a rule that if students wish to keep information in their journals
private, they should fold the page over or remove the page entirely.

2. What is appropriate content for journals? It is easy for students to confuse a class jour-
nal with a diary (or blog) because both of these formats allow for open-ended writ-
ing. Teachers should clarify how the audience and purpose for this writing is distinct
from the audience and purpose for writing in a personal diary. In most classrooms,
the audience for journal writing is the author, the teacher, and at times, peers. Facing
History believes the purpose of journal writing is to provide a space where students
can connect their personal experiences and opinions to the concepts and events they
are studying in the classroom. Therefore, some material that is appropriate to include
in their personal diaries may not be appropriate to include in their class journals. To
avoid uncomfortable situations, many teachers find it helpful to clarify topics that are
not suitable material for journal entries. Also, as mandatory reporters in most school

Introduction • 12
districts, teachers should explain that they are required to take certain steps, such as
informing a school official, if students reveal information about possible harm to
themselves or another student. Students should be made aware of these rules, as well
as other guidelines you might have about appropriate journal writing content.

3. How will journals be evaluated? Many students admit that they are less likely to share
their true thoughts or express questions when they are worried about a grade based
on getting the “right” answer or using proper grammar or spelling. Therefore, we
suggest that if you choose to grade students’ journals, which many teachers decide to
do, that you base these grades on criteria such as effort, thoughtfulness, completion,
creativity, curiosity, and making connections between the past and the present.
Additionally, there are many ways to provide students with feedback on their journals
besides traditional grading, such as by writing comments or asking questions.
Students can even evaluate their own journals for evidence of intellectual and moral
growth. For example, you might have students look through their journal to find evi-
dence of their ability to ask questions or to make connections between what was hap-
pening in Nazi Germany and an event from their own life.

4. What forms of expression can be included in a journal? Students learn and communi-
cate best in different ways. The journal is an appropriate space to respect different
learning styles. Some students may wish to draw their ideas, rather than record
thoughts in words. Other students may feel most comfortable responding in concept
webs and lists, as opposed to prose. When you introduce the journal to students, you
might brainstorm different ways that they might express their thoughts.

5. How can journals be used to help students build vocabulary? Throughout this unit, stu-
dents will be encountering new vocabulary, while they develop a more sophisticated
understanding of concepts which might already be familiar to them. From the earliest
days of Facing History, the journal was used as a place to help students build their
vocabulary through constructing “working definitions.” The phrase “working defini-
tion” implies that our understanding of concepts evolve as we are confronted with
new information and experiences. Students’ definitions of words such as “identity” or
“belonging” should be richer at the end of the unit than they are on day one. We
suggest you use the journal—perhaps a special section of it—as a space where stu-
dents can record, review, and refine their definitions of important terms referred to in
this unit. (Note: Each lesson plan includes a list of key terms.)

6. How should journal content be publicly shared? Most Facing History teachers have
found that students are best able to express themselves when they believe that their
journal is a private space. Therefore, we suggest that information in students’ journals
is never publicly shared without the consent of the writer. At the same time, we
encourage you to provide multiple opportunities for students to voluntarily share
ideas and questions they have recorded in their journals. Some students may feel
more comfortable reading directly from their journals than speaking “off-the-cuff ” in
class discussions.

Suggestions for Using Journals in the Classroom


Once you settle on the norms and expectations for journal writing in your class, there are
many possible ways that you can have students record ideas in their journals. Here are
some examples:

Introduction • 13
Teacher-selected prompts: One of the most common ways that teachers use journals is
by asking students to respond to a particular prompt. This writing often prepares stu-
dents to participate in a class activity, helps students make connections between the
themes of a lesson and their own lives, or provides an opportunity for students to make
meaning of ideas in a reading or film. In every lesson, you will find suggested prompts for
journal writing.

Dual-entry format: Students draw a line down the center of the journal page or fold the
page in half. They write the factual notes (“What the text says” or “What the historians
say”) on one side and on the other side their feelings about the notes (“Reactions”).

“Lifted line” responses: One way to have students respond to what they have read is to
ask them to “lift a line”—select a particular quotation that strikes them—and then
answer questions such as, “What is interesting about this quotation? What ideas does it
make you think about? What questions does this line raise for you?”

Brainstorming: The journal is an appropriate place where students can freely list ideas
related to a specific word or question. To activate prior knowledge before students learn
new material, you might ask students to brainstorm everything they know about a con-
cept or an event. As a strategy for reviewing material, you might ask students to brain-
storm ideas they remember about a topic. Moreover, as a pre-writing exercise, students
can brainstorm ways of responding to an essay prompt.

Freewriting: Freewriting is open, no-format writing. Freewriting can be an especially


effective strategy when you want to help students process particularly sensitive or
provocative material. Some students respond extremely well to freewriting while other
students benefit from more structure, even if that means a loosely-framed prompt such
as, “What are you thinking about after watching/reading/hearing this material? What
does this text remind you of?”

Creative writing: Many students enjoy writing poems or short stories that incorporate the
themes addressed in a particular lesson. To stimulate their work, some students benefit
from ideas that structure their writing, such as a specific poem format or an opening line-
for a story (example: Once upon a time, I could not believe my eyes when my friend
came running down the street, yelling…).

Drawings, charts, and webs: Students do not have to express their ideas in words. At
appropriate times, encourage students to draw their feelings or thoughts. They can also
use symbols, concept maps, Venn diagrams, and other charts to record information.

Note-taking: To help students retain new information, they can record notes in their
journals. Notes could be taken in various formats—such as lists, concept maps, or in
graphic organizers.

Vocabulary: Students can use their journals as a place to keep their working definitions of
terms, noting how those definitions change as they go deeper into the resources. The
back section of their journals could be used as a glossary—the place where students
record definitions and where they can turn to review and revise their definitions as these
terms come up throughout the unit.

Introduction • 14
K-W-L charts: To keep track of their learning in this unit, students can keep a K-W-L
chart in their journals. In this three-column chart, the first column “K” represents what
students already know about a topic. The second column, “W,” represents what they
want to know. And, “L,” the third column, is where they record what they have learned.

Interviews: From time to time you might ask students to interview classmates, family, or
community members about particular themes or questions. Students can record data
from their interviews in their journals.

Sharing: While there will be times when some students will not want to publicly share
thoughts from their journals, most of the time students are eager to have the opportunity
to select something from their journals to share with a small group or the larger class.
There may be times when you let students know in advance that what they wrote will be
shared with the class. A pass-around is an exercise in which journals are “passed around”
from one student to the next. Students read the page that is opened (and only that page!)
and then write connections they see in their own lives, current events, or other moments
in history.

IV. Developing Vocabulary in a Facing History Classroom

Facing History and Ourselves believes that definitions are “works-in-progress.” Our
understanding of ideas is continually refined as we learn new information, often in col-
laboration with others. As they study the past and reflect on experiences in the present,
we encourage students to construct their own meaning of important concepts explored in
this unit. The “working definitions” provided in this glossary reflect how students might
begin to define key terms in the context of studying Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Strategies for helping students build their vocabulary

Journals: Students can use their journals as a place to keep their working
definitions of terms, noting how those definitions change as they learn
more about the past and the present. The back section of their journals
could be used as a place where students record, review, and revise their
working definitions.
Word walls: A “word wall” is a large display in the classroom where the
meanings of important ideas are displayed, using words and pictures. New
terms can be added to the word wall as needed. Students can update the
ideas on their word wall as they learn new information and develop a
deeper understanding of key terms.
Visualizing vocabulary: Expressing concepts through an image, such as
a drawing or symbol, often helps students comprehend and retain infor-
mation. You might ask students to draw their definitions of key terms and
share their drawings with the class. Some of these drawings might be
included on a word wall.

Introduction • 15
Glossary of Key Terms Related to a Study of
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior

aliens — immigrants who are not citizens


allies — the nations fighting against the Germans during World War II, including the
United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain
antisemitism — hatred for Jews, often leading to discrimination against Jewish people
Article 48 — a section of the Weimar Republic’s constitution that allowed the President
to pass laws without the approval of the Reichstag (parliament) in times of crisis
Aryans — a made-up race of Nordic people whom the Nazis said invaded India many
centuries ago; the Nazis believed the Aryans were their direct ancestors and that
Aryans are superior to people of other races
atrocities — crimes
audience — the person or people who receive a message
Auschwitz — a town in what is now southwest Poland; site of the biggest Nazi concen-
tration camp during World War II
authority — the person or group of people in charge of a group, the leader
belonging — being accepted, the feeling that you are part of a larger community
blind obedience — obeying orders without thinking about consequences of these actions
for yourself or others
bully — a person or group that tries to intimidate and overpower someone else
bureaucracy — the rules, structures, and regulations that control individuals’ work within
an organization, typically a large organization like a government office
bureaucrat — a person working for an organization whose job requires following orders
and procedures
bystanders — a person or a group of people who see unacceptable behavior but do noth-
ing to stop it
chancellor — leader of the Reichstag, the Weimar Republic’s parliament
choosing to participate — the act of deciding to act in ways that benefit a larger commu-
nity
citizen — a person who is given special legal rights as a member of a nation
civic education — the preparation of citizens, training people for their role as members
of larger communities
community — a group of people who share certain characteristics, such as proximity
(they live close to each other), beliefs, or backgrounds
concentration camps — places where “enemies of a state” are held against their will and
often forced to do heavy labor. In 1933, the Nazis opened their first concentration
camp for people who disagreed with their ideas. Later, during World War II, they
sent millions of Jews and other victims, including gypsies and homosexuals, to con-
centration camps where most of them were killed, either by being murdered or as a
result of horrible living conditions.
conformity — when people act in the same ways and/or believe the same ideas as other
people in their group in order to feel a sense of belonging
consequences — the results of a person or group’s actions or behaviors
constitution — a document which sets up the way a nation will govern itself
contract — an agreement
crimes against humanity — planned and organized murder or other inhumane acts com-
mitted against a group of people

Introduction • 16
democracy — a form of government in which people have a voice in how they are gov-
erned, such as by voting in elections
deportation — when a person or a group of people are removed, by force, from the place
where they live
depression — a time when many workers are unemployed. Companies make less money
and some may close. As a result, workers lose their jobs.
dictator — a person who has complete control of how a nation is governed
dictatorship — a government ruled by a dictator
discrimination — treating people differently, usually unfairly, because they belong to a
particular group
dissent — disagreeing with a person or a group of people
emigration — moving from one’s native country in order to settle in another
exclusion — when someone is not allowed membership in a group
expectations/norms/rules — guidelines a group develops together and agrees to follow
extermination — to kill on a large scale
Facing History and Ourselves — a nonprofit organization that encourages students of
many different backgrounds to look at racism, prejudice and antisemitism in order to
promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry
fear — being scared of a person, place, thing, or idea
Final Solution — the Nazi program of killing the Jews of Europe during World War II
fragility — being delicate or fragile; easily broken
genocide — acts committed with the intent to destroy an ethnic, racial, national, or reli-
gious group
Gestapo — German police in Nazi Germany
ghetto — during World War II in Europe, a section of a city in which all of the Jews
were required to live
head and heart — participating in an activity with both your mind (head) and your feel-
ings (heart)
Heinrich Himmler — one of the most powerful Nazi politicians. He was head of the
Gestapo and also oversaw the Final Solution (the planned mass murder of Jews and
others deemed unfit).
President Paul von Hindenburg — President of the Weimar Republic (Germany) from
1925 to 1934. He appointed Hitler to the position of Chancellor of the Reichstag
(parliament).
historical context — the particular events, trends, and ideas that characterize a particular
time and place
Adolf Hitler — the Nazi dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945
Holocaust — a period of 4 years (1941–1944) during which the Nazis organized and
carried out the murder of six million Jews, as well as millions of others such as
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, and homosexuals
identity — how a person answers the question, “Who am I?” often including their inter-
ests, beliefs, religion, family, ethnic background, etc. Identity is shaped by the indi-
vidual and it is also influenced by society.
ideology — a set of beliefs
inclusion — when someone is allowed to join a particular group or community
inflation — when money loses its value. During inflation, you need more money to buy
the same item (e.g., $3 to buy milk that used to cost $2).
intermarriage — marriage between people of two different backgrounds; in this case,
marrying someone from a different religion, such as a Jew marrying a Protestant
isolated — to be separated from the main group

Introduction • 17
Jew — a person who is considered to be a member of the Jewish community because of a
shared faith, history, or cultural background
judgment — the act of evaluating behavior (in terms of right and wrong), deciding who
is responsible for this behavior, and determining rewards or punishments
justice — when one receives their deserved punishment or reward
Kristallnacht — “the night of broken glass”; a night of organized street violence against
Jews in Germany and Austria (November 9–10, 1938)
mass murder — the widespread murder of a large number of people
media — different methods of communication (such as TV, Internet, magazines, newspa-
pers, etc.) that reach a wide audience
membership — belonging to a group
memorials — places to remember and honor special people or events
message — an idea that a person or group tries to communicate to other
messenger — someone or something that distributes a message
Nazi — a member of the Nazi political party
Nazi Party — (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) a political group (party)
founded in Germany in 1919. Its main leader was Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Party sup-
ported the idea that only people of Aryan decent should be citizens of Germany and
that Jews, and others deemed unfit, should be removed from the country.
Nuremberg laws — a set of laws passed by the Nazis in 1935. The laws classified people
as German if all four of their grandparents were of “German blood,” while people
were classified as Jews if they had three or four Jewish grandparents. A person with
one or two Jewish grandparents was called a Mischling, a crossbreed. These laws were
later used to decide who would be deported to ghettos and concentration camps.
oath — a vow or promise
obedience — following rules, orders or commands
opportunism — taking advantage of a situation from which you might benefit without
considering (or disregarding) the consequences for others
ostracism — excluding a person or group from the larger community
others — people we define as different and separate from us
party platform — a document that lists the core beliefs of a political party
peer pressure — the idea that you need to act in a certain way to maintain a friendship
or be accepted in a social group; doing something or believing something just
because that is what your friends are doing or believing
perpetrators — those who commit crimes and other acts of injustice or violence
persecution — being treated unfairly, often because of your beliefs or background
political party — a group of people who share the same beliefs about how government
should be run
prejudice — to pre-judge a person because of a group to which that person belongs
propaganda — information spread for the purpose of influencing opinions, often for or
against a particular idea or group. To persuade an audience, propaganda often uses
lies, misleading information, or appeals to emotions rather than reason.
punishment — a penalty for bad or illegal behavior
race — a classification of human beings based on the idea that people can be divided into
separate genetic groups often based on skin tone. This classification is often used to
support a false belief that some groups of people are genetically superior to other
groups of people.
reflection — the process of thinking deeply about an idea or event, often personal in
nature (such as by thinking about your opinion or your experience with a topic)
Reichsmark — the German money used during the Weimar and Nazi eras

Introduction • 18
Reichstag — the German word for the building where laws are made, like our Capitol in
Washington DC; also refers to the German legislature between 1871 and 1942 to
which members were elected (until 1933), just as Americans elect members to
Congress
religion — a belief system based around spirituality and/or a divinity
reparations — paying back those who suffered from a crime
rescuers — people who attempt to save victims of violence
resettlement — when people leave their homes (often under force) and move elsewhere
resistance — questioning authority or fighting back against unjust treatment
resisters — those who fight back against authority
responsibility — one’s duty or obligation
restitution — making things better after a crime or injury
scapegoating — when a person or group is assigned blame for a larger problem or issue
self-determination — the belief that every nation (or group of people) should have its
own independent state and not be ruled by others
stereotype — a generalization about an entire group of people; a belief that each member
of a particular group possesses the same characteristic
supremacy — to be (or deem oneself to be) above or superior to another person or group
survivors — people who have lived through an experience of violence or injustice
synagogue — a Jewish house of worship
Treaty of Versailles — the peace treaty signed in 1919 that ended World War I and made
clear Germany’s defeat. Germany was ordered to pay back the victors (primarily
France, Britain, and Russia) with money and land. Many Germans felt this was
unfair and humiliating.
Universe of Responsibility — how we define whom we are responsible for helping and
protecting
upstander — an individual, group, or nation who witnesses injustice and take steps to
stop or prevent it
victims — people who have been abused and/or attacked, verbally and/or physically
Weimar Republic — the regime in post–World War I Germany, from 1919 until 1934
when Adolf Hitler took power

V. How to Use This Curriculum

This unit has been developed to support teachers’ use of the resource book Facing History
and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. It includes seventeen lessons. We expect
that the implementation of these lessons will vary by schools and by classrooms, depend-
ing on students’ interests, prior knowledge, skill level, and misconceptions. Therefore, we
expect teachers to diverge from our lesson plans as needed. Each lesson plan is divided
into three main sections — the Why, the What, and the How — which are explained
below.

Part I. Why teach this material?


This section includes the rationale for the lesson and the lesson’s learning goals, framed in
terms of what students should understand (guiding questions), know (key terms), and be
able to do (skills). You can draw from these learning goals when creating assignments
(e.g., tests, essays, projects, etc.) to evaluate student learning.

Introduction • 19
Part II: What is this lesson about?
This section provides a summary of key concepts and events from relevant chapters of the
resource book Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. In addition
to reading Part II of each lesson, we strongly recommend that you read the relevant chap-
ters in the resource book as well. While most of the information in this section is drawn
from Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior, it also includes infor-
mation from other sources, especially the Facing History publication Elements of Time.
This book can be downloaded from the Facing History website (www.facinghistory.org)
free of charge.

To supplement your understanding of the events leading up to the Holocaust, we encour-


age you to watch one of the many films made about this critical event in history. The
films recommended below, among many others, can be borrowed from the Facing
History library. Because they were not produced for a middle-school audience, we have
not included these films in this unit. After viewing them, however, you will be able to
decide if particular excerpts are appropriate for your students. (For more information
on resources available from Facing History’s lending library, refer to our website:
www.facinghistory.org. The lending library search engine can be found under Educator
Resources.)

For more background on the history of the Holocaust:


Recommended films for teachers

Genocide (52 minutes, Social Studies School Service)


This is part of the British World at War television series, narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier. It is
a chronological account of the methodical extermination of Jews under Hitler, from the begin-
ning of his years in power until his death. Scenes of personal testimony from victims, perpetra-
tors, and bystanders intersperse the historical overview. This video offers a fairly complete
overview of the Holocaust. Note: This film is not recommended for younger audiences.

The Nazis: A Warning from History (6 episodes, A&E Home Video)


This 6-part series from The History Channel explores the history of the Third Reich, using
recently discovered documents and archival footage from former Soviet bloc nations. The sec-
ond episode, “Chaos and Consent,” is particularly relevant to the material in this unit. It
begins in 1933 with the Nazi ascent to power and concludes on the eve of the Second World
War.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransports


(118 minutes, Movies Unlimited)
In the nine months prior to World War II, Britain conducted a rescue mission unmatched by
any other country at the time. It opened its doors to 10,000 children at risk from the Nazi
regime in Germany, Austria, and what was later Czechoslovakia. These children were taken
into foster homes and hostels in Britain, expecting eventually to be reunited with their parents.
The majority of the children never saw their families again. This feature-length documentary
recounts the remarkable rescue operation, known as the Kindertransport, and its dramatic
impact on the lives of the children who were saved.

Introduction • 20
Part III: How can we help students engage with this material?
This section provides ideas about how to organize the lesson to help students achieve the
learning goals described in Part I. It is divided into the following sub-sections:

Duration: Most lessons can be implemented in one 45-minute class period. Lessons 7, 12,
13, 14, and 15 have been designed to cover two class periods, or approximately 90 min-
utes. If you provide class time for students to construct their own memorials, the final
lesson in the unit, Lesson 17, might take three class periods. These are only suggested
guidelines. Based on your own classroom context and your students’ needs, lessons might
run longer or shorter. If you need to shorten the lesson, you might assign the follow-
through activity for homework. The extension section provides ideas for how to deepen
students’ experience with the material addressed in the lesson.

Materials: In this unit, students explore documents, memoirs, film, images, and other
resources in order to gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and human behavior.
Most of the lessons in this unit incorporate readings from Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior. Often we have provided excerpts of these readings as
handouts. Graphic organizers, historical documents, and other materials have also been
included as handouts. All handouts can be found at the end of the lesson plan.

The following four films are included as part of the main activities of Lessons 13, 14, and
16:

Childhood Memories (57 minutes, Facing History and Ourselves)


Through interviews of eleven Holocaust survivors and witnesses, this montage
examines what conditions were like for Jewish and non-Jewish children living in
Nazi-occupied Europe before and during World War II.

I’m Still Here: Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust
(48 minutes, MTV Video)
This film presents the diaries of young people who experienced first-hand the ter-
ror of daily life during the Holocaust. Through an emotional montage of archival
footage, personal photos, and text from the diaries themselves, the film tells the
story of a group of young writers who refused to quietly disappear.

Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History (24 minutes, Facing History and
Ourselves)
Sonia Weitz was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1928. She describes her life as rela-
tively peaceful until 1939. By 1941, Sonia and her family were forced to enter the
Krakow Ghetto. After her mother was murdered, Sonia, along with her sister and
father, were sent to the slave labor camp of Plaszow in 1943. For more than a year
she and her sister labored there. They were sent to Auschwitz in 1944. They had
spent only a few days in Auschwitz when they were forced to take part in the
“Death March.” The March led them to Bergen-Belsen for a brief time, and then
to the small German labor camp of Venusberg. Their final destination was
Mauthausen where they were liberated by the Americans. After being liberated,
Sonia lived in various displaced persons camps in Austria. She eventually moved to
the United States with her sister and brother-in-law. As she recounts these experi-
ences, Sonia shares poems she wrote describing pivotal moments in her past.

Introduction • 21
Paper Clips (84 minutes, Hart Sharp Video)
Struggling to grasp the concept of six million Holocaust victims, the students at
Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee decided to collect six million paper
clips to better understand the extent of this crime against humanity. This film tells
the story of how this project affected the residents of this community, as well as
people from around the world.

These films can be found in your school’s own library or can be borrowed from the
Facing History library. Sonia Weitz’s testimony is included on the CD that is in your
binder. In addition, the extension section of many lessons recommends other films that
can be borrowed from Facing History’s lending library.

Another important companion to this curriculum guide is the Facing History and
Ourselves website, www.facinghistory.org. Many of the teaching strategies referred to in
these lessons, as well as additional teaching strategies, are described in more detail in the
“Teaching Strategies” section of the website, found in the “Classroom Strategies” section
of Educator Resources. In the Facing Today section, you can find resources that connect
current events to Facing History themes and topics. On www.facinghistory.org, you can
browse the resources in our lending library and learn about our other publications and
workshops.

Opener: The purpose of the opener is to prepare students for the material they will be
studying in this lesson.

Main Activity: In this section, students are introduced to new material, usually through
reading historical texts, watching films, or listening to a brief lecture. The main activity
section suggests ideas for how to help students comprehend and interpret this new infor-
mation.

Follow-Through: The purpose of the follow-through is to provide students with the


opportunity to deepen their grasp of material explored in the lesson by reflecting on how
these ideas resonate with their own lives and issues they see in their world today. The
activities suggested in this section often make appropriate homework assignments.

Assessment: This section includes ideas for how you can evaluate students’ learning, both
formally and informally.

Extensions: This section includes resources and activities that could be used in addition
to, or in place of, the main lesson.

Handouts: Graphic organizers, historical documents, and other teaching resources are
located at the end of each lesson. You should adapt these to fit the needs of your stu-
dents.

Introduction • 22
Notes
1
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message for American Week,” September 27, 1938, The American Presidency
Project, University of California, Santa Barbara website, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15545
(accessed January 20, 2009).
2
2008 New York Benefit Dinner, DVD (Brookline: Facing History and Ourselves, 2008).
3
Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Brookline: Facing
History and Ourselves National Foundation, 1994), xxiv.
4
Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc. 1971), 5.
5
Quoted in Joachim Fest, The Face of the Third Reich (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1970), 39.

Introduction • 23
Lesson 1

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read the preface and
introduction in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Introduction to the Unit

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale:
The purpose of this lesson is to help the classroom community develop a safe, productive
environment to support the learning and sharing of ideas that will take place throughout
the unit. Prior to exploring the historical case study of this unit—the collapse of democ-
racy in Germany and the steps leading up to the Holocaust—it is important that students
and teachers spend some time reviewing class norms. Throughout this unit, students will
be talking about how sensitive topics, such as prejudice and discrimination, have
impacted historical events and students’ own lives. Facing History teachers have found
that establishing and nurturing classroom norms of respect and openmindness is one way
to help students have productive, safe conversations about these concepts. This lesson
provides an opportunity to reinforce the rules you may have already established, as well as
the opportunity to develop new expectations. While we urge you to consider the lan-
guage and expectations that are most appropriate for your classroom context, in the
appendix of this lesson, we have provided ideas of the kinds of class norms Facing
History teachers have used to support a reflective classroom community.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on this guiding question:
• What do we need to happen in this class to make it a place where we feel comfort-
able sharing our ideas and asking questions?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Expressing ideas in writing, especially in a journal
• Developing new vocabulary
• Working with others to reach consensus
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Facing History and Ourselves
• Expectations/norms/rules
• Contract
• Consequences
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

Lesson 1 • 24
?WHAT is this lesson about?
Facing History conceives of its program as a journey—a journey that provides a unique
and engaging way for students to study history and the world around them. Describing
their experiences taking the Facing History journey, students have remarked, “Something
about our Facing History class felt different. We were studying the very things I was
afraid of: being singled out, teased, and bullied; stereotyping; neighbors against neighbors
in Nazi Germany. . . . Students couldn’t react angrily to how people treated each other in
history and then turn around and do these very
things to me.” When reflecting on her Facing
History experience, another student shared, “I’ve
had 13 math classes, 20 English classes, 6 or 7 sci-
ence classes, art, P.E., Spanish . . . but in all the
time I’ve been in school, I’ve had only class about
being more human.” We have written students a
letter to welcome them on this journey, and to help
them understand that the goal of this journey is to
touch their hearts and minds. Through helping stu-
dents develop as moral philosophers, critical con-
sumers of information and civic agents, we hope to
change the way they see themselves as individuals in
a larger society.

It takes a particular kind of learning environment


to help students achieve these objectives. We con-
ceive of these environments as “reflective classroom
communities.” In reflective classroom communities,
teaching and learning is a shared endeavor where a
healthy exchange of ideas is welcome. Students are
encouraged to voice their own opinions and to
actively listen to others; to treat different perspec-
The resource book Facing History and Ourselves:
tives with patience and respect; and to recognize Holocaust and Human Behavior is the central text
that there are always more perspectives and more to used in this unit.
learn. These characteristics may be helpful in teach-
ing many different units of study, but they are essential to teaching Facing History and
Ourselves.

The habits of behavior found in a reflective classroom community—attentive listening to


diverse viewpoints, voicing clear ideas, and raising relevant questions—not only help stu-
dents deeply understand historical content, but also require them to practice skills essen-
tial for their role as engaged citizens. Philosopher John Dewey wrote that classrooms are
not the training grounds for future democratic action, but rather places where democracy
is already enacted. Perhaps this is why Professor Diane Moore has argued that “encourag-
ing students to take themselves seriously and inspiring in them the confidence to do so
are two of the most important roles of an educator in a multicultural democracy.”1

Lesson 1 • 25
Related readings from
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
Preface, pp. xiii–xix
Introduction, pp. xx–xxv

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Letter to students
Handout 2: Have you ever . . . ?
Handout 3: Sample Facing History classroom expectations
Handout 4: Letter to parents/guardians

Opener
The main activities of this lesson provide suggestions about how to help students and
teachers write a class contract, or review an existing class contract, with the goal of nur-
turing a reflective classroom community. Before beginning these activities, students need
some context about why this unit requires students to commit to norms of respect and
community. Therefore, we suggest starting this lesson by explaining to students that they
are about to begin a unit called “Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human
Behavior.” Write this title on the board. Then, introduce students to this unit by asking
them to read the “Letter to students” written by Facing History’s Executive Director,
Margot Stern Strom, and the director of the Memphis office, Rachel Shankman.
Alternatively, you can write your own letter to students introducing them to this unit. We
suggest asking a volunteer to read the letter aloud. As one student reads, ask the class to
circle or highlight any words or phrases that stand out to them.

Then pass out journals to students. The journal is an essential part of this unit and pro-
vides an opportunity to mark this unit as unique and special. (Refer to the introduction
of this unit for ideas about how to use the journal to enhance students’ literacy skills and
historical understanding.) Ask students to react to this letter in their journals. Specific
questions you can use to prompt students’ writing include:
• What does the title “Facing History and Ourselves” mean to you?
• What does “Holocaust and Human Behavior” mean to you? What do you know
about the Holocaust? What does it mean to study human behavior?
• What do you think the student meant when she said that her Facing History class
was about being “more human”?
• What does it mean to have to use both your head and your heart while learning?
• What does it mean for a classroom to be a “community of learners”? In what ways
is your classroom like a community? What might help it feel more like a commu-
nity?

Give students the opportunity to share what they have written, if they want to. This is an
appropriate time to establish the expectation that journal responses do not have to be
shared publicly.

Lesson 1 • 26
Main Activities
It is particularly useful to go over the phrase “head and heart” before writing your class
contract because having clear guidelines about respectful behavior is especially important
in any classroom experience that hopes to engage students both intellectually and emo-
tionally. Explain that before students begin exploring new material, the class needs to
agree on some rules, norms, or expectations. You can strengthen students’ vocabulary by
spending a few moments asking them to define one or more of these terms. Students can
record definitions in their journals. When a community agrees on norms or expectations
for behavior, these are often articulated in a code of conduct or a contract. Students can
add the term contract to their working definitions. A contract implies that all parties have
a responsibility in upholding the agreement. Students can think about what it means for
a classroom to have a contract.

To prepare students to develop a class contract, ask them to reflect on their experiences as
students in a classroom community. You might use a prompt like this one to structure
students’ reflection:
• Identify when you have felt comfortable sharing your ideas and questions in a class.
What happened in those moments to help you feel comfortable?
• Identify when you have had ideas or questions but have not shared them. Why not?
What was happening at those moments?

The handout “Have you ever . . . ?” included at the end of this lesson provides another
way to help students think about their experiences as part of a classroom community.

Facing History teachers have found that useful class contracts typically include several
clearly defined rules or expectations and consequences for those who do not fulfill their
obligations as members of the classroom community. There are many ways to proceed
with developing a classroom contract. For example, you can ask small groups of students
to work together to write rules or “expectations” for the classroom community. We sug-
gest keeping the list brief (e.g., three to five items) so that the norms can be easily
remembered. As groups present, you can organize their ideas by theme. If there are any
tensions or contradictions in the expectations that have been suggested, you can discuss
them as a class. While the process is inclusive of students’ ideas, ultimately it is the
teacher’s responsibility to ensure that the ideas that make it to the final contract are those
that will best nurture a safe learning environment.

Another way to help students develop a classroom contract is to have them envision what
they would like to have happen during certain scenarios. Scenarios could be drawn from
students’ own experiences. They might include situations such as:

When we have an idea or question we would like to share, we can . . .


When we have an idea, but do not feel comfortable sharing it out loud,
we can . . .
When someone says something that we appreciate, we can . . .
When someone says something that might be confusing or offensive, we can . . .
To make sure all students have the opportunity to participate in a class discus-
sion, we can . . .

Lesson 1 • 27
If we read or watch something that makes us feel sad or angry, we can . . .
To show respect for the ideas of others, we can . . .

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


To initiate the classroom contract, you can have students participate in a celebratory sign-
ing ceremony. Students can sign their own copies or a large copy that is posted in the
room. You might allow for brief remarks from students about how they think the con-
tract will help provide a safe, productive learning community. If possible, you could share
some festive treats as well. In addition to sharing a class document, rituals also provide
groups with a sense of community. This celebration might begin a ritual that you extend
throughout this unit.

Another important way to follow through with this introduction to the unit is to have
students bring the “Letter to parents/guardians” home. You can use the letter we provide
or write your own. Ask students to discuss this letter with their parents/guardians. Being
sensitive to parent/guardian schedules, be sure to give students several days to complete
this assignment.

The activities in this lesson exemplify one of the core principles of Facing History: stu-
dents’ ideas and experiences are a central part of the curriculum. You can end this lesson
by asking students to return to the journal entry that they wrote at the beginning of this
class. After this lesson, what more do they know about this unit? What other questions
have been raised? You might also have students write about how it felt to be part of a dis-
cussion about classroom norms and why they think you have taken the time to include
them in this process. One way to phrase this question is as follows: If you were the
teacher of this class, how would you involve students in setting a classroom contract?
Why?

Assessment(s)
Having a final product that can be posted on the wall lets everyone know that the class
had achieved the goal of this lesson. The real measurement of understanding, however,
resides in students’ effort to abide by the contract throughout this unit.

Informally reviewing students’ journal entries can help you know the questions that are
on students’ minds about this unit and can also help you correct any misconceptions
about what they will be learning.

Extensions
Students’ journals are an essential component of this unit. Since a major theme of this
unit is “identity,” you might invite students to personalize their journals with images or
words that represent their identities. Journals can be decorated with markers or by pasting
pictures from magazines. We suggest setting some limits around what may not be appro-
priate to put on a journal. Referring to your school’s dress code may provide some guid-
ance. In Lesson 3, students begin talking about their own identities. This provides
another opportunity for the personalization of journals.

Lesson 1 • 28
Lesson 1: Handout 1
Letter to students

Dear students,

Welcome to the unit Decision-Making in Times of Injustice: A Unit to Supplement Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. You are about to join a community of thousands of students
from around the world who have explored the same questions you are about to explore—questions such
as: Who am I? What shapes my identity? Why do people form groups? What does it mean to belong?
What happens when people are excluded from membership?

After taking part in a unit similar to the one you are about to study, one student said, “I’ve had 13 math
classes, 20 English classes, 6 or 7 science classes, art, P.E., Spanish . . . but in all the time I’ve been in
school, I’ve had only class about being more human.” In the next few weeks, you will be learning a lot
about the choices made by people living in Germany before and during the Holocaust, a tragic event in
which millions of children, women, and men were murdered. At the same time, you will also be learning
about yourselves and the world around you. That is why we call this unit Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior. Another former Facing History student explains, “When I took the
Facing History course back in 8th grade, it helped me understand that history was a part of me and that
I was a part of history. If I understood why people made the choices they did, I could better understand
how I make choices and hopefully make the right ones.”

This unit may be different than others you have experienced. In this unit, you will be asked to share
your own ideas and questions—in discussions and through writing in a journal. You will be asked to lis-
ten carefully to the voices of others—of people in your classroom community as well as the voices of
people in the history you are studying. In this unit, you may hear things that spark powerful emotions,
such as anger or sadness. You will be asked to use both your head and your heart to make sense of the
choices people have made in the past, and the choices people continue to make today.

At Facing History, we like to think of a unit as a journey. When taking this journey, you need to bring
your journals, curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to share. As you embark on this journey with
the students and teacher in your classroom, it is important for you to support each other along the way
so that everyone can do his/her best learning. We wish you a meaningful journey where you learn about
the past and the present, about yourself and about others. You may even find that you have changed as a
result of this experience. Actor Matt Damon, a student of Facing History just like you, said, “I owe so
much to this curriculum. So much of who I am comes out of this experience and this particular time in
my life.”

Thank you for participating in this journey with us,

Margot Stern Strom, Executive Director and Founder, Facing History and Ourselves
Rachel Shankman, Director, Memphis Office of Facing History and Ourselves

Purpose: To help the classroom community develop a safe, reflective learning environment. • 29
Lesson 1: Handout 2
Have you ever . . . ?

Directions: Check the box that best matches your experience as a student.

Part 1:
As a student in a classroom, have you ever . . .

1. Shared an idea or question out loud? □ yes □ no

2. Shared an idea or question that you thought might be unpopular or “stupid”? □ yes □ no

3. Had an idea or answer to a question but decided not to share it? □ yes □ no

4. Felt “put down” after sharing an idea or asking a question? □ yes □ no

5. Felt smart or appreciated after sharing an idea or asking a question? □ yes □ no

6. Asked for help understanding something? □ yes □ no

7. Been confused, but have not asked for help? □ yes □ no

8. Interrupted others when they have been speaking? □ yes □ no

9. Been interrupted by others when you have been speaking? □ yes □ no

10. Said something that you thought might have hurt someone’s feelings? □ yes □ no

11. Thought about your classroom as a community? □ yes □ no

Part 2:
What do you think should happen in a classroom for the best learning to take place?

A. What can students and teachers do to support your learning?

B. What can you do to support others’ learning?

Purpose: To help the classroom community develop a safe, reflective learning environment. • 30
Lesson 1: Handout 3
Sample Facing History classroom expectations

• Listen with respect. Try to understand what someone is saying before rushing
to judgment.

• Make comments using “I” statements.

• If you do not feel safe making a comment or asking a question, write the
thought in your journal. You can share the idea with your teacher first and
together come up with a safe way to share the idea.

• If someone says an idea or question that helps your own learning, say “thank
you.”

• If someone says something that hurts or offends you, do not attack the per-
son. Acknowledge that the comment—not the person—hurt your feelings
and explain why.

• Put-downs are never okay.

• If you don’t understand something, ask a question.

• Think with your head and your heart.

• Share the talking time—provide room for others to speak.

• Do not interrupt others while they are speaking.

• Write thoughts in your journal if you don’t have time to say them during
class.

• Journal responses do not have to be shared publicly.

Purpose: To help the classroom community develop a safe, reflective learning environment. • 31
Lesson 1: Handout 4
Letter to parents/guardians

Dear Parents:

It is my pleasure to welcome you as your child embarks on a Facing History and Ourselves unit of study.
Facing History is an international educational and professional development organization with over
thirty years of experience. The Memphis office located on the campus of Christian Brothers University
opened in 1992 and has trained over 2,000 teachers. For more information, please visit our website,
www.facinghistory.org.

Facing History is committed to helping students make the essential connections between history and the
moral choices they face as adolescents. We know students are grappling with key questions such as: Who
am I as it relates to my identity? How do I fit into my community as well as the larger world? How can I
make a difference? All of these questions will be explored through looking deeply at a historical moment
when individuals made decisions about their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. Your student will
begin his or her Facing History journey by looking at issues of identity and community. This introduc-
tion prepares them for a study of the events that led up to the Holocaust. Years of research has shown
that a study of this history helps students understand how their decisions influence others and strength-
ens their ability to take multiple perspectives and consider the ethical implications of their choices.

In the creation of the material, you can be assured that great care has been given to the age appropriate-
ness of the content and the pedagogical tools teachers will need to insure adequate time for discussion
and reflection. Facing History staff will be providing a series of seminars and ongoing consultation for
educators implementing the curriculum. We hope that your child’s participation in this unit invites
many meaningful conversations between you and your child. A parent of a Facing History student sums
it up best:

In no other course was she [my daughter] exposed to real dilemmas as complex and challenging [as in
Facing History]. In no other course has she been inspired to use the whole of her spiritual, moral, and
intellectual resources to solve a problem. In no other course has she been so sure that the materials
mattered so seriously for her development as a responsible person.
—A parent of a student in a Facing History and Ourselves classroom

Sincerely,

Rachel Shankman, Senior Director


Facing History and Ourselves, Memphis office

Purpose: To help the classroom community develop a safe, reflective learning environment. • 32
Notes
1
Diane Moore, Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Multicultural Approach to the Study of Religion in Secondary Education
(New York: Palgrave, 2006), 11.

33
Lesson 2

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter One in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

A Scene from a Middle School Classroom

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
This lesson uses a case study of a 7th grade classroom to introduce students to major
themes and questions they will address in this unit. Presenting new concepts and vocabu-
lary to students through an engaging and familiar example is an effective way to lay the
groundwork for studying the complex history of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

LEARNING GOALS:
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding question about history and behavior:
• What does it mean to have a “range of choices” about how to act?
• What factors influence decision making?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Acting
• Group work
• Vocabulary building
• Journal writing
• Deepen understanding of these key terms. You might select several terms from
this list to focus on in this lesson:
• Membership
• Belonging
• Exclusion
• Inclusion
• Peer pressure
• Conformity
• Ostracism
• Bystander
• Perpetrator
• Victim
• Bullying
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

Lesson 2 • 34
?WHAT is this lesson about?
The material in this lesson originated in a research project conducted by Facing History
and Ourselves between 1996 and 1998.1 During those years, a group of researchers and
Facing History staff studied the impact of Facing History on 8th grade students in an
urban/suburban community near a major metropolitan area. The 19 students in the class
represented a range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The study found that
Facing History promoted students’ interpersonal awareness, including their ability to
understand different perspectives and to develop their own meaning of a situation.
Another key finding was that these middle school students used their own peer relation-
ships as a frame of reference for understanding themes relevant to exploring the history of
the rise of the Nazis—themes such as membership, conformity, and stereotypes.

Based on the results of this study


and decades of experience in class-
rooms, we know that using a real
experience from a middle school
classroom can serve as an effective
way to introduce students to
major themes explored in this
unit. Adolescents are particularly
preoccupied with the task of figur-
ing out where they fit in, how
they fit in, and how to balance
their own strengthening personal
identity with the need to belong
to a larger group. In this lesson
and throughout this unit, Facing In Facing History classrooms, students discuss topics relevant to their own lives,
History draws from the issues and such as inclusion, exclusion, and peer pressure.
concerns of adolescence as a way
to increase engagement and
develop understanding of history
and human behavior.

The material in this lesson draws from “The Ostracism Case Study,” a report on an inci-
dent that took place before students took a Facing History course. In this case study, we
hear the voices of 8th grade students as they reflect on a particularly poignant social con-
flict among a group of friends resulting in the ostracism of one of them. [Note: The event
itself occurred during 7th grade, although the impact of this event could be felt in the
8th grade as well.] The voices of these students bring us inside their world and provoke
questions about issues of inclusion, exclusion, conformity, and belonging in adolescence
and beyond. Later in this unit, students will explore how similar issues influenced the
choices made by individuals and groups living in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lesson 2 • 35
Related readings from
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“The In-Group,” pp. 29–31
“Conformity and Identity,” pp. 31–33

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handouts 1–3: A scene from middle school

Opener:
In the previous lesson, students developed or reviewed their classroom contract. Agreeing
on contracts and rules is one way that people form groups or communities. When every-
one signs a classroom contract (and follows its rules) they become members—people who
belong to a specific group. Write the following words on the board: membership, belong-
ing, in-group, out-group. Ask students to respond to the following prompt in their jour-
nals, “When you see these words, what story or moment comes to mind?” Students can
share these stories with a partner. Explain that in this lesson, students will be working
with a story about belonging from a middle school classroom.

Main Activities:
For this lesson, we have broken down “The Ostracism Case Study” into three parts. First,
students will act out the precipitating event. Handout 1 provides a short script with stage
direction for students to follow. Performing this skit requires four students: a narrator,
Sue, Rhonda, and Jill. After the performance, have students answer the questions below
the script, either individually or in small groups. This is an appropriate time to introduce
the idea that individuals (and groups) have a range of choices about how to act. You can
emphasize this point by having students brainstorm all the possible courses of action
available to the girls in this scene. Then, facilitate a class discussion about what students
think might happen next, given this range of choices.

Next, distribute handout 2 and ask the narrator to read the paragraph at the top of the
page. In small groups or individually, students can answer the questions on this page.
After students have had some time to respond to these questions, facilitate a whole class
conversation where students explain why they think Sue was ostracized by the other stu-
dents in her class. This conversation provides an opportunity to present vocabulary that
will be relevant when students learn about the rise of the Nazis. Students’ comments will
likely touch on concepts such as ostracism, conformity, peer pressure, belonging, inclu-
sion, exclusion, membership, bullying, victim, perpetrator, and bystander. Help students
develop their vocabulary by labeling their ideas with these terms. For example, if a stu-
dent suggests that many girls teased Sue because they wanted to “fit in,” you could write
the word “conformity” on the board. Students can help you define new vocabulary by
referring to evidence from the ostracism case study, as well as their personal experiences
and prior knowledge.

Lesson 2 • 36
At this point, we strongly suggest starting a “word wall” in your classroom. A word wall is
an organized collection of words displayed in large letters on a wall or other large display
place in the classroom. The word wall is added to on a regular basis, as students learn
new words and as they revise their understanding of previous vocabulary words. Word
walls can also include images. You might also ask students to experiment with the font
and style of writing words on the wall, so that how the word looks actually represents
something about its meaning. All vocabulary on the word wall should also be recorded in
students’ journals. (See the section “Building Vocabulary” in the introduction for more
ideas about how to structure a working dictionary in students’ journals.)

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


Handout 3 includes seven quotations from the ostracism case study. You could assign
small groups of students a quotation that they will present to the class. During their pre-
sentations, students should read the quotation and suggest what concept/s from the word
wall the quotation represents. Or, you could post these quotations around the room on
large sheets of paper and ask students to walk around the room, recording the concept
that they think that quotation represents as well as any questions or comments the quota-
tion sparks. Finally, you could ask students to select one quotation from this page that
especially interests them. Students could write a journal entry where they respond to the
student who made that remark. What would they want to say to that student? In what
ways can they identify with these words?

You might use this moment to highlight that throughout this unit, students will be learn-
ing about particular events, such as this specific episode in a 7th grade classroom, as well
as about universal themes that apply to many situations across time periods and geo-
graphic locations. Students can reflect on these two dimensions by dividing a page of
their journals in half. Students can label one side “history” or “the past.” On that side
they can respond to the question, “What are three things you will remember about this
event from a 7th grade classroom?” On the other side, students can write the heading
“universal” or “ourselves.” On that side, they can respond to the question, “What ideas
about human behavior—why people do what they do—have been raised by this situation
in a 7th grade classroom?”

Assessment(s)
The depth and breadth of your word wall can be used to measure students’ understand-
ing of new concepts as well as a way to keep track of which themes you have addressed in
detail, and what words or themes you will need to cover in another lesson. For example,
in this lesson you may be able to define conformity and belonging, but your class may not
get to the concept of bystander. The lessons in this unit provide multiple opportunities to
address the same themes. So, any idea you did not get to cover in depth in this lesson,
you can explore more fully in a future lesson.

Collecting the handouts from this lesson or reading students’ journals will provide you
with a sense of how individual students are making sense of this material.

Extensions
Facing History and Ourselves uses particular language to help students understand the
different ways that people experience and respond to injustice:

Lesson 2 • 37
• Perpetrator: an individual or group who chooses to act in ways that are unjust
• Victim: an individual or group who is wronged or who receives unjust treatment
• Bystander: an individual or group who is aware that injustice is occurring but
chooses not to intervene; someone who “stands by” while injustice happens
• Upstander: an individual or group who chooses to act in ways to prevent or stop
unjust or violent acts

(Note: The definitions provided here are working definitions. You or your students might
find other language to define these terms.)

“The Ostracism Case Study” used in this lesson provides an opportunity to introduce
students to these terms. Drawing from the material in all three handouts, you can ask
small groups to decide which individuals they would put under each category. Encourage
students to think creatively as they go about this task. It is possible that someone could
fall under more than one category. In “The Ostracism Case Study,” students might have a
hard time finding someone who acts as an upstander. You can ask students to consider
why this is the case. What would it have looked like if someone behaved as an upstander?
Why do students believe nobody made this choice? (Remind students that this material is
drawn from a real event.)

Lesson 2 • 38
Lesson 2: Handout 1
A scene from middle school

Narrator: In December of 7th grade in a public school, Sue and Rhonda considered each other best friends.
They belonged to a popular group of girls, including Jill.
Sue [while writing a note]: Hey Rhonda, What’s up? Nothing much here. Did you hear about Jill? I can’t
believe it. She is breaking up with Travis. How could she break up with him? His mom just died. I think
she’s being really stupid. What do you think? Gotta go, Sue. P.S. Don’t say anything to Jill about this. I
haven’t told her yet that I think she is stupid for breaking up with Travis.
[Sue hands note to Rhonda and walks away. Rhonda reads note. Then Jill walks by.]
Jill: Hey, Rhonda. What’s up?
Rhonda: I was just reading a note from Sue.
Jill: What she’d say?
Rhonda: Well, she asked me not to tell you. I probably shouldn’t say. But, you are my friend and you should
know.
Jill: What is it?
Rhonda: Sue said you are stupid to break up with Travis.

Questions: What do you think will happen next?

1. What could Jill do next? (List 3–5 possibilities.)

What should she do?

2. What could Rhonda do next? (List 3–5 possibilities.)

What should she do?

3. What could Sue do next? (List 3–5 possibilities.)

What should she do?

4. What do you predict will happen next? Do you think this event will affect any other students in the
class or school?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of inclusion and exclusion within social groups. • 39


Lesson 2: Handout 2
A scene from middle school

Narrator: When Jill found out about Sue’s note, she confronted Sue after school, and they argued in front
of a crowd of students. School staff heard the argument and broke it up. After this argument between Jill
and Sue, Rhonda sided with Jill, and they influenced other girls to do the same. For the rest of 7th grade
and almost all of 8th grade, these girls excluded Sue from her former group of friends, teased and put her
down, avoided and ignored her, spread rumors about her, wrote hurtful letters, and made prank telephone
calls to her home. Other students, including some boys who were not originally involved, joined in. Most
students, if they did not participate directly, kept Sue at a distance and did not stand up for her. Sue went
from being a very strong student to getting poor grades and not wanting to go to school.

Questions:

1. Why do you think this even turned out this way? How can you explain the actions of the girls and boys
in this situation?

2. What about this situation, if anything, feels familiar to you?

3. Do you think this is a real story or a made-up story? Explain your answer.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of inclusion and exclusion within social groups. • 40


Lesson 2: Handout 3
A scene from middle school

Emily: It’s sort of weird, ‘cause you’d never expect somebody who was as popular as she
was to, like, be sort of like, shunned from the group by everyone else, but we sort of like we
all just went against her. She talked about people behind their back . . . but I think other
people did that, too. . . . I really don’t know . . . why we were so willing to jump on her and
attack her more than anyone else.
Ashley: It sort of seemed like it was a cool thing to do . . . to be mean to her. And I guess it
felt good to be able to get your anger out on a person regardless of whether or not they
really deserved to be the person. . . . It sort of seemed like sort of exciting, like it was some-
thing you could talk about.
Erika: There’s a lot of pressure to act a certain way, to be a certain way. . . . You’re like
afraid to say things. . . .
Sara: It seemed like when one or two people decided they didn’t like her, then everybody
else was like, “OK, we don’t like her either,” regardless. And I think a lot of people didn’t
have reasons to dislike her. They just wanted to do it because their friends were doing it
also.
Sue: I think the fact that I am Asian has a lot, actually, to do with it. Not why I was being
picked on, it was more to do with why the fight got as big as it did. I think, I mean, because
I was a minority it was easier for them to pick on me.
Lorna: I saw something happen to another girl in the school that I didn’t really approve of. I
have an idea of who was doing it . . . [but I did not try to stop them.] I didn’t really know
her, so I, like, kind of stayed away from her. . . . I just wasn’t a part of it.
Jill: I know it had a lot to do with me, and there was a lot of teasing that went on that I was
involved with, and I don’t think that was right. She [Sue] was put out, outcasted, and I don’t
think that was right at all. And I know I was teasing her . . . to fit in, but I also did not feel
comfortable saying, “Oh, I’m not going to tease her.” . . . Once we had started, it was sort of
like, you couldn’t stop. It builds and builds until the point where you can’t . . . turn back and
say we’re not going to do this anymore.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of inclusion and exclusion within social groups. • 41


Notes
1
Dennis Barr, Jennifer Bender, Melinda Fine, Lynn Hickey Schultz, Terry Tollefson, and Robert Selman. “A
Case Study of Facing History and Ourselves in an Eighth Grade Classroom: A Thematic and
Developmental Approach to the Study of Inter-group Relations in a Programmatic Context.” (Brookline:
Facing History and Ourselves, unpublished manuscript).

42
Lesson 3

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter One in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Identity and Place

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
This lesson introduces the theme of identity to students, for whom the question “Who
am I?” is especially critical at this point in their adolescent lives. Understanding the con-
cept of identity is not only valuable for students’ own social, moral, and intellectual
development, but it is also critical to understanding the choices made by individuals and
groups living in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s (as well as during other historical
moments). The sharing of “Where I’m From” poems in this lesson also contributes to
nurturing a strong classroom community where all students are known.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:

• Reflect on these guiding questions about history and human behavior:


• Who am I? What factors shape my identity?
• What does it mean to be “from” a place? How does where we are from influence
who we are?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Expressing ideas through poetry
• Contributing to class discussion
• Expressing ideas through journaling
• Deepen understanding of this key term:
• Identity
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

?WHAT is this lesson about?


“Who am I?” is a question all of us ask at some time in our lives. It is an especially criti-
cal question for adolescents. As we search for the answer, we begin to define ourselves.
How is our identity formed? To what extent are we defined by our talents, tastes, and
interests? by our membership in a particular ethnic group? by our social and economic
class? by our religion? by the nation in which we live? How do we label and define our-
selves and how are we labeled and defined by others? How do our identities inform our
values, ideas, and actions? In what ways might we assume different identities in different
contexts? How do we manage these multiple identities? Answers to these questions help
us understand history, ourselves, and each other.

Lesson 3 • 43
Many factors shape our answer to the question, “Who am I?” including where we are
from. It is particularly appropriate for students in a World Geography course to approach
the concept of identity through the lens of place. How does our location shape who we
are and what we believe? How does the physical environment impact what we do and
how we behave? How does our location relative to other places influence our ideas about
difference and our relationships with others?

As students might suggest by their own reflec-


tions, the idea of “place” extends beyond phys-
ical geography. Individuals and groups often
define themselves as coming from a tradition,
a culture, a religion, or a history. And, espe-
cially at this time of globalization and migra-
tion, students can easily recognize how it is
possible, and even likely, that answers to the
question, “Where I’m from?” are met with
multiple answers. A student can be from a
neighborhood in Memphis, while also being
from Mexico, while also being from a specific
family history. Cultural psychologist Carola
Suárez-Orozco writes that many children,
especially immigrant youth, “must creatively
fuse aspects of two or more cultures—the
parental tradition and the new culture or cul-
tures. In so doing, they synthesize an identity
that does not require them to choose between
cultures but incorporates traits of both cul-
tures.”1 In the words of Henry Louis Gates Jr.,
“Today the ideal of wholeness has largely been
retired. And cultural multiplicity is no longer
seen as the problem but as a solution—a solu-
A Facing History teacher poses in front of her identity chart. tion that confines identity itself. Double con-
sciousness, once a disorder, is now a cure.
Indeed the only complaint we moderns have is
that Du Bois was too cautious in his accounting. He’d conjured ‘two souls, two thoughts,
two unreconciled strivings.’ Just two Dr. Du Bois? Keep counting.”2 Thus, when we ask
students to answer the question, “Where are you from?” we should encourage them to
appreciate the many “places” that have helped shape their identities.

In this lesson, students have the opportunity to share their answer to the question
“Where are you from?” with their classmates. Presenting “Where I’m From” poems or
identity charts challenges the labeling that can characterize adolescent behavior and helps
students see that they come from many of the same “places.” In doing so, this activity has
the power to build classroom community. Throughout this unit, students will be engaged
in discussions about complicated ethical issues, and they will probably experience
moments of disagreement with some of their classmates. Exercises like the sharing of
identity charts or “Where I’m From” poems can help students understand where these
divergent views might be coming from, and this understanding can foster more respectful
listening, deeper dialogue, and better informed judgment—vital skills for citizens in
today’s multicultural communities.

Lesson 3 • 44
Related reading from
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“The Bear That Wasn’t,” pp. 2–9

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: “Where I’m From” poem
Handout 2: The geography of me

For examples of “Where I’m From” poems, refer to the following websites:
http://www.studyguide.org/where_I’m_from_poem.htm
http://www.swva.net/fred1st/wif.htm

Opener
The “Ostracism Case Study” students explored in the previous lesson provides an exam-
ple of a powerful event that shaped the identities of those involved. For example, Sue
changed from being a strong, confident student to a weak student. At the same time,
because she had been ostracized from her group of friends, Sue told researchers that she
had become more independent and that she was now more likely to stand up for some-
one who was being picked on.

To segue from the “Ostracism Case Study” to Lesson 3’s work on identity, ask students to
write in their journal about an event that they think has changed them—an event that
has shaped their identity. You can ask for volunteers to share some of their stories.

Main Activities
These stories provide an entry point to developing a working definition of “identity.”
Because 6th grade social studies classes in Memphis and Shelby County have an introduc-
tory unit about identity at the beginning of the year, many students in your class may be
familiar with this concept. You can add the term identity to your word wall. Explain that
in this class students will be doing some activities that will help them think about the fac-
tors that shape their identities.

The first activity asks students to write a “Where I’m From” poem. Students have spent
this year thinking about geography themes such as location and place, and this poetic
structure helps students link these themes to their personal identities. The handouts
included with this lesson provide ideas about how you can help students structure their
poems. You can adapt the instructions and template so that it incorporates the themes
students have studied in your course. Prior to asking students to write their poems, we
strongly recommend showing them an example. Facing History teachers have found it is
useful to write their own “Where I’m From” poem and share that with the class as a
model. Samples of “Where I’m From” poems can be found on the Internet (refer to the
Materials section for links).

Lesson 3 • 45
One of the purposes of this lesson is not only for students to think more deeply about
their own identities, but also to learn about the identities of their classmates. So, the shar-
ing of “Where I’m From” poems is an essential part of this lesson. You can structure the
sharing in several ways. Students could read their poems aloud, to the whole class or to
small groups. You could also ask students to post their poems on the wall around the
room. Then you can give the class a few minutes to tour the room, taking notes on
aspects of the poems that strike them. You might ask students to record the following:
• Something you have in common with someone
• Something that surprised you
• Something you admire about what you read
• A question you would like to ask someone

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


A discussion following the sharing of poems might focus on the relationship between
place/geography and identity. Prompts you might ask students to reflect on before begin-
ning a discussion include:
• How does where we are from influence who we are?
• What does it mean to be “from” a place? Is a “place” always a physical location or
could it be something else?
• What is the connection between place and belonging? Is it possible to be from more
that one place?
• How is identity affected when we move from one place to another? What might
stay the same? What might change?

You might also ask students to write a journal entry where they explain what their poem
reveals about their identity and what aspects of their identity are not represented in the
poem.

Assessment(s)
Students’ poems and journal entries provide information about how students are making
sense of the concept of identity and its relationship to place. Also, students’ comments
and questions in the follow-through discussion should reveal an understanding that iden-
tity consists of many factors. Draw students’ attention to comments that demonstrate the
complexity of identity and the idea that “where we are from” may be more complicated
than just a place name on a map.

Extensions:
Here are two other activities that help students connect geography themes to the concept
of personal identity:
1. Ask students to construct a map that tells people something about themselves. You
might have copies of world maps, country maps, and city maps available for them to
write on. You can also invite students to draw their own maps of their house, their
neighborhood, or of their experiences in the world. Spots students might label on
their maps include: birthplace, family origins, favorite places, places that represent
significant events in their lives.
2. Students can complete the “Geography of Me” chart (handout 2). You can adapt this
chart to match the concepts you have been using in your class. For example, you
Lesson 3 • 46
could have students describe themselves in relation to the landscape, weather, culture,
and economy of their geographic location.

Another way for students to describe and share their identities is by making an identity
chart. Facing History developed a two-week introductory unit for students in 6th grade
social studies classes in Memphis and Shelby County public schools. In this unit, stu-
dents created identity charts. You might ask students if they remember this exercise from
6th grade. For more information on identity charts, refer to page 8 in the resource book.

Lesson 3 • 47
Lesson 3: Handout 1

“Where I’m From” Poem

Step 1: Answering the following questions will prepare you to write your “Where I’m From” poem.

1. Describe where you live. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? (This
could be your actual house, or it could be another place that represents where you are from.)

2. What objects or belongings can be found in your home or room (List at least three.)

3. What are the names of people in your “family”? (They could be alive or deceased, they do not need to
be blood relations.)

4. List two or three family traditions.

5. What phrases, words, or sayings are important to you or to members of your family?

6. What are some beliefs that represent where you are from?

7. What foods are important to you or your family?

8. List two or three important childhood memories.

9. Describe the weather where you are from.

10. What do people do where you are from?

11. What are your favorite things to do?

Step 2: Incorporate your answers to the questions above into your “Where I’m From” poem. Simply add
“I’m from” or “From” to the beginning of each line, in the same style as the sample you have been
shown.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that shape personal identity. • 48


Lesson 3: Handout 2
The geography of me

Directions for completing this concept map: In each of the circles, write the appropriate information
about yourself by answering the questions under each theme.

History Language
What important events have influenced What languages are spoken in your
the community where you are from? What community? What languages do you
important events have taken place in your speak?
lifetime?

Culture and customs


What traditions are practiced in your commu-
nity? What events and traditions are important
to you? What forms of entertainment (music,
movies, art, television, dance, etc.) do people in
your community enjoy? What forms of enter-
tainment do you enjoy?

Resources (economics) Beliefs


What resources (i.e., skills, expertise, jobs, natu- What ideas and values are important in your
ral resources, etc.) are available in your commu- community? What ideas and values are impor-
nity? What resources are available to you? How tant to you?
do you use these resources?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that shape personal identity. • 49


Notes
1
Carola Suárez-Orozco, “Formulating Identity in a Globalized World,” Globalization: Culture and Education in the New
Millennium, ed. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Desiree Baolian Qin-Hilliard) Berkeley: University of California Press,
2004), 192.
2
Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Both Sides Now,” The New York Times Book Review, May 4, 2003, 31.

50
Lesson 4

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapters One and Two
in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Those Who Don’t Know:


Identity, Membership, and Stereotypes

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
While in Lesson 3 students explored how individuals define their own identities, in this
lesson students consider how people are also defined by others. This lesson helps students
understand the meaning of prejudice and stereotyping—concepts that are central to mak-
ing sense of the historical content they will cover in future lessons. The activities in this
lesson ask students to reflect on their own experiences as targets and perpetrators of prej-
udice and in doing so encourage students to consider their responsibility to push beyond
facile stereotypes when making judgments about individuals and groups.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• How am I defined by others?
• What is prejudice?
• What are stereotypes? Where do they come from?
• How can stereotypes be used and abused?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Reading comprehension and interpretation
• Creative writing
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Stereotype
• Prejudice
• Others
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

?WHAT is this lesson about?


This lesson and the lessons throughout this unit highlight a tension that can come when
the ways in which we define ourselves are not the same as how others define us. As we
have seen throughout world and U.S. history, this tension can lead to discrimination and
violence when certain groups, often those in the majority, have the power to define those
in the minority, often in ways that rely on harmful stereotypes.

Lesson 4 • 51
In this lesson, students explore the concepts of prejudice and stereotypes by reading an
excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’s book The House on Mango Street. The word prejudice
comes from the word pre-judge. We pre-judge when we have an opinion about a person
because of a group to which that individual belongs. A prejudice has the following char-
acteristics:
1. It is based on real or imagined differences between groups.
2. It attaches values to those differences in ways that benefit one group at the expense of
others.
3. It is generalized to all members of a target group.

Not all prejudices are negative; some are positive. But, whether positive or negative, prej-
udices have a similar effect—they reduce individuals to categories or stereotypes. A stereo-
type is a judgment about an individual based on real or imagined characteristics of a
group.

The story “Those Who Don’t” lays


the groundwork for exploring prej-
udice and stereotyping—concepts
that are prevalent in our everyday
lives and in the history we will be
studying in this unit. In this
excerpt, the main character,
Esperanza, shares how she feels the
people in her neighborhood are
mistakenly judged and defined by
outsiders. While “those who don’t
know any better” believe her neigh-
bors might be dangerous,
Esperanza feels safe around her
neighbors. She knows them beyond
A Facing History student portrays the members of her community.
the color of their skin or the place
in which they live; she sees her
neighbors through their relation-
ships (“Rosa’s Eddie V” or “Davey the Baby’s brother”) and their histories (“he’s not fat
anymore”). At the same time, Esperanza recognizes this universal trait of human behav-
ior—the instinct to pre-judge people who are different than we are—when she admits
that she does the same thing. “But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color,”
she shares, “and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and
our eyes look straight.”1 Thus, this vignette represents psychologist Deborah Tannen’s
description of prejudice and stereotypes. She writes:
We all know that we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representa-
tives of groups. It’s a natural tendency, since we must see the world in patterns in
order to make sense of it; we wouldn’t be able to deal with the daily onslaught of peo-
ple and objects if we couldn’t predict a lot about them and feel that we know who and
what they are. But this natural and useful ability to see patterns of similarity has
unfortunate consequences. It is offensive to reduce an individual to a category, and it
is also misleading.2

How can we begin to explain the prevalence of stereotypes in our society? David Schoem,
a sociology professor, points out:

Lesson 4 • 52
The effort it takes for us to know so little about one another across racial and ethnic
groups is truly remarkable. That we can live so closely together, that our lives can be
so intertwined socially, economically, and politically, and that we can spend so many
years of study in grade school and even in higher education and yet still manage to be
ignorant of one another is clear testimony to the deep-seated roots of this human and
national tragedy. What we do learn along the way is to place heavy reliance on stereo-
types, gossip, rumor, and fear to shape our lack of knowledge.3

Schoem describes the situation found in Esperanza’s story: the people in her neighbor-
hood are unknown to others, just as she does not know those in “a neighborhood of
another color.” The title of this story, “Those Who Don’t,” accurately characterizes how
ignorance and isolation opens the door for us to rely on “stereotypes, gossip and fear” as
proxies for true understanding of individuals and groups. The success of that “reliance on
stereotypes, gossip, rumor and fear” can be seen and heard in classrooms. We must help
students examine their thoughts, feelings and experiences and then confront not only
their own potential for passivity and complicity but also their courage to act in ways that
promote understanding and compassion.

Related reading in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Stereotyping,” pp. 16–20

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one lesson

Materials
Handout 1: “Those Who Don’t” from The House on Mango Street
(Teachers will need to supply their own copy of this book.)
Handout 2: “Those Who Don’t,” Original Story
Opener
In Lesson 3, students focused on various factors that shape their own identities, especially
where they are from (literally and figuratively). Yet, just as we define ourselves, we are also
defined by others. To prepare students to think about how “others” can define who we
are, often leading to damaging stereotypes, you can ask them to think about their own
experience being defined by others. One way to do this is to ask students to review their
“Where I’m From” poems from the previous class. Then ask them to imagine that some-
one from a different place was asked to write a poem about them. How might others see
“where they are from” differently than they do? How might the poem be different? What
might stay the same? Students can record answers in their journals, and volunteers can
share responses. Students will come back to these ideas when they write their “Those
Who Don’t” stories at the end of this lesson.

Main Activities
Explain to students that they will be reading a story told by a girl their age, Esperanza,
about how she thinks others view where she is from. Then distribute handout 1, “Those
Who Don’t,” and ask a volunteer to read the excerpt aloud. You can give students a few
minutes to record their reactions to this text in their journals. What does this story mean

Lesson 4 • 53
to them? What message does it express? How do they connect with Esperanza’s
experience?

Another way students can process the ideas in this short reading is through a literacy
strategy called “Three Levels of Questions.” This strategy helps students comprehend and
interpret material by requiring them to answer thee types of questions about the text: fac-
tual, inferential, and universal.
• Factual questions (level one) can be answered explicitly by facts contained in the text
or by information accessible in other resources;
• Inferential questions (level two) can be answered through analysis and interpretation
of specific parts of the text; and,
• Universal questions (level three) are open-ended questions that go beyond the text.
They are intended to provoke a discussion of an abstract idea or issue.

This is a useful literacy strategy to use throughout the unit, especially as students con-
front more challenging historical texts. This scaffolded approach provides an opportunity
for students to master the basic ideas of a text so that they can apply this understanding
and “evidence” to conversations about deeper abstract concepts or complex historical
events. You can model “Three Levels of Questions” in this lesson by asking students to
respond to the following questions individually in their journals or in small groups. The
universal questions are effective prompts for a large class discussion.

Three levels of questions for “Those Who Don’t”

Factual: According to Esperanza (the narrator of the piece), how do


“Those who don’t know any better” define the identities of the people in
her neighborhood? How is this different than Esperanza’s ideas about the
people in her neighborhood?
Inferential: Who are “those who don’t know any better”? What does the
line “That’s how it goes and goes” mean?
Universal: What are stereotypes? Why do people form stereotypes of
“others”? When are stereotypes harmful? What prevents people from form-
ing damaging stereotypes of others?

“Those Who Don’t” introduces concepts that are important to understanding the histori-
cal case study, concepts such as stereotype, prejudice, and “other.” To close the class dis-
cussion, you can ask students to suggest words that they think should be added to the
word wall and/or the vocabulary sections of their notebooks. Then you can construct
working definitions of these terms.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


As a way to reflect on their own experiences being stereotyped and defined by others, stu-
dents can write their own “Those who don’t know” stories. These stories do not need to
focus on neighborhoods or ethnic groups. Students can brainstorm the various groups to
which they belong. They might list gender, religion, hobby, or school. Any of these
groups could become the basis of a “Those who don’t know” story. Students can write
their stories in their journals or on Handout 2.

Lesson 4 • 54
Students can also write a journal entry where they reflect on their experiences both as the
target and the perpetrator of stereotypes. Students can respond to a prompt like this one
in class or for homework: Identify a moment when you were the target of stereotyping.
How were others defining you? How did this make you feel? In what ways, if any, did
these stereotypes inflict harm? Then, identify a moment when you were the perpetrator
of stereotyping. How were you defining others? In what ways, if any, might this stereo-
typing have inflicted harm? What might be done to prevent the spreading of harmful
stereotypes?

Assessment(s)
Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of stereotypes
through their participation in the class discussion and through their journal writing.
Students’ original “Those who don’t” story will reveal if they are able to recognize that
how others define us and the groups to which we belong may be different than how we
define ourselves. Students’ work in this lesson should reveal an awareness of the fact that
labeling others is a universal trait of human behavior, but that often these labels are based
on false information. A sophisticated middle school understanding of stereotyping at this
point in the unit would reveal that the labels ascribed to an entire group can never accu-
rately represent all of the unique individuals who belong to that group.

Extensions
“The Bear That Wasn’t” (pages 2–9 in the resource book) uses words and pictures to
express how even as we struggle to define our unique identity, others attach labels to us
that may be different than the ones we choose for ourselves. After reading this story, stu-
dents can draw an identity chart for the Bear. Questions that might be used as prompts
for journal writing or discussion include:
• What happened when the Bear was placed in a new culture? What happened to his
identity? What is the relationship between culture and identity? How do the cul-
tures we come from shape our identity? How do the cultures we come from shape
how we view others—those within our culture and those outside our culture?
• How have others shaped your identity? How do you deal with it? Were you able to
maintain your independence? How difficult was it to do so?
• What does the title “The Bear That Wasn’t” mean? Why didn’t the factory officials
recognize the Bear for what he was? Why did it become harder and harder for him
to maintain his identity as he moved through the bureaucracy of the factory? What
is the author, Frank Tashlin, suggesting about the way a person’s identity is defined
by others?

Lesson 4 • 55
Purpose: To deepen understanding of prejudice and stereotyping. • 56
Lesson 4: Handout 2
“Those Who Don’t” original story

Directions: We belong to many groups including gender, ethnic, or racial groups, neigh-
borhoods, schools, teams, and social groups or cliques. Identify a group to which you
belong and write a story about how others might see you, following the format of Sandra
Cisneros.

Those who don’t know any better

But we know that

Purpose: To deepen understanding of prejudice and stereotyping. • 57


Notes
1
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 28.
2
Deborah Tannen, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (New York: William Morrow,
1990), 16.
3
David Schoem, Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews, and Latinos (Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan Press, 1991) 3.
4
Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, 28.

58
Lesson 5

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapters One and Two
in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Us and Them: Confronting Labels and Lies

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
One of the key learning goals of this unit is to help students develop an awareness of race
as a myth that has been abused to justify discrimination and violence, not only against
Jews but against many other groups as well. To that end, the purpose of this lesson is to
help students reject the idea of Jews, or any group, as belonging to an inferior race. As
students begin to learn about the Weimar Republic and the beginnings of the Nazi Party,
they will come across language denigrating Jewish people and falsely referring to Jews as a
race. They will learn that antisemitism—the discrimination against or persecution of
Jews—was a cornerstone of the Nazi Party platform. Before students confront materials
that show how others, namely Nazis and their followers, falsely labeled the Jewish com-
munity as an inferior race of people, it is important for students to understand how the
Jewish community has defined itself as a diverse community of individuals who are con-
nected to each other by history, beliefs, and/or culture—not by genetically-determined
physical qualities or character traits. In the follow-through section of this lesson, students
have the opportunity to explore the tension between group and individual identity, as
they consider questions on the minds of many adolescents, such as: In what ways do I
belong to a larger group? How do I “fit in” to a group while still maintaining my own
identity? How does being part of a group define who I am? How do I impact the identity
of the groups in which I belong? Thus, this lesson asks students to synthesize and apply
all of the key ideas of the previous lessons—identity, membership, place, prejudice, and
stereotypes—as they confront misinformation spread about Jews in the late 1800s. In this
way, it provides an important bridge between the introductory section of this unit and
the historical case study that follows in the next section.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What labels do I use to define myself? What labels do others use to define me?
• What labels do Jews use to describe themselves?
• What labels did some Germans use to describe Jews in the early 1900s?
• Why do people make distinctions between “us” and “them”?
• How is it possible to belong to a group yet to still be a unique individual?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Analyzing images
• Gathering information from a lecture
• Locating places on a map
• Expressing ideas in writing and through discussion

Lesson 5 • 59
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Jew
• Aryan
• Race
• Religion
• Antisemitism
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

?WHAT ideas does this lesson explore?


For most of their history, Jews have lived as a religious and cultural minority. Beginning
more than four thousand years ago with Abraham’s decision to worship one unseen god,
the Jewish people (or Hebrews as they were called at the time) have distinguished them-
selves from their neighbors. While they originated as a religious group, the history of the
Jewish people has resulted in a community that is difficult to categorize. Throughout
ancient times, the Jewish people resided in the area which is now the modern state of
Israel. In 70 CE, the Roman Empire conquered Palestine (the Roman name given to the
area), and forced the Jewish people into exile. Given their proximity to land and sea
routes leading to Africa, Asia, and Europe, the Jewish community spread all over the
globe. As Jews moved to different regions, they often adopted the language and customs
of their new home. Over centuries the Jewish people have grown into a diverse ethnic
and cultural community who practice their religious beliefs in different ways. (Some Jews
do not practice any faith, but identify as cultural Jews.) Today, between fourteen and fif-
teen million Jews live around the world; there are Jewish communities on every conti-
nent.

Because of this rich and complicated history, Jews themselves have struggled trying to
answer the question, “What is a Jew?” Michael A. Meyer, a professor of Jewish history,
writes:

Long before the word became fashionable among psychoanalysts and sociologists, Jews
in the modern world were obsessed with the subject of identity. They were confronted
by the problem that Jewishness seemed to fit none of the usual categories. Until the
establishment of the state of Israel, the Jews were not a nation, at least not in the
political sense; being Jewish was different from being German, French, or American.
And even after 1948 [the year the state of Israel was declared] most Jews remained
nationally something other than Jewish. But neither could Jews define themselves by
their religion alone. Few could ever seriously maintain that Judaism was, pure and
simple, a religious faith on the model of Christianity. The easy answer was that
Jewishness constituted some mixture of ethnicity and religion. But in what propor-
tion? And was not the whole more than simply a compound of those two elements?1

Meyer explains how Jews do not fit neatly into any category. Jews represent a community
of individuals who at times share religious, ethnic, national, language, or cultural charac-
teristics, but in other instances might not. Because of this, the Jewish philosopher Martin
Buber argued that the Jews have defied all classification.2 As a minority group that has
often been misunderstood, Jews have been the subject of prejudice and persecution
throughout their history. Antisemitism—the discrimination against Jews—has been

Lesson 5 • 60
fueled by misinterpretations or fear of Jews’ religious beliefs or cultural traditions that
may differ from the beliefs and traditions of those in the majority.

As we have witnessed throughout history, and as students discussed in Lesson 4, groups


do not only define themselves, but they are also defined by others. Increasingly, in the
nineteenth century, people looked to science to define groups of people and justify their
ideas about who was “in” and who was “out.” This new approach to identifying people
had profound effect on the Jewish community, especially the nearly nine million Jews liv-
ing in Europe at that time. Some Europeans began defining Jews as a nation within the
larger nation or even as a separate race—a people who shared common physical features
and even character traits. Dozens of scientists in Europe and the United States set out to
prove the superiority of the white race over all others. [Reputable scientists today argue
that “race” as a biological or genetic category has no basis in scientific evidence.]

In Germany, Ernst Haeckel, a biologist, popularized “race science” by combining it with


romantic ideas about the German national identity. In a book called Riddle of the
Universe, he divided humankind into races and ranked each. People of European descent
were called Aryans.* Not surprisingly, Aryans were at the top of his list and Jews and
Africans at the bottom. Haeckel was also taken with the idea of eugenics—breeding “soci-
ety’s best with best”—as a way of keeping the “German race” pure. Scientists who tried to
show that there was no “pure” race were ignored. In the late 1800s, the German
Anthropological Society, under the leadership of Rudolph Virchow, conducted a study to
determine if there really were racial differences between Jewish and “Aryan” children.
After studying nearly seven million students, the society concluded that that the two
groups were more alike than they were different. Historian George Mosse said of the
study:

This survey should have ended controversies about the existence of pure Aryans and
Jews. However, it seems to have had surprisingly little impact. The idea of race had
been infused with myths, stereotypes, and subjectivities long ago, and a scientific sur-
vey could change little. The idea of pure, superior races and the concept of a racial
enemy solved too many pressing problems to be easily discarded. The survey itself was
unintelligible to the uneducated part of the population. For them, Haeckel’s Riddles of
the Universe was a better answer to their problems.3

Popular reaction ignoring the results of this study raises questions about why so many
Germans, and others throughout Europe and the United States, believed the notion of
race, in general, and, more specifically in the myth that some races (i.e., Aryans or
whites) are superior to others. Was it because the public was not aware of the evidence
disproving racial theories, or were other motives at work, such as fear or opportunism,
that encouraged many people, and even governments, to accept racist claims as truth?

Even though the lie that Jews, or any group for that matter, belonged to an inferior race
was based on poorly executed and biased experiments, the fact that many Europeans, par-

*The word Aryan is a Sanskrit word meaning noble. In the eighteenth century, the label Aryan was used by linguists to refer
to people who speak a number of Indo-European languages—languages believed to have originated in Iran and Northern
India, including Greek, German, and Romance languages. Hitler and the Nazis manipulated the ideas of different anthro-
pologists working in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century to create the theory that the Aryans were a
race of Nordic people who successfully invaded India. According to Hitler, the Germans were direct descendants of these
ancient Aryans. “Aryan,” AskOxford.com website, http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/aryan?view=uk (accessed
December 29, 2008). “Who Were the Aryans?” About.com website, http://archaeology.about.com/od/indusrivercivilizations
/a/aryans.htm (accessed December 29, 2008).

Lesson 5 • 61
ticularly Germans, believed this myth changed the future of the Jewish community, and
of other groups labeled as “inferior.” Having lived in Europe for nearly two thousand
years, many European Jews had assimilated into the cultures of the nations in which they
lived. In the late 1800s, when race science was gaining popularity, most German Jews
defined themselves as being “from Germany,” and their identities were shaped by the
culture and geography of this place. Assimilated Jews living in Germany spoke German,
volunteered for the German army, attended German schools and universities, listened to
German music, and had participated in German sporting events. They were confident
that once they were “more German” discrimination would end. Yet, racists turned “being
Jewish” into a permanent, inferior condition. Neither assimilation nor conversion to
Christianity altered one’s race; Jews would always be Jews because they belonged to a dif-
ferent “race.” This theory was used, at first, to justify discrimination against Jews, then
the isolation of the Jewish community, and eventually the deaths of millions of Jewish
children, women, and men. Thus, the story of the Jews in Europe in the early twentieth
century is one of the most tragic examples of the human devastation that can result when
a majority has the power to use stereotypes, fear, and bigotry to define people in a minor-
ity group.

While the Jews are central figures in the history of the events leading up to the
Holocaust, this unit is not designed to be a comprehensive study of Judaism or of Jewish
culture or history. Rather, the purpose of this unit is to teach students about the vulnera-
bility of democracy, the significance of individual and group decision-making, the impor-
tance of critical thinking and informed judgment, and the role we can all play in prevent-
ing or perpetuating injustice. This particular story of discrimination and violence against
European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s helps us learn about the factors that have moti-
vated hatred and injustice against other minority groups in the past and today. Indeed, it
is possible that some of your students have experienced belonging to a group that has
been falsely labeled or misunderstood by others. Without drawing exact parallels to the
specific circumstances faced by the Jewish community, we hope students come to see
facets of their own experience echoed in the material they explore in this lesson and in
the unit in general.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“The Effects of Religious Stereotyping,” pp. 43–46
“Anti-Judaism: A Case Study in Discrimination,” pp. 46–51
“‘Race Science’ in a Changing World,” pp. 87–90
“Citizenship and European Jews,” pp. 91–94
“‘Race’ and Identity in France,” pp. 97–99

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: How are they the same? How are they different?
Handout 2: The geography of Jewish identity timeline
Handout 3: Images of Polish Jews (1900–1930)

Lesson 5 • 62
Handout 4: Those who don’t: Confronting labels and lies about Jews

Opener
If students have not already had the opportunity to share their “Those Who Don’t” sto-
ries, you can start this lesson by allowing volunteers to present their work. To help stu-
dents grasp the purpose of this lesson, you might ask them to reflect on what might hap-
pen if they only shared the first part of their “Those Who Don’t” stories with the class.
Journal prompts you can use to guide their reflections include: What labels do you use to
define yourself? What labels have others used to define you? How would it make you feel,
or has it made you feel, to be falsely labeled by others? Can you identify any moments in
history when individuals or groups were falsely labeled by others? Why do you think
some people choose to believe lies and stereotypes?

Main Activities
Part 1: Understanding the Jewish people as a community with a shared religion and
history, not as a race
Explain to students that in this lesson they will be learning more about how people (“us”)
sometimes assign labels to others (“them”). To begin this exploration, they will look at a
collection of images of Jews from around the world (Handout 1) and list everything they
think they “know” about this group of people just from looking at these photographs. At
this point, do not tell students that these are pictures of Jewish people. Distribute the
images to small groups of students and ask them to gather information about this group
of people by answering the following questions:
• What do you think these individuals might have in common?
• In what ways do you think these individuals are different from one another?
• What more would you like to know about them?

Invite students to share their responses. Then inform students that one thing that unites
all of these people into one group is that they are all Jews. How did this diverse group of
people come to belong to the Jewish community? To help answer this question, present a
brief presentation to students about Jewish identity. We suggest using a world map to
guide students through the lecture. Students can take notes on Handout 2: The
Geography of Jewish Identity Timeline.

Lesson 5 • 63
Talking points for lecture: The Geography of Jewish Identity

[Note: In this lecture we use the term Israel/Palestine to refer to the land that is now the state
of Israel but at the time of the Roman Empire was called Palestine.]
• It is commonly believed that Jewish history dates back almost 4,000 years when a man
named Abraham became the first Jew. At a time when many people worshipped many gods
in the form of idols, Abraham and his descendants believed in only one God who did not
take any physical form. Abraham and his descendants (called Hebrews) lived in the Middle
East, mostly in the area now known as Israel. This area has also been called Zion, Judea,
and Palestine. From ancient times until today, the Jewish population has grown in two
ways: people have become Jews by being born to a Jewish parent or by converting to
Judaism. Map skill: Where is the Middle East? Where is Israel?
• In 70 CE (AD) the Roman Empire forced most of the Hebrews out of Israel/Palestine. The
Romans believed they could better control people in the lands they conquered if they
removed these people from their homelands. Map skill: How big was the Roman Empire?
What lands did the Romans govern? Why do you think Rome wanted to conquer the land of
Israel/Palestine? (Hint: Rome wanted to expand its empire into the Middle East and Africa.)
• As Jews migrated to different places around the world, they adopted local languages and
took on regional customs and ways of life, while maintaining aspects of Jewish culture.
Many Jews today still share a common set of religious beliefs. Others feel a sense of belong-
ing to the Jewish community because of a shared history or ancestry (such as having Jewish
parents), because they speak Hebrew (the language of ancient Jews) or because they cele-
brate Jewish holidays. Map skill: The Jewish people in the photographs you just viewed come
from Uganda, the United States, Yemen, Italy, Russia, Israel, Ethiopia, and China. Locate these
areas on the map.
• When the Romans forced the Jews out of Israel/Palestine, most of them moved to Europe.
By 1900, almost nine million Jews lived in Europe. Map skill: What routes do you think Jews
took when they were forced to leave Israel/Palestine? How does looking at the map help us under-
stand one reason why large Jewish communities developed in certain areas? (Hint: Many Jews
eventually ended up in North Africa and Europe because these were the easiest routes from the
Middle East.)

As Esperanza pointed out in the story “Those Who Don’t,” while outsiders may think
everyone in a group is the same, groups are actually made up of individuals with distinct
characteristics. It would be misleading to think all Jewish people are the same, just as it
would be misleading to think that all girls or all Americans are the same. To emphasize
this point, you can have students analyze pictures of European Jews taken before World
War II (see handout 3). In small groups or as a large class students can discuss the follow-
ing questions:
• What do you think these individuals might have in common?
• In what ways do you think these individuals are different from one another?
• What more would you like to know about them?
• Which image reminds you of an experience from your own life? How so?

Besides helping students see the Jews as individuals, not just as a group, viewing these
images encourages students to see European Jews as human beings enjoying experiences
many students can relate to, such as holiday dinners with family or laughing with friends.
Later in this unit, as students learn about how the Nazis used policies and propaganda
to dehumanize Jews, you can remind them of these images of Jews as individuals with
feelings, relationships, jobs, and hobbies.

Lesson 5 • 64
Part 2: Identifying the lie perpetuated by the Nazis—that the Jews belonged to an
inferior race of people
Inform students that in this unit, they will learn about a time in history when many
groups were victims of discrimination and prejudice—especially the European Jews like
the ones in the photographs they just viewed. Students may have some familiarity with
the idea of discrimination from studying American History, particularly slavery and the
civil rights movement. To connect to students’ prior knowledge, you might ask them to
share what they know about discrimination in the United States. This would be an
appropriate time to introduce the term antisemitism—the hatred of and discrimination
against Jewish people.

Students often ask why the Jews were victims of discrimination in Europe before and
during World War II. To fully answer this question requires an understanding of historic
antisemitism dating back thousands of years. Because they lived as a minority with differ-
ent traditions and beliefs than the majority, Jews have been victims of lies and labels for
centuries. For the purposes of this lesson (and this unit), it is critical that students under-
stand one of those lies—a lie disseminated in Europe in the late 1800s that the Jews
belong to an inferior racial group. This lie formed the basis of the Nazis’ policies toward
Jews, policies that ultimately resulted in the extermination of two-thirds of European
Jewry.

To reveal this lie, share the following quotations with students. Before you share these
words, make sure students understand that they express the view of certain Germans in
the early twentieth century. Because many students may not be familiar with the term
Aryan, you may want to define it before they read the quotation. [In the 1800s, many
Germans believed that they belonged to a superior racial group—the Aryan race—which
originated in India.]

People can be sorted by races—groups that are genetically different from one another.
Some races are superior to others. For example, the Aryan is superior to the Jew.*

Thou shalt keep thy blood pure. Consider it a crime to soil the noble Aryan breed of
thy people by mingling it with the Jewish breed. For thou must know that Jewish
blood is everlasting, putting the Jewish stamp on body and soul unto the farthest gen-
erations. . . . Avoid all contact and community with the Jew and keep him away from
thyself and thy family, especially thy daughters, lest they suffer injury of body and
soul.**

In the late 1800s, the German Anthropological Society conducted a study of seven
million students to discover differences between Aryan [non-Jewish] children and
Jewish children. They found that these students were more alike than they were
different. But, the idea of racial differences had become so ingrained that many people
ignored the results of this research.4

*This statement reflects the ideas expressed by race scientists such as Sir Francis Galton and Eugen Fischer. In Mein Kampf,
Adolf Hitler articulated the idea that the Aryans were a superior race. “All the human culture, all the results of art, science
and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan,” he wrote. “This very
fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the
prototype of all that we understand by the word ‘man.’” He also labeled the Jews as a race, writing, “The Jew has always
been a people with definite racial characteristics and never a religion.” These ideas became a cornerstone of Nazi ideology.
**In 1883, Theodor Fritsch published The Racists’ Decalogue to explain how a good “German” should treat “Jews.” This was
excerpted from an English translation of that publication. Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern
World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 350.

Lesson 5 • 65
After you read these statements aloud, ask students to complete the first part of handout
4. This handout uses the same “Those Who Don’t” structure from Lesson 4 to help stu-
dents understand the difference between how Nazis defined Jews in the 1900s and how
the Jewish community defines itself. From these quotations, students should recognize
that “Those who don’t know any better” labeled Jews as a race of people. Because they
believed race was a trait carried in one’s blood, they thought being Jewish “is everlasting”
and could not be altered by conversion or assimilation. They also thought that Jews were
inferior. So, they did not want their inferior blood to mix with Aryan superior blood.
Then, students can complete the rest of the handout (the “But we know” section) with
information that they have learned in this lesson about Jewish identity. Their ideas might
come from the images of Jews around the world, the lecture on Jewish identity, or the
images of Jews in pre–World War II Europe.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


When Esperanza refers to people who stereotype her community as “those who don’t
know any better,”5 she assumes that if they “knew better”—for example, if they had the
opportunity or took the time to know the people in her neighborhood—they would not
mislabel her neighbors as dangerous. Yet, a study of history reveals that prejudice and dis-
crimination is more complicated; prejudice cannot simply be explained by lack of infor-
mation. Sometimes people have information, yet still choose to believe lies and stereo-
types. For example, the German Anthropological Society distributed the results of their
study that showed that Jews and Aryans are more the same than different. But many
Germans chose to believe in the separateness and inferiority of Jews, despite this evidence
to the contrary. To debrief this part of the lesson, you might ask students to think about
the question: What other reasons, besides ignorance or unfamiliarity, might cause people
to mislabel others? Reviewing the journal entries they wrote at the beginning of this les-
son might help students answer this question.

One of the goals of this lesson is to help students understand the complex relationship
between the individual and the community—that although groups share common char-
acteristics they are still made up of individuals with distinct identities. As a final activity,
students can reflect on their own experience as members of groups. Journal prompts
include: Identify a group to which you belong. In what ways are the members of this
group the same? In what ways are the members of this group different? Is it a problem if
someone believes that everyone who belongs to a group is exactly the same? Why or why
not?

Assessment(s)
To ensure that students do not come away from this unit believing the racist lies spread
by the Nazis, it is critical that students demonstrate an understanding of the fact that the
Jews are not a race of people and that there is no scientific basis to support the theory
that some groups of people are genetically superior to others. Students’ responses on
“Handout 4: Confronting labels and lies about Jews” should reveal their understanding of
the Jewish community as a diverse community of individuals, not as a racial group. If
students are having a hard time understanding that Jews are not a race, emphasize the
facts that anyone could convert to Judaism and that Jews do not share physical traits.
When evaluating students’ responses in the follow-through activities, look for answers
where students are recognizing the differences within groups. Push students to avoid
making sweeping generalizations about groups of people.

Lesson 5 • 66
Extensions
• The photographs students analyzed of Jews in pre-war Europe show people in poses
that are familiar—at family parties or huddling with groups of friends. To help stu-
dents connect to Jews in pre-war Europe as “regular people,” you can ask students
to bring in a photograph of themselves or of family members that reminds them of
a photograph they saw in class today.

• This lesson presented an extremely brief history of Jewish people. Students may
want to learn more about Jewish history, especially about the history of Jews in
Memphis. Today, nearly 10,000 Jews live in the Memphis and Shelby County area
(comprising approximately 1% of the total population). The Goldring/Waldenburg
Institute of Southern Jewish Life has written a short history of Jews in Memphis
which can be found on their website: http://www.msje.org/history/archive/tn/memphis.
html. The book A Biblical People in the Bible Belt: The Jewish Community of
Memphis, Tennessee, 1840s–1860s by Selma S. Lewis is another useful resource for
learning about the Jewish community in Memphis. This book can be borrowed
from Facing History’s library.

• The purpose of this lesson is to help students reject the idea of Jews, or any group,
as belonging to an inferior race. In using the concept of race, we do not mean to
legitimize it as a truthful scientific category. Race is a category invented by people
for the purpose of creating social hierarchies. Respected scientists agree that there is
no scientific basis to support the theory that some groups of people are genetically
superior or inferior to others. Moreover, recent DNA research confirms that
humans from around the world are more alike than they are different, and that hav-
ing similar skin tone (often used as the basis for racial classification) does not neces-
sarily indicate that individuals share other genetic traits. For more information
about the meaning of race and how the concept of race has been used and abused,
refer to the excellent PBS website, Race: The Power of an Illusion (http://www.pbs.
org/race/). The website is a companion to the film Race: The Power of an Illusion,
which you can borrow from Facing History’s library. Facing History’s resource book,
Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement, provides addi-
tional information about a time when people falsely believed that some races,
classes, or groups of people were superior to others, and how this belief led to dis-
crimination and human rights abuses. This book can be downloaded from Facing
History’s website or borrowed from our library.

• To help students gain a deeper understanding of the history of antisemitism in


Europe, you can have them read the short novel The Boy of Old Prague by Sulamith
Ish-Kishor. In this story, Tomas, a young boy living in the 1500s, has been taught
to be suspicious and even hateful of Jews. Tomas’s beliefs are challenged when his
master sends him to work for a Jew in the ghetto. See pages 294–97 of the
Holocaust and Human Behavior resource book for a discussion of this novel. Class
sets of The Boy of Old Prague can be borrowed from Facing History’s library.

Lesson 5 • 67
Lesson 5: Handout 1
How are they the same? How are they different?

Directions: Look at these images on the following three pages and then answer the questions at
the bottom of the page.

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 68
Lesson 5: Handout 1
How are they the same? How are they different?

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 69
Lesson 5: Handout 1
How are they the same? How are they different?

What do you think these individuals might have in common?


In what ways do you think these individuals are different from one another?
What more would you like to know about them?

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 70
Lesson 5: Handout 2
The geography of Jewish identity timeline
4000 BCE:
70 CE:
1900:

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 71
Lesson 5: Handout 3
Images of Polish Jews (1900–1930)

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 72
Lesson 5: Handout 3
Images of Polish Jews (1900–1930)

Directions: After reviewing the eight images of Jews, answer the following questions:

1. What do you think these individuals might have in common?

2. In what ways do you think these individuals are different from one another?

3. What more would you like to know about them?

4. Which image can you relate to the most? Which image reminds you of an experience from your
own life? Explain.

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 73
Lesson 5: Handout 4
Those Who Don’t: Confronting labels and lies about Jews

Directions: Use this handout to reveal the differences between lies spread about Jews by “those who don’t
know any better” and ideas about Jewish identity supported by historical evidence.

Those who don’t know any better or who chose to believe the labels and lies spread by some Germans
thought that Jews . . .

But we know that Jewish people . . .

Purpose: To help students reject the idea that Jews, or any group, belong to an inferior race. • 74
Notes
1
Michael A. Meyer, Jewish Identity in the Modern World (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 3.
2
Martin Buber, “The Jew in the World,” Israel and the World: Essays in a Time of Crisis (New York: Schocken
Books, 1963), 167–72.
3
George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (New York: Howard Fertig, 1978),
92.
4
Ibid.
5
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 28.

75
Lesson 6

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Three in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Nazi Party Platform

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
The purpose of Lessons 6 and 7 is to help students understand the conditions in the
Weimar Republic that resulted in Germany’s transition from a democracy to a dictator-
ship. Part of understanding this history, or any history, is not simply to memorize dates,
events, and people, but to understand the reasons why and how things occurred in the
past. By establishing a context for Weimar Germany and helping students understand the
main beliefs of the Nazi Party, this lesson provides the background information students
need to answer the question: In 13 years, how did the Nazi Party go from being an
unknown political party to the most powerful political party in Germany? [Note: Students
are not expected to have an answer to this question until after Lesson 7.]

At its core, this lesson is about membership. Reading the Nazi Party platform provides
important information about how the Nazis defined German citizenship, and these ideas
are fundamental to understanding the laws Hitler put in place once he came to power in
1933. This lesson helps students continue to develop their awareness of how rules of
membership—norms that establish who is included and who is excluded—have implica-
tions for an entire community. This issue is not only relevant to understanding Germany
in the 1920s and 1930s, but also relates to how communities and nations today welcome
or reject immigrants and establish citizenship policies. Students will be able to tap into
their experience as adolescents, many of whom are preoccupied with issues of belonging,
as they try to make sense of this history. In this way, this lesson helps students see how
their own experience can help them understand the past, and vice versa.

LEARNING OUTCOMES
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What are the main ideas in the Nazi Party platform?
• According to the Nazi Party platform, who is included in German society? Who is
excluded?
• What might be the consequences for the people who are not included in how a
group, or nation, defines itself ?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Analyzing primary documents
• Deepening understanding of historical documents by making text-to-text, text-to-
self, and text-to-world connections.
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Nazi

Lesson 6 • 76
• Political party
• Party platform
• Inclusion
• Exclusion
• Versailles Treaty
• Democracy
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


In this lesson, students analyze the Nazi Party platform, written in 1920. To understand
this document requires going backwards in time a few years to World War I. Because of
inaccurate or incomplete record keeping, it is impossible to know the exact number of
military and civilian casualties of World War I. Researchers have estimated that at least
40 million women, children,and men were killed or wounded as a result of the Great
War.1 Considering the indirect impact of the war in terms of disease, malnutrition, and
mental illness, the actual number of people who suffered as a result of the First World
War was likely significantly higher than this estimate. Moreover, World War I devastated
Europe, not only in terms of loss of lives, but also in terms of damage to basic infrastruc-
ture (i.e., factories, roads, bridges, hospitals, homes, etc.). While the fighting ceased in
1918, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 marked the official end to this war
and firmly established Germany’s defeat to the victorious Allied powers (primarily
Britain, France, Russia, and later others including the United States).

Battle-Weary Troops Retreat by German artist Otto Dix portrays the sadness and humiliation many Germans felt
after their loss.

Lesson 6 • 77
The harsh penalties for Germany authorized by the Treaty of Versailles following World
War I came as quite a shock to most Germans. The German people knew nothing about
Germany’s surrender until November 9—the day the Kaiser, the monarch ruling
Germany, fled to the Netherlands and the Social Democrats declared Germany a repub-
lic. That same day, the nation’s new leaders learned that the Allies expected Germany to
give up its armaments, including its navy, and evacuate all troops west of the Rhine River.
If the Germans did not accept those terms within 72 hours, the Allies threatened to
invade the nation. Germany’s new leaders turned to the military for advice. Paul von
Hindenburg, the commander of the German Armed Forces, and other military leaders
convinced civilians that they had to accept the truce. German soldiers could not hold out
much longer. Early on the morning of November 11, 1918, three representatives of the
new republic traveled to France to sign an armistice agreement. They made the trip alone;
the generals chose not to attend the ceremony.

As soon as the agreement was signed, people in many countries rejoiced, but there were
no celebrations in Germany, where people were in shock. How could they possibly have
lost the war? Many agreed with General Hindenburg who, although he had earlier urged
surrender, now claimed that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by traitors at
home. Within just 48 hours, Germany was turned upside down. The stunned nation lost
its monarch, its empire, and the war itself. To make matters worse, there was now fight-
ing in the streets of many German cities, as the communists tried to bring about a revo-
lution. Berlin was so unsettled that the nation’s new leaders met in the city of Weimar—
hence the new German democracy was known as the Weimar Republic.

The Weimar Republic established the first democracy in Germany’s history, with a consti-
tution, elections, a parliament, and separation of powers. In 1920, 459 elected representa-
tives served in Germany’s parliament, called the Reichstag. At this time, the Nazi Party
did not garner enough support to send even one representative to the Reichstag. By
1933, the Nazi Party earned enough votes to seat 288 of its members in the Reichstag,
occupying 45% of the seats, enough to give the Nazis power to place Adolf Hitler in the
position of Chancellor, the leader of the Reichstag and second only to the President in
political power.

When studying this history, one of the most important questions to answer is, “How
were Hitler and the Nazis able to use the instruments of democracy to create a dictator-
ship?” Students will address this question in Lesson 7. But, first, in order to understand
why so many Germans were attracted to the Nazi Party, students need to understand the
core beliefs of the Nazis. The Nazis succinctly articulated their beliefs in the party plat-
form they wrote in 1920. A close reading of this document reveals how various groups
within Germany might be impacted if the Nazis came to power. This text indicates that a
cornerstone of Nazi ideology was a belief in race science and the superiority of the Aryan
race (or “German blood”). Nazis used this belief to determine who should be a citizen in
Nazi Germany and who should be excluded from citizenship. How might those with
“German blood”—those who are granted legal membership into German society—be
affected by laws based on Nazi beliefs? This document reveals the Nazi belief that certain
rights and privileges (the right to vote, run for office, and own a newspaper) should be
bestowed only on citizens; according to the platform, German citizens would be guaran-
teed jobs, food, and land on which to live.

Lesson 6 • 78
What might be the implications of the beliefs espoused in the Nazi Party platform for
those without “German blood”—for those who fall outside of what Holocaust scholar
Helen Fein calls a nation’s “universe of obligation.” Helen Fein refers to a nation’s uni-
verse of obligation as the circle of individuals and groups “toward whom obligations are
owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for [amends].”2 The Nazi Party plat-
form provided considerable information about who the Nazis would include in their uni-
verse of obligation, and who would be excluded. The fourth point in the platform singles
out Jews as a group that must be stripped of citizenship. (Note: Jews had been living in
Germany for a thousand years, and since 1870, Jews had been living in Germany as citi-
zens with the same rights afforded to non-Jewish Germans.) Point number five states that
non-citizens must follow special rules, yet, having lost the right to vote, they would have
no say over these rules. The ideology underlying the Nazi Party platform suggests that
groups stripped of citizenship are vulnerable to the whims of those in power. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked on the relationship between the treatment of minorities
and democracy when he argued, “No democracy can long survive which does not accept
as fundamental to its very existence the recognition of the rights of minorities.”3 History
demonstrates that human rights abuses can flourish when people are denied protection
from the government of the land in which they reside.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
The Impact of Total War, pp. 110–13
War and Revolution in Germany, pp. 115–18
The Treaty of Versailles, pp. 119–22
Anger and Humiliation, pp. 122–26

Lesson 6 • 79
?HOW can we help students engage with this material?
Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Nazi Party platform
Handout 2: What did the Nazis believe?
Handout 3: Nazi beliefs about citizenship: Who is included? Who is excluded?

Opener

Optional: With this lesson, students begin the historical case study by exploring the fragility
of democracy in Weimar Germany. To understand the choices individuals and groups made
that resulted in the Nazis’ rise to power, students will draw from the core concepts they
explored in section one (i.e., identity, belonging, conformity, stereotypes and labels, ostracism,
etc.). To reinforce students’ understanding of these concepts and to prepare them to apply
these themes to the new material, give students time to review what they have learned thus far
in this unit. You might give students a few moments to review the journal entries they have
written and then ask each student to present one “take away” or “key learning point.” This list
of main ideas can be recorded on a large piece of paper that can hang in the room as a
reminder of prior learning.

Inform students that over the next several weeks, they will explore how these key ideas
played out during a critical time in world history when the choices of people resulted in a
democratic government turning into a dictatorship. These are big concepts that may be
unfamiliar to students at this time. So, you might begin this lesson by having students
brainstorm the ingredients that make up our democratic government. Prompts you might
use to structure students’ thinking include: What are the main parts of our government?
When you think of U.S. democracy, what words come to mind? If you were taking a test
on U.S. government, what items might be included?

Students may suggest words such as elections, separation of powers, Congress, courts,
laws, Constitution, freedom of speech, president, and political parties (i.e., Democrats
and Republicans). You can present key ideas students do not include. With this list on the
board, you can transition to the study of Weimar Germany—a time when all of these
ingredients were in place. This is also an appropriate time to have students locate
Germany on a map.

Main Activities
Part I: Establishing historical context for the Nazi Party platform
Before introducing the Nazi Party platform, give students some context for this docu-
ment. Below are some talking points highlighting the ideas about Germany students
should understand before analyzing the Nazi Party platform. (As you explain this history,
you may wish to draw parallels to U.S. government. For example, when explaining how
the Nazis were a political party, you can make a connection to political parties in the
United States.)

Lesson 6 • 80
Background information about the founding of the Weimar Republic

In 1918, at the end of World War I, the German monarch (king) fled the country,
opening the way for Germans to replace a monarchy with a different form of govern-
ment. Many Germans (but not all) wanted the people to have a voice in government
and adopted a new constitution to set up a democratic system with elections, repre-
sentatives, and civil rights. Because this constitution was adopted in a town called
Weimar, the first democratic government in Germany is often referred to as the
“Weimar Republic.”

The Nazi Party platform was written in 1920 when Germany was a young democ-
racy. The Nazis were a German political party. While the U.S. has relatively few pow-
erful political parties, in 1920 Germany had many political parties and at least seven
of those had enough seats to be a powerful force in the Reichstag, the German parlia-
ment. In 1920, the Nazi Party was very weak. In fact, it did not get enough votes to
have any representation in the Reichstag. Thirteen years later, in 1933, the Nazis
received a majority of votes and had more seats in parliament than any other party.
In other words, they were the most powerful political party in Germany. When the
Nazi Party had the majority, it gave its leader, Adolf Hitler, control of the govern-
ment. By the middle of 1933, Hitler and the Nazis passed new rules that made all
other political parties illegal and gave Hitler complete control of the government. In
13 years Germany went from being a democracy to a dictatorship.

The purpose of the next few lessons is to help students answer this key question:
In 13 years, how did the Nazi Party go from being a little-known political party to
the most powerful political party in Germany? Write this question on the board as a
reminder to students of what they will be responsible for answering in a few
days. Before students can answer this question, they need to understand what the
Nazis stood for. To learn about the main ideas of the Nazis, they will study the
Nazi Party platform. Explain that political parties write documents called “plat-
forms” to articulate the core beliefs the party stands for. [You might ask students
to consider what might happen if political parties did not write platforms. How
would people know the difference between parties? How would the members of
a party know if they agree with their parties’ beliefs? How would people know
which party to join or vote for?]

Part II: Interpreting the Nazi Party platform


Now students have sufficient context to begin exploring the Nazi Party platform (hand-
out 1). There are many ways you could structure this task. You could have students
answer the true/false statements on handout 2, “What did the Nazis believe?” To adapt
this handout for students of different levels, you can write the appropriate statement
number from the Nazi Party platform next to the relevant statement on the true/false
sheet. This makes it easier for students to know where to find the statement that will help
them answer true or false. To make students’ task more challenging, you can ask them to
rewrite all false statements to make them true.

You could also structure students’ analysis of the Nazi Party platform as a press confer-
ence. Divide students into groups and assign several platform statements to each group.
Each group will be responsible for answering questions about these statements at a press

Lesson 6 • 81
conference. When staging the press conference, students should not assume the role of
Nazis. It is unwise to put students in the same shoes as perpetrators of major crimes
against humanity and to provide them with an opportunity to characterize, or even sati-
rize, a group who inflicted serious harm on millions of people. Students could answer
questions as historians, reporters, or experts.

You can write the questions for the press conference, or you can ask students to come up
with questions. Press conference questions might include the following:

• How do Nazis define a German citizen? Who do they believe should enjoy the
rights of German citizenship?
• Which groups of people might be stripped of their citizenship if Nazis were in con-
trol?
• How will Nazis help Germans put food on the table for their families?
• What do Nazis believe about the Versailles Treaty?
• What ideas in this platform might be most appealing to German citizens? Why?
• What ideas in this platform might offend some German citizens? Why?

As you debrief students’ analysis of the Nazi Party platform, the most important idea for
students to come away with is how the Nazis defined German citizenship: they believed
only those people who could prove that they belonged to the Aryan race (had “German
blood”) should enjoy the rights of citizens. One way to reinforce students’ understanding
of this concept is to have them draw a circle in their journals (or you could use handout
3). Inside the circle, ask students to describe the groups that the Nazis believed should be
included in the definition of German citizen. Outside of the circle, ask students to
describe the groups that the Nazis believed should be excluded form German citizenship,
such as Jews, those without “German blood,” and foreigners. It is a good idea to post this
circle chart on the wall because you will be able to come back to it throughout the unit as
students confront more information about groups that the Nazis excluded from German
citizenship.

Follow-Through
The concept of membership—who is included and who is excluded—is a central theme
of the Nazi Party platform. As students look at who is inside and outside of the circle
representing the Nazi’s vision of Germany (see handout 3), ask them to think about what
this might mean to those outside of the circle and inside of the circle. How might being
included in the circle of citizenship impact someone’s life? How might being excluded
from the circle of citizenship impact someone’s life? Students can respond to these ques-
tions in their journals. Encourage them to connect their prior knowledge and experience,
including their work in Lesson 2 with the ostracism case study, to the history they are
studying. What were the implications for Sue when she was excluded from her group of
friends? What have been the implications for students you know when they have been
included or excluded from groups? How do you imagine it might feel to be Rhonda or
Jill, the girls who led others to ostracize Sue? What are the costs and benefits to those
who have the power to exclude others from membership?

Another way to help students connect the ideas in the Nazi Party platform to issues in
their own lives (as well as to reinforce students’ understanding of the Nazi Party plat-
form), is to use a literacy strategy called “Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World.” This

Lesson 6 • 82
can be assigned for homework or these prompts can be used as the basis for a class
discussion.

Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World

Note: The purpose of this teaching strategy is to deepen students’ under-


standing of a text. It is best used after students have sufficient comprehen-
sion of the material.

Step One: Text to Self


Ask students to answer questions about the reading that relate to them-
selves. Example prompts include:
• What I just read reminds me of the time when I was included or
excluded . . .
• I agree with/understand what I just read because in my own life . . .
• I don’t agree with what I just read because in my own life . . .

Step Two: Text to Text


Ask students to answer questions about how the text reminds them of
another piece of text. For example:
• What I just read reminds me of another story/book/movie/song I read
because . . .
• What I just read reminds me of the ostracism case study we read in les-
son two because . . .

Step Three: Text to World


Ask students to answer questions about how the text relates to the larger
world. Example prompts include:
• What I just read reminds me of this thing that happened in history
because . . .
• What I just read reminds me of what’s going on in my community,
country, or world now because . . .

Assessment(s)
By the end of this lesson, students should understand that the Nazis wanted to restrict cit-
izenship to those who could prove they had “German blood.” They could demonstrate
this understanding through their responses on handout 2 or through how they label their
circle chart. Students should also begin to understand how practices of inclusion and
exclusion have consequences for the entire community. This might be revealed through
students’ journal entries and/or a class discussion. For example, those who were included
in the Nazis’ definition of citizenship would have access to better jobs and have the
opportunity to influence political decisions by voting or running for office. Those who
were excluded from the Nazis’ definition of citizenship could be exiled from the country,
have their job taken away, or be subject to laws agreed on by people who might not repre-
sent their views (seeing that non-citizens can’t vote).

Lesson 6 • 83
Extensions
In this lesson, students begin to explore the history of the rise of the Nazi Party in
Germany. Many teachers have found it useful to provide students with the opportunity
to build a timeline of this period. As students learn new material, they can add it to their
timelines. Teachers have had students record their timelines in their journals or on special
sheets of large paper. These timelines can be used as a formative and summative assess-
ment tool, allowing you to track students’ historical understanding throughout the unit
and at the end of the unit. Timeline building can also be structured as a small group or a
whole class activity. Many Facing History classes maintain a timeline on the wall.
Timelines might include short captions of key events, dates, images, important quota-
tions, and key questions.

Lesson 6 • 84
Lesson 6: Handout 1
Nazi Party Platform

Note: Underlined words are defined in the glossary below.

In February 1920, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) came up
with a 25-point program. Included in the party’s new program were the following
points:

1. A union of all Germans to form a great Germany on the basis of the right to self-
determination of peoples.

2. Abolition of the Treaty of Versailles.

3. Land and territory (colonies) for our surplus population.

4. German blood as a requirement for German citizenship. No Jew can be a mem-


ber of the nation.

5. Non-citizens can live in Germany only as foreigners, subject to the law of aliens.

6. Only citizens can vote or hold public office.

7. The state ensures that every citizen live decently and earn his livelihood. If it is
impossible to provide food for the whole population, then aliens must be
expelled.

8. No further immigration of non-Germans. Any non-German who entered


Germany after August 2, 1914, shall leave immediately.

9. A thorough reconstruction of our national system of education. The science of


citizenship shall be taught from the beginning.

10. All newspapers must be published in the German language by German citizens
and owners.4

Glossary
Self-determination: the belief that every nation (organized group of people with a shared history and culture) should
have its own independent state and not be ruled by others.
Treaty of Versailles: the peace treaty that ended World War I. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany responsible for
the war. As a result of being blamed for starting the war, the treaty required them to pay back the winners of the
war with money and land. Many Germans felt that this treaty was unfair and humiliating.
Surplus: additional
Aliens: immigrants who are not citizens

Purpose: To deepen understanding of membership and belonging by studying the Nazi Party platform. • 85
Lesson 6: Handout 2
What did the Nazis believe?

Directions: Refer to the Nazi Party platform to answer true or false for the following statements about
the Nazis’ core beliefs.

The Nazis believed that only people who could prove they had “German □ True □ False
blood” could be citizens.

The Nazis believed that Germans should not be blamed for World War I □ True □ False
and should not have to pay money or give land to the winners of the war.

The Nazis believed that anybody living in Germany should have the same □ True □ False
rights as German citizens.

The Nazis believed that schools should teach students “the science of cit- □ True □ False
izenship,” explaining how some people have German blood and other
people, like Jews, do not.

The Nazis believed that Jews who had been living in Germany for hun- □ True □ False
dreds of years and fought in wars for Germany have “German blood.”

The Nazis believed that Germany should be able to get more land for its □ True □ False
growing population.

The Nazis believed that anyone should be able to publish a newspaper in □ True □ False
Germany.

The Nazis believed that recent non-German immigrants are welcome in □ True □ False
Germany.

The Nazis believed that all German citizens have the right to a job and □ True □ False
food for their family.

The Nazis believed that if the country could not provide enough jobs and □ True □ False
food for its own citizens, then immigrants must leave so that they do not
take jobs and food away from German citizens.

The Nazis believed that anyone living in Germany could vote and run for □ True □ False
office.

The Nazis believed that anyone living in Germany who does not have □ True □ False
German blood should follow special laws for non-citizens.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of membership and belonging by studying the Nazi Party platform. • 86
Lesson 6: Handout 3
Nazi Beliefs About Citizenship: Who is included? Who is excluded?

Directions: According to the Nazi Party platform, who is included in the Nazis’ definition of the
German citizen? Write adjectives or nouns describing those groups in the center of the circle. Who is not
included in the Nazis’ definition of the German citizen? Write adjectives or nouns describing those
groups outside of the circle.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of membership and belonging by studying the Nazi Party platform. • 87
Notes
1
“WWI Casualty and Death Tables, 1914–1918,” The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century,
PBS website, http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html (accessed December 29, 2008).
2
Helen Fein, Accounting for Genocide (London: The Free Press, 1979), 33.
3
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Greeting to the NAACP,” June 25, 1938, The American Presidency Project,
University of California, Santa Barbara, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index/php?pid=15663
(accessed January 5, 2009).
4
“Program of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School website,
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/nsdappro.asp (accessed December 29, 2008).

88
Lesson 7

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Three in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Weimar Republic: Historical Context


and Decision-Making

?WHY teach this material?


Rationale
Adolf Hitler did not gain power by a military coup; he gained power primarily through
lawful means. How did this happen? What factors may have influenced the choices made
by regular people that led to the popularity of the Nazi Party? In this lesson, students will
explore primary documents that will help them answer these questions. As they interpret
how conditions during the Weimar Republic may have impacted the appeal of the Nazi
Party to specific German citizens, students begin to recognize how economic, political,
social, and cultural factors influence their own beliefs and choices.

LEARNING OUTCOMES
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What was life like in Germany during the Weimar Republic (1920–1933)?
• How did the Nazi Party, a small, unpopular political group in 1920, become the
most powerful political party in Germany by 1933?
• What is historical context? How does our historical context shape our beliefs and
choices?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Interpreting primary source documents
• Connecting historical context to individual choices and beliefs
• Collaborating with peers
• Presenting information in an oral presentation
• Active listening and speaking in a class discussion
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Weimar Republic
• Democracy
• Economy
• Depression
• Political party
• Inflation
• Versailles Treaty
• Constitution
• Historical context
• Nazi
• Hitler

Lesson 7 • 89
• Fear/bullying
• Antisemitism
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

?WHAT is this lesson about?


The history of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) illuminates one of the most creative
and tumultuous periods of the twentieth century. According to historian Paul
Bookbinder, “The fourteen years of the Weimar Republic were a way station on the road
to genocide, and yet they also witnessed the struggle of many decent, sincere people to
create a just and humane society in a time of great artistic creativity.”1 Looking at
Germany in the early 1920s, we would see a society with the following characteristics: a
constitution that established separate branches of government, numerous outlets for cre-
ative expression, many groups vying for political power through an electoral process, a
plentiful dose of cultural disagreement—characteristics familiar to many democratic
nations today. The Weimar Constitution granted women the right to vote while this right
was still being denied to women in the United States. The constitution also protected
civil liberties and religious freedom.

While Germans were adjusting to democratic political institutions and modern ideas
about civil liberties, they were also slowly recovering from their losses in World War I and
coping with the pressures placed upon them by the Versailles Treaty. Losing overseas
colonies and paying war reparations were crippling Germany’s already war-torn economy.
In 1923, Germans suffered astounding hyperinflation. People who had saved their money
in banks or were living on pensions or disability checks found themselves bankrupt.
Those with salaries found that they could not keep up with the perpetual rise in prices.

German Inflation Chart (1919–1923)

Date Marks U.S. Dollars

1919 4.2 1

1921 75 1

1922 400 1

Jan. 1923 7,000 1

Jul. 1923 160,000 1

Aug. 1923 1,000,000 1

Nov. 1, 1923 1,300,000,000 1

Nov. 15, 1923 1,300,000,000,000 1

Nov. 16, 1923 4,200,000,000,000 1

Lesson 7 • 90
At the height of this inflationary period, Hitler tried to organize a coup. At a beer hall in
Munich, he gave a speech declaring that the government should be overthrown. He was
arrested and was found guilty of treason. According to German law, Hitler, at the time an
Austrian citizen, should have been deported. But the judge decided not to follow the law,
explaining, “In the case of a man whose thoughts and feelings are as German as Hitler’s,
the court is of the opinion that the intent and purpose of the law have no application.”3
During the Weimar Republic, it was commonplace for judges to place the need for order
and patriotism before the law. German judges, many of whom had worked under the for-
mer monarchy, did not consider themselves responsible for upholding Germany’s new
constitution. For example, artists and activists were fined or imprisoned if they expressed
ideas that were contrary to those held by the mostly conservative judges.

Hitler spent nine months in jail. During


that time he wrote Mein Kampf (My
Struggle). This book expanded on many of
the ideas articulated in the Nazi Party plat-
form. Hitler wrote extensively about the
superiority of the Aryan race and the privi-
leges that should be bestowed on Aryans. In
Mein Kampf, Hitler characterized Jews as a
threat to the German people and to the
world at large. He added to long-held anti-
semitic beliefs and fears with exaggerated
claims of the financial and political success
of the Jewish community. Even though Jews
made up only 1% of the German popula-
tion, Hitler made it appear as if they were
operating a conspiracy to take over
Germany. The increased visibility of some
Jewish Germans, including physicist Albert
Einstein and composer Arnold Schoenberg,
could have been interpreted as evidence of
the Jewish community’s contributions to
German culture and position in the world.
Yet, Hitler manipulated examples of Jewish
success to prove his theory that Jews were
the enemy.

Drawing from the German public’s frustra-


Adolf Hitler on the cover of Mein Kampf, published in 1925.
tion with the government’s mishandling of
the economy and then the attention of Mein
Kampf, the Nazi Party gained popularity.
Hitler and other Nazi leaders organized rallies and strengthened the Hitler Youth
Movement. James Luther Adams, an American student traveling in Germany in 1927,
recounts his experience at a Nazi rally. When he questioned some men about how they
planned on “purifying Germany of Jewish blood,” he was quickly shushed and led out of
the rally. His German companion then reprimanded Adams, warning, “Don’t you know
that in Germany today you keep your mouth shut of you’ll get your head bashed in.”4
Many political parties at that time had their own paramilitary branch, and the Nazis were
no different. Nazi “stormtroopers,” or “brownshirts” as they were later called, were known

Lesson 7 • 91
to intimidate political opponents if they spoke against Nazi leaders or ideas. The German
police were often required to break up street fights between Nazi brownshirts and their
Communist Party counterparts.

By 1928, the German economy improved, largely as the result of the Dawes Plan—an
agreement between the United States and Germany whereby American banks offered the
German government and businesses loans to rebuild their country. By this time,
Germany had also been invited to join the League of Nations. No longer international
outcasts or in financial turmoil, Germans seemed less interested in Hitler’s ideas that the
Jews and the rest of the world were to blame for Germany’s problems. In the 1928 elec-
tions, the Nazi Party only received 2 percent of the votes. However, the global depression
of 1929 rejuvenated the Nazi Party. With unemployment high and many Germans con-
cerned about how they could shelter and feed their family, Hitler’s scapegoating of the
Jews and promises of jobs regained popularity. In the 1932 presidential election, 84% of
all eligible voters cast ballots. Hitler lost his bid for president. But, in July 1932, the Nazi
Party won their greatest victory yet—37% of the seats in the Reichstag. While not a clear
majority, the Nazis had received more votes than any other political party.

Reichstag Election Results (1928–1932):


Number of seats won by major political parties5

Party 1928 1930 July 1932 November 1932

Social Democrat 153 143 133 121

Center 62 68 75 70

Communist 54 77 89 100

Nazi 12 107 230 196

People’s 45 30 7 11

With all of this change and turmoil in German society, one thing that did not change was
the education system. In classrooms, German students continued to be taught about
Germany’s heroic past. Klaus, a German who was in school during this period, recalls,
“We were taught history as a series of facts. We had to learn dates, names, places and bat-
tles. Periods during which Germany won wars were emphasized. Periods during which
Germany lost wars were sloughed over. We heard very little about World War I; expect
that the Versailles peace treaty was a disgrace. . . .”6 He continues to describe how lessons
were designed to prepare students for a national final exam. The exam emphasized rote
memorization; students were not asked to analyze information or draw their own conclu-
sions. Studying the German education system at this time begs the question of how to
best prepare students for living in a democracy. In what ways might an education system
designed for a monarchical system be inadequate for preparing students for their future
role as participatory citizens?

In the next lesson, students will see how the success of the Nazi Party in the 1932 elec-
tions led to the unraveling of democracy in Germany. By August of 1933, Germany was a

Lesson 7 • 92
totalitarian government ruled by one dictator, Adolf Hitler. Jews were no longer allowed
to work in the government or in universities. Many famous artists and intellectuals had
left Germany, choosing to reside in places where they could enjoy artistic and intellectual
freedom. Women, once allowed the right to vote and serve in government, were now told
that their place was in the home as wives and mothers. Gone were political parties, elec-
tions, artistic diversity, and freedom of religion. In its place was a nation ruled by fear
and propaganda where difference and dissent were prosecuted and often punished by
imprisonment or even death.

Learning about the Weimar Republic does not only help students understand the origins
of Hitler’s dictatorship, but it also serves as a lesson on the fragility of democracy.
Democracy is a system of government that depends on the resilience of both its institu-
tions and its citizens. For example, constitutional rights gain meaning through a func-
tioning judicial system that protects those rights and an open public space where citizens
can safely express dissent. In a healthy democracy, leaders are held accountable by citizens
who are critical consumers of information, especially political propaganda, and who are
active participants who speak up against injustice rather than passively watch it unfold.
An understanding of the Weimar Republic helps us recognize these essential ingredients
to a vibrant, sustaining democracy.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Voices in the Dark,” pp. 126–27
“What Did You Learn at School Today?” pp. 128–30
“Order and Law,” pp. 130–33
“Criticizing Society,” pp. 133–35
“Inflation Batters the Weimar Republic,” pp. 135–37
“A Revolt in a Beer Hall,” pp. 137–41
“Creating the Enemy,” pp. 141–44
“Beyond the Stereotypes,” pp. 144–46
“Hard Times Return,” pp. 146–50

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: two class periods
Suggestion for how to implement this lesson over two class periods: During the first day
of this lesson, students can begin their group work (steps 1–3 of the main activity). Any
unfinished work can be assigned for homework. After giving groups a few minutes to
check in about their presentations, you can begin day two of this lesson with step four of
the main activity—presentations and class discussion.

Materials
Handout 1: Weimar Republic biographies
Handout 2: Weimar Republic: Primary source documents 1–10
Handout 3: Weimar Republic timeline
Handout 4: Weimar Republic timeline answer bank
Handout 5: The Election of 1932

Lesson 7 • 93
Opener
The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand how the particular historical
context of the Weimar Republic shaped the voting decisions of German citizens, many of
whom ultimately voted for the Nazi Party in 1932. You can begin this lesson by having
students recognize how their own attitudes and actions have been influenced by their his-
torical context.

First, ask students to brainstorm a list of major events that have taken place in their life-
time. You might ask students to respond to the question, “Twenty years from now, what
do you think people will remember about the time period in which you grew up? What
major events took place? What ideas, inventions, or people will people remember when
they look back at this time?” With this list posted on the board or wall, explain that these
items make up the historical context in which students live. You might want to add his-
torical context to your word wall and/or have students record a definition for historical
context in their journals.

Then ask students to identify an example of how their historical context has shaped their
life. Another way to look at this question would be for students to consider how their
choices and beliefs might be different if they had been born in a different time period or
a different part of the world.

Main Activities
Explain to students that they will be using the documents they review in this lesson to
begin to answer the following question: “How did the Nazis go from being an unpopular
political group in 1920 to being the most powerful political party in Germany by 1932?”
You can put this question on the board to remind students of the purpose of this lesson.
To answer this question, students need to understand the historical context of the
Weimar Republic—the time period from the establishment of democracy in Germany at
the end of World War I—to Hitler’s dismantling of democracy in 1933.

Students will work in groups of four or five for this four-step activity.

Step one: Recognize the perspective of a German living during the Weimar Republic
Handout 1 includes short biographical sketches, representing typical experiences of
German citizens during the Weimar Republic. Assign one German citizen to each
of the groups. Ask for a volunteer from each group to read the text aloud. Then
have the group make an identity chart for this German citizen. [For more informa-
tion on making identity charts, refer to page 8 in the resource book.]

Step two: Describe conditions during the Weimar Republic (establishing historical
context)
What political, economic, social, and cultural events might be impacting the life of
this individual? To answer this question, students will analyze primary source docu-
ments. You can use all or some of the documents included at the end of this lesson
(handout 2). You can find other documents on Facing History’s online module
“The Weimar Republic: The Fragility of Democracy.” (Refer to the extension sec-
tion of this lesson for more information about this resource.)

Lesson 7 • 94
Students can go through these documents together. Or, they could each take one or
two documents and then present their analysis to the members of their group.
Students could share information as they complete a timeline for the Weimar
Republic (handout 3). If students need additional support, you can give them an
answer bank that they can use to complete the timeline (handout 4). Alternatively,
students could construct an identity chart for the Weimar Republic.

To help students retain this historical information, you could have them create their
own timeline by cutting out images and captions and pasting them in the appropri-
ate place on a large sheet of paper. Reviewing students’ timelines and/or their
responses to the questions about the primary source documents will reveal the
depth of students’ understanding of the historical context of the Weimar Republic.
You may find the need to help students understand concepts such as inflation and
depression as they interpret the documents.

Step three: Synthesize information about historical context to answer the question,
“How might conditions during the Weimar Republic have influenced the voting
decisions of German citizens?”
Once you are confident that students have an understanding of the conditions dur-
ing the Weimar Republic, ask them to consider how the citizen they have been
assigned might vote in the July 1932 election. Groups will explain their answer to
the rest of the class. To prepare students for this presentation, you can have them
complete handout 5.

Step four: Present and discuss


A representative from each group shares how they think their German citizen will
vote in the election and explains their decision. Then you can share the results of
the election: The Nazis won 37% of the seats in the Reichstag, which was more
than any other political party. This made the Nazi Party the most powerful political
party in Germany. [See the extension section for information on how to use the
documents on Facing History’s Weimar Republic online module to help illustrate
this point.]

Now students have enough information to participate in a discussion that both syn-
thesizes what students have learned thus far and foreshadows the history students
will explore in the following lessons. Prompts for this discussion might include:

• How did the Nazi Party, a small, unpopular political group in 1920, become the
most powerful political party in Germany by 1932?
• If all Germans lived through the same economic, political and cultural events,
then why didn’t all Germans vote in the same way? Why do you think more than
half of German citizens did not vote for the Nazi Party?
• In 1932, there were no penalties for those who did not vote for the Nazi Party, as
citizens voted using secret ballots. What, then, can explain why many Germans
voted for the Nazi Party in 1932? What could have been done in the early 1930s
that might have prevented the Nazis from gaining so much power?
• Given what you know about Nazi beliefs, what do you think they might do now
that they are in power?

Lesson 7 • 95
• What might limit the power of the Nazis? In a democracy, what keeps one group
or one person from having too much power?
• What can happen in a society if one group or one person has unlimited power?

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


One way to reinforce students’ understanding of the material in this lesson is to review
the concept of historical context that was introduced during the lesson opener. Students’
exploration of elections during the Weimar Republic demonstrates how people do not
make decisions in a vacuum. Individuals’ attitudes and actions are shaped by their eco-
nomic, political, and cultural surroundings. Yet, the same event can impact people in dif-
ferent ways because we all have distinct identities. Students could spend time at the end
of this lesson reflecting on the relationship between their current context and their iden-
tity. You might select several major events or trends taking place in students’ community
(local, national, or global) and have students share how this event has impacted their life.

Another way to approach this topic is to have students reflect on the question, “Do peo-
ple make history or does history make people?” This prompt can lead to a stimulating
discussion about the degree to which people shape their world or are shaped by their
world. Students can begin answering this question by drawing from their knowledge of
the Weimar Republic. Who (or what) is more responsible for the victory of the Nazi
Party—the German citizens or the Depression of 1929? Then students can apply this
question to their own social world by considering questions such as: In what ways are you
influenced by the peer culture around you? In what ways do you influence this culture?

Assessment(s)
Students’ work interpreting primary source documents, their presentations, and their par-
ticipation in class discussions can be used to evaluate students’ historical understanding
and their ability to make connections between context and individuals’ choices and
beliefs. You can have students complete the timeline in groups or as a quiz to gauge their
awareness of the sequence of historical events. A final assessment of this lesson might ask
students to write a brief essay responding to the following prompt: Explain how you
think the German citizen you were assigned voted in the 1932 election. In your answer,
describe how the historical context and this individual’s personal identity impacted
his/her decision.

Extensions
• For homework, you might ask students to interview someone in their family or
community who has voted in a national election about the factors that influenced
their choice at the ballot box. Students may find that the same factors that influ-
enced voters during the Weimar Republic (e.g., the economy, fear, cultural
issues. . .) also shape the voting decisions of people today.
• The Weimar Republic: The Fragility of Democracy is an online module created by
Facing History and Ourselves (http://www.facinghistorycampus.org/campus
/weimar.nsf/Home?OpenFrameSet). The module was developed so that teachers and
students could create their own learning paths to explore the many facets of
German society in the years between World War I and World War II. Many of the
documents included with this lesson can also be found in this module. The module
includes many more historical artifacts, including images, songs, political cartoons,

Lesson 7 • 96
and speech excerpts. Additionally, historian Paul Bookbinder’s reading, “Why Study
Weimar Germany: Questions for Today,” which is posted on the module, makes
excellent background reading for teachers and students with college-level reading
skills.
• Another way to introduce students to the Weimar Republic is through the film
Witness to the Holocaust. Episode 1, “The Rise of the Nazis,” provides some excel-
lent visual imagery and commentary on the first years of the Weimar Republic. The
episode is only 20 minutes long, but the class need only watch the first 8 minutes
of the film. This covers the devastation of the war, the Treaty of Versailles, hyperin-
flation, riots in the street, and other issues. This film can be borrowed from the
Facing History library, but it is only available in VHS format.
• Rather than use a collection of primary source documents, many teachers have
helped students understand conditions during the Weimar Republic by interpreting
the painting The Agitator by George Grosz. This painting includes symbolic refer-
ences to many of the key ideas represented in this lesson (e.g., economic hardship,
the Nazis’ use of terror and propaganda, antisemitism, etc.). For more information
on how you might use this painting in the classroom, refer to the lesson
“Interpreting. . . .” found in the lessons and units section of the Facing History
website.
• You can add geography skills to this lesson, by showing a map of Germany before
and after World War I. This will help students appreciate the impact of Germany’s
loss on the national psyche. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum posts
a map that illustrates the European territory Germany relinquished by signing the
Versailles Treaty (http://www.ushmm.org/lcmedia/map/lc/image/ger71020.gif ).
Germany also had to give up her colonies overseas. The Nationmaster website lists
former German colonies and provides a map of their location (http://www.nation
master.com/encyclopedia/List-of-former-German-colonies).

Lesson 7 • 97
Lesson 7: Handout 1
Weimar Republic biographies7

Hermann Struts
Hermann Struts, a lieutenant in the German army, fought bravely during the war. He comes from
a long line of army officers and is himself a graduate of the German military academy. Struts has
always taken pride in the army’s able defense of the nation and its strong leadership. Yet Struts is
bitter about the fact that he has not had a promotion in over ten years. Few soldiers have, mainly
because the Treaty of Versailles limited the size of the German army. In the old army, Struts
would have been at least a captain by now and possibly a major. The treaty, he argues, has
harmed not only Germany’s honor but also his own honor as a soldier. He feels that if the govern-
ment had refused to sign the treaty and allowed the army to fight, both he and Germany would
be better off.

Otto Hauptmann
Otto Hauptmann works in a factory in Berlin. Although his trade union has actively worked for
better conditions and higher wages, it has not made many gains. Hauptmann blames their lack of
success on the 1923 inflation and the current depression. He believes that the union would be
more successful if the economy were more stable. Still, it is the union that has kept him
employed. At a time when many of his friends have been laid off, his union persuaded the owners
of his factory to keep men with seniority.

Karl Schmidt
Karl Schmidt is an employed worker who lives in the rich steel-producing Ruhr Valley. Like so
many men in the Ruhr, he lost his job because of the depression. Yet Schmidt notes that the own-
ers of the steel mills still live in big houses and drive expensive cars. Why are they protected from
the depression while their former employees suffer? Although the government does provide
unemployment compensation, the money is barely enough to support Schmidt, his wife, and their
two children. Yet the government claims that it cannot afford to continue even these payments
much longer. Schmidt feels that the government would be in a stronger position to help people if
it cut off all reparations.

Elisabeth von Kohler


Elisabeth von Kohler, a prominent attorney who attended the University of Bonn, has a strong
sense of German tradition. She believes that her people’s contributions to Western civilization
have been ignored. Kohler would like to see the republic lead a democratic Europe. She disap-
proves of the methods the Weimar Republic often uses to silence and repress different points of
view. Her sense of justice is even more outraged by the way the victors of World War I, particu-
larly France, view Germany. She would like to prove to the world that the Germans are indeed a
great race. She is proud to be an attorney and a German woman in the Weimar Republic.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 98
Lesson 7: Handout 1
Weimar Republic biographies

Gerda Munchen
Gerda Munchen is the owner of a small Munich grocery store started by her parents. For years,
her parents saved to send her to the university. But Munchen chose not to go and the money
stayed in the bank. In 1923, she had planned to use the money to pay for her children’s education.
But that year inflation hit Germany. Just before her older daughter was to leave for the univer-
sity, the bank informed the family that its savings were worthless. This was a blow to Munchen,
but even more of a blow to her daughter, whose future hung in the balance. Munchen does not
think she will ever regain her savings. With so many people out of work, sales are down sharply.
And Munchen’s small grocery is having a tough time competing with the large chain stores. They
can offer far lower prices. She and her children question a system that has made life so difficult
for hardworking people.

Albert Benjamin
Albert Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at the University of Berlin. While his grandparents
were religious Jews, Benjamin is not religious. Benjamin’s three brothers, however, are religious
Jews. He is very proud of his German heritage, and even volunteered to serve in the German
Army during World War I. After the war, Benjamin married Eva Steiner. Eva is Protestant and they
are raising their three children as Christians. Benjamin is concerned because prices have gone up
while his salary as a professor has not. His family can no longer afford vacations and special pres-
ents for the children. His wife worries that if the economic problems continue, the family might
have to cut back on spending for food.

Eric von Ronheim


Eric von Ronheim, the head of a Frankfurt textile (fabric) factory, is very concerned about the
depression. Sales are down and so are profits. If only Germany had not been treated so ruthlessly
at Versailles, he argues, the nation would be far better off. Instead the government has had to
impose heavy taxes to pay reparations to its former enemies. As a result, Germans are overtaxed
with little money to spend on textiles and other consumer goods. The worldwide depression has
made matters worse by making it difficult to sell German products to other countries. Even if the
depression were over, Ronheim does not think taxes would come down because of reparation
payments.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 99
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 1
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

World War I
In 1924, Otto Dix, an artist and veteran of World War I created a series of pictures illustrating his experi-
ence as a soldier in the war. He titled this picture, Battle-Weary Troups Retreat.
Facts: Over half of the German army was hurt or killed during World War I. Almost two million German
soldiers died and over four million German soldiers were wounded.8

Speaking about World War I, Otto Dix said:


“As a young man you don’t notice at all that you were, after all, badly affected. For years afterwards, at
least ten years, I kept getting these dreams, in which I had to crawl through ruined houses, along passages
I could hardly get through.”
“People were already beginning to forget, what horrible suffering the war had brought them. I did not want
to cause fear and panic, but to let people know how dreadful war is. . .”9

Questions:
1. What does this picture by Otto Dix tell you about World War I?

2. How do you think World War I impacted Germany? (Use all of the information on this page to answer
this question.) How might it feel to live in Germany after World War I?

3. How might World War I have impacted __________________ (the German citizen you have been
assigned)?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 100
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 2
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

The Treaty of Versailles


(the peace treaty that ended World War I, signed in 1919)

Excerpt from the Treaty of Versailles10

231. Germany and her Allies accept the responsibility for causing all the
loss and damage to the Allied Powers.
233. Germany will pay for all damages done to the civilian population and
property of the Allied Governments.

Reaction to the Treaty of Versailles published in a German newspaper:

“[T]oday German honor is being carried to its grave. Do not forget it! The German people will, with unceas-
ing labor, press forward to reconquer the place among the nations to which it is entitled. Then will come
vengeance for the shame of 1919.”11

Questions:
1. When was the Treaty of Versailles signed?

2. What did Germany agree to when signing this treaty to end World War I?

3. How do you think the terms of the Versailles Treaty impacted __________________ (the German citizen
you have been assigned)? How might he/she have felt about this treaty?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 101
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 3
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

The Weimar Constitution (approved in 1919)


After Germany lost World War I, the king left the country and a new government was formed. It was called
the Weimar Republic because it was formed in Weimar, a city in Germany. One of the first acts of this new
government was to write a constitution. A constitution is a document which sets up the way a nation will
govern itself. Questions such as “Who writes the laws? Who picks the leaders? Who is a citizen? And what
rights do they have?” are answered in a nation’s constitution.

Excerpts from the Weimar Constitution12


Article 22
Members of parliament are elected in a general, equal, immediate and
secret election; voters are men and women older than 20 years . . .
Article 109
All Germans are equal in front of the law . . .
Article 118
Every German is entitled, within the bounds set by general law, to express
his opinion freely in word, writing, print, image or otherwise . . .
Article 123
All Germans have the right to assemble peacefully and unarmed . . .
Article 135
All Reich inhabitants enjoy full freedom of liberty and conscience.
Undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed by the constitution and is
placed under the protection of the state . . .

Questions:
1. When was the Weimar Constitution approved?

2. What does the constitution say about elections?

3. What rights does the Weimar Constitution give to German citizens living at this time?

4. What thoughts or opinions might __________________ (the German citizen you have been assigned) have
had about any of the ideas in the Weimar Constitution?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 102
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 4
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

Hyperinflation

Germans describe life during the hyper-inflation:

Lingering at the [shop] window was a luxury because


shopping had to be done immediately. Even an addi-
tional minute meant an increase in price. One had to
buy quickly because a rabbit, for example, might cost
two million marks more by the time it took to walk into
the store. A few million marks meant nothing, really. It
was just that it meant more lugging. . . . People had to
start carting their money around in wagons and knap-
sacks.13

Of course all the little people who had small savings


were wiped out. But the big factories and banking
houses and multimillionaires didn’t seem to be affected
at all. They went right on piling up their millions. Those
big holdings were protected somehow from loss. But
the mass of the people were completely broke. And we
asked ourselves, “How can that happen?”. . . . But after
that, even those people who used to save didn’t trust
money anymore, or the government. We decided to
have a high-ho time whenever we had any spare
money, which wasn’t often.14

Inflation is when money loses its value. During an inflation, you need more money to buy the same item
(e.g., $3 to buy milk when it used to cost $2). Hyperinflation is very high inflation. This picture, taken in
1923, shows German children playing with stacks of money. Because of hyperinflation, German money had
become virtually worthless. People even put paper money in their stoves, instead of wood, to heat their
homes.

Questions:
1. When was this photograph taken?

2. Describe what you see in this photograph.

3. What does this image and the quotations tell you about how hyperinflation impacted life in Germany
at this time? How might it feel to live in Germany at this time?

4. How might hyperinflation have impacted __________________ (the German citizen you have been
assigned)?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 103
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 5
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) —


published in 1925

Quotations from Mein Kampf:

“The Jew has always been a people with definite racial


characteristics and never a religion.”15

“What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence


and reproduction of our race and our people, the suste-
nance of our children and the purity of our blood, the
freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that
our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mis-
sion allotted it by the creator of the universe.”16

“[T]he personification of the devil as the symbol of all


evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.”17

Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) while he was in jail for treason (trying to overthrow the German
government). In this book, Hitler writes about many of the ideas in the Nazi Party platform. He writes that
one cannot be both a German and a Jew and that the Jews are hurting Germany. He also writes that
Germans are part of a superior race and that Germany should have never signed the Versailles Treaty.

Questions:
1. When was Mein Kampf written? By whom?

2. What ideas are expressed in this book?

3. What do you think ___________________(the German citizen you have been assigned) would have thought
if he/she read Mein Kampf? Would any of the ideas have appealed to him/her?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 104
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 6
Weimar Republic Historical Context: Primary source documents

Culture and Arts During the Weimar Republic

Metropolis by Otto Dix (1928)

Otto Dix painted Metropolis to represent the cultural life of many German cities during the Weimar
Republic. Throughout the 1920s in Germany, the arts flourished. The number of dance halls (cabarets), art
galleries, and movie houses increased. While some Germans were excited by this artistic growth, other
Germans saw the music, films, and images as evidence that German culture was becoming immoral and out
of control. Even though the Weimar Constitution said that Germans had the right to freedom of expres-
sion, many artists, including Otto Dix, were fined or arrested for producing work that was considered “anti-
German” by judges.

Questions:
1. When was Metropolis painted?

2. Describe this painting. What do you see?

3. What message do you think the artist is trying to send about art and culture during the Weimar
Republic?

4. What do you think __________________ (the German citizen you have been assigned) would have thought
about German culture during the Weimar Republic? Would he/she have been more likely to be excited
about artistic freedom or worried that this art was evidence of Germany’s moral decline?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 105
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 7
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

Antisemitism

When Jews face discrimination or when they are


harmed because of the fact that they are Jewish it is
called antisemitism. This word was invented in 1879 by a
German journalist who described antisemitism as a
hatred of Jews because they belonged to a separate
race.

Before antisemitism was a word, Jews, like many minor-


ity groups, had been discriminated against in Germany
(and the rest of Europe). For hundreds of years, and
especially during tough economic times, Jews had been
denied certain jobs, had been forced to live in certain
sections of town, and had been victims of violence and
bullying. Even though many Jews assimilated—blended
into mainstream society—they were still often thought
of as different.

In the 1920s, the German press published books and articles portraying negative ideas about Jews. In this
cartoon, published in 1929, the top square shows a German family leaving Germany because of economic
conditions. In the bottom square, the shop signs all have Jewish names and the men are supposed to repre-
sent Jewish businessmen.

Questions:
1. When was this cartoon published?

2. The name of this cartoon is “Fatherland.” What message do you think it is trying to send? What story
does it tell?

3. How might the rise of antisemitism have impacted __________________ (the German citizen you have
been assigned)? What do you think he/she might have thought when seeing this cartoon?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 106
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 8
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

Depression

Depression is a word used to describe a time when many workers are unemployed. During a depression,
companies make less money and some may close. As a result, workers lose their jobs. Without regular
paychecks, many workers and their families struggle. They might not have money to buy food or pay rent.

In 1929, Germany’s economy was in a depression. With so many people out of work and with wages low,
many Germans relied on the government and charities for food. This photograph, taken in 1930, shows a
long line of men waiting for soup in Berlin. In 1932, Germany’s economy was still suffering and the unem-
ployment rate remained very high.

Questions:
1. When was this photograph taken?

2. Describe what you see in this image.

3. What does this image tell you about life in Germany at this time? How might it feel to live in Germany
at this time?

4. How might the depression have impacted __________________ (the German citizen you have been
assigned)?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 107
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 9
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

Fear in the Streets: Nazi Stormtroopers

James Luther Adams, an American student, attended a


Nazi rally in 1927. A young Nazi supporter told him that
it was necessary for Germany to be free of Jewish
blood. Adams asked him where the Jews would go if
they were forced to leave Germany. The conversation
continued and suddenly, somebody grabbed Luther and
dragged him down an alley. Luther recalls what hap-
pened next:

I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Was he


going to beat me up because of what I had been saying
. . . He shouted at me in German, “You damn fool, don’t
you know that in Germany today you keep your mouth
shut or you’ll get your head bashed in. . . . You know
what I have done. I’ve saved you from getting beaten
up. They were not going to continue arguing with you.
You were going to be lying flat on the pavement.18

This postcard made in 1930 shows a crowd of Germans saluting Hitler. Next to Hitler is a Nazi
stormtrooper. Stormtroopers were the military branch of the Nazi Party. Hitler organized the stormtroop-
ers to protect Nazi meetings and rallies. Many of the stormtroopers were former soldiers who were now
unemployed. They often carried weapons and intimidated people who spoke against the Nazi Party.

Questions:
1. When was this postcard made?

2. Describe what you see in this image.

3. What does this image tell you about life in Germany at this time? How might it feel to live in Germany
at this time?

4. How might these conditions at Nazi rallies (and in the streets as well) have impacted __________________
(the German citizen you have been assigned)?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 108
Lesson 7: Handout 2, Document 10
Weimar Republic: Primary source documents

1932 Nazi Election Posters

In July of 1932, Germans voted in national elections. Before the elections, the Nazi Party, as well as other
political parties, used posters as one way to attract voters. In the photograph on the left, German youth
are standing next to an election poster that says, “Adolf Hitler will provide work and bread. Elect List 2!”
The posters on the wall behind them are Nazi election posters urging women and workers to vote for the
Nazis. The poster on the right says, “Workers of the mind and hand, vote for the soldier Hitler.”

Questions:
1. When were these posters made? Why were they made?

2. Describe what you see in these images.

3. What does this image tell you about life in Germany at this time?

4. How might Nazi posters like these have impacted __________________ (the German citizen you have been
assigned)?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 109
Lesson 7: Handout 3
Weimar Republic timeline

Directions: Write a short caption describing what was happening during these dates on the timeline.

1916

1918

1919

1920

1923

1925

1929

1932

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 110
Lesson 7: Handout 4
Weimar Republic timeline answer bank

Directions: Match these captions with the correct date on the Weimar Republic timeline. Some dates
might link to more than one caption.

The Nazi Party does not receive enough votes in elections to earn a seat in parliament.

Depression hits Germany. Unemployment rises.

World War I devastates Europe.

Versailles peace treaty is signed, ending World War I. Germany is held responsible and
must pay back the winners of the war.

German money becomes virtually worthless due to inflation. Many Germans struggle to
afford food and shelter.

Weimar Constitution is approved. For the first time in history, Germany has a democratic
government.

In elections in July, the Nazi Party receives 45% of the votes—more votes than any other
political party.

The Nazis publish their party platform. Hitler organizes former soliders as “stormtroop-
ers” to protect Nazi rallies and meetings.

Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) by Adolf Hitler is published.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 111
Lesson 7: Handout 5
The Election of 1932

Using your understanding of conditions during the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) and your under-
standing of the Nazi Party platform, consider the reasons why the Nazi Party might appeal, or not
appeal to the German citizen you have been assigned.

Reasons why the Nazi Party might appeal to Reasons why the Nazi Party might not appeal to
(fill in name of your assigned German citizen) (fill in name of your assigned German citizen)

Based on the information in this chart, do you think this citizen is very likely, likely, or not likely at all
to vote for the Nazi Party in the 1932 election?

Explain your answer:

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how historical context can impact decision-making by studying
Weimar Germany. • 112
Notes
1
Paul Bookbinder, “Why Study the Weimar Republic?” The Weimar Republic: The Fragility of Democracy,
Facing History website, (accessed January 5, 2009).
2
“1923 Germany’s Hyperinflation: Loads of Money,” The Economist, December 23, 1999, (accessed January
5, 2009).
3
Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Brookline: Facing
History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc., 1994), 137–38.
4
James Luther Adams, interview, No Authority but from God, vol. 1 (VHS) (Boston: James Luther Adams
Foundation, 1990).
5
Stephen Lee, Weimar and Nazi Germany: Heinemann Secondary History Project (Oxford: Heinemann
Educational Publishers, 1996), 35.
6
Ellen Eichenwald Switzer, How Democracy Failed (New York: Atheneum, 1977), 62–63.
7
Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Brookline: Facing
History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc., 1994), 148–50.
8
“World War I,” One Thousand Children: Georgia’s Role in the Rescue of Jewish Children, The Breman website,
http://www.thebreman.org/exhibitions/online/1000kids/WWI.html (accessed January 6, 2009)
9
Otto Dix, “Otto Dix,” Spartacus website, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTdix.htm (accessed
January 6, 2009).
10
“Primary Documents: Treaty of Versailles,” FirstWorldWar.com website,
http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles231-247.htm (accessed January 6, 2009).
11
Koppel S. Pinson, Modern Germany: Its History and Civilization (New York: Macmillan, 1954), 398.
12
“Weimar Constitution,” PSM-Data History website, http://www.zum.de/psn/weimar/weimar_vve.php
(accessed January 6, 2009).
13
George Grosz, A Little Yes and a Big No: The Autobiography of George Grosz, trans. L.S. Dorin (New York:
Dial, 1946), 63.
14
Rolf Knight and Phyllis Knight, A Very Ordinary Life (Vancouver: New Star Books), 59–60.
http://www.rolfknight.ca/A_Very_Ordinary_Life.pdf (accessed January 6, 2009).
15
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), 306.
16
Ibid., 214.
17
Ibid., 324.
18
Adams, No Authority but from God (VHS).

113
Lesson 8

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Four in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Fragility of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In the previous lesson, students learned that the Nazis won
more votes than any other political party in Germany during
the elections held in July and November of 1932. The pur-
pose of this lesson is twofold: 1) to help students understand
how Hitler was able to use the Nazis’ victory in these elec-
tions to suppress opposition, control the spread of informa-
tion, use fear to establish authority, and, ultimately, to make
himself Führer, the supreme leader of Germany, and 2) to
help students recognize how the choices made by German
citizens, members of parliament, and other leaders con-
tributed to Hitler’s rise to power. Focusing on the choices
made by ordinary people helps students appreciate how his-
tory is shaped by the everyday actions of individuals and
counters the popular narrative that only leaders have the
power to influence society. An awareness of how people like
them have impacted the past encourages adolescents to see
themselves as potential change-makers as well. The materials
and activities suggested in this lesson also help students
understand how democracy can be undermined without an
independent judiciary, civil liberties, and citizens who are
encouraged to think critically.

This 1930 postcard depicts Hitler and a stormtrooper


watching over a Nazi Party rally.

LEARNING GOALS:
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions about history and human behavior:
• What is a dictator? What is a dictatorship?
• What happened to allow Hitler to become dictator of Germany?
• What makes a democracy fragile? What can be done to protect and strengthen democracy?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Paraphrasing
• Understanding the chronology of events on a timeline
• Presenting information to others

Lesson 8 • 114
• Using historical evidence to answer questions about the past
•Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Dictator/dictatorship
• Democracy
• Article 48
• President Hindenburg
• Reichstag (parliament)
• Veto
• Chancellor
• Citizen
• Gestapo
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

?WHAT is this lesson about?


In the previous lesson, students learned that the Nazis won more votes than any other
political party in Germany during the July 1932 elections. Even though they only won
37% of the votes, signifying that more than half of the German electorate did not vote for
the Nazi Party, this was during an election that included over thirty political parties.
Some of these parties endorsed ideas similar to those of the Nazis. While the results of
the July 1932 elections demonstrated substantial support for the Nazis, they still did not
have the support of the entire populace. Less than two years later, with the support of
90% of the electorate, Hitler declared himself Fuhrer (dictator) and announced the
beginning of Germany’s Third Reich (empire). How did this happen?

One way of answering this question is through the lens of what Hitler did to make him-
self dictator. A more sophisticated understanding of this history requires us to look not
only at Hitler’s actions, but also to recognize how the choices made by German citizens,
members of parliament, and other leaders contributed to Hitler’s rise to power. For exam-
ple, the election of 1932 put Hitler in the position to become Chancellor, and from that
position of power he was able to manipulate Germany’s democratic system. Hitler had
spent years trying to obtain a leadership position in German government. Twice he had
run for president and twice the German citizens had decided to elect someone else. In
1932, however, with the Nazi Party obtaining more votes than any other political party
(although still not a majority), Hitler could now pressure Germany’s aged president, Paul
von Hindenburg, to appoint him as Chancellor, head of Germany’s Reichstag (parlia-
ment). President Hindenburg and his advisers knew that in order to pass the laws needed
to improve the economy, they would need the support of the Nazi Party. Even though
they were wary of Hitler’s ultimate intentions (after all, he had spoken against having a
democratic Germany on multiple occasions), President Hindenburg and his advisers still
had several reasons for appointing Hitler to the position of Chancellor. Some of
Hindenburg’s advisers believed that Hitler’s ambitions could be tempered once he had
real leadership. And other advisers believed that Hitler and the Nazis would lose credibil-
ity as soon as they showed that they could not right Germany’s economy. Imagine how
history might have been different if President Hindenburg had decided that, based on
Hitler’s earlier rhetoric, he could not be trusted in this powerful position.

Lesson 8 • 115
Wielding his new authority, one of the first moves Hitler made was to begin arresting and
intimidating members of the Communist Party, one of the Nazis’ most powerful political
rivals. Still, Hitler could not eliminate the communists entirely because the Weimar
Constitution protected citizens’ rights to form political parties. When the Reichstag was
set on fire on February 27, 1933, Hitler seized an opportunity for increasing his power.
Immediately after the fire, Hitler blamed the communists. To this day, historians have
not proven who started the fire, but regardless of who actually committed the crime,
many Germans believed Hitler’s claim that the communists were responsible for this
crime. The nation was in a state of crisis, and amidst crisis people generally seek the com-
fort of certitude rather than begin investigations that may lead to further questions and
uncertainty. In this context, Hitler’s request for President Hindenburg to invoke Article
48 for the purpose of protecting public safety might not have seemed strange or suspi-
cious to the German people. After all, they had just witnessed one of the major symbols
of government, the parliament building, go up in flames.

Excerpt of Article 48 from the Weimar Constitution1

In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich


President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if
necessary using armed force. In the pursuit of this aim, he may suspend
the civil rights described in articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and
153, partially or entirely.

Article 48 was written into the Weimar Constitution to help the government cope during
times of crisis. This clause allowed the president to issue edicts which had the force of law
during a crisis, even those that suspended civil liberties normally protected by the consti-
tution. Article 48 was viewed by many as a safety valve to protect Germany during state
emergencies. When the constitution was being drafted in the aftermath of World War I,
Germany endured considerable economic and political challenges. At this time, it was not
uncommon for political parties to fight against each other both verbally and physically.
The drafters were concerned that there might be occasions when competing political par-
ties would not be able to reach any agreement, and this could be a serious problem if
Germany were faced with a crisis, such as the hyperinflation that plagued Germany in
1923. Indeed, Germany’s first elected president invoked Article 48 over one hundred
times during his six years in office.2 Thus, it was not without precedent when President
Hindenburg invoked Article 48 and suspended parliament after the Reich fire.

Article 48 allowed Hitler to use the emergency power of the president to issue two laws
that suspended civil liberties, especially for those who opposed Hitler and the Nazis.
Hitler’s main targets were communists and anyone suspected of being a communist.
Hitler knew that even with Article 48, the members of the Reichstag still had some
power. Hitler could pass laws, but those laws could be vetoed with a majority of votes in
the parliament. Thus, Hitler’s first priority was silencing those who might oppose his laws.
He did this in several ways: Hitler created his own secret-service agents, the Gestapo, who
did not work under the supervision of the judiciary. He also established a concentration
camp at Dachau for anyone suspected of treason, which according to Hitler meant any-
one associated with the communists. So, even though after new elections were held in
March the communists were entitled to 81 deputies in the Reichstag, most of these

Lesson 8 • 116
representatives never claimed their seats; they were either already jailed or in hiding. Not
only did communists have reason to fear the Gestapo; anyone suspected of speaking
against the Nazis could be physically threatened or jailed.

Without sufficient opposition to veto his proposals, Hitler was now able to push many
laws through the Reichstag. Hitler established a new government department, the
Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, under the leadership of his top aide,
Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels helped organize book burnings to eliminate information con-
trary to Nazi ideology. He also used newspapers, political posters, and artists to spread
lies about Jews, communists, and other groups deemed undesirable, and to publicize how
the Nazi Party would improve the fate of the German people. Less than five months after
Hitler was appointed Chancellor, the Reichstag approved the Enabling Act, a law which
suspended the constitution indefinitely, and the Law Against the Establishment of Parties,
which outlawed all political parties except for the Nazi Party. By establishing these laws
(which will be explored in Lesson 10), Hitler manipulated the tools of democracy to
remove opposition and consolidate his power.

While it may appear that due to Hitler’s support in parliament he could not be stopped,
in truth, at any point, President Hindenburg could have removed Hitler from the posi-
tion of Chancellor—it was within his authority to do so. Yet, he believed that Hitler
could be controlled better from within the ranks of government, and, in a few instances,
Hitler demonstrated a capacity for compromise with the President. For example, letters
exchanged between Hitler and Hindenburg in 1933 suggest that the President had some
reservations about the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service,” namely
that the law would have fired Jews who had loyally served in the German army during
World War I. To appease Hindenburg, Hitler amended the law to allow Jewish war veter-
ans to keep their civil service positions. While the President could have used the power
given to him by the Constitution to dismiss Hitler as Chancellor, other circumstances
made it difficult for Hindenburg to take this dramatic action (e.g., his party was second
in popularity to the Nazi party, he was 85 years old, and he was in poor health).

On August 2, 1934, President Hindenburg died. After President Hindenburg’s death,


Hitler suggested that he should hold the positions of both President and Chancellor; he
called this new position Führer. Hitler put his suggestion to a national vote. On August
20, 90% of the German electorate agreed that Hitler should have complete control of all
aspects of government. Ironically, it took an election to finally dismantle democracy in
Germany. Hitler himself asserted that he became dictator through the will of the people.
The German people would not vote again until after World War II.

In what ways were German citizens responsible for Hitler’s rise to power? What could
have happened to prevent Hitler from becoming a dictator? Why did the majority of
German citizens stand by while their power as citizens was undermined by Hitler’s poli-
cies? One way to begin answering these questions is to examine how fear, conformity,
self-preservation, obedience, prejudice, and opportunism shaped the actions and attitudes
of German citizens at this time. Because these factors exist in any society, studying the
Weimar Republic and Hitler’s path to dictatorship can help us understand threats to our
own democratic way of life. Studying this history illuminates the fragility of democracy
and warns us that, as citizens, it is our responsibility to protect the ingredients that are
vital to maintaining a healthy democracy, ingredients such as an independent judiciary,
state-protected dissent, freedom of speech, and an active, mindful citizenry.

Lesson 8 • 117
Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Hitler in Power,” pp. 151–52
“The Democrat and the Dictator,” pp. 155–60
“Threats to Democracy,” pp. 160–62
“Targeting the Communists,” pp. 162–65
“Targeting the Jews,” pp. 165–67
“Dismantling Democracy,” pp. 169–70
“Turning Neighbor Against Neighbor,” pp. 171–72
“Taking Over the Universities,” pp. 172–73
“Killing Ideas,” pp. 179–82
“Whenever Two or Three Are Gathered,” pp. 182–83
“Breeding the New German ‘Race,’” pp. 183–86
“One Nation! One God! One Reich! One Church!” pp. 186–89
“Pledging Allegiance,” pp. 197–98

?HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Timeline: Hitler’s rise to power
Handout 2: Timeline presentation: Hitler’s rise to power

Opener
To appreciate the significance of Hitler’s rise to power, students need to understand the
concepts “dictator” and “dictatorship,” especially in relation to living in a democracy.
One way to help students develop an understanding of these concepts is to ask them to
respond to the following prompts:

• What is a dictator?
• What is the difference between a democratic leader and a dictator?
• How might your life be different if you lived in a dictatorship instead of a democracy?

Or, you might ask students to respond to this scenario: Imagine waking up in the morn-
ing to learn that the president of the United States shut down Congress, closed all of the
courts, and cancelled elections. How might you react to such news? How might your life
be different as a result of this change in government? If you have time, this prompt can
be used as a creative writing activity, with students writing and sharing stories about how
life could change under a dictatorship.

Students’ sharing of responses to any of these prompts provides an opportunity to create


a working definition of the words “dictator” and “dictatorship.” Students can record their
definitions in their journals and you can add them to a word wall. Explain to students
that in this lesson they will be learning about how Germany went from being a democ-
racy to becoming a dictatorship. At this point in the unit, it is appropriate for students to
have only a basic understanding of these concepts. The material in this lesson, and in the

Lesson 8 • 118
remaining lessons in this section, will help students develop a more sophisticated under-
standing of the distinction between a dictatorship and a democracy.

Main Activities
To understand Germany’s transformation from a democracy to a dictatorship, it is impor-
tant for students to be familiar with the small steps made by Hitler and the Nazis to carve
away at political and civil liberties between 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, and
August of 1934, when Hitler became dictator of Germany. One way to teach students
this history is through a human timeline activity. This strategy enables teachers to use
physical activity to help students understand the chronology of events, and improves the
retention of material by having students present historical information to their peers.
Alternatively, you could use the ideas in the timeline as the basis of a lecture.

Step One: Pre-class set up


Handout 1 presents a sample timeline you can use to help students identify the steps that
allowed the Nazis and Hitler to establish a dictatorship. The timeline of Hitler’s rise to
power includes 16 items. Adapt this list to best meet the needs of your students; you
might combine items, delete items, or add additional items. Some teachers assign each
student their own timeline item to present and other teachers have found that this activ-
ity works best if timeline items are presented by pairs. In preparation for this activity, we
suggest placing each of the events on an index card or an 8 1/2 x 11” sheet of paper,
along with the date when it occurred.

[Note: Rather than distributing the timeline slips randomly, you might want to give cer-
tain students easier or more challenging items. Some of the events on the timeline are
more challenging to understand and interpret than other items. For example, the first
item on the timeline explains the Weimar Constitution. Because this material was covered
in the previous lessons, this information should already be familiar to many students. The
next item on the timeline goes into detail about Article 48. This is new material and may
be challenging to understand without reading the text several times.]

Next, because students are able to see and hear each other better in a U-shaped line than
in a straight line formation, identify a location in or near your classroom that will allow
for students to form a U-shape. You can have students stand for this activity, or you can
arrange chairs in a U-shape.

Step Two: Establishing context for the timeline activity


• Before students begin the human timeline activity, establish a context for the
chronology students will be focusing on. The suggested opener activity meets this
goal. If you skipped the opener, we suggest taking a few minutes to review the
material from the previous lesson. Then, explain to students that through this time-
line they will learn about how the success of the Nazi Party in the 1932 elections
put Germany on the path from democracy to becoming a dictatorship. To remind
students of the purpose of the timeline activity, you can write this lesson’s guiding
question on the board: What happened to allow Hitler to become dictator of
Germany?

Lesson 8 • 119
The following terms are used throughout the timeline. If you think your students may be
unfamiliar with these items, you might want to review them before they begin their
work.
• Reichstag/Parliament — the government institution where laws were made, like the
U.S. Congress.
• Chancellor — the leader of the Reichstag. The Chancellor decided which laws get
voted on.
• President — the head of state. The President controlled the military, appointed the
Chancellor, and decided when elections would be held.
• Constitution/Article — The Weimar Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, is
divided into articles. The articles explain how the government should be organized
and the rights citizens should have.
• Veto — To disapprove of a law.

Step Three: Individuals or pairs prepare timeline presentations


Whether students work individually or in pairs, here is an example of instructions you
can provide:
1. Read over your timeline item once or twice.
2. Rewrite the timeline item in your own words. You should not read from your time-
line slip when you present this event to the class; you should explain this event in
your own words. If you are having trouble writing the statement in your own words,
ask for help.
3. How does knowing about this event help you answer the question, “What happened
to allow Hitler to become dictator of Germany?” You will share at least one connec-
tion between this event and Germany’s path to a dictatorship with the class.

Handout 2 has been designed to help students prepare for their timeline presentations.

Step Four: Building your human timeline


Invite students to line up in the order of their events. Once everyone is lined up, they
present the event on the timeline and how they think that event contributed to Hitler’s
path to dictatorship. Be sure to provide an opportunity for students to ask questions if
they are confused about an event’s impact on the health of democracy in Germany. As
students present, record answers to the question, “What happened to allow Hitler to
become dictator of Germany?” on the board. The first item on this list might be having a
clause in the constitution giving power to one person or branch of government. Other
items that will likely be added to the list include: silencing the opposition through fear or
imprisonment, using the media to control information, and citizens who follow a leader
without questioning him or her.

Follow-Through
Once students have a basic understanding of the many steps involved in Germany’s path
from democracy to dictatorship, you can ask students to discuss who they think was
responsible for the death of democracy in Germany. Another way to get at this question
is to ask each student to record three steps or events that contributed to the decline of
democracy and the rise of dictatorship in Germany. Then ask students to share what they

Lesson 8 • 120
wrote, noting how many of the steps place Hitler as the main actor and how many focus
on the decisions made by other Germans, such as voters, Reichstag members, or
President Hindenburg. To stimulate students’ ideas about the powers that shape their
world, you can use the following prompt: To what extent do you believe that leaders are
responsible for what happens versus the general public? Applied to the classroom, is suc-
cessful learning a product of what the teacher does or what the students do?

Another way to end this class is to ask students to review the journal they wrote during
the opening activity about dictatorship. Students can expand on their ideas based on the
information they learned during the timeline activity. You might also ask students to pre-
dict what might happen next in Germany now that Hitler is in complete control of the
country and all of the democratic institutions (the constitution, independent courts, elec-
tions, civil liberties, etc.) are gone.

Assessment(s)
To evaluate students’ understanding of how Germany grew into a dictatorship, you can
ask students to list at least five events or factors that contributed to the death of democ-
racy and the rise of dictatorship in Germany. This can be done during class (e.g., as part
of the follow-through activity) or for homework. Students’ response to the following
journal prompt will also reveal their understanding of the material from this lesson: Who
was responsible for the death of democracy and the rise of dictatorship in Germany?
Refer to evidence from the timeline activity in your answer. Think about an event that
has happened to you or taken place during your historical context. To what extent do you
believe that leaders are responsible for what happened? To what extent do you believe that
individuals or groups were responsible for what happened?

Extensions

• Some teachers have found it useful to use a metaphor to represent Germany’s grad-
ual transformation from democracy to dictatorship. One way to represent
Germany’s path to dictatorship is by using a large picture of water. A full picture
represents a healthy democracy. In January 1933, Germany was a functioning
democracy, although there are several reasons why you might pour out some water
to represent some weaknesses in the German system. For example, as students
learned in the previous lesson, the courts are not consistently upholding the consti-
tution. You can pour out more water when students report that the president has
invoked Article 48. More water can be poured out as students read of how Hitler is
limiting opposition and controlling the spread of information. By the end of the
timeline activity, students should see that there is no water left in the pitcher, sym-
bolizing the end of democracy in Germany. Teachers have also used a salami or loaf
of bread to illustrate this point—cutting off a slice each time something happens in
Germany to weaken democracy. The main learning point is that Germany did not
go from being a democracy to a dictatorship overnight, but through a series of small
steps.

• After learning about Germany’s transformation from democracy to dictatorship, stu-


dents often wonder if what happened in Germany could ever happen in the United
States. Thus, the material in this lesson provides an excellent opportunity to talk
about the differences and similarities between the Weimar Republic and the United

Lesson 8 • 121
States today. You might begin this discussion by evaluating the health of democracy
in Germany at different points in time. Assuming it would receive an “F” by August
of 1934, what grade would it receive in January 1933? What about July 1933? As a
homework assignment or group project, you could have students respond to the
prompt, “What grade would students give to the health of democracy in the United
States today? Explain your answer. Identify one thing that could be done to
improve the health of democracy in the United States.”

• You might end this lesson by having students reflect on the phrase “fragility of
democracy.” What does it mean for something to be fragile? In what ways is democ-
racy fragile? What ingredients make democracies strong (or less prone to becoming
a dictatorship)? You can ask students, individually or in groups, to visually represent
(through drawing or collage) the phrase “fragility of democracy,” referring to ideas
from this lesson.

Lesson 8 • 122
Lesson 8: Handout 1
Timeline: Hitler’s rise to power

1. 1919 — Weimar Constitution is adopted. The constitution creates separate executive,


judicial, and legislative branches of government so that one group or person cannot
hold all of the power. It also includes articles protecting civil liberties (freedoms) such
as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly (freedom to meet in public), and freedom
of religion. The constitution also protects privacy so that individuals cannot be
searched without the court’s permission.

2. 1919 — The constitution includes Article 48. This article suspends the constitution in
times of emergency, allowing the president to make rules without the consent of the
parliament and to suspend (put on hold) civil rights, like freedom of speech, in order to
protect public safety. Many people thought this article was a good idea because there
were so many political parties in Germany that sometimes it was difficult for them to
agree enough to pass any laws. At times of crisis, like the inflation Germany suffered in
1923 or the depression in 1929, it was important for government to respond quickly and
not be held from action by politicians who can not agree. Thus, many Germans thought
it would be wise to have a clause in the constitution that would allow the president to
take over and make quick decisions in times of emergency.

3. July 1932 — The Nazi Party wins 37% of the votes. For the first time, the Nazis are the
largest and most powerful political party in Germany. Still, over half of the German citi-
zens do not vote for the Nazis and they still do not have enough seats in the Reichstag
(parliament) to be able to pass laws without getting additional votes from representa-
tives from other political parties.

4. November 1932 — The Nazi Party wins 33% of the votes, but they still have more seats
in the Reichstag than any other political party.

5. January 1933 — German President Paul von Hindenburg understands that he will need
the support of the Nazi Party to get any laws passed. As a result of the success of the
Nazi Party in the elections, President Hindenburg appoints Hitler to the position of
Chancellor—the head of parliament.

6. February 1, 1933 — Hitler proclaims the new government of Germany by speaking


directly to the German people on the radio, not by speaking to members of parliament.
He declares, “[The] new national government will consider it its first and supreme duty
to restore our nation’s unity of will and spirit. . . . In place of turbulent instincts, the
government will once again make national discipline our guide.” A parade is held in
Hitler’s honor.

7. February 27, 1933 — The Reichstag (parliament) building is set on fire. Hitler quickly
blames the communists, a rival political party.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that protext and nurture democracy by studying Germany’s
transition from democracy to dictatorship. • 123
Lesson 8: Handout 1
Timeline: Hitler’s rise to power

8. February 28, 1933 — Using the fire as a justification, Hitler convinces President
Hindenburg to invoke Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution in order to protect public
safety.

9. February 28, 1933 — Hitler uses the emergency power of the president to issue two
laws. He says the purpose of these laws was to protect public safety. The first law
allows the government to search and confiscate private property. Government officials
are now permitted to read mail and to take belongings from people’s homes. The other
law allows him to arrest anyone belonging to rival political parties, especially commu-
nists. Because of Article 48 these laws do not need to be approved by the Reichstag. If
a majority of the members of the Reichstag do not approve of a law, they still have the
power to veto it. But, with many of his opposition jailed or scared to speak out, none of
Hitler’s laws get vetoed.

10. March 11, 1933 — Hitler creates a new government department, the Ministry of Public
Enlightenment and Propaganda. The purpose of this department is to spread Hitler’s
ideas among the German public.

11. March 23, 1933 — Hitler opens a jail for people he thinks are plotting to overthrow the
government, especially members of the Communist Party. These jails were called “con-
centration camps” because they concentrated a targeted or undesirable group of people
in one place where they can be monitored.

12. March 23, 1933 — Hitler announces the Enabling Act, which is then approved by the
Reichstag. The Enabling Act gives Hitler dictatorial powers for four years. It allows (or
“enables”) Hitler to punish anyone he considers an enemy of the state. This law also
says that Hitler can pass laws that are against the ideas in the constitution. Some mem-
bers of parliament do not agree with this law. While some opponents of the Enabling
Act vote against it, many opponents of the law are in jail or in hiding. So there are not
enough votes in parliament to veto the Enabling Act.

1 3. April 26, 1933 — Hitler organizes a secret state police called the Gestapo to “protect
public safety and order.” Gestapo police can arrest people and place them in jail with-
out any oversight by a court or judge.

14. May 6, 1933 — Nazis begin holding public book burnings. Germans are asked to burn
any books considered offensive to Germany, including books by Jewish authors.

15. August 2, 1934 — President Hindenburg dies. Hitler proposes a new law that would
combine the role of president and chancellor in a new position called the Führer (which
means “leader” in German). He calls for a vote of the German people.

16. August 19, 1934 — 95% of registered voters in Germany go to the polls. 90% of these
voters approve of Hitler’s law making himself Führer. Now Hitler can say that he
became the supreme leader, or dictator, of Germany through the direct will of the
people.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that protext and nurture democracy by studying Germany’s
transition from democracy to dictatorship. • 124
Lesson 8: Handout 2
Timeline Presentation: Hitler’s rise to power

1. Read over your timeline item once or twice.

2. You cannot read directly from this paper when you give your presentation. You must
explain this specific event in your own words. If you are having trouble writing the
statement in your own words, ask for help.

Explain this event in your own words:

3. How does knowing about this event help you answer the question, “What happened to
allow Hitler to become dictator of Germany?” You will share at least one connection
between this event and Germany’s path to a dictatorship with the class.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that protext and nurture democracy by studying Germany’s
transition from democracy to dictatorship. • 125
Notes
1
“Weimar Constitution,” PSM-Data History website,
http://www.zum.de/psm/weimar/weimar_vve.php#Third%20Chapter (accessed January 7, 2009).
2
“Hindenburg into Dictator,” Time, July 28, 1930, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article
/0,9171,739930-1,00.html?iid=perma_share (accessed January 7, 2009).

126
Lesson 9

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Five in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Obedience

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In previous lessons, students considered how Germany became a totalitarian state.
Beginning with this lesson, students engage with material that will help them answer the
question, “Once the Nazis came to power, why did most Germans follow the policies dic-
tated by Hitler and the Nazi Party?” Students begin to answer this question by examining
the human tendency to obey authority. Through analyzing two historical examples (one
scenario describes the experiences of students at a school in California in the late 1960s
and the other comes from 1935 Nazi Germany), students have the opportunity to under-
stand obedience not as a distinctive German trait, but as an aspect of human behavior
that is relevant to their decisions as individuals living in a larger society. In this lesson,
students learn how to differentiate between obedience and blind obedience—obeying
authority without question—and they practice the habit of distinguishing between situa-
tions when it is important and appropriate to obey authority and situations that call for
resistance to authority.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What is obedience? What factors encourage obedience to authority?
• What is resistance? What factors encourage resistance to authority?
• What are some reasons why Germans obeyed authority in Nazi Germany?
• What is the difference between obedience and blind obedience?
• Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate to obey authority? Why?
• Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate to resist authority? Why?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Defining abstract concepts
• Interpreting historical narratives
• Defending ideas with evidence
• Sharing ideas in writing and speaking
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Obedience
• Blind obedience/unconditional obedience
• Authority
• Resistance
• Oath
• Fear
• Conformity/peer pressure

Lesson 9 • 127
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


When Paul von Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler combined the positions of
chancellor and president. He was now the Führer and Reich Chancellor, the Head of
State, and the Chief of Armed Forces. During the Weimar Republic, German soldiers had
taken this oath: “I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will at all times loyally and
honestly serve my people and country and, as a brave soldier, I will be ready at any time
to stake my life for this oath.” Now Hitler created a new oath. “I swear by almighty God
this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German
Reich and people, Adolf Hitler, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht [armed forces],
and as a brave soldier will be ready at any time to stake my life for this oath.”1 While in
the earlier oath German soldiers swore allegiance to the country, under Hitler’s oath
German soldiers, and eventually all government workers, swore their “unconditional obe-
dience” to Hitler himself. Soldiers recalled how taking this oath allowed them to commit
horrible crimes in Hitler’s name. Historian William L. Shirer, author of the book The
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, said the new oath distanced perpetrators from responsi-
bility for the crimes they were committing, enabling officers “to excuse themselves from
any personal responsibility for the unspeakable crimes which they carried out on the
orders of the Supreme Commander. . . .”2

A culture of obedience pervaded not only the military, but all aspects of German society.
German children who grew up in the 1930s, such as Hede von Nagel, describe how obe-
dience was a central part of their upbringing and schooling. “Our parents taught us to
raise our arms and say, ‘Heil Hitler’ before we said ‘Mama,’” she recalls.3 Under the
Nazis, students did not call their instructors by the title Lehrer, meaning teacher, but
instead they referred to their teachers as Erzieher. “The word [Erzieher] suggests an iron
disciplinarian who does not instruct but commands, and whose orders are backed up
with force if necessary,” explains Gregor Ziemer, a teacher and journalist who lived in
Germany when the Nazis came to power.4 Alfons Heck, a teenager in the 1930s, remem-
bers how the constant messages to obey influenced his behavior. “Never did we question
what our teachers said,” Heck said. “We simply believed what was crammed into us.”5
This included believing the idea that some groups, especially Jews, were racially inferior,
and that their very presence could harm the health and prosperity of the German people.
These beliefs ultimately allowed Germans to make choices that resulted in the deaths of
millions of innocent mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.

After the Holocaust, many observers and scholars wondered if there was something dis-
tinctive about German identity that made Germans more prone to obedient behavior
than individuals from other cultures. Stanley Milgram, a professor at Yale University,
decided to find out by recruiting college students to take part in what he called “a study
of the effects of punishment on learning.” Working with pairs, Milgram designated one
volunteer as “teacher” and the other as “learner.” As the “teacher” watched, the “learner”
was strapped into a chair with an electrode attached to each wrist. The “learner” was then
told to memorize word pairs for a test and warned that wrong answers would result in
electric shocks. The “learner” was, in fact, a member of Milgram’s team. The real focus of
the experiment was the “teacher.” Each was taken to a separate room and seated before a

Lesson 9 • 128
“shock generator” with switches ranging from 15 volts labeled “slight shock” to 450 volts
labeled “danger—severe shock.” Each “teacher” was told to administer a “shock” for each
wrong answer. The shock was to increase by 15 volts every time the “learner” responded
incorrectly. The volunteer received a practice shock before the test began to get an idea of
the pain involved. In Milgram’s words, “The point of the experiment is to see how far a
person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to
inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim. At what point will the subject refuse to
obey the experimenter?”6

Milgram’s hypothesis was that Germans would be more obedient than United States sub-
jects and that most volunteers would refuse to give electric shocks of more than 150
volts. A group of psychologists and psychiatrists predicted that less than one-tenth of 1%
of the volunteers would administer all 450 volts. To everyone’s amazement, 65% gave the
full 450 volts! Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford University, made the following
comments about Milgram’s study:

The question to ask of Milgram’s research is not why the majority of normal, average
subjects behave in evil (felonious) ways, but what did the disobeying minority do after
they refused to continue to shock the poor soul, who was so obviously in pain? Did
they intervene, go to his aid, did they denounce the researcher, protest to higher
authorities, etc.? No, even their disobedience was within the framework of “acceptabil-
ity,” they stayed in their seats, “in their assigned place,” politely, psychologically
demurred, and they waited to be dismissed by the authority.7

In this lesson, students will read about an experiment conducted by Ron Jones, a history
teacher in California in the 1960s, whose findings also reveal how obedience is a domi-
nant facet of human behavior.* While teaching a unit on Nazi Germany, he asked his stu-
dents to obey specific commands about how to sit, answer questions, and salute him.
Jones was shocked to find that nearly all of his students willingly, and even enthusiasti-
cally, obeyed his every command. Within several days, Jones orchestrated a series of rules
for “Third Wave” members to follow, including reporting infractions of classmates who
were not obeying these commands. Again, an overwhelming majority of students fol-
lowed Jones’s plans, even threatening to beat up the minority of students who were skep-
tical of the Third Wave. Worried parents of these students called Jones to find out what
was happening in school. “I was hoping he would come in with a tremendous amount of
rage,” say Jones, referring to his conversation with a concerned father. Instead of being
angry, the parent accepted Jones’s explanation.8

At this point, Jones was looking for an excuse to stop the Third Wave, such as interven-
tion on the part of parents or school administrators. But, this was not to be. After about
a week, when Jones recognized that the experiment had gotten out of control, he knew
he had to take steps to end it. At an assembly, he told his students, “There is no Third
Wave movement. . . . You and I are no better or worse than the citizens of the Third
Reich. We would have worked in the defense plants. We will watch our neighbors be

* Facing History uses the “Third Wave” experiment to reveal how obedience is a natural aspect of human behavior. Facing
History does not condone the use of simulations and experiments used on students. Simulations like this one have unin-
tended consequences. Some of Mr. Jones’s students were emotionally disturbed by their involvement in the Third Wave.
One student remarked how it hurt to have been fooled like that by a teacher. A respectful, safe classroom environment is
based on trust among students and teacher. Simulations, like the one carried out by Mr. Jones, can violate that trust, not
only between the students and one particular teacher, but they also have the power to cause students to distrust teachers in
general.

Lesson 9 • 129
taken away, and do nothing,” Jones declared, referring to the three skeptics who had been
exiled to the library for the crime of disbelief. “We’re just like those Germans. We would
give our freedom up for the chance of being special.” Explaining his involvement in the
Third Wave, Philip Neel shared, “You want to please your teachers, your peers and you
don’t want to fail.”9

What these studies, and others like them, demonstrate is the universal tendency of indi-
viduals to obey authority. Surely the desire to belong and succeed, and the fear of
ostracism and failure, influenced the decisions made by the majority of Germans who
obeyed the commands of Nazi officials, just as they influenced the decisions made by stu-
dents in California. While the tendency to obey is universal, the particular consequences
for obeying, and refusing to obey, must be analyzed within their unique historical con-
text. In the 1930s, Germans who quietly resisted Nazi commands often faced social
ostracism or might have lost their jobs; rarely were they jailed or hurt for refusing to say
“Heil Hitler.” Ricarda Huch, a poet and writer, refused to take the oath of loyalty to
Hitler. She had to resign from her prestigious academic position and lived in Germany
throughout the Nazi era in “internal exile,” unable to publish her work but also physi-
cally unharmed.10 With the start of World War II in 1939, failing to obey authority could
be a matter of life and death.

Historical evidence implies that some Germans were excessively obedient to Hitler’s
demands, going above and beyond to show their loyalty to the Reich. For example,
Germans took it upon themselves to report their neighbors to the Gestapo, even when
they were under no pressure to do so. (Similarly, the students in the Third Wave experi-
ment reported “deviants” even when this was not required of them.) However, historian
Robert Gellately refutes the argument that many Germans went along with the Nazis
simply because of a desire to obey authority. His research about “Gestapo’s unsolicited
agents” revealed that in most cases, informers were motivated by factors such as greed,
jealousy, revenge, or a desire to be taken seriously.11 Thus, while on the one hand it is
important to recognize the significance of obedience as a factor that influenced decision-
making in Nazi Germany, on the other hand, we must avoid explaining decisions as only
a matter of obedience. Multiple factors, such as opportunism, propaganda, fear, conform-
ity, prejudice, and self-preservation, shaped the choices made by individuals before and
during the Holocaust. [Note: These factors will be explored in greater depth in subse-
quent lessons.]

Finally, although the examples discussed above, and included in this lesson, demonstrate
moments when obedience to authority resulted in negative consequences for vulnerable
groups, this is not to suggest that obedience itself is harmful. Indeed, in most situations
obedience to authority is appropriate and necessary to maintain peace and order in a
community. For example, it would be difficult for a classroom of students to learn with-
out any respect for authority. What these examples do reveal is the danger caused by
“blind obedience”—when individuals follow orders without really “seeing” or questioning
what they are being asked to do. Individuals who blindly obey authority fail to contem-
plate the moral consequences of their decisions. Because of this, they are prone to make
unjust or unethical choices that inflict harm on members of a community, especially
those in the minority.

The history of Germany in the 1930s lends support to the statement that human rights
are more likely to be abused when individuals blindly obey authority—when they fail to

Lesson 9 • 130
consider whether what they are being asked to do is appropriate and morally just.
Through the use of propaganda, fear, and opportunism, the German citizenry had been
conditioned to avoid questioning the rules they were being asked to follow—rules that
required Germans to treat their non-Aryan neighbors as second-class citizens and eventu-
ally as non-humans. What started as obeying laws requiring Germans to fire Jewish col-
leagues or avoid Jewish stores developed into laws requiring Germans to report their
Jewish neighbors to the SS (the Nazi police) so that they could be deported to ghettos
and concentration camps. During the Holocaust, blind obedience to Nazi policies was a
significant factor that contributed to the murder of millions of innocent children,
women, and men. From studying other moments in history—from Gandhi’s salt march
in India, to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, to the civil rights movement in
the United States—we learn that when citizens have the capacity to wisely and respect-
fully question authority, they can make better decisions about whether or not their obedi-
ence is ethically justified and can push for unjust laws to be changed.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“A Matter of Obedience,” pp. 210–13
“Taking Over the Universities,” pp. 172–74
“No Time to Think,” pp. 189–90
“A Refusal to Compromise,” pp. 192–93
“Do You Take the Oath?” pp. 198–200
“The People Respond,” pp. 203–4
“Rebels Without a Cause,” pp. 249–50
“Taking a Stand,” pp. 268–69

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part One)
Handout 2: Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part Two)
Handout 3: Do You Take the Oath? (Part One)
Handout 4: Do You Take the Oath? (Part Two)

Opener
Begin this lesson by giving students the opportunity to think about the words “obey” and
“obedience.” When they hear the words “obey” or “obedience,” what experiences, ques-
tions, thoughts or comments come to mind? You might post these words on the board
and ask students to write or draw their reactions to these terms. After one or two min-
utes, you can go around the room allowing each student to contribute one idea that they
recorded. As they share their ideas, ask students to listen for similarities and differences in
their reactions to these terms. At the end of this exercise, explain that the purpose of this
lesson is to help them understand how obedience influences decision-making, in Nazi
Germany and in their own lives.

Lesson 9 • 131
Main Activities
Remind students that in the previous lesson they learned about the various factors that
resulted in the end of democracy in Germany and the beginning of Hitler’s dictatorship.
One of Hitler’s first acts as dictator of Germany was to establish a law mandating that
soldiers and government workers take an oath of allegiance, not to the country or a con-
stitution, but to Hitler himself. The oath was worded as follows:

I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to
the Führer [leader] of the German Reich [empire] and people, Adolf Hitler, Supreme
Commander of the Wehrmacht [armed forces], and as a brave soldier will be ready at
any time to stake my life for this oath.12

Read this oath to students. Then, write the phrase unconditional obedience on the board
or on your word wall and ask students to record a working definition of this phrase in
their journals. You might want to use the think-pair-share teaching strategy (described
below) to help students with this task. Students can add or change this definition after
this lesson and throughout this unit as they continue to learn about the meaning of
unconditional obedience.

Think-Pair-Share Teaching Strategy

Step one: Think


Have students react to a text or respond to specific questions in their jour-
nals.
Step two: Pair
Have students share their responses with a partner.
Step three: Share
Ask a representative of each pair to share an idea from their discussion.
Alternatively, you can have two or more pairs discuss their ideas together.
Or, you can form groups that include one member of several pairs.

Next, ask students if they think many Germans will agree to take this oath of allegiance to
Hitler. To make this question more concrete, you can read to them the first few lines from
the reading, “Do you take the oath?” As you slowly read these lines, ask students to record
important words or phrases.

I was employed in a defense [war] plant…. That was the year of the National Defense
Law…. Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity. I said I would not; I
opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to “think it over.”13

After you read, have students report the words or phrases they recorded. Several impor-
tant words and phrases in this excerpt are law, required, and “opposed it in conscience.”
Then ask students to discuss with their neighbor whether or not they think this man will
take the oath and the factors that may shape his decision. Again, you can use the think-
pair-share teaching strategy to structure this conversation.

Inform students that before they come back to his decision at the end of the lesson, they
will learn about obedience in a context closer to their lives than Germany in the 1930s,
by reading an excerpt of a true story that took place in a school in the United States in

Lesson 9 • 132
1967. Distribute handout 1, “Strength through discipline: The Third Wave.” You can ask
student volunteers to read the excerpt aloud. As students read, have them highlight or
underline examples of obedience. You can use the questions following the excerpt to
frame a whole class discussion, or you can have students answer them with partners using
the think-pair-share strategy. Before distributing handout 2, have students share their
answers to questions 2 and 3. You might even take a poll by a show of hands to gauge
how many students think Ron Jones’s students will return his Third Wave salute. Repeat
this process for handout 2, allowing time for a thoughtful discussion about obedience
and authority. At this point in the lesson, you might want to provide students with the
opportunity to revise their working definition or obedience.

Now that students have a deeper understanding of obedience, distribute handout 3. You
can repeat the same process of reading the text aloud and then having students debrief
the reading using the think-pair-share teaching strategy. Or you can use the barometer
teaching strategy to structure students’ discussion of questions 1 and 2 on this handout.
The barometer teaching strategy helps students share their opinions by lining up along a
continuum to represent their point of view.

Barometer Teaching Strategy

1. To prepare for this activity, you need to identify a space in the class-
room where students can create a line or a U-shape.
2. At one end of the line, post a sign that reads “takes the oath” and at the
other end of the line post a sign that reads “does not take the oath.”
3. Give students several minutes to respond to questions 1 and 2 on
handout 3.
4. Ask students to stand on the spot of the line that represents their
answer to question one. Once all students have lined up, ask students
at different ends of the line to explain their position. Encourage stu-
dents to keep an open mind; they are allowed to move if someone
shares an argument that alters where they want to stand on the line.
5. Repeat this process for discussing question 2 on handout 3.

Then distribute handout 4, in which the man explains why he decided to take the oath
and the consequences of his decision. Encourage students to apply their understanding of
obedience, including the conditions that encourage and discourage obedient behavior, to
help them understand this man’s decision to take Hitler’s oath of loyalty.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


The two examples of obedience students explored in this lesson both addressed instances
when blind obedience to authority had negative consequences, resulting in bullying,
ostracism, and discriminatory treatment of innocent victims. (although by no means
should students equate the consequences of the students’ actions in Mr. Jones’s class to the
consequences of the actions of millions of Germans in the 1930s). Yet, it would be irre-
sponsible if students came away from this lesson with the impression that obedience is
bad. To be sure, for societies to function it is critical that individuals obey authority. Thus,
one important learning goal for this lesson is for students to develop their ability to draw
distinctions between situations when it is appropriate to obey authority and situations
that call for resistance to authority.

Lesson 9 • 133
One way you can help students practice this important skill is to ask them to create
examples of situations when it is good, and even vital, that individuals obey authority.
For example, as a matter of public safety, when a mayor asks citizens to leave town before
a hurricane, it is important that residents of that town listen. Then, ask students to brain-
storm examples that call for resistance to authority. These examples could come from
history or from students’ own experiences. You might have students work in groups to
develop at least one obedience scenario and one resistance scenario. Students could read
the scenarios aloud and ask the rest of the class to suggest if they think that scenario calls
for obedience or resistance. If there are scenarios where the class does not agree about the
appropriate course of action, give students the opportunity to explain their positions and
to listen to the ideas of others. This also could be structured as a barometer activity.

Assessment(s)
At the end of this lesson, you can ask students to turn in an “exit card” where they define
the term obedience and write one question they have about obedience. Exit cards provide
immediate information about what students have learned and where their confusions
may lie. By having students reflect on a particular question or theme, exit cards also help
students retain important information. Another way to measure students’ understanding
of obedience is to review their answers to the questions on the handouts. When reviewing
students’ work, whether it be their participation in class discussions or their written work,
look for responses that indicate an understanding of obedience as a universal human trait,
and for responses that identify factors that encourage obedience, such as the presence of a
charismatic leader, fear, peer pressure, and traditions that provide a sense of belonging.

Extensions
• As part of the opening activity, ask students to compare Hitler’s oath of loyalty to
the United States Pledge of Allegiance. Prompts you might use to guide students’
comparison of these two statements include: What is an oath or a pledge? What is
similar about these statements? What is different? To what is the speaker being
asked to pledge allegiance? What is the significance of pledging loyalty to values and
ideals versus pledging loyalty to a person?
• In an article Ron Jones published about his experience leading the Third Wave, he
writes that he was surprised and disturbed that parents did not intervene to stop
this experiment. He recalls how several concerned students told their parents about
what was happening at school. Yet, according to Mr. Jones, he only heard from one
parent, who happened to be a rabbi. When this father called him to find out what
was going on at school, Mr. Jones was able to convince him that everything was
under control and the parent did nothing further to intervene. After students read
part two of “Strength Through Discipline” (handout 2), you might ask students to
explain why they think parents let this experiment continue. Why didn’t any par-
ents call the principal or refuse to send their children to Mr. Jones’s class?
• One common phrase used to refer to Germans during the Nazi years is “blind obe-
dience.” As a follow-through activity, you can ask students to distinguish between
obedience and blind obedience. Then, students can apply this phrase to the read-
ings in this lesson by answering questions such as: Were the students in California
“blind”? If so, what caused this blindness? By the end of this experiment do you
think their vision was restored? How might this have been accomplished? Was the
German man who took the oath blindly obedient or just obedient? How do you
know? You also can have students identify a moment of blind obedience from their

Lesson 9 • 134
own lives and reflect on the conditions that encouraged this blindness. Students can
also brainstorm what they could do in their own lives to discourage blind obedi-
ence.
• The film Obedience is a documentary about Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment.
It can be borrowed from Facing History’s library. Some teachers might choose to
show excerpts from this film instead of, or in addition to, using the Ron Jones
excerpts. We strongly recommend that you preview this film before deciding
whether or not it is appropriate for your students. If you decide to show this film,
make sure that students know that the learners in the experiments are not really get-
ting shocked; they are actors working in collaboration with the researchers. The
important point is that the “subjects,” the test administrators, are led to believe that
they are actually shocking the learner. Also, teachers who have used this film com-
ment on the importance of planning sufficient time for debriefing during that class
period, so that students can process their reactions before moving on to their next
class. Often Facing History teachers do not show the whole film, but focus on the
part when the “teacher” volunteer obeys the instructions of the test administrator to
the most advanced degree (minutes 21:50–35:15). While viewing this clip, ask stu-
dents to closely observe the behavior of the “teacher” and the test administrator.
The following questions might be written on the board or on a note-taking tem-
plate to guide students’ viewing of the clip: What language is used by the experi-
menter and the “teacher”? What is the teacher’s body language? How does the
teacher act as he administered the shocks? What does he say? What pressures were
placed on him as the experiment continued? This film has been known to provoke
strong emotional reactions in students, as they try to make sense of why individuals
obey authority, even if it means inflicting harm on others. Many teachers have been
surprised when students laugh at sensitive moments of the documentary. This
laughter can be interpreted in many ways, but often it is a sign of discomfort or
confusion, not of enjoyment.
• The Wave (46 minutes) is an Emmy Award–winning film that recreates Ron Jones’s
classroom “experiment.” It can be borrowed from Facing History’s lending library.
You may wish to show part or all of this film as part of this lesson on obedience.
Even though the film was made more than twenty years ago, students are typically
very engaged by this true story of obedience in an American school.

Lesson 9 • 135
Lesson 9: Handout 1
Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part One)

The following story is told by Ron Jones, a history teacher in California:

On Monday, I introduced my sophomore history students to one of the experiences that characterized
Nazi Germany. Discipline . . .
To experience the power of discipline, I invited, no I commanded the class to exercise and use a new
seating posture; I described how proper sitting posture assists mandatory concentration and strengthens
the will. In fact I instructed the class in a sitting posture. This posture started with feet flat on the floor,
hands placed flat across the small of the back to force a straight alignment of the spine. “There can’t you
breath more easily? You’re more alert. Don’t you feel better?“
We practiced this new attention position over and over. I walked up and down the aisles of seated stu-
dents pointing out small flaws, making improvements. Proper seating became the most important aspect
of learning. I would dismiss the class allowing them to leave their desks and then call them abruptly
back to an attention sitting position. In speed drills the class learned to move from standing position to
attention sitting in fifteen seconds. . . . It was strange how quickly the students took to this uniform
code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed. . . . 14
To provide an encounter with community I had the class recite in unison “strength through discipline,
strength through community.” First I would have two students stand and call back our motto. Then add
two more until finally the whole class was standing and reciting. . . . As the class period was ending and
without forethought I created a class salute. It was for class members only. To make the salute you
brought your right hand up toward the right shoulder in a curled position. I called it the Third Wave
salute because the hand resembled a wave about to top over. . . . Since we had a salute I made it a rule to
salute all class members outside the classroom. When the bell sounded ending the period I asked the
class for complete silence. With everyone sitting at attention I slowly raised my arm and with a cupped
hand I saluted. It was a silent signal of recognition. They were something special.15

Questions:
1. What are two things Mr. Jones asked his class to do? How did they respond?

2. At the end of this excerpt, Mr. Jones gave the Third Wave salute. What are three different ways his stu-
dents might have responded to this action?

3. How do you think they did respond? Explain your answer.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 136


Lesson 9: Handout 2
Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part Two)

Ron Jones continues his story:

Without command the entire group of students returned the salute. . . . Throughout the next few
days students in the class would exchange this greeting. You would be walking down the hall when all of
a sudden three classmates would turn your way each flashing a quick salute.
On Wednesday, I decided to issue membership cards to every student that wanted to continue what I
now called the experiment. Not a single student elected to leave the room. . . .
To allow students the experience of direct action I gave each individual a specific verbal assignment.
“It’s your task to design a Third Wave Banner. You are responsible for stopping any student that is not a
Third Wave member from entering this room. . . . I want each of you to give me the name and address
of one reliable friend that you think might want to join the Third Wave.”. . . The school cook asked
what a Third Wave cookie looked like. I said chocolate chip of course. Our principal came into an after-
noon faculty meeting and gave me the Third Wave salute. I saluted back. . . . By the end of the day over
two hundred students were admitted into the order. . . .
While the class sat at attention I gave each person a card. I marked three of the cards with a red X and
informed the recipients that they had a special assignment to report any students not complying to class
rules. . . . Though I formally appointed only three students to report deviate behavior, approximately
twenty students came to me with reports about how Allan didn’t salute, or Georgene was talking criti-
cally about our experiment. This incidence of monitoring meant that half the class now considered it
their duty to observe and report on members of their
class. . . .
Many of the students were completely into being Third Wave Members. They demanded strict obedi-
ence of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly.16

Questions:
1. What are two things Mr. Jones asked his class to do? How did they respond?

2. Why do you think that many of the students and the larger school community “were completely into
being Third Wave members” and followed all of Mr. Jones’s instructions, even demanding “strict obedi-
ence of the rules from other students”? What factors encouraged their obedient behavior?

3. What might have prevented so many students from obeying Mr. Jones? Under what conditions do indi-
viduals resist authority?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 137


Lesson 9: Handout 3
Do You Take the Oath? (Part One)

Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior

A German man recalled the day he was asked to pledge loyalty to Adolf Hitler:

I was employed in a defense [war] plant. . . . That was the year of the National Defense
Law. . . .Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity [loyalty]. I said I would not;
I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to “think it over. . . .”
[R]efusal would have meant the loss of my job, of course, not prison or anything like
that. . . . But losing my job would have meant that I could not get another. Wherever I went I
should be asked why I left the job I had, and when I said why, I should certainly have been
refused employment. . . .
I tried not to think of myself or my family. We might have got out of the country, in any
case, and I could have got a job in industry or education somewhere else. What I tried to think
of was the people to whom I might be of some help later on, if things got worse (as I believed
they would). I had a wide friendship in scientific and academic circles, including many Jews,
and “Aryans,” too, who might be in trouble. If I took the oath and held my job, I might be of
help, somehow, as things went on. If I refused to take the oath, I would certainly be useless to
my friends, even if I remained in the country.17

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 138


Lesson 9: Handout 3
Do You Take the Oath? (Part One)

Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior

Questions:

1. List reasons to support why he should obey authority (take the oath) and why he should resist author-
ity (refuse to take the oath).

Reasons in favor of taking the oath Reasons against taking the oath

2. What do you think this man decided to do? Place an “x” on the place in the scale below that represents
whether or not you think this man took the oath of loyalty to Hitler.
I am certain this man I am certain this man
did not take the oath. did take the oath.

1 2 3 4 5

Explain the reasons why you placed an “x” at this place on the scale, referring to ideas from the pas-
sage and your own ideas about obedience to authority.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 139


Lesson 9: Handout 4
Do You Take the Oath? (Part Two)

Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior

The man explains his decision:

The next day, after “thinking it over,” I said I would take the oath. . . . That day the world
was lost, and it was I who lost it.
There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in
birth, in education, and in position. . . . If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have
meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their
refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or,
indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to
resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were
also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great
influence or of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost. . . .18

Questions:
1. What does the man mean when he says, “If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant
that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. . . . Thus the regime
would have been overthrown”?

2. Do you agree with his statement? To what extent do you believe that the choice of one individual can
make a difference (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree)?

3. The man says that he “was not prepared to resist.” What does it mean to resist? Under what conditions
are people more likely to resist authority?

4. Compare the opportunities for resistance for this German man and for the students in Mr. Jones’s
class. In what ways were they the same? In what ways were they different? For whom was resistance
more of a possibility? Explain your answer.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 140


Notes
1
“The Führer Oath,” Jewish Virtual Library, Jewish Virtual Library website,
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/oath.html (accessed January 8, 2009).
2
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 227.
3
Mede von Nagel, “The Nazi Legacy: Fearful Silence for Their Children,” The Boston Globe, October 23,
1977.
4
Gregor Ziemer, Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), 15.
5
Eleanor Ayer and Alfons Heck, Parallel Journeys (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995), 1.
6
Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974), 3–4.
7
Philip Zimbardo, “The Pathology of Imprisonment,” Society 9 (April 1972):4–8.
8
Leslie Weinfeld, “Remembering the 3rd Wave,” The Wave, Ron Jones website,
http://www.ronjoneswriter.com/wave.html (accessed January 8, 2009).
9
Ibid.
10
Wolfgang Beutin, A History of German Literature (Abingdon: Routledge, 1993), 496.
11
Robert Gellately, Florida State University website, http://www.fsu.edu/profiles/gellately/ (accessed
January 9, 2009). For more information on German citizens reporting neighbors to the Gestapo, read
Gellaty’s book Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, 1933–1944 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001).
12
“The Führer Oath,” Jewish Virtual Library.
13
Joachim Remak, The Nazi Years: A Documentary History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 162.
14
Ron Jones, No Substitute for Madness: A Teacher, His Kids, and the Lessons of Real Life (Covelo: Island Press,
1981), 5–6.
15
Ibid., 8–9.
16
Ibid., 9–13.
17
Remak, The Nazi Years, 162.
18
Ibid.

141
Lesson 10

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Four in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Nazis in Power: Discrimination, Obedience, and


Opportunism

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In this lesson, students will continue to explore the concept of obedience through the
lens of the laws passed during Hitler’s first years in power. The suggested activities focus
students’ attention on how these laws might have influenced the attitudes and actions of
individuals living in Germany during the 1930s. Later in this unit, students will be able
to trace how laws which gradually stripped Jews of their rights as citizens laid the ground-
work for their deportation and extermination during the Holocaust. In this lesson, as stu-
dents consider why people chose to follow unjust laws in Nazi Germany, they also have
the opportunity to reflect on discrimination in their communities today, especially the
ways that it might be possible to confront unjust laws within a democratic society.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What laws were passed once Hitler gained power? How do you think these laws
might have shaped the attitudes and actions of individuals living in Germany in
the 1930s?
• What is discrimination? Who benefits from discrimination? Who suffers?
• Why might Germans have followed these laws, even though many of them discrim-
inated against their Jewish neighbors? Under the Nazi dictatorship, what options
might have been available to Germans who did not agree with these laws?
• Why are individuals more vulnerable to being discriminated against under a dic-
tatorship than a democratic system of government? How might democratic institu-
tions (elections, freedom of press, courts) help groups and individuals combat dis-
crimination in communities today?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Paraphrasing primary source documents
• Drawing conclusions from evidence in primary source documents
• Presenting information to peers
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Dictatorship
• Nuremberg laws
• Discrimination
• Opportunism
• Fear

Lesson 10 • 142
• Obedience
• Resistance (dissent)
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he was finally in a position where he could use
the power of law to control German society. His ability to pass laws continued to get
stronger, culminating in 1934 when the German electorate approved the decree that gave
Hitler dictatorial power. Once Hitler established a dictatorship, any vestiges of demo-
cratic institutions were destroyed. Without a parliament, courts, or elections to stop him,
Hitler had the power to make all of the rules. There was no system of checks and bal-
ances; institutions paid homage not to a constitution (i.e., “the rule of law”) but to a
desire to please the Führer.* This attitude is exemplified by the first law Hitler passed after
becoming Führer. On August 20, 1934, Hitler declared that all soldiers and government
officials were obliged to recite an oath not to German law or nation, but to Hitler him-
self.

The timeline in Lesson 8 demonstrates how even before he became Führer, Hitler used
laws to further the goals of the Nazi Party at the expense of civil liberties and democratic
institutions. The Nazi Party platform clearly articulated these goals which included strip-
ping Jews of citizenship and their right to vote. Hitler did not attempt to realize these
goals overnight. Rather, he took a gradual approach, eliminating the rights of Jews one
step at a time. Beginning in 1933, only a few months after he became Chancellor, Hitler
proposed the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” which made it
illegal for communists, Jews, and other individuals deemed “unfit” to work in the civil
service as doctors, teachers, police, judges, or other state employees. This law was Hitler’s
first step in using laws to define who is a Jew and who is not a Jew, an important stage in
the Nazis’ ultimate goal to remove all Jews from Germany. It identified Jews as someone
with at least three Jewish grandparents, and it provided more specifications to help deter-
mine how to evaluate the status of individuals who may be from one Jewish parent and
one Aryan parent or whose parents may have converted and “do not belong to the Jewish
community at this time.”

Yet, it was not until 1935 that Hitler and the Nazis finally achieved their goal of stripping
Jews of citizenship, creating a legal distinction between Germans and their Jewish neigh-
bors. At a Nazi Party conference in the town of Nuremberg, Hitler announced three new
laws, thereafter referred to as the Nuremberg laws. (See handout 2, documents 1 and 2
for an excerpt of the Nuremberg Laws.) These laws redefined what it meant to be
German. Until this point, Jews living in Germany considered themselves to be German
citizens, and were often treated accordingly. Many Jews spoke German, attended German
schools, and voted in national and regional elections. The Nuremberg laws, however,
explicitly stated that a Jew could no longer be a German citizen protected by German
laws. Because the Nazis were preoccupied with protecting Aryan blood from contamina-
tion with Jewish blood, these laws also made it illegal for Jews and Aryans to share sexual

* Führer had been used for centuries as a title for German rulers. It means “leader” in German. When Hitler assumed this
title for himself in 1934, he was connecting his rule to that of German kings and emperors that had come before him.

Lesson 10 • 143
relations, and even made it illegal for young
German women to work in a Jewish home.
The Nuremberg laws went on to define who
was a Jew, continuing the work which began
in 1933. Being a Jew was no longer a matter
of self-definition or self-identification. Now
a person was considered a Jew because of
what his or her parents or grandparents had
chosen to believe.

The Nuremberg laws were crucial to the


process of dehumanization that the Nazis
institutionalized once they took power, and
the laws helped set the stage for the organ-
ized violence and mass murder that would
come later in the regime. While the
Nuremberg laws explicitly mentioned Jews,
the interpretation of these laws also accused
Gypsies* and blacks as having “alien
blood.”1 And dozens of laws passed by the
Nazis targeted other groups deemed unde-
sirable, including communists, homosexuals,
and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Accordingly, the
policies established by Hitler, supported by
the Nazis and followed by most Germans, The Nuremberg laws were the first step in legally defining Jews as sep-
arate from the German people. Samuel Bak’s painting, Signal of
reveal how rampant discrimination—the use Identity, emphasizes the yellow stars Jews were later forced to wear as
of laws, policies, and practices to treat indi- an outward symbol of their status as noncitizens.
viduals differently based on their member-
ship in a specific group—became a corner-
stone of Hitler’s governing strategy.

The majority of Germans reacted to these laws with enthusiasm, or at least passivity.
Within Germany explicit resistance to the Nuremberg Laws, and other discriminatory
policies instituted by the Nazis, was virtually unheard of. Why was this the case when
surely many Germans had Jewish neighbors? In many German towns and cities, Jews and
Germans had lived together in relative peace. Germans had Jewish teachers and Jewish
doctors. They attended schools with Jews and had served in the military with them.
Because of intermarriage, some German families had members who identified as Jews or
were now being identified as Jewish by the Nazis. There is no simple answer to the ques-
tion of why Germans did not resist these unjust laws, including laws aimed at vulnerable
groups other than Jews. As described in the previous lesson, obedience is one factor that

* At the time of the Holocaust, Germans and other Europeans used the name “Gypsies” when referring to an ethnic group
of people whose origins can be traced to South Asia. (The name actually stems from the word Egyptian because Europeans
originally believed that they came from Egypt.) Over time, the label “Gypsy” was conferred on any nomadic group with
similar physical appearance (i.e., darker skin and hair), lifestyle, and customs. Most of the individuals labeled as Gypsies are
actually members of the Romani or Sinti community. Recently, in recognition of the inaccurate and derogatory qualities of
the label “Gypsy,” the international community has adopted the more respectful Roma, Romani, or Sinti. However, to
avoid historical anachronism, in the lesson plans we use the word Gypsies when identifying the groups of people who were
targeted for segregation and annihilation by the Nazis, since this is what the Nazis called them at the time. Refer to the fol-
lowing websites for more information about the Roma people and their history: http://www.romani.org, http://www
.religioustolerance.org/roma.htm, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Roma_history.

Lesson 10 • 144
influenced the behavior of Germans at this time. In Nazi Germany, children, men, and
women were rewarded for obeying Nazi policies and faced consequences for refusals to
obey. Opportunism is another factor that influenced Germans to follow these laws. While
minority groups were being denied basic civil and human rights, many Germans bene-
fited from these discriminatory practices. For example, Germans were given the jobs that
were held by Jews and others who were forcibly fired in accordance with the “Law for the
Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.” Later, Germans claimed property, including
homes, paintings, jewelry, and other valuables, that were confiscated from Jews, commu-
nists, and other political prisoners. Moreover, the desire to belong (conformity) and the
fear of ostracism may have motivated some people to follow laws, even laws that they
knew were unjust. In the film The Nazis: A Warning from History—Chaos and Conspiracy,
Erna Kranz explains, “When the masses were shouting ‘Heil,’ what could the individual
person do? You went with it. We were the ones who went along.”2 The willingness of
many Germans to support Nazi policies, the lack of resistance to discriminatory laws, and
the cooperation of institutions, including churches, raise the question of how much the
Jews had really been accepted in German society prior to Hitler coming to power.

Additionally, to understand the reasons why Germans obeyed Hitler’s laws, we must rec-
ognize the fact that Germany was a totalitarian state when many, but not all, of these
laws were passed. Once Hitler became Führer, it was certainly more difficult for Germans
to resist following Nazi laws. By 1935, Hitler had already established many mechanisms
aimed at preventing a grassroots protest movement: he had instituted an active secret
service and state police, had opened a well-known concentration camp for those who
opposed Nazi ideals, and had bombarded public spaces, including schools, with Nazi
propaganda aimed at convincing the public that Hitler was acting in the best interests of
Germany. While these policies and institutions certainly made political dissent more chal-
lenging, in the 1930s it was still possible for many Germans (those without ties to the
Communist Party or Jewish ancestry) to resist without facing severe consequences. The
historical evidence does not indicate that Germans who passively resisted Nazi ideology
were sent to concentration camps. To be sure, Germans who demonstrated less zeal for
Nazi policies could be denied promotions or could lose their jobs entirely. For example,
Ricarda Huch, a poet and a writer, had to resign from her position at the prestigious
Prussian Academy of Arts when she refused to take Hitler’s oath of loyalty.3 During the
years of the Third Reich, she lived in internal exile, unable to publish her writing or teach
at the university. At the same time, she was not jailed or physically harmed for her refusal
to support Nazi policies. Thus, in the early years of the Nazi regime, there were opportu-
nities for Germans who were not Jews to protest the laws being enacted. The Nazis moni-
tored public opinion and when they learned of reservations among people they were
often willing to modify policies and change the timetable for their implementation. It is
unclear what would have happened if more people chose to engage in various forms of
resistance during the first months and years of the regime. According to historian Daniel
Goldhagen, the fact that few Germans decided to protest Nazi policies might represent
their willingness to tacitly accept Nazi laws, for reasons such as self-preservation, oppor-
tunism, peer pressure, antisemitism, or prejudice.4

While a minority of Germans struggled, unsuccessfully, to find meaningful ways to dis-


sent, this task was even more difficult for groups targeted by the Nazi Party. Without
access to a free press, an independent judiciary, and the right to vote, Jews and other
minority groups in Germany did not have access to “levers of power” that groups have
used during other struggles for civil rights, such as the civil rights movement in the

Lesson 10 • 145
United States. Studying the history of Nazi Germany illuminates how minority groups
become especially vulnerable to discrimination when they live under a dictatorship. As
students continue their study of the steps leading up to the Holocaust, they will see how
the laws declared by Hitler throughout the 1930s provided the foundation for genocide.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Defining a Jew,” pp. 201–2
“The People Respond,” p. 203
“The Hangman,” pp. 204–6

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis: Documents (1–6)
Handout 2: Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis: Document analysis worksheet

Opener
To prepare students for the material in this lesson, you can begin class by asking students
to review the material from the previous lessons about Germany’s shift from democracy
to dictatorship. The main idea you want students to recall is that Hitler went from hav-
ing no formal power, to some power, to all of the power in Germany. At the same time,
citizens went from having the power to elect representatives, join political parties, and
enjoy civil rights such as freedom of speech, to losing all of that power when they elected
Hitler as Führer.

Next, ask students to respond to the question, “Now that Hitler is Führer (dictator), the
Nazis have power to declare any law that he wants. Based on your knowledge of the goals
of the Nazi Party, what new laws might he declare?” Have students review the Nazi Party

Helping Students Understand the Concept of Dictatorship

Most students in your classroom probably have not experienced living under a dictatorship,
but most, if not all, students have likely experienced playing or watching games with estab-
lished rules and referees. If you think your students need more help understanding the implica-
tions of living under a dictatorship, one way to help them is by using a sports analogy. You can
ask students how a game would change—for example, basketball, football, or baseball—if
someone took over the league, tossed out the rule book, and fired all of the umpires. What
could this leader do if he or she wanted a particular team to win or a particular team to lose?
What would happen to the game without a referee? A sports or game metaphor provides an
opportunity to explain the implications of Hitler revoking the Weimar Constitution (i.e., like
throwing out the rule book) and controlling the courts (i.e., like firing all of the umpires and
hiring new ones who will do what you say). Of course, this metaphor is not accurate when you
compare the consequences of an unfair game versus an unfair dictatorship. You can open up
the following question to students: How are the consequences of an unfair game different than
the consequences of an unfair government system?

Lesson 10 • 146
platform to spark their thinking. Students can record answers in their journals and you
can ask for volunteers to share their thoughts with the class.

Main Activities
Explain to students that the purpose of the main activity is to help them learn about
some of the laws the Nazis passed before and after Hitler became dictator, and to con-
sider how these laws might have impacted people living in Germany. Handout 1 includes
excerpts of six laws passed by Hitler between 1933 and 1936. You do not have to use all
of the laws for this activity. You can help students comprehend and analyze the laws as a
whole class activity or you can have them work in small groups. You might decide to
focus on only a few laws. If so, we strongly suggest you focus on the Nuremberg laws
(documents 1 and 2) because they constituted an essential step that contributed to the
Holocaust.

There are many ways you could structure this class. You might decide to review the laws
together as a whole-class activity. Or your students could be assigned to present one of
the laws to the rest of the class. You might organize this activity as a jigsaw. In a jigsaw,
students first work in “expert” groups with one document. Handout 2 includes compre-
hension, interpretive, and universal questions designed to help students think about the
impact of the specific law they have been assigned and the idea of fairness or “just laws.”
While working in small groups, students can focus on answering the comprehension and
interpretive questions. [Note: The suggestions in the follow-through activity build on stu-
dents’ answers to the universal questions about fairness and discrimination.] Once experts
have had the opportunity to successfully analyze their law, new groups are formed. These
new groups include at least one student from each expert group. Students can present the
law they have been assigned to their new group. As students learn about the laws declared
by Hitler, they can add them to the timeline they started during Lesson 7 (or they can
begin a new timeline).

To reinforce students’ understanding of laws in Nazi Germany, students can return to the
predictions they made during the opening activity. To what extent were students able to
successfully predict some of the laws Hitler declared? Help students review the laws they
just learned about through the lens of the Nazi Party platform. How did the laws passed
by Hitler support the principles in the platform? Did Hitler pass any laws that went
against any of the ideas in the platform? You might ask students to think back to the
German citizen they were assigned during Lesson 7. How might this individual have felt
about these laws? Would he/she have been pleased, concerned, or surprised by any of
these laws? Students can respond to these questions in their journals before discussing
their ideas in small groups or as a whole class.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


The laws passed by Hitler exemplify unjust laws because of the way they discriminate
against individuals because of their membership in a specific group. Debriefing this activ-
ity provides an opportunity to review the meaning of the word “discrimination,” which
you may have defined during Lesson 5. What does it mean to discriminate? What is the
relationship between discrimination and prejudice? Who benefits from laws discriminat-
ing against members of particular groups? Is discrimination ever justified? Why are indi-
viduals more vulnerable to being discriminated against under a dictatorship than a demo-
cratic system of government? How might democratic institutions (elections, freedom of

Lesson 10 • 147
press, courts) help groups combat discrimination in communities today? These are all
questions you can use as prompts for journal writing or a class discussion. If you have
organized this activity using the jigsaw method, you could ask all of the “mixed” groups
to discuss the universal questions on handout 2 after they have presented their docu-
ments. Then each small group can present their idea about the qualities that make a fair
or just law.

One important learning goal for this unit is for students to recognize how ordinary peo-
ple—people like you and me—went along with the unjust policies of the Nazi Party. To
emphasize this point, ask students to respond to the following prompt in their journals:

Identify an experience (from your own life or from history) with a rule or law that
you thought was unfair to a particular group of people in your neighborhood or
school (i.e., girls, boys, older students, younger students, non-English speakers, immi-
grants, athletes, etc.) How did you respond to this rule? Did you follow it or resist it?
Why?

Volunteers can share their responses. After several students have shared, ask students if
writing the journal entry and listening to their peers changed their understanding of why
Germans followed Hitler’s laws. If so, in what ways have their ideas changed? By 1934,
the Germans lived under a dictatorship. Yet, students in the United States live in a
democracy. Ask students if any of their responses to unfair laws might have been different
if they lived in a dictatorship, and why this might be the case.

Assessment(s)
Students’ responses on handout 2 can be used to evaluate their ability to paraphrase and
interpret a primary source document. Their work on handout 2 and their comments dur-
ing class discussion will provide evidence of how students are able to explain how a law
might impact individual and group behavior. Another way to evaluate students’ historical
understanding is to ask them to describe how the laws passed by Hitler represent the
ideas in the Nazi Party platform. Finally, in students’ journal entries and comments dur-
ing class discussion, look for students to express a deeper understanding of discrimina-
tion. Students should be able to define discrimination as specific laws, policies, or prac-
tices that treat individuals differently because of their membership in a particular group,
and they should be developing an awareness of how some groups might benefit from dis-
criminatory policies while other groups suffer as a result of these same practices. Students
with a sophisticated understanding of this material will be able to recognize the ethical
dilemmas raised by unjust laws, especially when individuals benefit from the laws and
could suffer as a result of resisting them.

Extensions
Each of the laws included in this lesson impacted the attitudes and actions of the
German people in ways that contributed to the Holocaust. There will be plenty of oppor-
tunities in the rest of the unit to refer to these laws. For example, as students learn about
Hitler’s use of indoctrination, education, and propaganda to control German youth, you
can remind students of the law requiring German children to join the Hitler Youth
Movement. The Nuremberg laws are especially significant because they allowed the Nazi
government to decide who was a Jew and who was not a Jew, and then they stripped Jews
of their citizenship. You might want to spend more time analyzing the significance of the

Lesson 10 • 148
Nuremberg laws. Most adolescents experience moments when they are stuck between
how others, such as parents or peers, define them and how they want to define them-
selves. So, the fact that the Nazi government had the power to define and label individu-
als, often against their own will, has the power to provoke students’ own thoughts on the
concept of identity. Questions you might use to prompts students’ reflections in writing
or discussion include: What does it mean to lose the right to define yourself? What are
examples from today or the past of when individuals have been defined by others? Are
these labels and definitions always negative? What gives groups or individuals the power
to define and label other people?
• This lesson includes only several of the hundreds of laws the Nazis passed to pro-
mote their racist ideology and control the hearts and minds of the German people.
You or your students can learn about other Nazi laws, including laws targeting
groups other than Jews, such as the Gypsies and the disabled, by searching on the
following online archives:
Yad Vashem, “Documents of the Holocaust—Germany and Austria”
http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/index_about_holocaust.html
Yale Law School—The Avalon Project, “Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. 4”
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/nca_v4menu.asp

• If students are constructing a timeline of the events leading up to the Holocaust,


you can ask them to add these laws to their timelines. By searching on the Internet,
students can add images to their timelines to illustrate these laws. Or if students do
not have access to computers with Internet connections, you could find images for
the students and ask them to attach the image to the most relevant place on the
timeline. The following websites have a large collection of images from Germany in
the 1930s:
United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial (http://www.ushmm.org)
The History Place Holocaust Timeline
(http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/timeline.html)
The Holocaust Chronicle (http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/)
Yad Vashem
(http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/index_about_holocaust.html)

Lesson 10 • 149
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 1
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor


(also called the Nuremberg laws) — September 15, 19355

Firm in the knowledge that the purity of German blood is the basis for the survival of the
German people and inspired by the unshakeable determination to safeguard the future of
the German nation, the Reichstag has unanimously resolved upon the following law. . .

Section 1
Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or some related blood are
forbidden. Such marriages . . . are invalid, even if they take place abroad in
order to avoid the law.

Section 2
Sexual relations outside marriage between Jews and citizens of German or
related blood are forbidden.

Section 3
Jews will not be permitted to employ female citizens of German or related
blood who are under 45 years as housekeepers.

Section 4
1. Jews are forbidden to raise the national flag or display the national colors.
2. However, they are allowed to display the Jewish colors. The exercise of
this right is protected by the State.

Section 5
Anyone who disregards Section 1 . . . Section 2 . . . Sections 3 or 4 will be pun-
ished with imprisonment up to one year or with a fine, or with one of these
penalties. . . .

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
150
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 2
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

The Reich Citizenship Law


(also called the Nuremberg laws) — September 15, 1935

Article 16
Section 2
1. A Reich citizen is that subject who is of German or related blood only and
who through his behavior demonstrates that he is ready and able to serve
faithfully the German people and Reich.
2. The right to citizenship of the Reich is acquired by the grant of citizenship
papers.
3. A citizen of the Reich is the sole bearer of full political rights as provided
by the law.

Addition to the Reich Citizenship Law


November 14, 1935 (also called the Nuremberg laws)7

Article 4
1. A Jew cannot be a Reich citizen. He has no voting rights in political
matters; he cannot occupy a public office.
2. Jewish officials will retire as of December 31, 1935 . . . .

Article 5
1. A Jew is a person descended from at least three grandparents who are full
Jews by race . . . .
2. A Mischling [someone of mixed background] . . . is also considered a Jew if
he is descended from two full Jewish grandparents . . . .

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
151
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 3
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Oath of Reich Officials and of German Soldiers,


of 20 August 19348

Article 1
The public officials and the soldiers of the armed forces must take an oath
of loyalty on entering service.

Article 2
1. The oath of loyalty of public officials will be: “I swear: I shall be loyal and
obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people,
respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me
God.”
2. The oath of loyalty of the soldiers of the armed forces will be: “I swear by
God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler,
the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the
Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time
for this oath.”

Article 3
Officials already in service must swear this oath without delay according to
Article 2 number 1.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
152
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 4
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, April 7, 19339
The Reich Government has enacted the following Law . . .

Article 1
1. To restore a national professional civil service and to simplify administration, civil servants may
be dismissed from office in accordance with the following regulations, even where there would
be no grounds for such action under the prevailing Law.

Article 2
1. Civil servants who have entered the service since November 9, 1918, without possessing the
required or customary educational background or other qualifications are to be dismissed from
the service. Their previous salaries will continue to be paid for a period of three months following
their dismissal.

Article 3
1. Civil servants who are not of Aryan descent are to be retired; if they are honorary officials, they
are to be dismissed from their official status.
2. Section 1 does not apply to civil servants in office from August 1, 1914, who fought at the Front
for the German Reich or its Allies in the World War, or whose fathers or sons fell in the World War.

Article 4
1. Civil servants whose previous political activities afford no assurance that they will at all times
give their fullest support to the national State, can be dismissed from the service. . . .

Amendment to the Administration of the Law for the


Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 11 April 193310
Regarding Article 2:
Unfit, are all civil servants who belong to the communist party or communist aid or supplemen-
tary organization. They are, therefore, to be discharged.

Regarding Article 3:
1. A person is to be regarded as non-Aryan, who is descended from non-Aryans, especially Jewish
parents or grandparents. This holds true even if only one parent or grandparent is of non-Aryan
descent. This premise especially obtains if one parent or grandparent was of Jewish faith.

3. If Aryan descent is doubtful, an opinion must be obtained from the expert on racial research
commissioned by the Reich Minister of the Interior.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
153
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 5
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Law Concerning the Hitler Youth of December 1, 193611

It is on youth that the future of the German Nation depends. Hence, it is


necessary to prepare the entire German youth for its coming duties. The
government therefore has passed the following law . . .

Article 1
The entire German youth within the borders of the Reich is organized in the
Hitler Youth.

Article 2
It is not only in home and school, but in the Hitler Youth as well that all of
Germany’s youth is to be educated, physically, mentally, and morally, in the
spirit of National Socialism, to serve the nation and the racial community.

Article 3
The task of educating the entire German youth is entrusted to the Reich
Youth Leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. He thus
becomes the “Youth Leader of the German Reich.” His office shall rank with
that of a ministry. He shall reside in Berlin, and be responsible directly to
the Führer and Chancellor.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
154
Lesson 10: Handout 1, Document 6
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Law Against the Establishment of Parties, 14 July 193312

Article I
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party constitutes the only political
party in Germany.

Article 2
Whoever undertakes to maintain the organization of another political party
or to form a new political party shall be punished with penal servitude of up
to three years or with imprisonment of between six months and three years,
unless the act is subject to a heavier penalty under other regulations.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
155
Lesson 10: Handout 2
Laws Passed by Hitler and the Nazis

Document analysis worksheet


Comprehension questions
1. Name of the law you are presenting:

2. What is the meaning of this law? Explain the law in your own words.

Interpretive questions
3. Who did you think might have benefited from this law?

4. Who suffered as a result of this law?

5. How might this law have influenced the attitudes and actions of the German people?
How might their lives and beliefs have changed as a result of this law?

6. Why do you think the Nazis created this law?

Universal questions
7. Do you think this law is fair? Why or why not?

8. What are the qualities of a fair or “just” law?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the power of conformity and discrimination in Nazi Germany and in society today. •
156
Notes
1
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Sinti and Roma: Victims of the Nazi Era,” Holocaust Teacher
Resource Center website, http://www.holocaust-trc.org/sinti.htm (accessed January 8, 2009).
2
Laurence Rees, The Nazis: A Warning from History, DVD (Burbank: BBC Video, 2005).
3
Wolfgang Beutin, A History of German Literature (Abingdon: Routledge, 1993), 496.
4
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, “Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,”
http://www.historyplace.com/pointsofview/goldhagen.htm (accessed January 9, 2009). For further reading
on Goldhagen’s perspective, read Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1996).
5
“Law for Protection of German Blood and German Honor,” Holocaust Education and Archive Research
Team website, http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/pbgh.html (accessed January 10,
2009).
6
“Nuremberg Laws on Reich Citizenship, September 15, 1935,” Yad Vashem website,
http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%201998.pdf (accessed January 10,
2009).
7
“The Reich Citizenship Law (September 15, 1935) and the First Regulation to the Reich Citizenship Law
(November 14, 1935),” German History in Documents and Images website, http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-
dc.org/docpage.cfm?docpage_id=2171 (accessed January 10, 2009).
8
“Oath of Reich Officials and of German Soldiers, of 20 August 1934,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School
website, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/2061-ps.asp (accessed January 12, 2009).
9
“Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, April 7, 1933,” Yad Vashem website,
http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part1/doc10.html (accessed January 12, 2009).
10
“First Regulation for Administration of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 11
April 1933,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School website, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/2012-ps.asp
(accessed January 12, 2009).
11
“Law Concerning the Hitler Youth of December 1, 1936,” History of the Holocaust website,
http://www.cdojerusalem.org/iconsmultimedia/ClientsArea/HoH/LIBARC/ARCHIVE/Chapters/Stabiliz/R
acial/LawConce.html (accessed January 12, 2009).
12
“Law against the Establishment of Parties,” History of the Holocaust website,
http://www.cdojerusalem.org/iconsmultimedia/ClientsArea/HoH/LIBARC/ARCHIVE/Chapters/Forging/S
eizure/LawAgain.html (accessed January 12, 2009).

157
Lesson 11

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Five in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Nazis in Power: Propaganda and Conformity

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In this lesson, students will analyze several examples of Nazi propaganda in order to iden-
tify the messages that permeated German society, and to consider the impact these mes-
sages might have had on the actions and attitudes of German children, women, and men.
The activity in this lesson is also intended to help students learn how to analyze propa-
ganda through identifying the messenger, the message, and the audience of particular
images. As students practice interpreting images, they develop a useful skill not only for
understanding history, but also for understanding the images that surround them today.
Helping students recognize the power of propaganda and giving them the tools to decode
images are important steps in developing a fundamental skill for today’s citizens: media
literacy.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What is propaganda?
• How did the Nazis use propaganda? What messages were they trying to send?
• How do you think Nazi propaganda impacted the attitudes and actions of
Germans in the 1930s?
• What are examples of propaganda in society today? How do you think this propa-
ganda impacts the attitudes and actions of people today?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Analyzing images
• Analyzing language
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Propaganda
• Conformity
• Media
• Message, messenger, audience
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


Propaganda is defined as ideas that are spread (through various media) for the purpose of
influencing opinion. This term is often used to refer to material that is used for or against

Lesson 11 • 158
a specific political agenda. Hitler and the Nazis were known for their ability to create
extensive and varied forms of propaganda, with words and images carefully chosen and
deliberately used to give life to old antisemitic prejudices, elicit opportunistic tendencies,
quench dissent, and turn neighbor against neighbor. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote,
“[F]rom the child’s primer down to the last newspaper, every theater and every movie
house, every advertising pillar and every billboard must be pressed into the service sub-
jected of this one great mission. . . .”1 By establishing the Ministry of Public
Enlightenment and Propaganda as one of his first acts as chancellor, Hitler demonstrated
his belief that controlling information was as important as controlling the military and
the economy. He appointed Josef Goebbels to direct this department. Goebbels’s strategy
as Propaganda Minister was guided by the maxim, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep
repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”2 He penetrated virtually every sec-
tor of German society, from film, radio, posters, and rallies to school textbooks with Nazi
propaganda about the dominance of the Aryan people and the threat posed by the Jews.

Hitler is known for saying, “What good fortune for governments that people do not
think,”3 and his policies were based on the premise that most individuals are conformists
who do not think for themselves. Hitler and Nazi officials believed it was possible to
manipulate public opinion by using propaganda techniques including euphemisms,
name-calling, fear, and “bandwagon” (you are either for us or against us). For example,
the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda changed the words used in the
army, replacing the word “work” with “service to Führer and folk” and “worker” with
“soldier of labor.” Writer Max von der Grün recalls the impact these euphemisms had on
him during his service in the German army:

It is easy to understand that if, for whatever reasons, these words are hammered into a
person’s brain every day, they soon become a part of his language, and he does not
necessarily stop and think about where they come from and why they were coined in
the first place.4

The scenario described by Max von der Grün exemplifies how the Nazis’ effective use of
propaganda shut down Germans’ capacity for thoughtful deliberation about the informa-
tion around them. Demonstrating his commitment to shutting down critical thinking in
Germany, Hitler instructed Nazi Party officials to hold rallies in the evening, warning,
“Never try to convert a crowd to your point of view in the morning sun. Instead the dim
lights are useful—especially the evening when people are tired, their powers of resistance
are low, and their complete ‘emotional capitulation’ is easy to achieve.”5 Horst Krueger
admitted that many residents of his town of Eichkamp were skeptical of Hitler when he
first came to power. But he remembers how even those who were not able to attend ral-
lies in the big cities were eventually caught up in the spirit they evoked, explaining, “the
citizens of Eichkamp were eager to give themselves over to intoxication and rapture. They
were weaponless.”6 The Nazis’ distribution of antisemitic films, newspaper cartoons, and
even children’s books roused centuries-old prejudices against Jews and presented new
ideas about the racial impurity of Jews. Therefore, when the Nazis began implementing
policies against Jews, from the Nuremberg laws which stripped them of citizenship rights
to isolating Jews into ghettos, many in the German public were already predisposed
against this group of people and thus unlikely to stand up for the rights of their former
neighbors.

Lesson 11 • 159
Many have remarked on the effectiveness of Hitler’s use of information to manipulate
public opinion. After his visit to Munich during the 1936 Olympic Games, David Lloyd
George, former Prime Minister of Britain, wrote:

Whatever one may think of his methods—and they are certainly not those of a parlia-
mentary country—there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvelous transfor-
mation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their
social and economic outlook . . . not a word of criticism or disapproval have I heard
of Hitler.7

Scholars, such as professor of philosophy George Sabine, describe Hitler as a leader who
“manipulates the people as an artist molds clay.”8 Ultimately, the effectiveness of Nazi
propaganda reveals as much about the content and strategies involved in producing this
information as it does about the audience that received it. When exploring this history
with students it is important to look at propaganda not only through the lens of its cre-
ators (the messengers), but also through the lens of its audience. Hitler and other Nazi
leaders could advance their racist agenda because most members of the German public
believed the lies they spread about Jews. From studying Nazi Germany we learn how
individuals, especially young people, are vulnerable to believing myths and lies when they
are not encouraged to critically analyze the world around them and make informed judg-
ments based on evidence.

According to the Center for Media Literacy, “Media Literacy is the ability to access, ana-
lyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.”9 The Nazi education system dis-
couraged media literacy. Students were not taught how to develop their own ideas about
the images and messages that permeated life during the Third Reich because the success
of Hitler’s dictatorship depended on the youth believing the lies disseminated by the Nazi
Party. And, for the most part, the Nazis succeeded in these efforts. Testimonies of
German youth reveal that they mostly accepted what they heard and saw as the truth,
without evaluating the accuracy of the statements or the harm these messages inflicted on
vulnerable groups, especially Jews.

The success of Nazi propaganda in influencing the minds and hearts of many Germans,
especially German youth, demonstrates the dangers that can befall a society whose citi-
zens are not able to make informed judgments about the media around them. By helping
students develop the habit of asking questions such as, “What is the intended purpose of
the text? What message is being expressed? How do I know if this information is true?”
and the ability to answer these questions, we nurture their growth as responsible citizens
who are less likely to be manipulated by malicious propaganda. It is also critical for stu-
dents to learn to evaluate the ethical dimensions of propaganda. Studying Nazi propa-
ganda reveals that the effective use of information to persuade the public is not the same
as the responsible dissemination of ideas. Many forms of media (i.e., advertising, political
campaign speeches, public service announcements) are produced with the purpose of per-
suading public opinion, and might be classified as propaganda. Yet, should all propa-
ganda—all information that uses emotion or misleading claims to persuade an audi-
ence—be considered unethical, even propaganda aimed at causes we support? What
criteria should we use to evaluate the ethical use of information? In the twenty-first cen-
tury, when most of us have increasing access to a wide range of information, it is espe-
cially important for students to be equipped with the ability not only to comprehend
ideas, but to evaluate this information from a moral and intellectual perspective.

Lesson 11 • 160
Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“No Time to Think,” pp. 189–91
“Threats to Democracy,” pp. 160–61
“Propaganda,” pp. 218–21
“Propaganda and Sports,” pp. 221–23
“Art and Propaganda,” pp. 223–25
“Using Film as Propaganda,” pp. 225–27

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Nazi Propaganda—(Documents 1–3)
Handout 2: Nazi Propaganda—Image analysis worksheet
Handout 3: Nazi Propaganda—Sample analysis of Document 2

Opener
In this lesson, students will explore how the Nazis used images and language to influence
the attitudes and actions of the German people. One way to begin this lesson is to ask
students what they might do if they wanted to convince someone—friends, parents,
teachers, etc.—of an idea. What strategies might they use? What kinds of words would
they employ?

Another way to introduce this topic to students, while also reviewing content from the
previous lesson, is to ask students to look at the names the Nazis gave to the laws they
analyzed during Lesson 9.

For example, the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” sends a mes-
sage of improvement; it does not suggest that the law mandates firing people, even if they
are doing good work, just because they belong to a particular group. Ask students to
imagine that the law was called the “Law for the Discrimination against Civil Service
Workers Who Happen To Be Jews, Communists or Other Individuals We Just Don’t
Like” or the “Law for Firing Competent Doctors, Teachers, Judges, and City Employees
Who Do Not Belong to the Nazi Party.” Ask students to consider the different message
these new names send and how individuals might have responded to the law differently
with these new titles.

Then, you can give students an opportunity to do this same exercise with a partner. Post
the names of the following laws on the board:

Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor


Reich Citizenship Laws
Law for the Protection of Hereditary Health
Law Against the Establishment of Parties
Law Concerning the Hitler Youth

Lesson 11 • 161
Ask pairs to select one of these laws and then answer the following questions:

• What messages does the name of this law send?


• If you were going to name the same law, what might you call it?
• What different message might that new name send?

Allow time for volunteers to share their responses. Then, ask students why they think the
Nazis selected these particular names for their laws. Often students understand that Nazis
selected names that they thought would gather the most support for their policies. So,
they wanted to highlight the ideas they thought would appeal to the German people
while hiding the parts that they thought might raise concerns.

Main Activities
During the main activity, students will analyze three examples of Nazi propaganda dis-
tributed during the 1930s. Before they begin this exercise, help students define the word
propaganda. Below are several definitions of propaganda you might share with students
to help them think about the different meanings of this word. You could ask students
which definition/s best describe the practice of naming laws in Nazi Germany.

Definitions of Propaganda

• The spreading of ideas for the purpose of helping or harming an insti-


tution, a cause, or a person10
• Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to pro-
mote a political cause or point of view11
• A manipulation designed to lead you to a simplistic conclusion rather
than a carefully considered one12
• The deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate
cognitions [thoughts], and direct behavior to achieve a response that
furthers the desired intent of the propagandist13

At this point, you might want to remind students that within the first few months of
being appointed Chancellor, Hitler created a Ministry of Public Enlightenment and
Propaganda. The United States federal government, like many nations, has ministries (or
departments) of defense, treasury, and education, but does not have a department of
propaganda. You might give students the opportunity to consider what the director of a
Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda might do? They could write about this
question in their journals and/or discuss it with a partner. Under the Nazis, Josef
Goebbels, the director of this ministry, attempted to control every piece of information
the German public was exposed to—from school textbooks to films to newspapers to the
language used by soldiers.

In this lesson, students will analyze three examples of German propaganda: two posters
and a page from a children’s book. There are several ways you could structure students’
analysis of propaganda. We suggest that you do the first image together as a whole class so
that you can model how to answer questions with specific evidence. You might continue
to analyze images as a whole class, or you might have students analyze the other images in
small groups or independently.

Lesson 11 • 162
A Four-Step Process for Analyzing Images

(Note: Handout 2 is a worksheet you can use to guide students through this process. Handout
3 is an example of an analysis of a page from the children’s book, The Poisonous Mushroom.)
Step one: Description
Describe what you see in as much detail as possible. List information about images, colors,
lines, placement of objects on the page, etc.

Step two: Identification


Record basic information about the image. What do you know about it? Who created it?
When? Who do you think was the intended audience? In what format or media was it distrib-
uted (for example, as a poster, a book, a film, an advertisement in a newspaper, etc.)?

Step three: Interpretation


Based on what you know about this image, what message do you think the creator of this piece
intends to express?

Step four: Evaluation


Does this image utilize lies or misleading information to express its message? If so, how?
In your opinion, does this image express a positive or a negative message? Explain.

One important point for students to take away from this exercise is that propaganda is
designed to express an intended message to a particular audience. The effectiveness of the text
depends on how the messenger (creator) was able to use words, pictures, color, and composi-
tion to communicate this message. After students interpret the meaning of the images, it is
important that they evaluate them from an ethical standpoint. Just because a piece of propa-
ganda is effective, that does not mean that the text is fair or ethical. Often effective propa-
ganda, including Nazi propaganda, uses lies or misleading information to convey ideas. Also,
Nazi propaganda is considered unethical by most historians because it was designed to inflict
harm. One way you might have students evaluate these images is to ask them to explain which
image they believe is the most harmful. As students share their answers, you can begin to tease
out qualities that make some examples of propaganda more unethical than others. Finally, you
might end this analysis by having students reflect on the following questions: Based on what
you know about how the Nazis used propaganda, what do you think that Hitler, Goebbels,
and other Nazi leaders believed about how humans react to media (images, newspaper articles,
television, blogs, etc.)? Do you think they believed that most people are critical thinkers, capa-
ble of making their own judgments? Why or why not? Do you agree with their ideas about
how people respond to media? Explain your answer.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


After seeing a Nazi propaganda film called The Eternal Jew, a graduate student named
Marion Pritchard* said:

* Despite these feelings, Marion Pritchard protected the lives of at least 150 Dutch Jews during World War II,
risking her own life and safety to do so.

Lesson 11 • 163
I had attended it with a group of friends . . . some Jewish, some gentile [non-Jewish].
It was so cruel . . . that we could not believe anybody would have taken it seriously, or
find it convincing. But the next day one of the gentiles [non-Jews] said that she was
ashamed to admit that the movie had affected her. That although it strengthened her
resolve to oppose the German regime, the film had succeeded in making her see Jews
as “them.” And that of course was true for all of us. The Germans had driven a wedge
in what was one of the most integrated communities in Europe.14

You might end this lesson by sharing this quotation with students and asking them to
reflect on how they think propaganda might have influenced their lives. Questions you
might use to prompt students’ journal writing include: Have you ever felt like Marion
Pritchard? After seeing a movie or an advertisement or listening to a song, have you ever
felt like a message about individuals or groups might stick with you, even though you
knew the message is not true?

Assessment(s)
Students’ responses on handout 2 can be used to evaluate their ability to paraphrase and
interpret a primary source document. Their work on handout 2 and their comments dur-
ing class discussion will provide evidence of how students are able to explain how a law
might impact individual and group behavior. Another way to evaluate students’ historical
understanding is to ask them to describe how the laws passed by Hitler represent the
ideas in the Nazi Party platform. Finally, in students’ journal entries and comments dur-
ing class discussions, look for students to express a deeper understanding of discrimina-
tion. Students should be able to define discrimination as specific laws, policies, or prac-
tices that treat individuals differently because of their membership in a particular group,
and they should be developing an awareness of how some groups might benefit from dis-
criminatory policies while other groups suffer as a result of these same practices.

Extensions
• After students have studied Nazi propaganda, give them the opportunity to think
about propaganda in their own lives. Students are surrounded by advertisements
and other media that are intended to influence public opinion, and it is a useful
skill for them to be able to interpret and evaluate these texts and images. You can
ask them to consider how a group to which they belong (gender, race, age, religion,
neighborhood, school, nation, etc.) is represented by the media (by a song, a news-
paper article, advertisements, etc.). Students can share a specific example, either
found on the Internet, in magazines, or on television, and then discuss whether or
not they think this example should be defined as propaganda, based on the defini-
tions they developed in class. Students could also organize these examples on a con-
tinuum from most ethical to least ethical. Finally, it might be especially illuminating
to include an example of propaganda with a positive message, such as a public serv-
ice announcement for recycling or voting. Then you can have students analyze these
images using the same four-step process they used during this lesson.
• The German Propaganda Archive (http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/) posts
other examples of propaganda, including speeches, posters, and political cartoons.
You can search their collection for other images to use during this lesson or for stu-
dents to analyze for homework. If you want to spend more time teaching your stu-
dents about how to analyze propaganda, the Institute for Propaganda includes a list
of propaganda techniques and other helpful resources.

Lesson 11 • 164
Lesson 11: Handout 1, Document 1
Nazi Propaganda

The caption on this poster reads: “Healthy Parents Have Healthy Children.”

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 165
Lesson 11: Handout 1, Document 2
Nazi Propaganda

This is a page from a German children’s book called Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom)
published in 1938. The text under the picture reads, “Just as it is often very difficult to tell the
poisonous from the edible mushrooms, it is often very difficult to recognize Jews as thieves
and criminals. . . .”

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 166
Lesson 11: Handout 1, Document 3
Nazi Propaganda

The words on this poster read, “Youth Serves the Führer: All Ten-Year-Olds into the
Hitler Youth.”

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 167
Lesson 11: Handout 2
Nazi Propaganda: Image Analysis Worksheet

Step one: Describe what you see in as much detail as possible. List information about images, colors,
lines, placement of objects on the page, etc.

Step two: Identify basic information about this image. What do you know about it?

1. Who created it?

2. When?

3. In what format or media was it distributed (for example, as a poster, a book, a film, an advertisement
in a newspaper, etc.)?

4. Who do you think was the intended audience?

Step three: Interpret this image.

• What do you think it means? What message do you think the creator of this piece intends to express?
Provide specific evidence from the image to support your ideas.

• How do you think this message might have influenced the attitudes and actions of women, men, and
children living in Germany?

Step four: Evaluate this image. Does this image utilize lies or misleading information to express its
message? If so, how? In your opinion, does this image express a positive or a negative message? Explain.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 168
Lesson 11: Handout 3
Nazi Propaganda: Sample Analysis of Document 2

Step one: Describe what you see in as much detail as possible. List information about images, lines,
placement of objects on the page, etc.
• Teenage girl and young boy, both with blond hair and carrying baskets.
• Boy and girl in a forest—four tree trunks and leaves in the background, grass and mushrooms on
the ground.
• Boy is facing the girl, girl is above boy looking at him.
• The boy is holding up a mushroom. The girl’s finger is pointed at the mushroom.
• The sky in the background is overcast.
• The mushroom is in the center of the image, and it is also in the gap between the four trees.

Step two: Identify basic information about this image. What do you know about it?
1. Who created it? Julius Streicher, a Nazi and founder of a newspaper
2. When? 1938
3. In what format or media was it distributed (for example, as a poster, a book, a film, an advertise-
ment in a newspaper, etc.)? Children’s book called The Poisonous Mushroom
4. Who do you think was the intended audience? Children and parents

Step three: Interpret this image.


• What do you think it means? What message do you think the creator of this piece intends to
express? Provide specific evidence from the image to support your ideas.

I think Streicher was trying to warn German children that the Jews may not appear dangerous, but they really
are. The whole scene looks very innocent. It takes place in nature. The children are well-dressed, but not too
fancy, and they both look like the ideal Aryan German (blond with fair skin). They appear to be on a nice
outing to pick mushrooms. Streicker draws your attention to the mushroom by placing it in the middle of the
image. Your attention is further directed at the mushroom because the girl is pointing to it and because both
the girl and the boy are looking at it. The mushroom looks like a regular mushroom, just like the ones on the
ground. But the caption and the name of the book lets you know that the mushroom is really poisonous. Also,
from the girl’s expression and the way she is pointing it looks as if she is warning the boy about something
related to the mushroom. From the caption, we know that the mushroom is supposed to represent the Jews.
This image expresses the idea that innocent Germans must be warned about the Jews because even though the
Jews may blend in and appear harmless, they can actually inflict harm on Germany.

• How do you think this message might have influenced the attitudes and actions of women, men,
and children living in Germany?

This image might have caused German children and their parents to fear their Jewish neighbors. Even if the
Jews they know have not done anything wrong, children reading this book may believe that Jews are only pre-
tending to be good, but that they are really evil. This image might have influenced German parents who were
reading this book to their children. They might have thought that they needed to protect their children from
Jews. Also, this image makes the audience think of Jews not as people, but as a poisonous plant that must be
gotten rid of.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 169
Lesson 11: Handout 3
Nazi Propaganda: Sample Analysis of Document 2 (continued)

Step four: Evaluate this image. Does this image utilize lies or misleading information to express its mes-
sage? If so, how? In your opinion, does this image express a positive or a negative message? Explain.

This image is unethical because it uses lies to express a negative message. Jews are not thieves or criminals and
they were not trying to harm Germany. They just wanted to live their lives like any other Germans. Most Jews
contributed to Germany in positive ways—by volunteering in the army, working as teachers or doctors, and
even as famous scientists and artists. So, this image was spreading lies about Jews and that is unfair. This
image is also an unethical example of propaganda because it was intentionally designed to provoke fear, preju-
dice and hate.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of propaganda and develop students’ ability to interpret media. • 170
Notes
1
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), 632–33.
2
“Goebbels and ‘The Big Lie,’” Jewish Virtual Library website,
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/goebbelslie.html (accessed January 13, 2009).
3
Mfonobong Nsehe, The Adolf Hitler Book: Essays, Speeches, and Quotations from Adolf Hitler (Seattle:
CreateSpace, 2008), 474.
4
Max von der Grün, Howl Like the Wolves: Growing Up in Nazi Germany (New York: William Morrow,
1980), 76.
5
Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Brookline: Facing
History and Ourselves National Foundation, 1994), 215.
6
Horst Krüger, A Crack in the Wall: Growing Up Under Hitler (New York: Fromm International Publishing
Corporation, 1982), 17.
7
David Lloyd George, “I Talked to Hitler,” Daily Express (London), 17 November, 1936.
8
George Sabine, History of Political Theory (London: G. Harrap, 1950), 884.
9
“Media Literacy: A Definition . . . And More,” Center for Media Literacy website,
http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/rr2def.php (accessed January 13, 2009).
10
Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, “propaganda,” (accessed January 13, 2009).
11
Concise Oxford English Dictionary, “propaganda,” as quoted on Media Literacy Clearinghouse website,
http://www.frankwbaker.com/progaganda.htm (accessed January 13, 2009).
12
Dr. Anthony Pratkanis as quoted in Daniel Goleman, “Voters Assailed by Unfair Persuasion,” New York
Times, October 27, 1992, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res
=9E0CE6DCI33AF934A15753CIA9649582608&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod-permalink
(accessed January 13, 2009).
13
Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, as quoted on Medial Literacy
Clearinghouse website, (accessed January 13, 2009).
14
Marion Pritchard as quoted in The Courage to Care, ed. Carol Rittner and Sondra Myers (New York: New
York University Press, 1986), 28.

171
Lesson 12

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Five in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Life for German Youth in the 1930s: Education,


Propaganda, Conformity, and Obedience

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In this lesson, students read narratives describing life for German youth in the 1930s.
Many of these narratives focus on experiences in school and in youth groups where
teenagers received powerful messages from teachers, peers, Nazi officials, and parents
about the proper way to act and think. The activities suggested in this lesson encourage
students to recognize how factors such as pride, fear, obedience, and peer pressure influ-
enced how German youth responded to messages disseminated by the Nazis. Analyzing
how German youth responded to messages about the proper way to think and act can
help students reflect on their own responses to such messages in their lives. In particular,
the material in this lesson provides opportunities for students to consider the messages
they receive in school about their responsibilities as citizens, and to evaluate the role of
civic education in a democracy.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What was life like for teenagers living in Germany between 1933 and 1939?
• What messages did they receive about the proper way to think and act? Where did
these messages come from? How did German youth interpret and respond to these
messages? What influenced their choices?
• What messages do you receive about the proper way to think and act? Where do
these messages come from? How do you interpret and respond to these messages?
What influences your choices?
• What is the role of school in preparing young people for their role as citizens? What
might be the difference between preparing students to live in a dictatorship versus
a democracy?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Interpreting narrative historical documents
• Synthesizing information to answer questions about a historical time period
• Defending ideas with evidence
• Drawing connections between history and their lives
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Propaganda
• Conformity
• Obedience
• Education

Lesson 12 • 172
• Message
• Dictatorship
• Democracy
• Citizen
• Civic education
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


In Lesson 11, students explored the impact of Nazi propaganda on the attitudes and
actions of the German public. One of the critical audiences for this propaganda
was German youth. Time and time again, Hitler spoke of the importance of indoctri-
nating German youth to Nazi ideals. In a 1935 speech to Nazi party officials, Hitler
declared, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future,”1 and four years later he
announced, “I am beginning with the young. . . . With them I can make a new world.”2
What kind of youth did the Nazis believe would best support their plans for Germany?
On that point, Hitler was very specific. In the following speech, he described the ideal
German youth:

A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth—that is what I am after. Youth


must be all those things. It must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness or
tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independ-
ence of the beast of prey. . . . I intend to have an athletic youth—that is the first and
the chief thing. . . . I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my
young men.3

As soon as the Nazis came to power, they set in motion the process of permeating the life
of German youth with Nazi propaganda. One of the critical spaces where the Nazis
hoped to indoctrinate German youth was in the schools. Recalling his experience as a
student in Nazi Germany, Alfons Heck shares:

Unlike our elders, we children of the 1930s had never known a Germany without
Nazis. From our very first year in the Volksschule or elementary school, we received
daily doses of Nazism. These we swallowed as naturally as our morning milk. Never
did we question what our teachers said. We simply believed what was crammed into
us. And never for a moment did we doubt how fortunate we were to live in a country
with such a promising future.4

Heck’s memory illustrates how the Nazis redesigned the school curriculum toward teach-
ing students not to think but to unquestioningly accept. They changed the curriculum in
other ways, too. The teaching of race science in all subjects became mandatory and physi-
cal education was emphasized. Additionally, girls and boys were offered different course-
work, usually in separate schools. While the boys took classes in military history and sci-
ence, the girls took classes in cooking and child-rearing.

When studying this history, it is important to focus not only on what the Nazis did, but
on how Germans responded to their actions. In order for Hitler’s plans to work, teachers
needed to execute the Nazi curriculum in the classroom. But did they? According to

Lesson 12 • 173
Holocaust scholars Richard Rubenstein and John Roth, teachers were among Hitler’s
staunchest supporters. They explain:

German school teachers and university professors were not Hitler’s adversaries. . . .
Quite the opposite; the teaching profession proved one of the most reliable segments
of the population as far as National Socialism was concerned. Throughout the
Weimar era, Germany’s educational establishment, continuing its long authoritarian
tradition, remained unreconciled to democracy and nationalism. Once in power, the
Nazis expunged dissenting instructors, but there were not many. On the other hand,
at least two leading Nazis, the rabid antisemites Heinrich Himmler and Julius
Streicher, had formerly been teachers. Eventually more than 30% of the top Nazi
Party leadership came from that background. Teachers, especially from elementary
schools, were by far the largest professional group represented in the party. Altogether
almost 97% of them belonged to the Nazi Teachers’ Association, and more than 30%
of that number were members of the Nazi Party itself. From such instructors, German
boys and girls learned what the Nazis wanted them to know. Hatred of Jews was cen-
tral in that curriculum.5

As Rubenstein and Roth point out, the Nazis had the power to remove any teachers who
did not support their agenda. This was demonstrated in 1933 with the passage of the
“Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” which fired all Jewish instruc-
tors in schools and universities, and records show that teachers suspicious of Jewish sym-
pathies or not strictly teaching the curriculum were quickly fired, or even arrested. Thus,
when understanding why teachers went along with changes in instructions, it is impor-
tant to recognize that many factors, including opportunism, fear, conformity, national
pride, and antisemitism, may have been at play.

Schools were not the only space where


German youth received Nazi propaganda.
Following through on their belief in the
importance of capturing the hearts and
minds of German youth, the Nazis passed
a law in 1936 mandating that all German
youth participate in the Hitler Youth
Movement. Hitler Youth groups started at
the age of six. At ten, boys were initiated
into the Jungvolk and at fourteen pro-
moted to the Hitler Youth or HJ (for
Hitler Jugend). Girls belonged to the
Jungmaedel and then the BDM (the Bund
Deutscher Maedel or the League of German
Girls). In such groups, said Hitler, “These
young people will learn nothing else but
how to think German and act German. . . .
And they will never be free again, not in
their whole lives.”6 Parents could be pun-
ished if their children did not regularly
attend meetings. By 1939, about 90% of
the Aryan children in Germany belonged
to Nazi youth groups.
A page from the antisemitic children’s book, The Poisonous Mushroom.

Lesson 12 • 174
German youth spent a majority of their time in school or in youth groups, but even
when they were not engaged in these activities, the Nazis found ways to ensure they were
still surrounded by propaganda. Julius Streicher, as director of the Ministry of
Propaganda, published books, films, posters, and comic books exclusively written for
young audiences. This media was full of messages expressing the superiority of the
“Aryan” race and the inferiority of Jews and other undesirables. It glorified Hitler and
portrayed images of the ideal German girls and boys as fiercely loyal to the Nazi Party.
The Nazis also created holidays where Germans, especially German youth, could cele-
brate Hitler and the party. January 30 marked the day Hitler became chancellor and April
20 his birthday. Days set aside for party rallies at Nuremberg were also holidays. So was
November 9, the anniversary of the attempted coup in the Munich beer hall. It was
known as the Day of the Martyrs of the Movement. Memoirs written by Germans who
grew up during the 1930s recall the excitement of these holidays and rallies. Alfons Heck,
a high-ranking Hitler Youth member, recalls one impressionable moment at a rally on
Hitler Youth Day:
Shortly before noon, 80,000 Hitler Youth were lined up in rows as long as the entire
stadium. . . . When Hitler finally appeared, we greeted him with a thundering, triple
“Sieg Heil,” (Hail to Victory). . . . Then his voice rose. . . . “You, my youth,” he
shouted, with his eyes seeming to stare right at me, “are our nation’s most precious
guarantee for a great future. . . . You, my youth. . . . Never forget that one day you
will rule the world.” For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with
tears streaming down our faces: “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!” From that moment
on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul.7

Accordingly, the Nazis used schools, youth groups, and the media to surround German
youth with messages about the proper way to think and act in this new German totalitar-
ian state. Erika Mann, a German who opposed the Nazis, wrote a book called School for
Barbarians in which she described how the Nazi propaganda permeated the lives of young
Germans. She referred to “the Blockwart (neighborhood wardens), the swastika, the signs
reading ‘No Jews allowed’” as just part of “an atmosphere that is torture, a fuming poison
for a free born human being.”8 She continues, “The German child breathes this air. There
is no other condition wherever Nazis are in power; and here in Germany they do rule
everywhere, and their supremacy over the German child, as he learns and eats, marches,
grows up, breathes, is complete.”9 In the story “The Birthday Party” (pp. 237–39 in the
resource book), Mann illustrates how children even turned against their parents in the
name of supporting the Nazis and Hitler. After his son contradicts him in front of a
Hitler Youth leader, the father realizes that in this context he cannot trust his own son. To
be sure, this is exactly what Hitler wanted; he hoped that the German state would be
more important to children than their parents, their church, or their friends.

Like Erika Mann, not all German adults or young people accepted the Nazis’ ideas. By
the late 1930s, a number of teenagers were questioning the system Hitler created. Among
them were members of the Edelweiss Pirates, a loose collection of independent gangs in
western Germany, and the “Swing Kids,” who used dance and music as a form of resist-
ance.* And some Germany parents left Germany to avoid putting their children in the
position of following Hitler’s orders.† Yet, while some Germans resisted Nazi propaganda,

* For more information about how German youth resisted Nazi policies, read “Rebels Without a Cause,” pp. 249–50 in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.
† For an account of one German family’s decision to emigrate, read “Taking a Stand,” pp. 268–69 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Lesson 12 • 175
it is important to ask why many Germans, especially German youth, believed Nazi prop-
aganda and/or went along with their ideas. Surely, many German youth were motivated
out of fear—fear of losing a job, fear of being sent to jail, fear of being isolated by one’s
peers. As Erika Mann referenced in the statement above, the Nazis put spies throughout
neighborhoods (i.e., Blockwarts, the Gestapo, etc.), and children were even known to
report on their own parents. It was clear in Nazi Germany that anyone who did not act
and think in particular ways would be ostracized. In Lesson 2, students considered how
peer pressure (or conformity) influenced middle school students to alienate one of their
classmates. The material in this lesson also demonstrates how the human need to belong
and “fit in” shapes behavior. Finally, Nazi propaganda emphasized feelings of national
pride; the holidays and parades were designed to make Germans feel special and power-
ful. Eleanor Ayer, the author of numerous books on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust,
including Parallel Journeys, describes how, according to Nazi propaganda, “It was a terrific
time to be young in Germany. If you were a healthy teenager, if you were a patriotic
German, if you came from an Aryan (non-Jewish) family, a glorious future was yours.
The Nazis promised it.”10

This message of superiority, belonging, success, and progress understandably appealed to


many German teenagers, including Alfons Heck. Yet, after World War II was over and
evidence of Nazi war crimes were made public through the Nuremberg trials, Heck
described his experience growing up in Nazi Germany as “a massive case of child abuse.”
In his memoir, A Child of Hitler, he writes about the vulnerability of youth and issues a
warning to future generations:

The experience of the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany constitutes a massive case of
child abuse. Out of millions of basically innocent children, Hitler and his regime suc-
ceeded in creating potential monsters. Could it happen again today? Of course it can.
Children are like empty vessels: you can fill them with good, you can fill them with
evil; you can fill them with compassion.11

Like their German counterparts, youth today are susceptible to being influenced by mes-
sages—messages from movies, music, advertisements, school curricula, religious institu-
tions, family members, friends—about how they are supposed to think and act. One
point that bears repeating is that Germany in the 1930s was a totalitarian state. If
German teenagers decided not to support the messages articulated by Nazi propaganda,
they would not only be ostracized from their peer group, but they could be expelled from
school or denied jobs. Even the families of rebellious teenagers could be punished for
their child’s lack of commitment to Nazi ideology. Teenagers living in a twenty-first-
century democracy often enjoy a wider range of choices about how to respond to mes-
sages about how they are supposed to think and act, and the consequences of their
decisions are typically not as severe as those felt by German adolescents in the 1930s. [To
be sure, for some youth, especially those that do not conform to mainstream gender roles
about how boys and girls are supposed to look and act, the consequences can be
extremely harsh.] Studying propaganda during the Nazi years provides an opportunity to
examine the messages that our communities and society are sending to youth. To what
extent are they being filled up with good? With prejudice and hate? With tolerance and
compassion? These are important questions for educators to consider as they prepare
youth for their role as democratic citizens and members of a global community.

Lesson 12 • 176
Related reading in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Changes at School,” pp. 175–76
“School for Barbarians,” pp. 228–31
“Belonging,” pp. 232–35
“Models of Obedience,” pp. 235–37
“Birthday Party,” pp. 237–40
“A Matter of Loyalty,” pp. 240–41
“Propaganda and Education,” pp. 242–43
“Racial Instruction,” pp. 243–45
“School for Girls,” pp. 245–46
“A Lesson in Current Events,” pp. 246–48
“Rebels Without a Cause,” pp. 249–50

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: two class periods

Suggestion for how to implement this lesson over two class periods: Depending on how
you structure this lesson, an appropriate place to end the first part of the lesson is after
students are assigned a reading to analyze. This way, students can do their assigned read-
ing for homework and the second part of the lesson can begin with students meeting in
groups to discuss the text.

Materials
Handout 1: What was life like for teenagers living in Germany between 1933 and
1939?
Handout 2: Sample analysis of “Changes at School”
Handout 3: Sample analysis of “Frank S.” from Childhood Memories
Handout 4: German youth in the 1930s: Suggested excerpted documents (1–9)
Film: “Frank S.” in Childhood Memories (1:30–7:00)

Opener
The purpose of this lesson is to help students begin to understand what life was like for
young people growing up in Nazi Germany. Young people were surrounded by messages
about how they were supposed to act and the ideas they were supposed to believe in. Can
the same be said about youth today? To open this lesson, give students the opportunity to
answer the question, “What is it like for a teenager growing up today?” by responding to
these two questions: 1) What messages are being sent to you about how you are supposed
to behave and act? and 2) Who is sending these messages? Where do they come from?
[Note: You may want to rephrase this question to make it more specific to your students.
For example, you could ask “What is it like for a teenager growing up in your commu-
nity or town today?” or “What is it like for a teenager attending this school today?”]

Students can first answer this question by silently writing in their journals. Some of stu-
dents’ reflections may be private; they may not want to share pressures they feel to behave
a certain way. So, rather than ask all students to publicly share what they have written,
you might just ask students to share their response to the second set of questions (“Who

Lesson 12 • 177
is sending these messages? Where do they come from?”). Students will likely identify how
they receive messages from school, peers, their parents, and the media.

Main Activities
Explain to students that in this lesson they will be studying how the same sources that
send them messages about how to think and act (i.e., school, peers, media, parents, etc.)
also sent messages to German youth. The activity they are about to begin will help them
answer the question, “What was life like for a teenager living in Germany between 1930
and 1939?” You may want to write this on the board to remind students of this guiding
question.

In this lesson, students will read text about German youth in the 1930s. Many of these
are first-person accounts. Any of the readings listed in the “Related readings from HHB”
section would be appropriate for this lesson. The difficulty of text varies, so we suggest
you preview any readings before assigning them to your students. You can have students
read the entire text, or suggest particular paragraphs. Handout 4 includes suggested
readings that have been excerpted to make them more accessible for middle-school-level
readers.

Individually or in small groups, students will answer the following questions about their
reading: 1) Based on this reading, what messages were being sent to young Germans
about the proper way to think and act in Germany in the 1930s? 2) How might this
message have appealed to German teenagers? What might they have liked about this mes-
sage? What might have been confusing or disturbing about this message? and, 3) Given
what they know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, what range of
options did German teenagers have about how they could respond to this message? What
do they think most teenagers will do? Why? (See handout 1 for a graphic organizer you
can use with students to help them organize their ideas. Handout 2 includes a sample
analysis of the reading, “Changes at School.”)

Because Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior includes many
engaging readings focused on life in Germany from an adolescent perspective, we suggest
giving students the opportunity to engage with several of these readings. One way to
expose students to several readings is to use the jigsaw strategy. You can assign small
groups of students the task of becoming “experts” on one reading. After students have
had the opportunity to answer the questions on Handout 1, they can form mixed groups
with students who are experts on different readings. Students can share the information
on their handouts, and then these groups can synthesize what they know as they discuss
the question, “What was life like for a teenager living in Germany in the 1930s?”
Alternatively, this lesson can be structured to allow students to work independently. You
can provide students with a list of the readings from the resource book that focus on
experiences of German youth in the 1930s. Ask them to answer the questions on hand-
out 1 for three readings that they select.

Before students analyze a text on their own or in small groups, we suggest that you model
how to answer these questions by interpreting a vignette from the documentary Child-
hood Memories as a whole-class activity. In the first excerpt on this film, Frank S. recalls
his experience in a biology class called “raciology.” He remembers feeling humiliated
when the teacher had him stand in front of the class as a “living example of what a Jew

Lesson 12 • 178
looks like.” Later in the interview excerpt, Frank talks about how he was bullied in school
by students and teachers because he was Jewish. This testimony provides clear evidence of
how Nazi propaganda shaped the experience of young Jewish Germans. At the same time,
from listening to Frank’s experience, students can imagine the impact the teacher’s lesson
might have had on non-Jewish German teenagers as well. Handout 3 is a sample analysis
of this excerpt that can guide your class’s interpretation of this vignette.

A final discussion framed around the question, “What was life like for a teenager living in
Germany between 1933 and 1939?” should strive to help students recognize how factors
such as peer pressure (conformity), fear (bullying), and pride (influenced by Nazi propa-
ganda) might have shaped how youth responded to the messages that permeated German
society in the 1930s. The conversation might begin by having students identify how they
think teenagers were influenced by a particular message. Encourage students to consider
how the same message might impact a teenager in conflicting ways. For example, while
many of the ideas taught at schools might have engendered a feeling of purpose and
nationalistic pride, these same messages might have created moral dilemmas for teenagers.
Many non-Jewish youth lived in neighborhoods with Jewish youth. They had attended
the same schools and in many instances were friends. How might young people have
responded when learning that someone they liked, or even loved, was “unpure”? What
might have happened if information students learned in schools, such as the idea that all
Jews looked a certain way, contradicted what they knew from their own lives? What if
their parents expressed views at home that were different than those communicated at
school?

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


[Note: If students started a K-W-L chart, you can return to it at the end of this lesson.
Ask students to add information to the third column, “What did you learn?”]

One of the main ideas students will confront in this lesson is the relationship between
education, propaganda, and citizenship. Many of the readings (i.e., “Racial Instruction”
and “Current Events”) emphasize how the Nazis explicitly used classrooms as a training
ground for citizens that could make positive contributions to their dictatorship. Hitler’s
power, and the power of the Nazi Party, could be maintained if young people did not
question their authority, if they willingly volunteered to follow their laws, and if they saw
it as their responsibility to serve their Führer. After completing several readings suggested
in the materials section, students will be able to identify how the material taught in
schools supported the mission of the Nazi Party. For example, by teaching students race
science, they would come to believe that the Aryan race was superior to other races.
Hitler is quoted as saying, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” You might
share this statement with students. Then, ask them to reflect in their journals on why
Hitler may have believed that the youth were important and the degree to which they
agree with this idea. This could lead to an interesting discussion about the significance of
youth today to politicians, corporations, and other audiences.

The relationship between education and citizenship is certainly relevant to students’ lives
today. Indeed, many Americans agree that one of the purposes of public school is to pre-
pare students for their role as democratic citizens. Thus, you might end this lesson by
having students define the phrase “civic education” and then reflect on their own experi-
ences and ideas related to civic education. Clearly, preparing citizens for a dictatorship is

Lesson 12 • 179
different than preparing students for a democracy. You might ask students to think about
how this training or preparation is different. Also, in Nazi Germany, it is clear that the
government mandated unethical propaganda techniques, such as the teaching of lies as
truth, in school curricula. You might have students suggest what would be appropriate
ways for schools to prepare students for their role as citizens.

The barometer teaching strategy might be a useful way to help students think about
where they stand when it comes to civic education. This strategy asks students to line up
along a continuum to represent their points of view. To prepare for this activity, you need
to identify a space in the classroom where students can create a line or a U-shape. At one
end of the line, post a sign that reads “appropriate or ethical” and at the other end of the
line post a sign that reads “inappropriate or unethical.” Then you can read examples of
scenarios from the list below, or you can make up your own. After you read a scenario,
ask students to stand on the spot of the line that represents their opinion. Once all stu-
dents have lined up, ask students at different ends of the line to explain their position.
Encourage students to keep an open mind; they are allowed to move if someone shares an
argument that alters where they want to stand on the line.

Sample prompts for barometer activity: Do you think the following are appropriate or
inappropriate forms of civic education?

• Teaching students about how government works.


• Encouraging students to register to vote.
• Talking about the views of different political parties.
• Teaching students about American history from different points of view, even if
some of those perspectives reveal that the United States might have made mistakes
in its past.
• Using materials that highlight the positive aspects of living in a democracy and the
negative aspects of living in a dictatorship.
• Teaching students that it is always important to obey authority, especially govern-
ment officials and the laws of our country.
• Community service requirements for high school graduation.

Assessment(s)
To evaluate students’ comprehension and interpretation of the readings, you can collect
handout 1. Moreover, students’ responses in the class discussion will reveal the depth of
their understanding about life for German youth in the 1930s. If there are important
ideas students do not bring up themselves, such as the idea that German youth may have
experienced Nazi propaganda in different ways, you can introduce these ideas during the
discussion.

Students could write a journal entry or brief essay comparing their experience with civic
education to the experiences of German youth, and then suggesting ways their own civic
education might be improved.

To evaluate how students are able to synthesize information from many readings to
answer the question, “What was life like for teenagers in Germany in the 1930s?” you
can ask them to write a diary entry from the perspective of a German youth. First, stu-
dents would need to select the identity of their narrator (i.e., boy or girl, Jew or non-Jew,

Lesson 12 • 180
etc.). Then, they write the diary entry of how this young person might have responded to
particular aspects of German life, from specific laws passed or particular messages
expressed in Nazi propaganda.

Extensions
• Students have just engaged in five lessons focusing on the history of Germany in
the 1920s and 1930s. At this halfway point in the historical case study, many teach-
ers have found that the K-W-L teaching strategy helps students review what they
have learned and anticipate what they might learn in future lessons. Students’
responses to these prompts can be used to direct your teaching by revealing areas
of student interest and highlighting any misconceptions that may need to be
cleared up.

Directions for Making K-W-L Charts

Step 1: Ask students to create three columns on a sheet of paper:


• Column 1: What do you Know about Germany once Hitler and the Nazis came to power?
• Column 2: What do you Want to know?
• Column 3: What did you Learn? (Students can complete this column at the end of this
lesson and at the end of subsequent lessons.)
Step 2: Have students complete column 1. This can be done individually, in small groups,
or as a whole-class activity. Some teachers ask each student to contribute one idea to this
column.
Step 3: Have students record questions in column 2. Questions can reveal what they hope to
learn and might also test any predictions they have made about what will happen next.
Step 4: Explain to students that they will return to this chart at the end of the lesson and
future lessons. A class version of the K-W-L chart can be kept on the wall and referred to
throughout the unit as the material addresses students’ questions.

• The main activity of this lesson suggests that students have the opportunity to apply
information from readings in Holocaust and Human Behavior to discuss the ques-
tion, “What was life like for a teenager in Germany in the 1930s?” If you want to
organize a structured discussion with students that provides opportunities for both
active listening and speaking, you might wish to use the “fishbowl” discussion strat-
egy. In a fishbowl discussion, half of the class sits in a circle and talks about the
material while the other half of the class observes the discussion. Then, after ten
minutes or so, students switch roles, with those inside of the circle becoming the
observers and those outside of the circle becoming the talkers. Teachers who use this
strategy often ask the observers to take notes on particular themes or questions. For
example, observers might record ideas they agree with, ideas they disagree with, and
questions they have about what has been discussed. When the observers move to the
inner circles, they can use the ideas in their notes to spark discussion. After the dis-
cussion is over, teachers often give the final group of observers the opportunity to
comment on the conversation they just witnessed.

• Another way to help students synthesize material from various readings is to have
them construct a found poem. A found poem is made by selecting phrases and quo-
tations from text and arranging them to express a particular message. Students could
identify interesting words, phrases, and quotations from the suggested texts (see

Lesson 12 • 181
materials section) and record them on slips of paper or sticky notes. Students can
build a found poem with peers who have read different texts. Students can also cre-
ate a found poem individually based on their own reading of several texts. For more
information on how to write a found poem, refer to Lesson 17, Handout 3.

• Students can write a story using the titles of the suggested readings from Holocaust
and Human Behavior but drawing from material in their own lives. For example, a
story titled “Belonging” might be focused on pressure to fit in with a certain peer
group. Or, a story called, “A Lesson in Current Events,” might explore how students
learn about the world around them. When writing their stories, students should be
encouraged to provide information that answers the following questions:
What messages are being sent about how you are supposed to think and act?
Who is sending these messages?
How can you respond to these messages? What are your options?
How do you choose to respond? Why?

• In addition to showing Frank S., you might want to show one of the other vignettes
on the Childhood Memories video. Here are some highlights from this video:

• Karl H: Karl recalls a moment in 3rd grade in 1944 when he was taught about
how the Aryan race had become diluted and that the purpose of the Nazi move-
ment was to bring back the purity of the Aryan race.
• Elizabeth D: Elizabeth shares dilemmas she faced living as a Jehovah’s Witness in
Germany. On the one hand, she remembers wanting to be an “ordinary
German,” yet she also respected the choices made by her family to be true to
their faith. Elizabeth describes how she grew up wishing she was invisible rather
than be forced to say “Heil Hitler,” which was against her religion.
• Walter K: Walter shares his experience as the only Jewish boy in a class of 55 in a
German public school. As a child, he recalls that he did not understand why he
was not allowed to say “Heil Hitler.” He could not go swimming or to the
movies. He also tells the story of when he was 11 and a teacher hit him with a
stick, without reason. Yet, he says his parents could not go to the police because
they would not help Jews. The principal, “a good man,” also said that he could
not do anything about it because he did not belong to the Nazi Party.

Lesson 12 • 182
Lesson
Lesson 12:
12: Handout
Handout 11
What was life like for teenagers living in Germany between 1933 and 1939?

Directions: Use material from the reading to answer the questions in the chart below.

According to this reading, what message or messages are being sent to German youth about how
they should act and behave?

Who is sending and/or supporting this message?

This message might appeal to German youth because . . .

This message might confuse or disturb some German youth because . . .

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, young people could respond
to this message by . . .

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, I think most German
teenagers will respond to this message by . . . (possible answers include: protesting, ignoring, follow-
ing along, celebrating . . .)

I think this because . . .

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 183
Lesson 12: Handout 2
Sample Analysis of “Changes at School”

Directions: Use material from the reading to answer the questions in the chart below.

Title of reading: “Changes at School”

According to this reading, what message or messages are being sent to German youth about how
they should act and behave?
German youth should not be friends with non-Aryans, including Jews.

Who is sending and/or supporting this message?


The Nazi Party.

This message might appeal to German youth because . . .


They were singled out as being special and superior.

Some of them might have had Jewish friends and not know what to do or what to
This message might confuse or disturb some German youth because . . .

believe. Their own experiences with Jews might conflict with the ideas expressed by
the Nazis.

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, young people could respond
to this message by . . .
They could have followed orders and stopped being friends with Jews.
They could have ignored the orders.
They could have pretended to follow the orders, but secretly find ways to let their Jewish
friends know they still like them.

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, I think most German
teenagers will respond to this message by . . . (possible answers include: protesting, ignoring, follow-
ing along, celebrating . . .)
Following orders and not being friends with Jews.

I think this because . . .


Because it is easiest and because they would be scared about getting into trouble.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 184
Lesson 12: Handout 3
Sample Analysis of “Frank S.” from Childhood Memories

Directions: Use material from the reading to answer the questions in the chart below.

Title of reading film: “Frank S.” from Childhood Memories

According to this reading, what message or messages are being sent to German youth about how
they should act and behave?
The message being sent is that Jews are inferior, that they are less valuable than Aryan
Germans.

Who is sending and/or supporting this message?


The teacher

This message might appeal to German youth because . . .


It would not appeal to Jewish youth, but Aryan youth might enjoy feeling superior. It
could make them feel proud.

This message might confuse or disturb some German youth because . . .


German youth — Jewish and Aryan — might be confused because the ideas the teacher is
spreading about Jews may not match their experience. For example, many Jews do not fit the
example of what a Jew is supposed to look like. Aryans and Jews who had been friends might
be disturbed by these messages that make it hard for them to keep up their friendship.

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, young people could respond

They could follow the message and start to treat Jews as inferior. Or, they could ignore
to this message by . . .

it because they believe it is not true.

Given what I know about the historical context of Germany in the 1930s, I think most German
teenagers will respond to this message by . . . (possible answers include: protesting, ignoring, follow-
ing along, celebrating . . .)
I think many will go along with what their teachers tell them, because teachers are in a
position of authority. Teenagers may not want to get in trouble or they may believe what
their teachers tell them. I think that some students might respond by being extra-mean
to Jewish kids.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 185
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 1
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Changes at School
(Excerpted from “Changes at School,” pp. 175–76 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Ellen Switzer, a student in Nazi Germany, recalls how her friend Ruth
responded to Nazi antisemitic propaganda:
Ruth was a totally dedicated Nazi.

Some of us . . . often asked her how she could possibly have friends who
were Jews or who had a Jewish background, when everything she read and
distributed seemed to breathe hate against us and our ancestors. “Of
course, they don’t mean you,” she would explain earnestly. “You are a good
German. It’s those other Jews . . . who betrayed Germany that Hitler wants
to remove from influence.”

When Hitler actually came to power and the word went out that students of
Jewish background were to be isolated, that “Aryan” Germans were no
longer to associate with “non-Aryans” . . . Ruth actually came around and
apologized to those of us to whom she was no longer able to talk.

Not only did she no longer speak to the suddenly ostracized group of class-
mates, she carefully noted down anybody who did, and reported them.12

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 186
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 2
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Propaganda and Education


(Excerpted from “Propaganda and Education,” pp. 242–43 in Facing History
and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

In Education for Death, American educator Gregor Ziemer described school-


ing in Nazi Germany:
A teacher is not spoken of as a teacher (Lehrer) but an Erzieher. The word
suggests an iron disciplinarian who does not instruct but commands, and
whose orders are backed up with force if necessary. . . .

Physical education, education for action, is alone worthy of the Nazi


teacher’s attention. . . . The Nazi schools are no place for weaklings. . . .
Those who betray any weakness of body or have not the capacities for
absolute obedience and submission must be expelled. . . .

[Dr. Bernhard Rust, the Nazi Minister of Education,] decrees that in Nazi
schools the norm is physical education. After that, German, biology, science,
mathematics, and history for the boys; eugenics [race science] and home
economics for the girls. Other subjects are permissible if they are taught to
promote Nazi ideals. . . . 13

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 187
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 3
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Schools for Girls


(Excerpted from “School for Girls,” pp. 245–46 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

German girls attended school until the age of fourteen. Although they went
to school Monday through Saturday, they had no textbooks and no home-
work. Their education was minimal except in matters relating to childbirth.
After a visit to a girls’ school Gregor Ziemer wrote:

Girls do not require the same sort of education that is essential for boys.
The schools for boys teach military science, military geography, military ide-
ology, Hitler worship; those for the girls prepare the proper mental set in
the future mates of Hitler’s soldiers.

One of Minister Rust’s officials . . . discussed the problem of co-education


with me. . . . He pointed out that the boys who learned about chemistry of
war . . . should not be bothered with the presence of girls in their classes. . . .
Every girl, he said, must learn the duties of a mother before she is sixteen,
so she can have children. Why should girls bother with higher mathematics,
or art, or drama, or literature? They could have babies without that sort of
knowledge. . . . 14

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 188
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 4
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

A Lesson in Current Events


(Excerpted from “A Lesson in Current Events,” pp. 246–48 in Facing History
and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Gregor Ziemer visited a geography class in one school. He wrote of that


class:
The teacher was talking about Germany’s deserved place in world affairs. He
ascribed her recent swift rise to the Führer’s doctrine of race purity. . . .

“Well, which country has always called itself the ‘melting pot’ of all other
nations? Jungens, [youth] that you must know.” Then came the chorus,
“Amerika” . . .

“There are many other weaknesses as a result of this lack of racial purity,”
he continued. “Their government is corrupt. They have a low type of govern-
ment, a democracy. What is a democracy?”

I wrote down a few of the answers:


“A democracy is a government by rich Jews.”
“A democracy is a form of government in which people waste much time.”
“A democracy is a government in which there is no real leadership.”
“A democracy is a government that will be defeated by the Führer.”15

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 189
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 5
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Models of Obedience, Part 1


(Excerpted from “Models of Obedience,” pp. 235–37 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Hede von Nagel grew up in Nazi Germany. She writes of her childhood:

Our parents taught us to raise our arms and say “Heil Hitler” before we said
“Mama.” . . . We grew up believing that Hitler was a supergod. . . . We were
taught our German superiority in everything. Country, race, science, art,
music, history, literature. At the same time, our parents and teachers
trained my sister and me to be the unquestioning helpmates of men; as
individuals, we had no right to our own opinion, no right to speak up. We
were to be models of obedience, work and toughness . . . nor would it have
befitted a German girl to favor feminine dresses, ruffles or makeup. As for
gentleness or sweetness or tearfulness, these were forbidden traits, and any
display of them would have made us outcasts. The worst fate was to be
laughed at and publicly humiliated. . . .

The books we read were full of stories glorifying Hitler. In them, the bad guy
was usually a Jew. I had never known a Jew personally, and so the Jews I read
about were personifications of the devil—too evil to be real. 16

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 190
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 6
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Models of Obedience, Part 2


(Excerpted from “Models of Obedience,” pp. 235–37 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

A former member of the Hitler Youth writes:


[It’s] especially easy to manipulate children at that age. . . . If you can drill
the notion into their heads, you are from a tribe, a race that is especially
valuable. And then you tell them something about the Germanic tribes, their
loyalty, their battles. . . . Then there were the songs. . . . “Before the for-
eigner robs you of your crown, O Germany, we would prefer to fall side by
side.” Or “The flag is dearer than death.” Death was nothing. The flag, the
people — they were everything. You are nothing, your people everything.
Yes, that’s how children were brought up, that’s how you can manipulate a
child.17

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 191
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 7
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Models of Obedience, Part 3


(Excerpted from “Models of Obedience,” pp. 235–37 in Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Erika Mann wrote a book about growing up in Nazi Germany called School
for Barbarians. Here is an excerpt from her book:
Every child says “Heil Hitler!” from 50 to 150 times a day. . . . The formula is
required by law. . . . This Hitler greeting, this “German” greeting, repeated
countless times from morning to bedtime, stamps the whole day. . . .

You leave the house in the morning, “Heil Hitler” on your lips; and on the
stairs of your apartment house you meet the Blockwart. A person of great
importance and some danger, the Blockwart has been installed by the gov-
ernment as a Nazi guardian. He controls the block, reporting on it regularly,
checking up on the behavior of its residents. . . .

All the way down the street, the flags are waving, every window colored
with red banners, and the black swastika in the middle of each. You don’t
stop to ask why; it’s bound to be some national event. Not a week passes
without an occasion on which families are given one reason or another to
hang out the swastika. Only the Jews are excepted under the strict regula-
tion. Jews are not Germans, they do not belong to the “Nation,” they can
have no “national events.” . . .

There are more placards as you continue past hotels, restaurants, indoor
swimming pools, to school. They read “No Jews allowed”; “Jews not desired
here”; “Not for Jews.” And what do you feel? Agreement? Pleasure? Disgust?
Opposition? You don’t feel any of these. You don’t feel anything, you’ve
seen these placards for almost five years. This is a habit, it is all perfectly
natural, of course Jews aren’t allowed here. Five years in the life of a child of
nine—that’s his life. . . .

The German child breathes this air. There is no other condition wherever
Nazis are in power; and here in Germany they do rule everywhere, and their
supremacy over the German child, as he learns and eats, marches, grows up,
breathes, is complete.18

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 192
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 8
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

A Matter of Loyalty
(Excerpted from “A Matter of Loyalty,” pp. 240–41 in Facing History and Ourselves:
Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Hans Scholl was a group leader in the Hitler Youth. His sister described how he became
disappointed with the movement:
Hans had assembled a collection of folk songs. . . . He knew not only the songs of the
Hitler Youth but also the folk songs of many peoples and many lands. . . .

But some time later a peculiar change took place in Hans; he was no longer the same.
Something disturbing had entered his life. . . . His songs were forbidden, the leader had
told him. And when he had laughed at this, they threatened him with disciplinary action.
Why should he not be permitted to sing these beautiful songs? Only because they had
been created by other peoples? . . .

One day he came home with another prohibition. One of the leaders had taken away a
book by his most beloved writer, Stellar Hours of Mankind by Stefan Zweig. It was forbid-
den, he was told. Why? There had been no answer. . . .

Some time before, Hans had been promoted to standard-bearer. He and his boys had
sewn themselves a magnificent flag with a mythical beast in the center. The flag was
something very special. It had been dedicated to the Führer himself. The boys had taken
an oath on the flag because it was the symbol of their fellowship. But one evening, as
they stood with their flag in formation for inspection by a higher leader, something
unheard-of happened. The visiting leader suddenly ordered the tiny standard-bearer, a
frolicsome twelve-year-old lad, to give up the flag. “You don’t need a special flag. Just
keep the one that has been prescribed for all.” . . . Once more the leader ordered the boy
to give up the flag. [Hans] could no longer control himself. He stepped out of line and
slapped the visiting leader’s face. From then on he was no longer the standard-bearer.19

Glossary
Standard-bearer: The boy who holds the Nazi flag. This was considered a huge honor.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 193
Lesson 12: Handout 4, Document 9
German Youth in the 1930s: Selected excerpted documents

Parallel Journeys
(Excerpted from the book Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer)

Alfons Heck, a leader in the Hitler Youth Movement, describes what it was
like growing up in Nazi Germany:
Unlike our elders, we children of the 1930s had never known a Germany
without Nazis. From our very first year in the Volksschule or elementary
school, we received daily doses of Nazism. Those we swallowed as naturally
as our morning milk. Never did we question what our teachers said. We sim-
ply believed what was crammed into us. And never for a moment did we
doubt how fortunate we were to live in a country with such a promising
future.20

Of all the branches in the Nazi Party, the Hitler Youth was by far the
largest. . . . Its power increased each year. Soon, even our parents became
afraid of us. Never in the history of the world has such power been wielded
by teenagers.21

Here is his memory of a rally celebrating Hitler Youth Day:


Shortly before noon, 80,000 Hitler Youth were lined up in rows as long as
the entire stadium. . . . When Hitler finally appeared, we greeted him with a
thundering, triple “Sieg Heil,” (Hail to Victory). . . . Then his voice rose. . . .
”You, my youth,” he shouted, with his eyes seeming to stare right at me,
“are our nation’s most precious guarantee for a great future. . . . You, my
youth . . . never forget that one day you will rule the world.” For minutes on
end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our
faces: “Seig Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!” From that moment on, I belonged to
Adolf Hitler body and soul.22

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how propaganda and conformity influence decision-making. • 194
Notes
1
United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, United States Dept. of State,
International Military Tribunal, United States War Dept., Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression v. 1
(Washington, DC: United States Government, 1946), 320.
2
Hermann Rauschning, Hitler Speaks: A Series of Political Conversations with Adolf Hitler on His Real Aims
(London: Thornton Butterworth, 1939), 246–47.
3
Ibid., 247.
4
Eleanor Ayer and Alfons Heck, Parallel Journeys (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995), 1.
5
Richard L. Rubenstein and John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 359–60.
6
Max von der Grün, Howl Like the Wolves: Growing up in Nazi Germany (New York: William Morrow,
1980), 118.
7
Ayer and Heck, Parallel Journeys, 23.
8
Erika Mann, School for Barbarians (New York: Modern Age Books, 1938), 21.
9
Ibid.
10
Ayer, Parallel Journeys, 1.
11
Alfons Heck as quoted in Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth, VHS (New York: Ambrose Video
Publishing, 1991).
12
Ellen Switzer, How Democracy Failed (New York: Atheneum, 1975), 90–91.
13
Gregor Ziemer, Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941),
15–16.
14
Ibid., 129.
15
Ibid., 68–69.
16
Mede von Nagel, “The Nazi Legacy: Fearful Silence for Their Children,” The Boston Globe, October 23,
1977.
17
Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence: Encounters with Children of the Third Reich (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1989), 216.
18
Mann, School for Barbarians, 21–23.
19
Inge Scholl, Students Against Tyranny, trans. Arthur R. Schultz (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press,
1970) 7–10.
20
Ayer, Parallel Journeys, 1.
21
Ibid., 8.
22
Ibid., 23.

195
Lesson 13

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Six in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Kristallnacht: Decision-Making in Times of Injustice

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
Events throughout history, and in our lives today, are shaped by decisions made by ordi-
nary individuals—decisions to perpetrate injustice, stand by while unjust acts occur, or
take action against injustice. To help students understand this idea, students will analyze
two events in this lesson: a contemporary story of bullying from a middle school in
Arkansas and a night of state-sanctioned violence against Jews in Germany in 1938. First,
students will identify the choices made by individuals and groups involved in these
moments. Second, they will evaluate the ways in which these decisions contributed to the
prevention or the escalation of injustice. Third, students will consider how the specific
historical context, combined with universal aspects of human behavior, may have influ-
enced the decisions made by children, women, and men involved in these events.
Through deeply analyzing these moments of injustice, we hope to help students better
understand their own decision-making process in ways that lead them to make safer
choices for themselves and the greater community.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What happened to Billy Wolfe? What happened in Germany on November 9,
1938?
• Who are the individuals and groups involved in these events? What role did they
play in perpetuating or preventing injustice?
• What factors influenced their decision-making?
• What is the role of authorities, including governments, in protecting people
from violence and injustice? What are the implications if those in authority fail
to protect innocent people?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Recognizing key facts of a historical moment
• Identifying the direct and indirect actors involved in historical events
• Interpreting the decisions made by these actors based on their historical context
and universal aspects of human behavior
• Analyzing the factors that have influenced their own decision-making during a
time of conflict or crisis
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Bully
• Authority
• Kristallnacht
• Bystander

Lesson 13 • 196
• Perpetrator
• Victim
• Upstander
• Citizen
• Historical context
• Conformity/peer pressure
• Fear
• Obedience
• Prejudice
• Inclusion (in group)/Exclusion (out group)
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


Between 1933 and 1938, the Nazis implemented laws and disseminated information
aimed at weakening the power of the German-Jewish community. Jews lost civil service
jobs, many were forced to sell their businesses at bargain prices, and Jewish youth suf-
fered humiliation in school. German Jews watched as their friends and relatives left the
country. While these actions concerned and frustrated Jews, they were not seen as indica-
tive of a long-term program leading to the destruction of German and European Jewry.
Only in hindsight is it possible to understand how earlier actions, such as the passage of
the Nuremberg laws, established the foundation upon which the Holocaust was built.
Throughout the 1930s, even though Hitler and other Nazi leaders spoke openly about
their desire to rid Germany of Jews, many Jews thought that this stage of antisemitism
would pass, as had others in Jewish history.

Throughout 1938, Hitler and his top officials accelerated their campaign against the
Jews. The first step was the mandatory “Aryanization” of Jewish businesses. Up until
then, it was voluntary. But now the Nazis required that all Jewish-owned companies be
sold to “Aryans,” usually at a fraction of their value. In August, a new law required that
all Jews have a “Jewish first name” by January 1, 1939. Next, the Nazis began to mark the
passport of every Jew with the letter J. As a result of these explicit policies designed to
limit the economic opportunities of Jews and segregate them from the rest of the popula-
tion, increasing numbers of Jews within Germany were seeking emigration, as were those
in recently annexed areas such as Austria (annexed by Germany in March 1938) and
parts of what was later Czechoslovakia (annexed by Germany in October 1938).
Thousands of Jews tried desperately to emigrate only to find stumbling blocks wherever
they turned. The increasing desire of Jews to emigrate from German-occupied Europe
coincided with more stringent regulations by the Nazi bureaucracy: Jews had to register
their possessions and obtain appropriate identification and proof of sponsorship in coun-
tries of immigration, and they also had to surrender the major portion of their wealth to
the state in order to be granted an exit visa. Their difficulty in leaving “Greater Germany”
could not be blamed solely on the Nazis. The Nazis were more than eager to see the Jews
go, as long as they left their money and possessions behind. Indeed, in just six months,
Adolf Eichmann, a young SS officer who made himself an expert on the “Jewish ques-
tion,” had pushed 50,000 Jews out of Austria, after he had done the same in Germany.
The problem lay with other nations. They had little interest in accepting thousands of
penniless Jewish refugees.

Lesson 13 • 197
Shortly after the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria), United States President Franklin
Roosevelt called for an international conference to discuss the growing refugee crisis. In
July 1938, delegates from thirty-two nations met in Evian, France. There, each represen-
tative expressed sorrow over the growing number of refugees, boasted of his nation’s tradi-
tional hospitality, and wished it could do more in the present situation. At Evian, the del-
egate from Colombia raised a fundamental question about the situation in which many
German Jews found themselves. He asked, “Can a state . . . arbitrarily withdraw national-
ity from a whole class of its citizens, thereby making them stateless persons whom no
country is compelled to receive on its territory?”1 In July, the inaction by most nations to
accept more Jews into countries suggested that the answer to this question was “yes.”
Stripped of citizenship from their nation of residence and unable to obtain citizenship
from another nation, the Jews of German-occupied Europe had become “stateless.” Over
the next seven years, this answer would lead to a crisis for the Jewish population of
German-occupied Europe.

This crisis began on October 26, 1938, when the Nazis expelled Polish Jews living in
Germany (which totaled approximately seventy thousand women, children, and men).
After the Polish government refused to accept them, thousands of Jewish families were
trapped in refugee camps near the German-Polish border. Among them were the parents
of seventeen-year-old Herschel Grynszpan. Grynszpan was living in France at the time.
Angry and frustrated by his inability to help his family, he marched into the German
Embassy in Paris on November 7, 1938, and shot a Nazi official. When the man died
two days later, many Germans decided to avenge his death. The night of November 9
came to be known as Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”). That night the Nazis
looted and then destroyed thousands of Jewish homes and businesses in every part of the
country. They set fire to 191 synagogues, killed over ninety Jews, and sent 30,000 others
to concentration camps. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, held a press
conference the next day. He told reporters that Kristallnacht was not a government action
but a “spontaneous” expression of German dissatisfaction with the Jews, and he justified
the violence with the following words:

It is an intolerable state of affairs that within our borders and for all these years hun-
dreds of thousands of Jews still control whole streets of shops, populate our recreation
spots and, as foreign apartment owners, pocket the money of German tenants, while
their racial comrades abroad agitate for war against Germany and gun down German
officials.2

Two days later, the government fined the Jewish community one billion marks for “prop-
erty damaged in the rioting.”

Quite clearly, Kristallnacht marked a point of crisis for Jews living in German-occupied
Europe. This event was different from prior discriminatory acts because it marked the
beginning of government-sanctioned physical violence against the Jewish community.
Not only was the long-term prospect for Jews bleak, the short-term outlook was immi-
nently dangerous. Emigration became considerably more difficult in the aftermath of
Kristallnacht. While national leaders, including President Roosevelt, condemned violence
against innocent Jews, they did not pursue actions, such as expanding immigration quo-
tas, which would have made it easier for Jews to leave German-occupied Europe. Thus,
by the end of 1938, German Jews were stuck—many wanted to leave the area but found
they had no place to go. Stripped of their citizenship by the Nuremberg laws, Jews could

Lesson 13 • 198
not rely on laws, government officials, or
institutions for protection. Jews also
learned that they could not count on
many of their German neighbors for sup-
port, as once-friendly Germans often stood
by or actively participated in discrimina-
tory, unjust, and violent acts against the
Jewish community.

Not all Germans acted as perpetrators or


bystanders during Kristallnacht. Some
protested by resigning their membership in
the Nazi Party—though many made it
clear that they were not objecting to anti-
semitism but to mob violence. Others sent
anonymous letters of protest to foreign
embassies. Still others quietly brought
Jewish families food and other necessities
to replace items that had been destroyed.
Neighbors told one Jewish woman that
helping her was a way to “show the Jews
that the German people had no part in
“Façade” by Samuel Bak represents the destruction of Jewish property this—it is only Goebbels and his gang.”3
that began on Kristallnacht and continued throughout the Holocaust.
Most Germans, however, responded to the
violence of Kristallnacht with denial,
rationalizations, indifference, or enthusiasm. Dietrich Goldschmidt, a minister in the
Confessing Church, explains that for most Germans “the persecution of the Jews, this
escalating persecution of the Jews, and the 9th of November—in a sense, that was only
one event, next to very many gratifying ones.” According to Goldschmidt, his fellow
Germans chose to disregard unjust acts against their Jewish neighbors, and instead focus
on the good things Hitler and the Nazis had brought to their lives, saying, “He got rid of
unemployment, he built the Autobahn, the people started doing well again, he restored
our national pride again. One has to weigh that against the other things.’”4

After Kristallnacht, “the hoodlums were banished and the bureaucrats took over.”5 In the
weeks that followed, key Nazi officials, led by Heinrich Himmler, saw to it that measures
against the Jews were strictly “legal.” On November 15, the bureaucracy excluded all
Jewish children from state schools. At about the same time, the government announced
that Jews could no longer attend German universities. A few days later, Himmler prohib-
ited them from owning or even driving a car. Jews were also banned from theaters, movie
houses, concert halls, sports arenas, parks, and swimming pools. The Gestapo even went
door to door confiscating radios owned by Jewish families. Jews who opposed these laws
could be jailed. And, the German community allowed this escalation of discrimination
against their Jewish neighbors. Some may have actively supported these laws, believing
the propaganda that Jews were subhuman, while others may have believed the laws to be
unfair, but did not want to risk their own social or economic well-being by voicing any
protest.

The responses to Kristallnacht were not lost on Hitler and the other Nazi leaders. First,
they saw that the German populace accepted violence against Jews, and other “unfit”

Lesson 13 • 199
groups (such as Gypsies and Nazi dissenters). Second, they recognized that the world
would not intervene in order to protect these vulnerable groups. When nations, such as
the United States, refused to grant entrance to Jewish refugees, Hitler and Goebbels used
this news as propaganda to demonstrate the unworthiness of the Jewish people. On
January 30, 1939, just months after Kristallnacht, Hitler gave a speech justifying “the
annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” He explained, “Nor can I see a reason why the
members of this race should be imposed upon the German nation,”6 when other nations
refused to admit Jews into their own borders. Richard Rubenstein summarizes the vulner-
ability of the Jewish community in German-occupied Europe when he writes, “no person
has any rights unless they are guaranteed by an organized community with the power to
defend such rights.”7 The choices made during and after Kristallnacht indicated that there
was no “organized community” willing to defend the rights of the Jews to live free from
violence and persecution. Holocaust scholar Helen Fein agrees with this point. She
describes Jews living in German-occupied Europe at the dawn of World War II as being
outside the “universe of obligation” of any particular nation.8 In other words, there was
no government that felt responsible for their plight.

The story of the Holocaust emphasizes the tragic significance of what it means to live
outside of a nation’s, or the world’s, “universe of obligation.” Hitler and the Nazis inter-
preted the fact that there were no significant efforts to protect Jews or prevent future vio-
lence against them as a green light to continue their plans to isolate Jews (as exemplified
by the policies described above) and eventually implement a program to annihilate the
European Jewish community. Questions are always raised about what people could have
done to resist or speak out, especially once the persecution of Jews became so obvious. It
is critical to look at the decisions made by perpetrators, bystanders, upstanders, and vic-
tims against the backdrop of powerful social forces, such as propaganda, fear, and oppor-
tunism. Whether Germans chose to act or not act reveals much about how they saw their
universe of obligation in the 1930s: whom did the German people feel a responsibility to
protect? For five years prior to Kristallnacht, the Nazis effectively separated Jews and
other targeted groups from full membership in German society, depriving them of legal
rights, economic opportunities, religious freedom, and public education access. They used
propaganda to scare the general public into believing Jews were harmful vermin who
would destroy the racial purity and economic success of the German people. Thus, when
students ask why more Germans did not speak out to stop the injustice, it is important to
point out the many steps, beginning with the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1920s, that
shaped the attitudes and actions of the German people: the destruction of democratic
institutions, the use of fear to smother dissent, the antisemitic propaganda, the laws
aimed to weaken and isolate the Jewish community, the sense of belonging provided by
the Hitler Youth Movement, specifically, and the Nazi Party, in general.

All of these factors, and more, created an environment where ordinary, decent people
committed unspeakable acts of violence. Kristallnacht represents the beginning of these
acts—a moment when the world decided that violence against innocent civilians would
go unpunished. Joe Lobenstein, whose family was one of the lucky ones to leave
Germany after Kristallnacht, recalls his experience on November 9, 1938, and explains
why it is important that we continue to tell the story of Kristallnacht:

Even 70 years later, it remains an unforgettable nightmare. We were woken by the


Nazis, who took him [my father] away, after turning our apartment upside-down. . . .
Stunned by what had happened, I went to the synagogue the following morning for

Lesson 13 • 200
daily prayers, thinking innocently that it would still be standing. Instead, the majestic
building was engulfed by fire and smoke, with hundreds of people—members of the
Herrenvolk, the master race—dancing around the smoking edifice. Some of them, I
saw, were my classmates—people I had, in my ignorance and my youth, considered
friends. . . . Kristallnacht did not only mean the destruction of billions of marks’
worth of property, or the igniting of flames of racial hatred that would sweep across
the continent. It was the beginning of the end for communities that seemed just as
settled, just as prosperous, as ours do now—and of the men and women who had sus-
tained and nurtured them. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must
keep telling the story—lest we forget.9

We believe the story of Kristallnacht is relevant today because as a world community we


still struggle with how to respond when governments turn against their own people. And,
just as nations are still trying to figure out their responsibilities to those outside of their
borders, as individuals we are also faced with decisions about our responsibilities to those
outside of our immediate family or community. Thus, analyzing the choices made before,
during and after The Night of the Broken Glass can help us recognize the consequences
of excluding individuals (like Billy Wolfe) or groups of people from our universe of obli-
gation. Facing History hopes that through deeper understanding of the factors that cause
neighbor to turn against neighbor, future generations can learn how to prevent injustices
large and small—from genocide to schoolyard bullying.

Related reading in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“The Night of the Pogrom,” pp. 263–67
“Taking a Stand,” pp. 268–70
“World Responses,” pp. 270–72
“The Narrowing Circle,” pp. 272–73
“The Failure to Help,” pp. 275–78

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: two class periods
Suggestion for how to implement this lesson over two class periods: Depending on how
you structure this lesson, an appropriate place to end the first part could be after students
are introduced to Kristallnacht (i.e., after step one or two of the main activity). Students
might be assigned one of the readings to interpret for homework. You can resume the
second part of this lesson with students’ analysis of Kristallnacht (i.e., steps three and four
of the main activity).

Materials
Handout 1: Analyzing an event worksheet
Handout 2: Analyzing an event worksheet—Kristallnacht example
Handout 3: Kristallnacht: Excerpt from Klaus’s diary from Salvaged Pages
Handout 4: Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1) (Readings 1–5)
Handout 5: Kristallnacht: The range of choices: Note-taking guide
Handout 6: Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 2)

The complete article, “A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly” (March 24, 2008)

Lesson 13 • 201
by Dan Barry can be found on the New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com
/2008/03/24/us/24land.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink.

Opener
To prepare students to think about the different choices people made in the event of
Kristallnacht, ask them to think about the different ways that people responded in this
true story about an episode of injustice and violence closer to students’ lives: the bullying
of a middle-school student, Billy Wolfe. (Alternatively, you could use the ostracism case
study from Lesson 2 for this activity, or you could use a story of injustice from your own
community. Be aware that the closer the story is to the students’ own lives and experi-
ences, the more likelihood the story will spark emotional reactions. For this reason, we
suggest starting with a story that students can relate to, such as a story about other mid-
dle school students, but not a story situated at your own school that could possibly
involve students in the class.) This opening activity also gives students the opportunity to
practice using a four-step process they will use to analyze Kristallnacht, and which can
use to analyze any other historical event. Handout 1, “Analyzing an event worksheet,”
uses a tree diagram to help students visualize the range of choices that influenced histori-
cal events and the factors that shaped these decisions. Other graphic organizers or note-
taking systems could be substituted for this one. Regardless of the template used, when
taking notes, students should be encouraged to record information about the choices
made by various individuals that influenced the event under review.

Using a Tree Diagram to Help Students Understand Historical Events

In this lesson, students will be learning about two moments of violence and injustice through
the lens of the different choices made by individuals and groups and how these choices were
influenced by the specific historical context in which the event took place. The relationship
between individual and group choices, key facts, and historical context is a complicated one.
To make this information more accessible to students, we suggest using the metaphor of a tree.
When we see a tree, we see the trunk, branches, and leaves. Yet, this part that we see is built
upon a much larger base of roots that we cannot see. The same might be said for historical
events. When studying an historical moment, we are immediately aware of the basic facts—the
“who, what, and when” of the event. But, this event, like the tree itself, grew out of many fac-
tors—the roots of the event. Also, just as branches and leaves grow out of the trunk, the facts
of an event give rise to choices made by individuals and groups. Building on this metaphor, we
have provided a graphic organizer (handout 1) that allows students to record specific informa-
tion in the roots, trunk, and branches of a tree. Handout 2 is an example of what a tree dia-
gram might look like when completed with information from this lesson about Kristallnacht.

A four-step process for understanding the range of choices


when responding to injustice: The bullying of Billy Wolfe
Step one: What happened? When? Where?
To introduce the story of Billy Wolfe, you can have students read an excerpt from the
New York Times article about Billy Wolfe called “A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up,
Repeatedly.” (See the materials section for a link to this story.) Or, you can ask a volunteer
to read the synopsis of Billy’s story below:

Lesson 13 • 202
This is the story of Billy Wolfe, a teenager living in Arkansas, as told by a reporter in
March 2008. A few years ago, Billy Wolfe told his mom about a classmate who was
making prank calls. Since then, he has been beaten up by various boys all over school.
He has been attacked in Spanish class, wood shop class, the school bathroom, and at
the bus stop. Some students even started a Facebook page called “Everyone that hates
Billy Wolfe.” Billy’s parents have met repeatedly with the principal of the middle
school Billy attends. Some of the beatings have been so bad that Billy’s parents have
asked school officials to file a police report. According to the article, school officials
have not taken any major actions to stop bullies from attacking Billy. Now Billy’s par-
ents are suing one of the bullies in court and are thinking of filing a lawsuit against
the school system.10

After students learn about this event, ask them to record key facts in and around the
trunk section of their tree. For example, students might record that this story takes place
it Arkansas; it began “a few years ago” and is still happening. Other facts include that
Billy is a middle school student who has been beaten up many times on school property.

Step two: Who?


Ask students to list the people involved in this event. They will likely list Billy, the bul-
lies, and the students who started the Facebook page. Some students might realize that
the students who are at the bus stop or who attend the school are also involved in this
event. Teachers, parents, and school administrators should also be added to the list. The
purpose of this step is to expand students’ thinking beyond those directly affected to
those who witnessed the event or may have been touched by this event indirectly.
Students can record the names of the people and groups involved in this event in the
branches of the tree.

Step three: Why?


Ask students to suggest why they think the individuals and groups identified during step
two made the choices that they did. What factors might have influenced their behavior?
These factors can be recorded on the roots section of the tree diagram. Later in this les-
son, you can compare this list of factors to students’ brainstorm of factors that influenced
the choices made during and after Kristallnacht. In addition to having students think
about why people made the choices they did, you might also have students consider the
reasons why individuals did not make other choices. For example, in the article about
Billy Wolfe, the reporter suggests that nobody has been able to successfully stop the vio-
lence against Billy. Students can brainstorm examples of what could have been done, and
by whom, that might have stopped the bullying behavior and the reasons why individuals
in the community might not have acted in this way.

Step four: Interpretation and evaluation


Now that students have identified who was involved in the event and the factors that
shaped their decisions, they are prepared to evaluate the different roles played by these
individuals and groups. Who were the victims, bystanders, perpetrators, and upstanders?
Discussion about which label is most appropriate should be encouraged, as well as ques-
tions about whether two labels might apply to the same person. For example, Billy is
clearly a victim in this class. Yet, some might also consider Billy to be an upstander

Lesson 13 • 203
because by sharing his story with a national audience he is increasing awareness of this
unjust behavior. Because the role of authority figures and the government is relevant to
students’ understanding of Kristallnacht, be sure to spend some time thinking about the
role of authority figures in this event. In this situation, were authority figures (i.e., princi-
pal, teachers, school officials, and police) acting as bystanders, victims, perpetrators, or
upstanders? Other questions you might use to stimulate students’ thinking include: Who
do you think was responsible for protecting Billy? What message does it send to a com-
munity when those who are in positions of authority, such as a school principal, do not
take actions to stop the violence, such as by punishing the perpetrators? What reasons
might explain why more people did not act to stop the violence against Billy?

Main Activities
The same process introduced in the opening activity section of this lesson will be used to
help students understand Kristallnacht, “Night of the Broken Glass,” and the different
ways individuals and groups responded to this event.

A four-step process for understanding the range of


choices when responding to injustice: Kristallnacht
Step one: What happened? When? Where?
Explain to students that they will be learning about an event known as Kristallnacht,
which means “Night of the Broken Glass” in German. You can introduce students to
Kristallnacht by having them watch a two-minute excerpt from the video “I’m Still Here”
(2:56–4:44). In this clip, a young German Jewish boy, Klaus, explains how Kristallnacht
changed his life. Handout 3 includes excerpts from Klaus’s diary that are used in the film.
You could also use excerpts from readings in the resource book (see the materials section
for a list of relevant readings) or you could present a brief lecture to help students under-
stand this event. Students can record important facts about Kristallnacht in their journals
or on a tree diagram (handout 1). By the end of step one, students should know that on
November 9, 1938, in cities throughout Germany Jewish businesses and homes were ran-
sacked, synagogues were burned, and thousands of Jewish men were arrested. Some Jews
were hurt and even killed in the violence. Additionally, students should know that
Kristallnacht was significant because it was the first official act of state-sanctioned vio-
lence. In other words, the government ordered these actions to take place and they did
nothing to stop them from happening.

Step two: Who?


The purpose of this next step is to help students understand how Kristallnacht was the
result of the decisions made by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. We have pro-
vided several resources that describe different choices made by various individuals at this
moment in history. “Handout 4: Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)” includes
five readings that describe different responses to the events of November 9. “Handout 6:
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 2)” provides an example of eight different
choices made by individuals and groups before and after this event. You might assign
groups of 3–4 students the task of presenting one reading to the larger class. Students can
record notes from these presentations on their tree diagrams. Or, you could post these
readings around the room and ask students, possibly in pairs, to read as many as they
can, noting the individuals and groups that were involved in this event. Handout 5 is a

Lesson 13 • 204
note-taking guide they could use for this exercise. Alternatively, you could review hand-
out 6 as a whole class exercise, leaving room for discussion as students label the choices
that were made. (This handout could also be assigned for homework.)

Step three: Why?


Steps one and two help students develop an understanding of Kristallnacht through the
lens of the choices made by individuals and groups. During step three, students think
about these choices in the context of the other material they have learned about Germany
in the 1930s. You might take a moment to review the concept historical context with stu-
dents—the idea that people’s actions are shaped by the place and time in which they
live—and ask students to list aspects of the historical context that may have influenced
the decisions made by Germans at this time (i.e., propaganda, education, fear, oppor-
tunism, discriminatory laws, antisemitism, a sense of belonging, living in a dictatorship,
etc.). Students can record these factors on their tree diagrams. After brainstorming the
many factors that gave rise to Kristallnacht, you can give students time to respond to the
following prompt in their journals: Given what you know about Germany in the 1930s,
do you think the violence of Kristallnacht was inevitable (unavoidable)? Why or why not?
What would have had to happen to prevent this violence from occurring? A class discus-
sion of this question can begin with having volunteers share what they wrote.

Step four: Interpretation and evaluation


Now students can engage in large or small group discussions in which they evaluate the
behavior of individuals and groups involved in Kristallnact through assigning the follow-
ing labels: perpetrator, victim, bystander, or upstander. This is an interpretive process,
requiring students to use evidence to make a judgment about the role somebody played
in preventing or perpetuating injustice. In the readings, as in real life, the complexity of a
situation can blur distinctions between a bystander and a perpetrator, for example. One
of the most important ideas for students to consider is the role of the government in this
event. During Kristallnacht, most of the violence was committed by regular citizens. The
Nazi government denied organizing or inciting the event. Yet, the government, in the
form of police or judges or soldiers, did not step in to stop the violence against Jews.
Take some time to have students discuss the role the Nazi government played in this
event. Students can respond to the following prompts in their journal: What responsibil-
ity does a government have to protect its own citizens? What responsibility does a govern-
ment have to protect the lives of people living within its borders, who may not be citi-
zens? What happens if government fails to protect residents, or even commits violence
against them? To whom can those people turn for help? As the class discusses these ques-
tions, listen for students to mention the fact that the Nuremberg laws deprived Jews of
citizenship. If they don’t bring up this point, you can raise it. Help students draw a con-
nection between the Jews’ lack of citizenship status and the German government’s lack of
protection on their behalf.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


In the book Parallel Journeys, Alfons Heck tells the story of Frau Marks, the butcher’s
wife. On Kristallnacht, after her husband was arrested and taken away on the back of a
truck, Frau Marks “whirled around at the circle of silent faces staring from the sidewalks
and windows, neighbors she had known her whole life, and she screamed, ‘Why are you

Lesson 13 • 205
people doing this to us?’”11 This is an important point for students to think about. Why
would neighbors turn against their own neighbors, simply because they were Jewish? As a
follow-through activity, students can write a letter to Frau Marks explaining why they
think many of her neighbors turned against her and the rest of the Jewish community.
When writing their letters, encourage students to refer to the “root” factors they recorded
on their tree diagrams. In other words, they should consider how factors such as propa-
ganda, peer pressure, fear, obedience, antisemitism, and opportunism might have shaped
the choices people made on the night of November 9, 1938.

After students write these letters, you can give them the opportunity for personal reflec-
tion on their own experience as bystanders, victims, perpetrators, or upstanders. One way
to do this is to ask them to identify a moment where they experienced or witnessed injus-
tice—a time when they were involved with something that they knew was wrong. Ask
students to write about their role in this event. Were they a victim, a bystander, a perpe-
trator, or an upstander? Then ask them to consider the different factors that influenced
their actions. Students could express their ideas in a journal entry or by completing a tree
diagram of this event. Teachers who assign this activity often allow students to keep their
work private because they might be reflecting on sensitive subject matter. If you expect
students to publicly share their work, with you or their peers, let them know in advance.
To maintain students’ privacy, you might have them only share the factors that influenced
their actions, without going into any detail about the actual experience and their role in
it. An interesting conversation could focus on a comparison of the list of factors that
motivated the choices made by individuals and groups involved in the three “events”
explored in this lesson: the bullying of Billy Wolfe, Kristallnacht, and students’ own
experiences.

Assessment(s)
Students’ tree diagrams will reveal their ability to accurately understand historical events,
identify the groups and individuals involved in the event, label their roles, and suggest
factors that influenced decision-making at this specific moment in time. In class discus-
sion, journal entries, and/or letters to Frau Marks, pay attention to students’ understand-
ing of the significance of the role governments and authority figures can play in protect-
ing vulnerable groups or allowing these groups to be mistreated. Students who have a
sophisticated understanding of this history will be able to make sense of decisions made
during Kristallnacht by referring to universal aspects of human behavior, without excus-
ing the decisions as appropriate or ethical.

Extensions
• Drama is a tool that many teachers find helps students connect with the choices
made by individuals during historical moments. Therefore, another way of helping
students make sense of the choices made during and after Kristallnacht would be to
ask small groups of students to act out one of the readings included in handout 4.
After they present their dramatic interpretation to the class, students can lead a dis-
cussion about the factors that they think influenced the choices made by the figures
they represented.

• While this lesson focuses on decision-making, it is important to help students keep


in mind that not everyone has the same degree of choices available to them. For
example, the Jewish victims during Kristallnacht had fewer options than their non-

Lesson 13 • 206
Jewish neighbors; Billy Wolfe had fewer options than the boys who beat up on him.
Victims do not choose to be victimized. This is a role forced upon them. As you
teach this lesson, look for opportunities to help students understand these ideas.
One such opportunity might be when students label someone as a victim. At that
moment, ask students to take out their journals and respond to the following ques-
tions: Some people say that what makes someone a victim is that they have limited
or no options about how to act. Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly
disagree with this statement? While students are discussing their responses to this
question, help them recognize that during many moments of injustice, and espe-
cially during the Holocaust, the victims were especially vulnerable because the larger
society had limited their choices. For example, Jews in Germany had no citizenship
rights. They could not sue someone in court. In fact, after Kristallnacht, the Jews
not only had no way to get paid back for the damage to their homes and businesses,
but they were forced to pay a hefty fine to the German government for the damage.

• To help students think about the factors that encourage individuals to turn against
their neighbors, you might have them compare the root causes for violence against
Billy Wolfe to the root causes for the violence against Jews during Kristallnacht.
Using a Venn diagram to display students’ answers will emphasize the similarities
and differences between these events. For example, while conformity or peer pres-
sure might have been a motivating factor in both events, factors such as anti-
semitism or living in a dictatorship are unique to Kristallnacht.

Lesson 13 • 207
Lesson 13: Handout 1
Analyzing an event worksheet

Directions for Completing the Tree Diagram


Step 1: What happened? When? Where? In the trunk area, record basic facts about the event.
Step 2: Who? In the branches, record the names of individuals and groups involved in the event.
Step 3: Why? In the roots, record the factors that may have influenced the choices made by the individuals
and groups involved in this event.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 208
Lesson 13: Handout 2
Analyzing an Event Worksheet—Kristallnacht Example

Directions for Completing the Tree Diagram


Step 1: What happened? When? Where? In the trunk area, record basic facts about the event.
Step 2: Who? In the branches, record the names of individuals and groups involved in the event.
Step 3: Why? In the roots, record the factors that may have influenced the choices made by the individuals
and groups involved in this event.

United States and


German police other countries
Nazis
President Roosevelt
Hitler youth –
Alfons Heck Helmut U.S. Senator Wagner

Jewish children,
German citizens – women, and men –
Paul Wolff, Klaus Frederic Morton
Melita Maschmann,
Andre

November 9, 1938
Kristallnacht – “Night of the Broken Glass”
throughout Germany (and Austria)

synagogues Jewish homes and


burned thousands property destroyed
of Jews
the police did not arrested violence ordered by
stop the violence the government
against Jews

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oppo itism
pr
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dic ta an
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pre qu ob
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es

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Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 209
Lesson 13: Handout 3
Kristallnacht: Excerpt from Klaus’s Diary from Salvaged Pages

(Excerpted from Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust, pages 19–23.)
Klaus Langer, from Essen, Germany, wrote the following words in his diary when he was 12 years old.

November 11, 1938


The past three days brought significant changes in our lives. On November 7 a German [diplomat] was
assassinated in Paris. He died two days later. The day following, on November 10. . . came the conse-
quences. At three o’clock the synagogue and the Jewish youth center were put on fire. Then they began
to destroy Jewish businesses. . . . Fires were started at single homes belonging to Jews. At six-thirty in the
morning the Gestapo came to our home and arrested Father and Mother. Mother returned after one and
a half hours. Dad remained and was put in prison. . . .

We . . . returned to our neighborhood by two o’clock . . . When I turned into the front yard I saw that
the house was damaged. I walked on glass splinters. . . . I ran into our apartment and found unbeliev-
able destruction in every room. . . . My parents’ instruments were destroyed, the dishes were broken, the
windows were broken, furniture upturned, the desk was turned over, drawers and mirrors were broken,
and the radio smashed. . . .

In the middle of the night, at 2:30 A.M., the Storm Troopers [also known as the Brownshirts] smashed
windows and threw stones against store shutters. After a few minutes they demanded to be let into the
house. Allegedly they were looking for weapons. After they found no weapons they left. After that no
one was able to go back to sleep. . . . I shall never forget that night. . . .

Books could be written about all that had happened and about which we now begin to learn more. But,
I have to be careful. A new regulation was issued that the Jews in Germany had to pay one billion reich-
marks for restitution. What for? For the damage the Nazis had done to the Jews in Germany. . . .

November 16, 1938


A number of events occurred since my last entry. First, on November 15, I received a letter from school
with an enclosed notice of dismissal. This became [unnecessary] since that same day an order was issued
that prohibited Jews from attending public schools. . . .

December 3, 1938
Taking up this diary again is not for any pleasant reason. Today, the day of National Solidarity, Jews were
not allowed to go outside from noon until eight at night. Himmler . . . issued an order by which Jews
had to carry photo identity cards. Jews also are not permitted to own driver’s licenses. The Nazis will
probably take radios and telephones from us. This is a horrible affair. Our radio was repaired and the
damaged grand piano was fixed. I hope we can keep it. But one can never know with these scums.12

Glossary:
Reichmarks: the German currency or money (like the U.S. dollar)
Restitution: Making things better after a crime or injury
Himmler: One of the most powerful Nazi politicians after Hitler

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 210
Lesson 13: Handout 4, Reading 1
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)

Alfons Heck
(From the biography of Alfons Heck, a leader in the Hitler Youth Movement, excerpted
from Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer)

On the afternoon of November 9, 1938, we were on our way home from


school when we ran into small troops of SA and SS men [Nazi police]. . . .
We watched open-mouthed as the men . . . began to smash the windows of
every Jewish business in [our town]. Paul Wolff, a local carpenter who
belonged to the SS, led the biggest troop, and he pointed out the locations.
One of their major targets was Anton Blum’s shoe store next to the city
hall. Shouting SA men threw hundreds of pairs of shoes into the street. In
minutes they were snatched up and carried home by some of the town’s
nicest families—folks you never dreamed would steal anything.13

It was horribly brutal, but at the same time very exciting to us kids. “Let’s
go in and smash some stuff,” urged my buddy Helmut. With shining eyes,
he bent down, picked up a rock and fired it toward one of the windows.14

My grandmother found it hard to understand how the police could disre-


gard this massive destruction. . . . [She said,] “There is no excuse for
destroying people’s property, no matter who they are. I don’t know why the
police didn’t arrest those young Nazi louts.”15

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 211
Lesson 13: Handout 4, Reading 2
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)

Andre
(Excerpted from “Taking a Stand” pp. 268–70 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and
Human Behavior)

In November, 1938, twelve-year-old Andre came home from a youth group


meeting. He told his father that his youth group leader said that everyone
was supposed to meet the next day to throw stones at Jewish stores. Andre
said to his father, “I have nothing against the Jews—I hardly know them—
but everyone is going to throw stones. So what should I do?” Andre went
for a walk to help him figure out what he should do. When he came back,
he explained his decision to his parents. “I’ve decided not to throw stones at
the Jewish shops. But tomorrow everyone will say, ‘Andre, the son of X, did
not take part, he refused to throw stones!’ They will turn against you. What
are you going to do?” His father was proud and relieved. He said that the
following day, the family would leave Germany. And that is what they did.16

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 212
Lesson 13: Handout 4, Reading 3
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)

Melita Maschmann
(Excerpted from “Taking a Stand,” pp. 268–70 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and
Human Behavior)

Melita Maschmann lived in a small suburb of Berlin and knew nothing of


Kristallnacht until the next morning. As she picked her way through the
broken glass on her way to work, she asked a policeman what had hap-
pened. After he explained, she recalled:

I went on my way shaking my head. For the space of a second I was


clearly aware that something terrible had happened there. Something
frighteningly brutal. But almost at once I switched over to accepting
what had happened as over and done with, and avoiding critical reflec-
tion. I said to myself: the Jews are the enemies of the New Germany.
Last night they had a taste of what this means. . . . I forced the mem-
ory of it out of my consciousness as quickly as possible. As the years
went by, I grew better and better at switching off quickly in this man-
ner on similar occasions.17

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 213
Lesson 13: Handout 4, Reading 4
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)

Frederic Morton
(Excerpted from “The Night of the Pogrom,” pp. 263–67 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and
Human Behavior)

The writer Frederic Morton recalls his experience in Vienna, Austria (which had been
taken over by Germany) on November 9, 1938:

The day began with a thudding through my pillow. Jolts waked me. . . . By that
time we’d gone to the window facing the street. At the house entrance two storm
troopers lit cigarettes for each other. Their comrades were smashing the synagogue
on the floor below us, tossing out a debris of Torahs [holy scripture] and pews.
“Oh, my God!” my mother said. . . .

The doorbell rang. . . . Ten storm troopers with heavy pickaxes . . . were young and
bright-faced with excitement. . . . “House search,” the leader said. “Don’t move.”. . .
They yanked out every drawer in every one of our chests and cupboards, and tossed
each in the air. They let the cutlery jangle across the floor, the clothes scatter, and
stepped over the mess to fling the next drawer. Their exuberance was amazing.
Amazing, that none of them raised an axe to split our skulls. “We might be back,”
the leader said. . . .

We did not speak or move or breathe until we heard their boots against the pave-
ment. “I am going to the office,” my father said. “Breitel might help.” Breitel, the
Reich commissar in my father’s costume-jewelry factory, was a “good” Nazi. Once
he’d said we should come to him if there was trouble. My father left. . . . I began to
pick up clothes, when the doorbell rang again. It was my father. “I have two min-
utes.” “What?” my mother said. But she knew. His eyes had become glass. “There
was another crew waiting for me downstairs. They gave me two minutes.” Now I
broke down. . . .

Four months later he rang our doorbell twice, skull shaven, skeletal, released from
Dachau [a prison], somehow alive.18

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 214
Lesson 13: Handout 4, Reading 5
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 1)

The United States


(Excerpted from “World Responses” pp. 270–72 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust
and Human Behavior)

On November 15, six days after Kristallnacht, President Franklin D.


Roosevelt opened a press conference by stating, “The news of the last few
days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the United
States. . . . I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in
a twentieth-century civilization.”19 As punishment to Germany, he
announced that the United States was withdrawing its ambassador to
Germany. But he did not offer to help the thousands of Jews now trying
desperately to leave Germany.

Few Americans criticized Roosevelt’s stand. According to a poll taken at the


time, 72 percent did not want more Jewish refugees in the United States. In
the 1930s Americans were more concerned with unemployment at home
than with stateless Jews in Europe. Although many were willing to accept a
few famous writers, artists, and scientists who happened to be Jewish, they
were less willing to let in thousands of ordinary Jews. Then in February
1939, Senator Robert Wagner of New York and Representative Edith
Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts sponsored a bill that would bypass the
immigration laws and temporarily admit 20,000 Jewish children who would
stay in the country only until it was safe for them to return home. As most
were too young to work, they would not take away jobs from Americans.
Furthermore, their stay would not cost taxpayers a penny. Various Jewish
groups had agreed to assume financial responsibility for the children. Yet the
bill encountered strong opposition and was never passed.20

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 215
Lesson 13: Handout 5
Kristallnacht: The range of choices: Note-taking Guide

Directions: As you read about different responses to Kristallnacht, complete this chart.

Response to What did this person Why? What factors Label his/her actions
Kristallnacht by . . . do? may have motivated (victim, bystander,
his/her actions? perpetrator, and/or
upstander)

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 216
Lesson 13: Handout 6
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 2)

Directions: How would you classify these responses to Kristallnacht? Were these individuals acting as
bystanders, upstanders, victims, or perpetrators? You can assign more than one label to an individual or
group.

1. Gustav Mark’s butcher shop is broken into and destroyed during Kristallnacht. Nazi troops arrest him
and take him to a concentration camp (prison).
In this situation, Gustav Mark is a _____________________________________________________ because . . .

2. Alfons Heck watches silently as his friend throws stones at a synagogue (a Jewish place of worship).
In this situation, Alfons Heck is a _____________________________________________________ because . . .

3. Hannah Richter, a German of non-Jewish descent, helps her Jewish neighbor clean up after her home
was broken into during Kristallnacht.
In this situation, Hannah Richter is a _____________________________________________________ because . . .

4. The Schimmels, a German family of non-Jewish descent, choose not to participate in Kristallnacht and
leave Germany the next day.
In this situation, the Schimmels are _____________________________________________________ because . . .

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 217
Lesson 13: Handout 6
Kristallnacht: The range of choices (Part 2)

5. Herschel Frank, a Jewish boy, runs around the neighborhood to warn his Jewish neighbors to hide their
valuables and to warn Jewish men to hide so that they do not get arrested. His home is broken into,
but his father and brothers were not caught and arrested by the Nazis because they were hiding in the
basement.
In this situation, Herschel Frank is a _____________________________________________________ because . . .

6. The events of Kristallnacht are reported in newspapers all over the world. After Kristallnacht, thou-
sands of Jews in Germany, Poland and Austria try to move to other countries. Many nations, including
the United States, maintain tight restrictions (limits) on the number of Jews allowed to emigrate
(move) to their countries.
In this situation, the United States and many other countries are __________________________ because . . .

7. After Nazi troopers break into their Jewish neighbor’s home, Martin and Karla Schneider rush in to
steal their neighbors’ belongings.
In this situation, Martin and Karla Schneider are ___________________________________________ because . . .

8. After Kristallnacht, the city of Shanghai (in China) welcomes all Jewish refugees.
In this situation, the government of Shanghai is a __________________________________________ because . . .

Purpose: To deepen understanding of how our decisions can perpetuate or prevent injustice and violence
by studying Kristallnacht. • 218
Notes
1
Proceedings of the Intergovernmental Committee, Evian, July 6–15, 1938. Verbatim Record of the Plenary
Meetings of the Committee. Resolutions and Reports. London: July 1938, 25.
2
Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior (Brookline: Facing
History and Ourselves National Foundation), 264.
3
Anthony Read and David Fisher, Kristallnacht: The Unleashing of the Holocaust (New York: Peter Bedrick
Books, 1989), 127.
4
Victoria Barnett, For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1992), 142.
5
Richard Rubenstein, The Cunning of History: Mass Death and the American Future (New York: Harper &
Row, 1975), 27.
6
“Extract from the Speech by Hitler,” January 30, 1939, http://www.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust
/documents/part1/doc59.html (accessed on January 16, 2009).
7
Rubenstein, The Cunning of History, 33.
8
Helen Fein, Accounting for Genocide (London: The Free Press, 1979), 33.
9
Joe Lobenstein, “Kristallnacht: Still an Unforgettable Nightmare 70 Years On,” Telegraph, 10 November
2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/3416004/Kristallnacht-Still-an
-unforgettable-nightmare-70-years-on.html (accessed January 16, 2009).
10
Dan Barry, “A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly,” The New York Times, May 24, 2008,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/us/24land.html?pagewanted=l&_r=l&partner=permalink&exprod
=permalink (accessed January 16, 2009).
11
Eleanor Ayer, Parallel Journeys (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995), 30.
12
Alexandra Zapradur, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2002), 19–23.
13
Ayer, Parallel Journeys, 27.
14
Ibid., 29.
15
Ibid., 30.
16
Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence: Encounters with Children from the Third Reich (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1989), 1.
17
Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self (New York: Abelard -Schuman, 1965),
56.
18
Frederic Morton, “Kristallnacht,” New York Times, November 10, 1978.
19
“Kristallnacht,” The American Experience, PBS website, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust
/peopleevents/pandeAMEX99.html (accessed January 16, 2009).
20
“Jewish Refugees from German Reich, 1933–1939,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website,
http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/stlouis/teach/supread2.htm (accessed January 16, 2009).

219
Lesson 14

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Seven in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Holocaust

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
The purpose of this lesson, and the following one, is to give students an awareness of the
enormity of the crimes committed during the Nazi Holocaust and to help them grasp the
fact that thousands of ordinary people—teenagers, fathers, daughters, brothers, etc.—
participated in perpetrating these crimes, while thousands more stood by and quietly wit-
nessed the suffering and death of millions of innocent people. The next lesson focuses on
the role of bystanders, as well as acts of resistance and courage during the Holocaust. The
material in these two lessons reminds students of the importance of living in a democracy
whose institutions safeguard civil and human rights and whose citizens are capable of
making informed judgments, not only on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of a larger
community.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What was the Holocaust? What is genocide?
• What steps led up to the Holocaust?
• How can we explain why ordinary people participated in the mass murder of mil-
lions of children, women, and men?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Recording ideas from a lecture
• Interpreting and writing poetry
• Grasping the ethical dimensions of historical events
• Using prior knowledge to help understand new information
• Communicating ideas in writing
• Participating in a class discussion
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Holocaust
• Genocide
• Final Solution
• Bystander
• Perpetrator
• Victim
• Upstander
• Emigration
• Ghetto
• Deportation
• Bureaucracy

Lesson 14 • 220
• Mass murder/extermination
• Concentration camp
• Auschwitz
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


In this lesson, students learn about the steps taken by Germans and others that resulted
in the murder of one-third of all of the Jews in the world, in addition to nearly five mil-
lion members of other groups deemed unfit or dangerous by the Nazis, including
Gypsies,* homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. People have given this crime vari-
ous names. Winston Churchill referred to it as “a crime without a name.”1 In the United
States, it is referred to as the Holocaust, a word people have been using since ancient
times. Historian Paul Bookbinder explains that the word holocaust means “complete
destruction by burning.”2 The name Holocaust calls attention to the use of crematoria to
burn the bodies of millions of victims of the Nazis’ gas chambers, and also symbolizes the
Nazis’ goal to completely destroy an entire group of people, the Jews, solely because of
their ancestry. Today, this crime is referred to as genocide—a word coined by Raphael
Lemkin, himself a Polish Jew who fled the Nazis. Responding to his outrage over the
Holocaust, as well as the mass murder of Armenians during World War I, Lemkin
believed that the international legal community needed a word that described “acts com-
mitted with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or reli-
gious group.”3 He thought that perhaps the world would be better at preventing and
stopping the mass murder of innocent people if this crime had a name.

In January 1942, before Lemkin coined the word “genocide,” 15 top leaders of the Nazi
Party met in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee. At this conference, they created their own
name for their plan to annihilate the Jewish community of Europe, calling it the “Final
Solution of the Jewish Question.” The purpose of this meeting was to design a systematic
way to rid Europe of 11 million European Jews. Due to the official nature of this confer-
ence, notes were taken and distributed to those who did not attend. From these notes, we
learn of the Nazis’ plan to use and dispose of Jews as they saw fit. For example, the notes
read, “Under proper guidance, in the course of the Final Solution the Jews are to be allo-
cated for appropriate labor . . . in the course of which action doubtless a large portion
will be eliminated by natural causes.” The notes also address how Jews will be identified,
explaining “In the course of the Final Solution plans, the Nuremberg Laws should pro-
vide a certain foundation.”4

* At the time of the Holocaust, Germans and other Europeans used the name “Gypsies” when referring to an ethnic group
of people whose origins can be traced to South Asia. (The name actually stems from the word Egyptian because Europeans
originally believed that they came from Egypt.) Over time, the label “Gypsy” was placed on any nomadic group with simi-
lar physical appearance (i.e., darker skin and hair), lifestyle, and customs. Most of the individuals labeled as Gypsies are
actually members of the Romani or Sinti community. Recently, in recognition of the inaccurate and derogatory qualities of
the label “Gypsy,” the international community has adopted the more respectful Roma, Romani, or Sinti. However, to
avoid historical anachronism, in the lesson plans we use the word Gypsies when identifying the groups of people who were
targeted for segregation and annihilation by the Nazis, since this is what the Nazis called them at the time. Refer to the fol-
lowing websites for more information about the Roma people and their history: http://www.romani.org, http://www
.religioustolerance.org/roma.htm, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Roma_history.

Lesson 14 • 221
The Wannsee conference did not mark the start of the Holocaust. Several years earlier,
when Germany began invading neighboring territories, such as Poland and the Soviet
Union, tens of thousands of Jews perished at the hands of SS soldiers and local civilians
collaborating with the Nazis. This was mostly accomplished through the use of special
squads of German soldiers and police called Einsatzgruppen, or mobile killing units.
These units would follow the regular German army behind combat lines, with the pur-
pose of massacring Jews, Gypsies, Communist officials, and anyone else deemed to be a
racial or political enemy of Germany. While later during the Holocaust most of the vic-
tims were murdered in ghettos or in concentration camps (or on the way to the camps),
the Einsatzgruppen killed victims in their villages, typically by mass shootings or by using
mobile gas vans.

Even though over 1.5 million Jews were murdered at the hands of these mobile killing
squads, Heinrich Himmler, director of the Einsatzgruppen, was not entirely satisfied. He
noticed the psychological burden that mass shootings placed on his men, and he wanted
a more economical way to murder vast numbers of Jews. At the Wannsee Conference he
was able to develop a plan that addressed his concerns. Through planning an efficient,
systemic method of “extermination,” the murder of Jews would now be carried out
according to rules and regulations, by clerks, administrators, guards, and other employees.
One administrator involved in assigning Jews to concentration camps described his role,
and the role of other bureaucrats like him as, “just little cogs in a huge machine.”5

Thus, the Wannsee Conference was significant not because it started the Holocaust, but
mainly because it transferred most of the responsibility of the “Final Solution” from the
military over to the bureaucrats. In addition to the leadership of the Nazi Party, many
“ordinary” workers were needed to make the system of mass murder function: train con-
ductors, secretaries, guards, cooks, etc. Journalist Bernt Engelmann wrote, “girls like my
cousin Gudrun, from solid middleclass families, . . . sat there with their chic hairdos and
pretty white blouses and typed neat lists of the victims—an important service for Fuehrer,
Volk, and Vaterland.”6 This statement reflects the mindset of many Germans who partici-
pated in this genocide. They did not see themselves as murderers; rather, they saw them-
selves as loyal, effective workers.

“How can we make sense of this intentional killing of millions of innocent people?” is
one of the most important questions asked during a study of the Holocaust. Many schol-
ars have attempted to answer this question. Philosopher and Holocaust scholar Hannah
Arendt argued that the Germans who carried out unspeakable crimes were ordinary peo-
ple who simply accepted the conditions of their context as normal and the way things are
done.7 As explained above, the bureaucratization of the Final Solution—the fact that
Germans had specific responsibilities to perform as part of their jobs—made the process
of killing seem routine. Hitler and the Nazis were extremely skilled at using propaganda
and a deliberatively gradual process to make the isolation, segregation, and ultimate
killing of Jews seem rational or justifiable.

Raul Hilberg, a prominent Holocaust scholar, agrees with Arendt that the Holocaust was
made possible because of small steps, or “stages.” He began studying the Holocaust in
1948 while stationed in Munich for the U.S. Army’s War Documentation Project. His
intense study of German documents led to the development of a widely accepted theory
that the Final Solution was a bureaucratic, strategically planned process. A list of steps
taken by the Nazis to achieve the mass murder of Jews, called “The Stages of Mass

Lesson 14 • 222
Raul Hilberg’s Stages of Mass Murder8

1. Definition: Jews and other minorities are defined as the “other”


through legalized discrimination.
2. Isolation: Through the accumulation of hundreds of anti-Jewish laws,
social practices, residential living restrictions, job displacements, and prop-
erty expropriation, Jews are marginalized in German society.
3. Emigration: Jews are encouraged through laws and terror to leave
German territory.
4. Ghettoization: Jews are forcibly removed to segregated sections of
Eastern European cities and are made to endure terrible living conditions.
5. Deportation: Jews are transported from ghettos to concentration and
death camps.
6. Mass murder: Mass murder occurs through shooting, gassing, and con-
finement in labor and death camps where Jews are overworked and/or
murdered.

Murder,” is one of the results of Hilberg’s research. The degree to which the Nazis
planned each of these stages ahead of time is a matter of debate among historians, but
there is consensus that the overall events unfolded in a way that followed this pattern.
This kind of framework is helpful for a basic historical understanding of how the Nazis
moved from legalized discrimination to mass murder.

Another way to understand how these small steps played out in the life of ordinary
Germans is through the work of an American college professor, Milton Mayer. Seven
years after World War II, Professor Mayer interviewed German men from a cross-section
of society. One of them, a college professor, told Mayer how he responded to the policies
of the Nazis from 1933, when they first came to power, until their fall at the end of the
war:

If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and
smallest, thousands, yes millions, would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say,
the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the “German Firm” stickers
on the windows of non Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it hap-
pens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible,
each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much
worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at
Step C? And so on to Step D.9

After describing his slow and steady process of moral decline, this professor admits that
ultimately his decisions left him “compromised beyond repair.” By the end of the war, he
was living “with new morals, new principles,” formed by years of living under Nazi prop-
aganda and conforming to the socially-acceptable norms of Germany in the 1930s. He
explains:

You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago,
things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined. Suddenly it all
comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accu-
rately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we
do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university

Lesson 14 • 223
This photograph shows Nazi officers and female guards taking a break from their work at the Auschwitz
concentration camp.

when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small
matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that.
You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised
beyond repair.10

Christopher Browning is another prominent Holocaust historian whose work has helped
answer the question, “How can we explain why ordinary people participated in the mass
murder of millions of innocent children, women, and men?” He studied interviews of
over 200 men that served in Reserve Police Battalion 101, a group made up of mostly
city-level police officers who were assigned to serve Hitler in Poland during World War
II. Focusing on the events of one day, July 13, 1942, Browning discovered that the leader
of the battalion, Captain Trapp, instructed his troops that they would be rounding up
Jewish children, women, and men from the village of Jozefow and killing all but the
young men who were fit for slave labor. Then, Trapp said that any man who did not want
to participate in this task could receive a different assignment. Approximately 12 of the
210 men in the battalion stepped forward and handed in their weapons. The rest of the
battalion proceeded to follow orders, shooting hundreds of Jewish women, older men,
and children at point-blank range, although Browning noted that “they still shied away
from shooting infants, despite their orders.”11 Browning explains the behavior of these
ordinary working-class men, very few of whom were members of the Nazi Party, through
the lens of peer pressure. Men he interviewed admitted that they did not want to be per-
ceived as cowards by their comrades. According to Browning, “To break ranks and step
out, to adopt overtly nonconformist behavior, was simply beyond most of the men. It
was easier for them to shoot.”12 History professor Daniel Goldhagen disagrees with
Browning’s interpretation that many followed Nazi orders out of a desire to fit in. Rather,
he argues that many Germans willingly went along with Nazi policies because a history of
virulent antisemitism led them to believe that killing Jews was justified.13

Lesson 14 • 224
Clearly, there is no simple answer to questions such as, “What made the mass murder of
millions of innocent children, women, and men possible? How could thousands of peo-
ple participate in committing mass murder?” For example, when Rudolf Hoess was asked
why he participated in the Holocaust, his answer reveals how propaganda, antisemitism,
conformity, denial, and obedience affected the choices he made as Commandant at
Auschwitz:

Don’t you see, we SS men were not supposed to think about these things: it never
even occurred to us.—And besides, it was something already taken for granted that
the Jews were to blame for everything. . . . Well, we just never heard anything else. It
was not just newspapers like the Stürmer but it was everything we ever heard. Even
our military and ideological training took for granted that we had to protect Germany
from the Jews. . . . We were all so trained to obey orders without even thinking that
the thought of disobeying an order would simply never have occurred to anybody and
somebody else would have done just as well if I hadn’t. . . . You can be sure that it was
not always a pleasure to see those mountains of corpses and smell the continual burn-
ing.—But Himmler had ordered it and had even explained the necessity and I really
never gave much thought to whether it was wrong. It just seemed a necessity.14

While Nazi propaganda, obedience, and antisemitism surely encouraged perpetrators, like
Hoess, to commit terrible crimes against the Jewish community, it is important to note
that the Holocaust took place under the cover of war. As Hoess explains, he was acting to
protect Germany. Killing the Jews was seen as part of the war effort. And it was not only
Germans who took part in the death of Jews. Most of the killing took place outside of
Germany, often with the support of local residents from occupied countries, such as
Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Although some civilians were alarmed by
the brutality of the Nazis, others were sympathetic to the Germans’ cause. Centuries of
antisemitism in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia had made the local population
openly hostile to Jews. Villagers assisted the Nazis by reporting on the location of Jews
and, sometimes, by killing or hurting Jews on their own. Opportunism (e.g., the prospect
of gaining Jewish property) and the fear of Nazi brutality also played a role in turning
many civilians into bystanders and perpetrators.

To gain an understanding of the Holocaust, it is important to look not only at the acts of
perpetrators, but also at the experiences of victims and survivors. Yet, it is impossible to
truly understand the experiences of victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Nobel Prize
winner and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel explains, “Ask any survivor and he will
tell you, and his children will tell you. He or she who did not live through the event will
never know it. And he or she who did live through the event will never reveal it. Not
entirely. Not really. Between our memory and its reflection there stands a wall that can-
not be pierced.”15 And even if it were possible to understand the victim’s plight during the
Holocaust, what could prepare us emotionally to deal with the enormity of this crime?
Referring to his experience as a member of the U.S. Army that liberated the Buchenwald
concentration camp in 1945, Leon Bass shares, “I wasn’t prepared for this. I was only
nineteen. I had no frame of reference to cope with the kind of thing that I was witness-
ing.” He continues to explain the magnitude of the inhumanity that he observed:

And so I walked through the gates of Buchenwald, and I saw the dead and the dying.
I saw people who had been so brutalized and were so maltreated. They had been
starved and beaten. They had been worked almost to death, not fed enough, no med-
ical care. One man came up and his fingers were webbed together, all of his fingers

Lesson 14 • 225
together, by sores and scabs. This was due to malnutrition, not eating the proper
foods. There were others holding on to each other, trying to remain standing. They
had on wooden shoes; they had on the pajama-type uniform; their heads had been
shaved. Some had the tattoos with numbers on their arms. I saw this. . . . I said, “My
God, what is this insanity that I have come to? What are these people here for? What
have they done? What was their crime that would cause people to treat them like
this?”16

Still, even though it is impossible to truly understand the victim’s experience, and even
though nothing can prepare us for the horror of this crime, it is still important to take
stock of the scope of this genocide—to appreciate how humanity was stripped from mil-
lions of people as they were treated like cattle, or even worse.

Professor Larry Langer suggests that one way we can understand the victims’ experience is
through appreciating the many “choiceless choices” that they confronted on a daily
basis.17 There are no moral equivalents in the “normal” world for these experiences, even
in the combat of World War II. For example, is the decision to give one’s child to a
stranger really a “choice” in this context? Rachel G., a Jewish girl from Belgium, recalls
the day her father took her into hiding with a priest. “My mother could not take me to
those people. Of course, I couldn’t understand. My mother crying and only my father
could take and explain to me, ‘Don’t forget, you’re a Jewish little girl and we’re going to
see you again. But you must do that, you must go away. We are doing this for your
best.’”18 When you are asked to bury the corpses of your neighbors or be pushed into a
pit yourself, is that really a choice? Langer asserts that when making sense of the choices
Holocaust victims made, we must keep in mind that people’s choices were determined by
survival in the grimmest of circumstances.

These Jewish women and children have been selected for death at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Lesson 14 • 226
Another common question asked about victims of the Holocaust is, “Why didn’t they
resist? Why didn’t they fight back?” Jews, and other victims, responded to their Nazi
oppressors in a variety of ways, and, indeed, many did resist. Jews in Vilna, Warsaw,
Kovno, Bialystok, Bedzin-Sosnowiec, Cracow, and 11 other cities organized armed rebel-
lions against their Nazi oppressors. Jews, known as partisans, engaged in guerrilla warfare
against the German army. In August 1943, inmates at Treblinka concentration camp
duplicated the key to the camp armory. The plan was to take the weapons stored there,
kill as many guards as possible, and then escape into the forest. All seven hundred Jews in
the camp took part. There are countless examples of other efforts of resistance by Jews
and non-Jews alike: laborers sabotaged weapons they were assigned to build, inmates
organized clandestine schools for children, and some Jews used prayer as a means of
defiance.

Yet, it is important to recognize the incredible challenges that confronted Jews trying to
resist Nazi oppression. First, for some victims it was impossible to believe what lay ahead.
They were easily deceived by the slivers of hope the Nazis offered their victims. Some-
times it was the possibility of a ghetto run entirely by Jews; at others it was the hope of
resettlement in the east. Often people were willing to believe on the strength of little
more than the need to buy a railroad ticket. Surely people being shipped to their deaths
would not have to buy a ticket! Even once Jews recognized the gravity of their situation,
during the war it was difficult for anyone, and especially Jews, to gain the arms and
resources to resist the Nazis. In The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi points out how
difficult escape and rebellion were, writing:

For everyone else, the pariahs of the Nazi universe (among whom must be included
Gypsies and Soviet prisoners, both military and civilian, who racially were considered
not much superior to the Jews), the situation was quite different. For them escape was
quite different and extremely dangerous; besides being demoralized, they had been
weakened by hunger and maltreatment; they were and knew they were considered less
than beasts of burden. . . . The particular (but numerically imposing) case of the Jews
was the most tragic. Even admitting that they managed to get across the barbed wire
barrier and electrical grill, elude the patrols, the surveillance of the sentinels armed
with machine guns in the guard towers, the dogs trained for man hunts: In what
direction could they flee? To whom could they turn for shelter? They were outside the
world, men and women made of air. They no longer had a country.19

Levi helps us understand how the “stateless” condition of the Jews coupled with the his-
tory of violent antisemitism in the area contributed to the nearly impossible task ahead of
any Jew who dared escape or rebel. Furthermore, Jews faced a complicated ethical
dilemma because acts of resistance by one individual were met by Nazi retaliation aimed
at the entire community. In other words, an act of defiance by one individual could result
in the deaths of many more. Furthermore, it is important to keep the issue of resistance
in perspective. Expecting a defenseless, civilian population to mount an extensive chal-
lenge to their well-armed Nazi oppressors puts the burden on the victim and not on
people and nations who were in a better position to help. Given this context, Elie Wiesel
explains, “The question is not why all the Jews did not fight, but how so many of them
did. Tormented, beaten, starved, where did they find the strength—spiritual and physical—
to resist?”20

Lesson 14 • 227
Finally, another question students often ask of teachers is, “Why are you having us study
this horrible moment in history?” Many educators, scholars, and students agree that
studying the Holocaust is important because of how it can help us prevent violence, prej-
udice, and injustice in our own communities—local, national, and global. As Catholic
theologian Eva Fleischner declares, “The more we come to know about the Holocaust,
how it came about, how it was carried out, etc., the greater the possibility that we will
become sensitized to inhumanity and suffering wherever they occur.”21 This human
tragedy illuminates the circumstances that can cause ordinary people to make horrible
choices. To prevent future acts of violence, we must look at the circumstances in which
these choices were made. We need to appreciate the role of factors such as obedience,
conformity, peer pressure, membership, identity, prejudice, and propaganda in shaping
the decisions made by Germans and others, for these same factors also impact the choices
we make on a daily basis. A study of the steps leading up to the Holocaust also helps us
identify the resources at our disposal that can be used to prevent future violence and
genocide, including strong democratic institutions, citizens who are capable of informed
judgment, and communities that respect difference.

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“No Time to Think” pp. 189–91
“Blueprint for the ‘Final Solution,’” pp. 319–20
“Obeying Orders,” pp. 321–22
“What Did People Know,” pp. 364–67
“A Commandant’s View,” pp. 353–54

The lessons in this section mostly focus on events of the Holocaust that were occurring
within Germany and German-occupied Europe. To help students understand the larger
political and military context of World War II in which the Holocaust was situated, refer
to the following readings from Chapter 6 of the resource book:
“Hitler’s Saturday Surprise,” pp. 253–56
“Taking Austria,” pp. 257
“Appeasing Hitler,” pp. 261–63
“Enemies Become Allies,” pp. 278–79
“Targeting Poland,” pp. 286–87
“Conquests in the East,” pp. 289–91
“Conquests in the West,” pp. 297–300
“The Invasion of Russia,” pp. 301–3
“The United States Enters the War,” pp. 303–4

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Confronting the Holocaust with Students

1. Review class norms about a safe, respectful learning community: In this lesson students will be
confronted with evidence, through film and text, documenting the horrific violence of the
Final Solution. Before presenting students with this material, inform them about the
graphic violence to which they will bear witness. Learning about the crimes committed dur-
ing the Holocaust can spark emotional reactions in students; thus it is critical that students

Lesson 14 • 228
have a safe place to process their feelings throughout this lesson. At the beginning of this
lesson, you might want to review your classroom contract. You can also ask students to
think about what it means to them to feel safe in the classroom, and what they need to do
to help other students feel safe and supported.
2. Provide frequent public and private opportunities to process this material: Students often react
to the Holocaust with sadness, anger, or frustration, yet it is also the case that students do
not have an immediate public response to learning about the Holocaust. Many teachers
have been surprised by some students’ lack of emotions during a lesson on the Holocaust.
Experience has taught us that it can take time before students are able and ready to make
sense of this material. In the meantime, many students report that their journals provide a
safe space where they can begin to process their emotions and ideas. Therefore, we recom-
mend that students are invited to write in their journals at many points throughout this les-
son.
3. Avoid having students hypothesize about what they would have done: It is natural for students
to wonder what they would have done if they were in the position of the victims. Yet fol-
lowing this line of hypothetical decision-making does not yield an educationally construc-
tive conversation; it is impossible for us to truly imagine what it was like for victims of the
Holocaust. To even come close to putting students in the position of imagining the suffer-
ing and loss of victims would be highly unethical. The challenge for teaching this part of
the unit is to allow students to confront the suffering and loss experienced by victims of the
Holocaust without overwhelming students with horror.
4. Preview materials in advance to make appropriate selections based on the maturity of your stu-
dents: Viewing graphic images depicting the horrors of concentration camps and death
camps can provoke strong emotional reactions in students. Some teachers assume that
because students are surrounded by violent images in the media, they are desensitized to
depictions of violence in any form. We have found that this is usually not the case. Most
adolescents can distinguish between fictional acts of violence and authentic acts of inhu-
manity, and being confronted with the horrors humans can inflict on each other can be
truly unsettling. Use your best judgment about the capacity of your students to be able to
emotionally handle images depicting Holocaust victims. If you decide to show your stu-
dents a few images of Holocaust victims, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website
(www.ushmm.org) has a wide collection of images from which to choose. For this lesson, we
have selected images (Handout 3) that represent the violence of mass murder (i.e., a crema-
torium and a map of Auschwitz) without showing human remains.

Duration: two class periods


Suggestion for how to divide this class over two class periods: An appropriate time to
divide the lesson would be after part two of the main activity because students will need
an entire class period to confront the final stage of the Holocaust.

Materials
Handout 1: For Yom Ha’Shoah
Handout 2: The Six Stages That Led to the Holocaust: Note-taking guide
Handout 3: The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations
Handout 4: Selected quotations from “No Time to Think”
Handout 5: Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History—Poems 1–3
Talking points: The Six Stages That Led to the Holocaust
Film: I’m Still Here: Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust
Film: Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History

Lesson 14 • 229
Opener
Facing History teachers speak strongly about the importance of preparing students before
having them confront the horrible crimes committed during the Holocaust. One way to
accomplish this goal is to use the poem “Yom Ha’Shoah” by Sonia Weitz, a Holocaust
survivor (handout 1). We suggest having students read the poem aloud, at least two
times. After each reading, ask students to respond to the questions: What does this poem
mean to you? What questions do you have? You can begin a discussion of the poem by
having students share their responses to these prompts. Their questions about the poem
can be recorded on the board so that they can be revisited at the end of the lesson when
students have greater familiarity with the Holocaust.

Main Activities
Part 1: Defining terms
By this point in the unit, your students have probably already heard the term Holocaust,
and many may be familiar with the word from its use in the media or from prior classes.
Still, do not assume that students know what this term actually means or what the event
entailed. Before beginning an interactive lecture about the Holocaust, write the word on
the board and ask students to tell you what they already know about the Holocaust. You
might also wish to write the word “genocide” on the board and then ask if any students
can define it. Here are two basic definitions you can use to begin this lesson:

Holocaust: A period of 4 years (1941–1944) when the Nazis organized and carried out
the murder of six million Jews, as well as millions of other innocent victims, such as
Jehovah’s witnesses, Gypsies, and homosexuals.
Genocide: Acts committed with the intent to destroy an ethnic, racial, national, or reli-
gious group.

At the end of the lesson, you can give students the opportunity to add their own ideas to
these definitions.

Part 2: Understanding the steps leading up to mass murder


We suggest helping students learn about the crimes committed during the Holocaust
through an interactive lecture that incorporates video clips, images, and other documents.
In this format, the whole class learns the same material at the same time, giving the
teacher the ability to respond to questions and comments as they arise. The ability to
respond to students “in the moment” is especially important when dealing with such sen-
sitive material. Suggested talking points to guide you through this lecture are included in
the appendix of this lesson. These talking points are framed by the work of Holocaust
scholar Raul Hilberg. He writes about the Holocaust not as one moment, but as a series
of stages that led up to the genocide of millions. Students have already learned about
three of these stages, so the early part of the lecture will serve as review. Students can take
notes during the lecture on Handout 2 or in their journals.

We refer to this teaching strategy as an “interactive” lecture because we hope that students
are active participants as the class develops an understanding of the Holocaust. As you
present students with new information, they should have the opportunity to share their
prior knowledge, ask questions, and write in their journals. We have structured the inter-
active lecture talking points to allow for this to happen. The lecture is divided into six

Lesson 14 • 230
parts, each part corresponding to one of Hilberg’s “stages leading up to the Holocaust.”
Each part includes a main term, a key question, suggested resources (i.e., class notes from
previous lessons, images, film clips, quotations, etc.), possible answers to the key ques-
tion, and suggested journal prompts. We recommend that students have the opportunity
to write in their journals throughout the lecture so that they can have frequent opportu-
nities to process their ideas and their feelings. You might allow volunteers to share what
they have written with the class, or you can ask them to discuss the journal prompts with
a neighbor. Experienced Facing History teachers have stressed that it is very important to
pay attention to students’ needs, questions, and misconceptions as they learn about the
Holocaust. For that reason, we have designed this lesson to be implemented over two
class periods. While the disturbing nature of this history causes many teachers to want to
rush through this material, for students’ own intellectual and moral development it is
important to proceed at a pace that allows them to safely process what they are learning
about this specific history and what it may reveal about human behavior in general.

Part 3: Processing the horrors of mass murder


It is not possible to truly understand the horrors of genocide, nor would it be ethically
responsible to put students in that position. Still, if students left a study of the Holocaust
without confronting the scope of the crimes committed, their understanding of this event
would be incomplete. The challenge for teachers is to find a safe, respectful, and histori-
cally accurate way to help students grasp the fact that thousands of ordinary people par-
ticipated in unspeakable acts of inhumanity, while thousands more quietly stood by while
millions of innocent children, women, and men were murdered.

One way to approach this pedagogical challenge is to have students bear witness to the
testimony of a Holocaust survivor. We suggest showing students the 24-minute video
Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History. Students will already be familiar with Sonia
Weitz as the author of the poem “Yom Ha’Shoah.” In this video, she reads this poem, and
several others, as she recounts her experience before and during the Holocaust. Listening
to Sonia’s story provides an opportunity for students to learn about the horrors of the
concentration camps, and it also provides a concrete, personal account of the other stages
leading up to the Holocaust. [Note: The extension section provides examples of other
survivor testimony you could also use during this part of the lesson. In the extension sec-
tions, you can also find suggestions for how to help students process the horror of mass
murder through looking an images and reading the words of those involved in this tragic
event.]

Sonia’s testimony provides evidence of horrible brutality and students will need a way to
debrief what they have heard. To help students process the ideas in Sonia’s testimony, you
can structure a silent conversation. In preparation for the silent conversation, ask students
to write the following questions in the middle of a large piece of paper (large enough to
allow for students to write plenty of questions and comments):

• What made the Holocaust possible?


• How can we explain why ordinary people participated in the mass murder of inno-
cent people?
• What could have prevented the Holocaust?

Lesson 14 • 231
Small groups of two or three students can receive one of these “big papers.” Before begin-
ning this activity, make sure each student has a pen or marker.

Instructions for the Silent Conversations (“Big Paper”) Activity

1. The importance of silence: Inform the class that this activity will be completed in silence, and
that they will share their thoughts and questions in writing on the big papers. Go over all of
the instructions at the beginning, but you can also remind students of their task as they
begin each new step.
2. Comment on your big paper: Distribute a “big paper” to each group. Tell students that they
will begin by responding to the prompts on their big paper. Students continue to have a
conversation about their ideas, not by speaking to each other, but by writing questions and
comments on this big paper. If someone in the group writes a question, another member of
the group should address the question by writing on the big paper. Students can draw lines
connecting a comment to a particular question. Make sure students know that more than
one of them can write on the big paper at the same time. Teachers typically give students
10–15 minutes for this step.
3. Add comments to other big papers: Still in silence, ask students to read the comments on
other big papers around the room. Students should bring their markers with them because
they can add their own ideas to their peer’s big papers. Teachers usually give students 10–15
minutes for this step.
4. Return to your own big paper: Still in silence, students read the comments written by their
peers on their own papers. At this point, you might ask students to take out their journals
and identify a question or comment that stands out to them at this moment.
5. Class discussion: Silence is broken as students are invited to share their ideas in a class discus-
sion about the Holocaust. Before you begin the class discussion, you might want to have
students write and recite a collaborative poem. (See the follow-through and extension sec-
tions for instructions on writing collaborative poems.)

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


Facing History teachers have remarked that many students are able to process and express
their reaction to learning about the Holocaust through poetry. Poetry can be simultane-
ously personal and abstract. It can both evoke a specific experience and draw a universal
conclusion. It helps us reflect and respond. You might decide to give students some time
to write their own poems responding to the material in this lesson. Or, you can create a
collaborative poem as a class. In a collaborative poem, each student contributes one line.
This could be the question or comment that the student recorded after step four of the
Silent Conversation. You can go around the room with each student reading their line. A
shorter version of the collaborative poem simply asks students to respond with one word
that comes to mind after learning about the Holocaust. Each student shares his/her word,
without allowing questions or comments to break the flow of sharing. The collection of
words shared by the class creates a poem of its own. Regardless of if students write poems
on their own or whether they create a collaborative poem, the ideas represented in the
poems provide fruitful material for a class discussion.

As a final activity for this lesson, you might have students read the poem “Yom Ha’Shoah”
again and then ask them to write in their journals about what this poem means to them
after learning more about the Holocaust. They can also try to answer the questions they
wrote at the beginning of the lesson.

Lesson 14 • 232
Assessment(s)
The notes students take on handout 2, as well as their journal entries, will provide evi-
dence about their understanding of the steps leading up to mass murder. You might also
ask students to turn in an exit card before they leave class with their definition of the
words Holocaust and genocide. Encourage them to have their definitions show both an
intellectual and ethical understanding of these words. At this point, it is too soon to accu-
rately assess students’ ability to grasp the horrors of the Holocaust; as explained above, it
often takes students several days or weeks to come to grips with this information. But,
you can give students the opportunity to share confusions they might have by asking
them to record any questions on their exit card. This will give you an idea of material you
might want to review in the next lesson.

Extensions
• In addition to listening to Sonia Weitz’s testimony, students might gain a deeper
understanding of the Holocaust through looking at images and reading the words
of those involved in this tragic event. Document 3 includes a collection of images
and quotations that represent different stages of the Holocaust, but focus on the
horror of mass murder. The “gallery walk” teaching strategy can be used to help stu-
dents process these images. Arrange these images and quotations on the wall or on
tables around the room. Then ask students to “tour” the gallery. As they view the
images and read the quotations, ask students to record thoughts and questions in
their journals. You might want to include several images of Jewish life before the
war (from Lesson 5) to help students remember that before they were persecuted by
the Nazis, Holocaust victims were ordinary children, women, and men who enjoyed
family dinners and playing with friends. You could also include copies of Sonia’s
poems as part of the gallery walk. So that students have the opportunity to process
their reactions to these images and words, we suggest that students participate in
the gallery walk before they begin the big paper activity.

• Here are two alternate ways to structure the collaborative poem exercise: 1) You can
ask students to write their contribution to the class poem on a slip of paper. Place
the slips into a hat or bowl. Drawing one at a time, read the slips in a dramatic
fashion. For example, you can repeat some lines or words for dramatic effect. 2) You
can ask students to copy their one line or phrase contribution to the class poem on
several slips of paper. Distribute 10–12 slips to small groups of students and allow
them to arrange the slips any way they choose. Then have the groups present their
arrangement to the class. This exercise is particularly interesting because students
hear the same words used in distinct ways in the different poems crafted by their
classmates.
• Another way to help students debrief the Holocaust is by having them read “No
Time to Think,” on pages 189–91 of the resource book. In this interview, a
German professor describes his experiences living with Nazi policies from 1933 to
1945. His descriptions reveal how the Nazis were able to mold a citizenry with
“new principles” through a gradual process of “hundreds of little steps,” where the
crimes against Jews and others escalated in “imperceptible” ways. In “No Time to
Think,” this German man also touches on how concepts students have studied
throughout this unit, such as fear, obedience, conformity, peer pressure, oppor-
tunism, and propaganda, influenced his behavior. Ultimately, he is left “compro-
mised beyond repair.” As a class, you can read “No Time to Think” aloud in its

Lesson 14 • 233
entirety, or you can select a few quotations from this text to read aloud. (See hand-
out 4 for a list of suggested quotations.) A discussion after this reading might begin
by allowing students to read off one word or phrase that stood out to them. You
could also ask students to respond to the question, “When this professor was mak-
ing his decisions about how to act (or not act), who do you think was most on his
mind?” One interpretation of this reading suggests that the professor was mostly
thinking of himself as the Nazis took steps to define, isolate, and eventually exter-
minate the Jews. In this light, “No Time to Think” reveals the implications of living
in a society where the members only think about their own best interest. Other
questions you might want to raise in a discussion of this text include: How do the
ideas in this reading help explain why ordinary people participated in the mass
murder of innocent people? What warnings does it include? To what extent are
these warnings relevant today?

• Drama can also be used to help students process and express their responses to
learning about the Holocaust. In addition or instead of writing poems, you might
ask small groups of students to create “tableaux” or scenes that represent their
answer to the question, “How can we explain why so many people participated in
the mass murder of innocent people?” Of course, there are many answers to this
question, so you can inform students that their scene is only supposed to represent
one way of answering this question. For example, a group might depict the concept
of conformity or the idea of small steps.

• Facing History teachers remark on the power of survivor testimony to help students
process the horrors of the Holocaust. Sometimes, it is possible to have a Holocaust
survivor speak to your students. Your local Facing History office may be able to
help you arrange such a visit. Fortunately, many survivors have shared their stories
on film. Facing History has produced a 23-minute film called Challenge of Memory
which includes six survivor testimonies. Each testimony covers a different aspect of
the Holocaust, from deportation to life in the camps: Shari B begins by sharing
how her family could not believe the accounts they heard about the gassing of Jews.
Edith P describes being locked in a cattle car on her way to Auschwitz. Helen K
recalls an act of courageous resistance by inmates in Auschwitz, and Leon Bass, a
retired U.S. Army sergeant, remembers the shock of entering Buchenwald concen-
tration camp at the end of the war. Also, Disc 2 of the Paper Clips documentary
includes interviews with two Holocaust survivors. While their accounts trace the
stages outlined by Hilberg, they mostly focus on life in the camps. Bernard Igielski’s
story begins when his family was moved to the ghetto when he was not yet thirteen.
He recalls how he became an orphan at the hands of the Nazis, describes what it
was like to be young and alone at a concentration camp, and shares the story of
how a Jewish doctor at Auschwitz saved his life. Rachel Gleitman’s story begins
before 1938, when she enjoyed a peaceful life in a rural village in Czechoslovakia.
She them recounts how the Jews in her town were deported to ghettos and
describes her own journey to Auschwitz with her sister. At the end of her interview,
she describes how she escaped from the Nazis as the Soviets were advancing into
German-occupied Poland. These interviews can help students confront the horrors
of the Holocaust in lieu of, or in addition to, the images and quotations included in
handout 3. To make sure the content is appropriate for your students, we recom-
mend previewing any video before using it in the classroom.

Lesson 14 • 234
• In the video Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History, Sonia reads three poems in
addition to “Yom Ha’Shoah.” Copies of these poems are included on handout 4. So
that students can follow along with Sonia, you can distribute handout 5 to students
before they watch the film. After she reads each poem, you can pause the film and
spend some time interpreting the poem’s meaning and why Sonia might have
decided to include this particular poem in her testimony. Students who are inter-
ested in learning more about Sonia Weitz’s story can read her memoir I Promised I
Would Tell. It can be downloaded for free from the Facing History and Ourselves
website (www.facinghistory.org) or can be borrowed from the Facing History lending
library.

Lesson 14 • 235
The Six Stages That Led to the Holocaust: Talking Points*
Using these Talking Points:
This interactive lecture is divided into six parts, with each part representing one of
Hilberg’s six stages that led to the Holocaust. We suggest you begin by presenting stu-
dents with a definition of the stage and then the key question they should answer about
what happened during this stage. In the talking points, we list resources where your stu-
dents can find evidence that will help them answer the key questions. To help you evalu-
ate students’ responses, we have also listed possible answers to the key questions. You can
introduce any ideas that students do not bring up themselves. Finally, we include journal
prompts designed to help students process important themes relevant to each stage. We
encourage you to give students the opportunity to write in their journals after they have
learned about each of Hilberg’s stages. These talking points are not meant to be used as a
script. We encourage you to add more information based on your own expertise and the
interests of your class. Since many students are visual learners, you might want to present
the information and questions included in the talking points in the form of a power
point presentation or on an overhead projector.

Stage 1. Definition: Jews are defined as the “other” through legalized discrimination.
Key questions: How did the Nazis define Jews as different and inferior? What examples
do you know about from the study of this history?

Suggested resource: Notes from prior lessons.

Possible answers:
• Through racism: categorizing people into fixed categories based on (supposed)
bloodlines.
• Through laws: The Nuremberg laws defined who was a Jew and who was not a Jew.
• Through propaganda: Cartoons, books, movies, and posters portrayed Jews as dif-
ferent from (and inferior to) their Aryan neighbors.

Journal prompt: What are some reasons why many Germans labeled Jews as different and
inferior? Why do we sometimes label groups as “other” or different than ourselves?

Stage 2. Isolation: Once individuals are labeled as Jews, they are separated from main-
stream society.
Key question: How did the Nazis isolate Jews?

Suggested resource: Notes from prior lessons.

* Hilberg’s six stages outline how the Nazis systematically tried to murder the Jewish population of Europe. Other groups,
such as Gypsies, homosexuals, and the physically disabled, encountered many of the steps described below as well, including
mass murder. Also, Hilberg structured these stages based on his study of German documents. Because of this, the stages
represent how the events of the Holocaust played out in Germany. As Germany occupied other countries, they applied sim-
ilar policies to these territories. Yet, while the six stages defined by Hilberg played out over the course of nearly fifteen years
in Germany (and more if you consider the impact of Nazi propaganda during the Weimar Republic), the stages were con-
densed or skipped in other countries. For example, most Jews in Hungary spent a very short time in ghettos (weeks or a few
months) before being deported to Auschwitz or other camps. To learn more about Hilberg’s stages, read Raul Hilberg, The
Destruction of European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985).

Lesson 14 • 236
Possible answers:
• Through laws: Jews were not allowed to attend German schools or universities.
They could not go to public parks or movie theatres. All German youth were
obliged to join the Hitler Youth Movement; Jewish youth were excluded from
membership.
• Through social practices: Many Germans stopped associating or “being friends”
with Jews. Jews and non-Jewish Germans were not allowed to join the same clubs.
• Through the economy: Jews were excluded from the civil service and Jewish busi-
nesses were taken over by Germans. Jewish doctors and lawyers had their licenses
taken away. This made it less likely for Germans to interact with Jews in their daily
life.

Journal prompt: What are some reasons why many Germans separated their Jewish
neighbors from mainstream society? Why do we sometimes segregate or isolate groups
that we label as different from ourselves?

Stage 3. Emigration: Jews are encouraged to leave Germany. With the beginning of
World War II in 1939, the Nazis apply their racial laws to the countries they invade
and occupy. Thus, Jews in these territories also tried to emigrate outside of the Third
Reich.
Key question: How did the Nazis encourage the Jews to leave Germany and other occu-
pied countries?

Chronology of Nazi Occupation in Europe

1938: Austria, parts of Czechoslovakia


1939: Czechoslovakia, Poland
1940: Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Hungary, Romania
1941: Yugoslavia, Greece, parts of the Soviet Union

Suggested resource: Notes from prior lessons and map of Europe.

Possible answers:
• Through discriminatory laws: Many Jews, especially artists and academics, left
Germany when they were no longer allowed to work in the universities.
• Through new immigration laws: Jews were allowed to obtain exit visas so long as
they left behind their valuables and property.
• Through fear: Kristallnacht encouraged many Jews to leave the area.

Journal prompt: What are some reasons why many Germans wanted their Jewish neigh-
bors to leave the country? Why do people sometimes believe that those who are different
do not belong in their community?

Stage 4. Ghettoization: Jews are forcibly removed to segregated sections of Eastern


European cities called ghettos.
Key questions: What are ghettos? What were the conditions like in these ghettos?

Lesson 14 • 237
Suggested resource: I’m Still Here, “Yitskhok” (16:55–20:20)—In this excerpt, we hear
the words of 15-year-old Yitskhok Rudashevski as he describes his experience living in a
ghetto in Vilna, Lithuania. So that students can focus on the idea of residential segrega-
tion in ghettos, we suggest you stop showing this clip at 20:20. After this point, Yitskhok
describes the next stages on the way to genocide: deportations and mass murders.

Possible answers:
• Ghettos were walled-off areas of a city where Jews were forced to live. They were
not allowed to leave their ghetto without permission from Nazi officials. Likewise,
except for Nazi officials, non-Jews were not allowed to enter the ghetto.
• Conditions in the ghettos were crowded and filthy. Many families were forced to
share one small apartment. There was limited access to proper waste disposal. Jews
had to give up their property and valuables. There were very few jobs in a ghetto
and since everyone had to give up their property and valuables, most of the resi-
dents were extremely poor. Food was scarce. Forced, unpaid labor was common.

Journal prompt: What are some reasons why many Germans allowed their Jewish neigh-
bors to be forced to live in ghettos? Why do we sometimes allow those who we think are
“different” to be treated unfairly?

Stage 5. Deportation: Jews are transported from ghettos to concentration camps and
death camps.
Key questions: What is a concentration camp? What is a death camp? Who was affected
by these camps?

Suggested resource: I’m Still Here, “Petr and Eva Ginz” (26:52–32:46)—In this excerpt,
we hear the words of a brother and sister from Czechoslovakia who were deported to the
Terezin concentration camp. They describe life in this camp, separated from their parents.
In 1944, Petr was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a death camp. After students watch
this excerpt from I’m Still Here you can show them a map of Nazi concentration camps
and death camps in Europe in 1944. By studying this map, students can learn a great
deal about the extent of the human lives affected by deportations, both in terms of the
victims sent to these camps and the number of bureaucrats and soldiers required to oper-
ate these facilities. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website
(http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/maps/ ) publishes a map of where Nazi con-
centration camps were located, and the Jewish Virtual Library also posts a similar map
(http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/campmap.html ).

Possible answers:
• The Nazis built the first concentration camp in 1933 as a place to detain (place-by-
force) communists and other opponents to the Nazi Party. At the beginning of
World War II, the Nazis began building more concentration camps where they
could imprison “enemies of the state,” including Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, as
well as prisoners or war. Many concentration camps functioned as labor camps,
where inmates worked until they either starved to death or died of disease.
• Death camps, also called extermination camps, were designed for the purpose of
killing large numbers of people in the most efficient manner possible.
• Because these camps were located away from major cities, victims had to be trans-
ported to them via train. Some rides lasted for several days. Thousands of prisoners
died en route to the camps.

Lesson 14 • 238
• Many people were affected by these camps. Of course, there were the victims; mil-
lions of children, women, and men suffered as inmates in this camps. But there
were also bureaucrats—the train conductors, prison guards, cooks, secretaries,
etc.—that made sure that millions of victims were transported to camps throughout
Europe and who ran the camps once the victims arrived.

Journal prompt: What are some reasons why Germans might have participated in trans-
porting Jews to concentration camps and death camps? Once the Holocaust reached this
stage, who could the victims turn to for help? What choices did they have?

Stage 6. Mass murder: It is estimated that the Nazis murdered approximately 11 million
innocent civilians during World War II. These are civilians killed not in the crossfire of
armed combat but murdered for being an “enemy of the state” or for belonging to an
undesirable group. The Nazis and those who worked for them killed children, women,
and men mostly through shooting, suffocation in gas chambers, and imprisonment in
labor and death camps. Conditions in the camps were such that many prisoners died
from disease, such as typhus, malnutrition, and exhaustion from overwork. Of those
killed, six million were Jews. Two-thirds of the entire European Jewish population was
killed by the Nazis. Petr, Ilya, and Dawid, three teenagers profiled in I’m Still Here, were
murdered by the Nazis.
Suggested resources: At this point, we suggest you end the lecture and use a different
teaching method to help students process the horrors of mass murder. Refer to the lesson
plan for recommendations.

Journal prompts: What was the Holocaust? How did the choices made by ordinary peo-
ple contribute to the death of millions of innocent children, women, and men? What
could have prevented these crimes from taking place?

Lesson 14 • 239
Lesson 14: Handout 1
For Yom Ha’Shoah

This poem was written by Sonia Weitz, a survivor of the Holocaust. “Yom Ha’Shoah” is Hebrew*
for the Day of Holocaust Remembrance. In this poem, Weitz, a Holocaust survivor, invites others
to learn about her experience while also acknowledging that this is an impossible task.

FOR YOM HA’SHOAH


Come, take this giant leap with me
into the other world . . . the other place
where language fails and imagery defies,
denies man’s consciousness . . . and dies
upon the altar of insanity.

Come, take this giant leap with me


into the other world . . . the other place
and trace the eclipse of humanity . . .
where children burned while mankind stood by
and the universe has yet to learn why
. . . has yet to learn why22

What does this poem mean to you?

What questions does it raise for you?

* Hebrew is the religious language of the Jewish community and the national language of the state of Israel.

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 240
Lesson 14: Handout 2
The Six Stages That Led to the Holocaust: Note-taking Guide

How can we explain why ordinary people participated in the mass murder of innocent people?

DEFINITION

ISOLATION

EMIGRATION

GHETTOIZATION

DEPORTATION

MASS MURDER

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 241
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

Photograph of a boy in the Warsaw ghetto holding his hands up at gunpoint.

Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak’s painting of this boy.

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 242
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

This chart shows the many countries where the six million Jewish Holocaust victims
came from.23

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 243
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

Rachel G remembers when her life as a Jewish girl changed because of Nazi
policies:
I had a very happy childhood until the Nazis came in. I remember just happi-
ness, just a beautiful family . . . going to school very happily until one day I had
to come home from school with a note that I had to show my parents. And
that’s when the whole thing started. . . . The note said . . . that the Jewish chil-
dren could not go to school anymore.24

Leon Bass, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and one of the first American
soldiers to arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of World
War II:
And so I walked through the gates of Buchenwald, and I saw the dead and the
dying. . . . They had been starved and beaten. They had been worked almost to
death, not fed enough, no medical care. . . . I said, “My God, what is this insanity
that I have come to? What are these people here for? What have they done?
What was their crime that would cause people to treat them like this?”25

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 244
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

This photograph was taken at a vacation resort near Auschwitz in Poland. It shows Nazi officers and
female guards taking a break from their work at the concentration camp.

Here is one story of a German police battalion, a group of 210 men under the direction of Major Trapp:
With choking voice and tears in his eyes . . . [Major Trapp] informed his men that they had
received orders to perform a very unpleasant task . . . that the Jews . . . would have to be
rounded up, whereupon the young males were to be selected out for labor and the others
shot. Trapp then made an extraordinary offer to his battalion: if any of the older men among
them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out. Trapp paused, and
after some moments, one man stepped forward. . . . Then ten or twelve other men stepped
forward as well. They turned in their rifles and were told to await a further assignment from
the major. . . . Trapp spent the rest of the day in town. . . . Witnesses who saw him at various
times during the day described him as bitterly complaining about the orders he had been
given and “weeping like a child.” He nevertheless affirmed that “orders were orders” and had
to be carried out.26
Historian Christopher Browning interprets the fact that only 12 of 210 chose not to par-
ticipate in the slaughter of Jews: To break ranks and step out . . . was simply beyond most of
the men. It was easier for them to shoot. . . . 27

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 245
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

A photograph of one part of Auschwitz concentration camp. Approximately 16,000 pris-


oners lived in these barracks at any one time and worked as slave laborers in German fac-
tories. Many victims never saw this part of the camp because they were sent directly to
another part of Auschwitz, called Birkenau, where they were gassed to death.

Sonia Weitz, Holocaust survivor, describes her walk to Auschwitz concentration camp:
It was almost Christmastime and brutally cold. I remember that everything was bright.
People saw us, but nobody offered help. Some averted their eyes. Others stared through us as
though we were not there. Perhaps, in a sense, we were not there. We were no longer in the
land of the living.28

Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, describing his first few days in Auschwitz:
Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair;
if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will
even take away our name. . . . My number is 174517. . . . 29

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 246
Lesson 13: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

This photograph was taken at Auschwitz concentration camp. These Jewish women have been
selected for forced labor. They just had their heads shaved.

Rita Kesselman, Holocaust survivor, describes her experience at Auschwitz:


For three days and three nights, we were taken. Destination unknown. Trains were stopping
in villages and train stations, in cities. We were screaming through the windows, “Water,
water.“ We were hungry. . . . I was alone. I didn’t have my parents to cuddle up with. I was sit-
ting there by myself. . . . After three days and three nights, we arrived in a big field. And that
was Auschwitz. . . . We were told to separate the men from the women. . . . And then, from
the younger people were selected people to go to the right and to the left. At the time, we did
not know that the people who were selected to go to the right, would live and the rest would
die. About one hundred people were picked from the women to go to work. . . . We were made
to undress, leave the clothes on one side, and they took us to the other side. Every person was
given a tattoo. My number was thirty thousand seven hundred seventy-five. . . . Our hair was
shaved and we were given striped clothes and wooden shoes. And that was our uniform for
the two years I was in Auschwitz. I never bathed. I never saw water. I never had water to
drink.30

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 247
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

These Jewish women and children have been selected for death at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They died
in the gas chambers.

Rudolf Hoess, the commandant [commander] of Auschwitz explained how the extermination [killing]
procedure took place at Auschwitz:
Jews selected for gassing were taken as quietly as possible to the crematoriums, the men being
separated from the women. . . . After undressing, the Jews went into the gas chambers, which
were furnished with showers and water pipes and gave a realistic impression of a bathhouse.
The women went in first with their children, followed by the men who were always the fewer
in number. . . .31

Heinz Stalp, an eyewitness to the murder of 18,000 Jews on November 3, 1943, at


Maidanek concentration camp:
Later on November 3rd there was an operation in which around 18,000 Jews were shot . . . in
a large open area near the crematorium. Four big loudspeakers had been set up and played
music records—waltzes, popular music, various songs. . . . And these prisoners, these Jews had
to stand naked at the edge of the ditch and were shot from behind with two machine guns.32

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 248
Lesson 14: Handout 3
The Holocaust: Selected images and quotations

After victims were killed in gas chambers, their bodies were moved to a crematorium where they were
burned in ovens. Here is a picture of two ovens taken in the crematorium at Dachau concentration
camp.

Helen K describes an act of resistance by inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp:


Five or six girls who were working in a factory . . . putting ammunition, gunpowder, in the
grenade . . . every day they were searched. But they were able to smuggle out some of the
powder . . . in their mouths . . . and then they gave it to the men and we blew up one cremato-
rium in Auschwitz. . . . The Germans were able to find the shells and they saw that they were
from our factory. And they took the 5 or 6 girls that were working in the ammunitions fac-
tory and they hung them. . . . And the whole camp had to watch. And they were hanging
there for three days. . . .33

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 249
Lesson 14: Handout 4
Selected Quotations from “No Time to Think” (pp. 189–92)

Milton Mayer, an American college professor, wanted to find out how ordinary people
reacted to Hitler’s policies and philosophy. Seven years after the war, he interviewed a
German college professor. This is what he told Mayer about how he responded to the
Nazis:

“Nazism . . . kept us so busy with continuous changes and “crises” . . . that we


had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by
little, all around us.
“Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. . . . If the
last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and
smallest, thousands, yes millions, would have been sufficiently shocked. . . . But
of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little
steps . . . each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is
not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why
should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
“You don’t want to act, or even talk alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your
way to make trouble.’ Why not? —Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And
it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine
uncertainty.
“Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One
hears no protest, and certainly sees none. . . . It is clearer all the time that, if you
are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are
obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.
“You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year
ago. . . . Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you
have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that
was required of most of us: that we do nothing).”34

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 250
Lesson 14: Handout 5, Poem 1
Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History—Poetry

In Memory to My Mother
Where is your grave?
Where did you die?
Why did you go away?
Why did you leave
Your little girl
That rainy autumn day?
I still can hear
The words you spoke:
“You tell the world, my child.”
Your eyes as green
As emeralds
Were quiet and so mild.
You held my hand
Your face was white
And silent like a stone,
You pressed something
Into my palm . . .
And then . . . then you were gone.
I suffered, but
I didn’t cry:
The pain so fierce, so deep . . .
It pierced my heart
And squeezed it dry.
And then, I fell asleep.
Asleep in agony
And dreams …
A nightmare that was true . . .
I heard the shots,
The screams that came
From us, from me and you.

I promised I would
Tell the world . . .
But where to find the words
To speak of
Innocence and love,
And tell how much it hurts . . .
About those faces
Weak and pale,
Those dizzy eyes around,
And countless lips
That whispered “help”
But never made a sound . . .
To tell about
The loss . . . the grief,
The dread of death and cold,
Of wickedness
And misery . . .
O, No! . . . it can’t be told.35

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 251
Lesson 14: Handout 5, Poem 2
Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History—Poetry

Victory

I danced with you that one time only.


How sad you were, how tired, lonely . . .
You knew that they would “take” you soon . . .
So when your bunk-mate played a tune
You whispered: “Little one, let us dance,
We may not have another chance.”

To grasp this moment . . . sense the mood;


Your arms around me felt so good
The ugly barracks disappeared
There was no hunger . . . and no fear.
Oh what a sight, just you and I,
My lovely father (once big and strong)
And me, a child . . . condemned to die.

I thought: how long


before the song
must end

There are no tools


to measure love
and only fools

Would fail
to scale
your victory36

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 252
Lesson 14: Handout 5, Poem 3
Remembering the Past: Sonia Weitz’s History—Poetry

My Black Messiah

A black GI stood by the door


(I never saw a black before)
He’ll set me free before I die,
I thought, he must be the Messiah.

A black Messiah came for me . . .


He stared with eyes that didn’t see,
He never heard a single word
Which hung absurd upon my tongue.

And then he simply froze in place


The shock, the horror on his face,
He didn’t weep, he didn’t cry
But deep within his gentle eyes
. . . A flood of devastating pain,
his innocence forever slain.

For me, with yet another dawn


I found my black Messiah gone
And on we went our separate ways
For many years without a trace.

But there’s a special bond we share


Which has grown strong because we dare
To live, to hope, to smile . . . and yet
We vow not ever to forget.37

Purpose: To deepen awareness of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. • 253
Notes
1
Winston Churchill, Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill Speeches (New York: Hyperion, 2003),
300.
2
Paul Bookbinder, “A Historical Inquiry into the Background Causes of the Holocaust,” (presentation, July
25, 1991, Facing History and Ourselves, Chicago, Illinois).
3
“The Crime of Genocide Defined in International Law,” Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
Genocide, Prevent Genocide International website, http://www.preventgenocide.org/genocide
/officialtext.htm, (accessed January 21, 2009).
4
“The Wannsee Conference,” The History Place website, http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2
/holocaust/h-wannsee.htm (accessed January 21, 2009).
5
Bernt Engelmann, In Hitler’s Germany: Daily Life in the Third Reich (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987),
127.
6
Ibid., 129.
7
Edward Herman, Triumph of the Market (Boston: South End Press, 1995), 97.
8
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985).
9
Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933–45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1955), 172.
10
Ibid., 181.
11
Christopher Browning, The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1992), 175.
12
Christopher Browning, “Ordinary Men,” as quoted in Holocaust Theoretical Readings, ed. Neil Levi and
Michael Rothberg (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), 141.
13
Daniel J. Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (London: Abacus,
1997), 47.
14
G.M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974), 259–60.
15
Elie Wiesel, “The Holocaust as Literary Inspiration,” as quoted in Dimensions of the Holocaust (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1977), 7.
16
Leon Bass as quoted in Facing History and Ourselves, Elements of Time (Brookline: Facing History and
Ourselves National Foundation, 1989), 84.
17
Lawrence Langer, “The Dilemma of Choice in the Deathcamps,” as quoted in John Roth and Michael
Berenbaum, Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications (St. Paul: Paragon House, 1989), 224.
18
Elements of Time, 49.
19
Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Vintage International,
1989), 153–54.
20
Elie Wiesel, The New Leader 46, (August 5, 1963): 21
21
Eva Fleischner, Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? Reflections on the Holocaust (New York: Ktav Publishing
Co., 1974), 228.
22
Sonia Schreiber Weitz, I Promised I Would Tell (Brookline: Facing History and Ourselves National
Foundation, 1993), x.
23
Martin Gilbert, The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust, 3rd Edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002).
24
Elements of Time, 49.
25
Elements of Time, 84.
26
Browning, The Path to Genocide, 174–75.
27
Browning, “Ordinary Men,”141.
28
Weitz, I Promised I Would Tell, 48.
29
Primo Levi and Philip Roth, Survival in Auschwitz,(New York: Touchstone, 1986), 27.
30
Rita Kesselman as quoted in Margot Stern Strom, Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human
Behavior (Brookline: Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, 1994), 346.
31
Rudolf Höss, Commandment of Auschwitz (London: World Publishing Company, 1960), 222.
32
Elements of Time, 38–39.
33
Challenge of Memory, DVD (New Haven: Fortunoff Archives, 1989).
34
Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, 177–88.
35
Weitz, I Promised I Would Tell, 28–29.
36
Ibid., 36.
37
Ibid., 68.

254
Lesson 15

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Eight in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

The Holocaust: Bystanders and Upstanders

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
In Lesson 14, students learned about the horrors of the Holocaust. After confronting
these crimes of incredible proportion, students often ask, “How could this have hap-
pened? Why didn’t anyone stop the Nazis?” Students started to address this question in
the previous lesson. In this lesson, students will explore stories of individuals, groups, and
nations who made choices to resist the Nazis and rescue Jews and other victims of perse-
cution. They will also explore stories of bystanders—individuals, groups, and nations who
knew about the persecution of Jews and others but decided to remain silent. These stories
raise profound moral and civic questions for students: Under what circumstances do we
stand up to injustice and violence? Under what circumstances do we stand by while injus-
tice continues? To whom are we responsible? What are the consequences of our choices—
for ourselves, our families, and our communities? Activities in this lesson are designed to
help students reflect on their own decision-making process as individuals living in a larger
society.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• How did individuals, groups, and nations respond to information about persecu-
tion of the Jews and others by the Nazis? What were the consequences for action?
For inaction?
• What is a bystander? What is an upstander?
• Why do some people stand by during times of injustice while others try to do some-
thing to stop or prevent injustice?
• What can be learned from this unit that can help guide decision-making in times
of conflict?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Interpreting primary and secondary source documents
• Sharing ideas through an oral presentation
• Drawing distinctions between the past and today
• Synthesizing material from several sources to draw conclusions
• Applying concepts about human behavior and decision-making to our own lives
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Bystander
• Upstander
• Universe of responsibility
• Rescuer

Lesson 15 • 255
• Consequences
• Historical context
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


The history of the Holocaust is not one of only perpetrators and victims. Historian Raul
Hilberg argues that most of the people who had an impact on the Holocaust (and were
impacted by the Holocaust) “were neither perpetrators nor victims.” He explains:

Many people . . . saw or heard something of the event. Those of them who lived in
Adolf Hitler’s Europe would have described themselves, with few exceptions, as
bystanders. They were not “involved,” not willing to hurt the victims and not wishing
to be hurt by the perpetrators. . . . The Dutch were worried about their bicycles, the
French about shortages, the Ukrainians about food, the Germans about air raids. All
of these people thought of themselves as victims, be it of war, or oppression, or “fate.”1

Professor Ervin Staub would agree. Himself a survivor of the Holocaust, he believes that
bystanders play a far more critical role in society than people realize: “Bystanders, people
who witness but are not directly affected by the actions of perpetrators, help shape society
by their reactions. . . . Bystanders can exert powerful influences. They can define the
meaning of events and move others toward empathy or indifference. They can promote
values and norms of caring, or by their passivity of participation in the system, they can
affirm the perpetrators.”2 There are different degrees of bystander behavior. For example,
historian Paul Bookbinder distinguishes between collaborators and bystanders. Collab-
orators are those that were not directly involved in the round-up and murder of
Holocaust victims, but who may have assisted the Nazis by providing them with informa-
tion or supplies. On the other hand, he points out that bystanders neither directly coop-
erated with the Nazis or helped the Jews, and should therefore be judged differently than
collaborators.

Many bystanders to the Holocaust claim that they were not aware of the horrible atroci-
ties being committed by the Nazis. When asked about this, Holocaust survivor Primo
Levi has replied with a question of his own. “How is it possible that the extermination of
millions of human beings could have been carried out in the heart of Europe without
anyone’s knowledge?”3 In The Destruction of European Jews, Raul Hilberg proved that
many had the opportunity to know about the killings:

Organizing the transportation of victims from all over Europe to the concentration
camps involved a countless number of railroad employees and clerical workers who
had to work the trains and maintain the records. National Railroad tickets were
marked for a one-way trip. Currency exchange at the borders had to be handled.
Finance ministers of Germany moved to seize the pensions of victims from banks, yet
the banks requested proof of death. Many building contracts and patents for ovens
and gas chambers were required. . . . The railroads were an independent corporation
which was fully aware of the consequences of its decisions. The civilian railroad work-
ers involved in operating rails to Auschwitz were simply performing their daily tasks.
These were individual people making individual decisions. They were not ordered or

Lesson 15 • 256
even assigned. Orders from the SS to the railroads were not even stamped “secret”
because that would admit guilt of something abnormal in the bureaucracy. The many
clerical workers who handled these orders were fully aware of the purpose of
Auschwitz.4

Testimonies of soldiers and townspeople support Hilberg’s claim. Herbert Mochalski, a


German soldier, shares, “It’s nonsense when a German soldier says that he never saw any-
thing, that the soldiers didn’t know anything. It’s all simply not true.”5 And villagers who
lived near concentration camps recall the horrible stench of burning flesh in the air and
seeing ashes, tufts of hair, and bone fragments falling onto their streets.6 Additionally,
news reports of the atrocities made headlines in international newspapers. As early as
summer of 1941, the Chicago Tribune covered a story about hundreds of Jews being
deported from Berlin on obviously trumped-up charges.7 By the fall of 1942, the New
York Times published this headline: Slain Polish Jews Put at a Million.8

Thus, ample evidence points to the conclusion that people around the world had access
to information about the deportations, concentration camps, and death camps. Yet,
Primo Levi presents another obstacle to action—the idea that some people may not have
wanted to acknowledge the horrible crimes that were being committed. He writes:

In spite of the varied possibilities for information, most Germans didn’t know because
they didn’t want to know. Because, indeed, they wanted not to know. . . . In Hitler’s
Germany a particular code was widespread: those who knew did not talk; those who

Facing History students have connected the blind and mute figures in Samuel Bak’s painting, The Family, to the silence
and inaction of bystanders during the Holocaust.

Lesson 15 • 257
did not know did not ask questions; those who did ask questions received no answers.
In this way the typical German citizen won and defended his ignorance, which
seemed to him sufficient justification of his adherence to Nazism. Shutting his mouth,
his eyes and his ears, he built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence not being
an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his very door.9

The Germans were not the only people who avoided facing the truth around them.
During the war, Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish Resistance, tried to alert people to the
mass murder of European Jews. He later recalled:

The extermination of the Jews was without precedent in the history of mankind. No
one was prepared to grasp what was going on. It is not true, as sometimes has been
written, that I was the first one to present to the West the whole truth of the fate of
the Jews in occupied Poland. There were others. . . . The tragedy was that these testi-
monies were not believed. Not because of ill will, but simply because the facts were
beyond human imagination. I experienced this myself. When I was in the United
States and told [Supreme Court] Justice Felix Frankfurter the story of the Polish Jews,
he said, at the end of our conversation, “I cannot believe you.” We were with the
Polish ambassador to the U.S., Jan Ciechanowski. Hearing the justice’s comments, he
was indignant. “Lieutenant Karski is on an official mission. My government’s author-
ity stands behind him. You cannot say to his face that he is lying.” Frankfurter’s
answer was, “I am not saying that he is lying. I only said that I cannot believe him,
and there is a difference.”10

This story of Justice Frankfurter, himself a non-practicing Jew, exemplifies how even
some American Jews found it difficult to acknowledge the horrors that were occurring in
Europe.

By the end of 1942, it was impossible for the international community to deny the fact
that millions of innocent Jews and other victims were being murdered by the Nazis. The
governments of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union even made a joint state-
ment acknowledging the mass murders for the first time. Yet, they continued to do noth-
ing to stop or prevent more innocent deaths. Why was this the case? President Roosevelt
worried that because of antisemitic sentiment in the United States, he would not be able
to get public and congressional support to help European Jews escape the Nazis.11 Jewish
organizations asked U.S. officials if the military could bomb the train tracks leading to
Auschwitz in order to prevent the arrival of more victims to this extermination camp.
Officials responded that all air power was needed to fight the war against Germany, that
bombing the tracks “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans,” and
that “the most effective relief which can be given victims of enemy persecution is to
insure speedy defeat of the Axis.”12 Still, Americans dropped bombs near Auschwitz on
ten different occasions. And, the British refused to allow more European Jews to emigrate
to British-controlled Palestine. Golda Meir, who later became prime minister of Israel,
describes how the British were worried about angering Arab leaders in Palestine and,
therefore, “remained adamant” in their decision to keep Jews out of Palestine, even if it
meant they would die in gas chambers in Europe.13 Thus, when faced with what they saw
as difficult choices, Allied nations typically chose not to actively help Jews escape Nazi
persecution.

As news of Nazi atrocities spread, people throughout Europe confronted difficult choices.
They were asked to hide Jews or to take in Jewish children as their own; they were asked

Lesson 15 • 258
to forge documents or to shuttle Jews to safety in neutral countries such as Switzerland or
Sweden. Often, these requests were denied. People had their own survival and their own
families to worry about. Stories of bystanders included in this lesson, like the residents of
Mauthausen or Christabel Beilenberg, indicate that individuals did not act to prevent
violence against Jews and others out of fear for their own safety or the safety of their fam-
ily. Some individuals who acknowledged the violence and persecution against Jews did
not know what to do when confronted with this information. Father John S. was a Jesuit
seminarian in Hungarian-occupied Czechoslovakia at the time Jews were being deported
to Auschwitz. He recalls looking through a hole in a fence and seeing a Nazi guard bru-
tally attack a Jew. “I just didn’t know what to do. At that time I was immobilized. . . . It
was beyond my experience—I was totally unprepared,” he shared, reflecting a response
shared by others during the Holocaust.14 Thus, there are many reasons to explain why so
few people in Nazi-occupied Europe were involved in resistance movements, protest
marches, or plots to assassinate Hitler. Denial, self-preservation, lack of preparation, anti-
semitism, opportunism, and fear all played a role in shaping decisions to act, or not to
act, when faced with knowledge of Nazi atrocities.

Decisions to help Jews were also influenced by political context and geography. In
Denmark, nearly the entire nation took part in rescuing Jews and very few Danes were
punished for their efforts. In Germany, however, the government imprisoned anyone
caught sheltering a Jew, and in Poland the penalty was death. Also, rescuers faced greater
challenges in areas with histories of fervent antisemitism, such as parts of Poland, because
they not only had to worry about being found out by the Nazis, but they had to fear
being reported by one of their neighbors. In Italy and France the civilian population was
more sympathetic to the Jews (and more resentful of the Nazis). Thus, rescuers in some
areas, such as France or Italy, were more likely to confront benign indifference, or even
assistance, than their counterparts in other regions, such as Poland, Ukraine, and Austria.

Even under the most challenging conditions and in regions with long histories of anti-
semitism, individuals took extreme personal risks to rescue Jews. About two percent of
the Polish Christian population chose to hide Jews. In Lithuania, Senpo Sugihara, the
Japanese consul, provided visas to 3,500 Jews. Those visas not only protected Jews from
deportation but also allowed them to emigrate to Shanghai, China—then under Japanese
rule. Le Chambon, a small French community, sheltered thousands of Jews, and nearly all
of Denmark’s Jews were saved because of the efforts of an entire population. According to
historian Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Center, between
20,000 and 30,000 non-Jewish Germans played a role in helping 1,700 of Berlin’s Jews
escape Nazi persecution. There are hundreds of stories of individuals such as Oskar
Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg, and Marion Pritchard who sacrificed wealth and risked
their lives to save Jews and other victims.

Facing History uses the term “upstander” to describe individuals, groups, or nations who,
when bearing witness to injustice, decide to do something to stop or prevent these acts
from continuing. Ervin Staub is alive today because of upstanders. As a six-year-old in
Budapest, Hungary, he was hidden from the Nazis, and then he and other family mem-
bers survived with the protective passes created by Raoul Wallenberg (and then some
other embassies in Budapest). Later, in his writings as a psychologist he wrote:

Goodness, like evil, often begins in small steps. Heroes evolve; they aren’t born. Very
often the rescuers make only a small commitment at the start—to hide someone for a

Lesson 15 • 259
day or two. But once they had taken that step, they began to see themselves differ-
ently, as someone who helps. What starts as mere willingness becomes intense involve-
ment.15

Nechama Tec and Ervin Staub discussed the sociology and motivations of rescuers at the
Second Annual Facing History Conference. Both agreed that the decision to rescue Jews
had little to do with the rescuer’s religion, nationality, schooling, class, or ethnic heritage.
Most rescuers were independent individuals who refused to follow the crowd. They also
had a history of performing good deeds and did not perceive rescue work as anything out
of the ordinary. Guido Calabresi, former dean of the Yale School of Law, believes that
many Italians chose to hide Jews and others fleeing persecution because of a sense of
shared humanity. He explains:

An awful lot of people didn’t worry about law, didn’t worry about politics, didn’t
worry about rules which told them to turn people in, but just looked at the individual
in need, the mothers’ and fathers’ sons and daughters before them, and this led them
to hide and protect that person at the risk of their own lives.16

While every upstander had their own reasons for risking their own well-being to rescue
children, women, and men fleeing persecution by the Nazis, one trait shared by most of
these individuals and communities is a feeling of responsibility or caring for others, even
for strangers. A study of the Holocaust would be incomplete without learning about the
acts of rescue and resistance because these stories provide evidence of the capacity to act
with courage and compassion out of respect for human dignity. In the preface to the film
The Courage to Care, which documents the efforts of rescuers in France, the Netherlands,
and Poland, Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel
remarked:

Let us not forget, after all, that there is always a moment when the moral choice is
made. Often because of one story or one book or one person, we are able to make a
different choice, a choice for humanity, for life. And so we must know these good
people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in grat-
itude and hope, we must remember them.17

At the same time, we must be careful not to simplify our understanding of human behav-
ior to one of good versus evil, or upstanders versus bystanders and perpetrators. Through
his experience writing the book The Courage to Care about rescuers during the Holocaust,
Phillip Hallie shares, “I learned that ethics is not simply a matter of good and evil, true
north and true south. It is a matter of mixtures, like most of the other points on the
compass, and like the lives of most of us. We are not all called upon to be perfect, but we
can make a little, real difference in a mainly cold and indifferent world.”18 The response
of the United States to the Holocaust exemplifies Hallie’s sentiment. In January 1944,
after years of ignoring the plight of the Jews, President Roosevelt set up the War Refugee
Board. It saved about two hundred thousand Jews through diplomacy, bribery, and trick-
ery. John Pehle, Jr., the man who headed the group, later remarked that “what we did was
little enough. It was late. Late and little, I would say.”19 Thus, the actions of the United
States during the Holocaust are neither all good nor all evil, but “a matter of mixtures,”
as Hallie points out.20 Likewise, how does one judge the decision made by Marion
Pritchard to kill a Dutch policeman in order to protect the Jews who were hiding in her
home? In reflecting on her decision and the choices others made during the war,
Pritchard is troubled by a “tendency to divide the general population during the war into

Lesson 15 • 260
the few ‘good guys’ and the large majority of ‘bad guys.’ That seems to me to be a dan-
gerous oversimplification.” She explains:

The point I want to make is that there were indeed some people who behaved crimi-
nally by betraying their Jewish neighbors and thereby sentenced them to death. There
were some people who dedicated themselves to actively rescuing as many people as
possible. Somewhere in between was the majority, whose actions varied from the min-
imum decency of at least keeping quiet if they knew where Jews were hidden to find-
ing a way to help them when they were asked.21

Ultimately, an awareness of the range of responses to the Holocaust reveals the significant
consequences of choosing to act, or not to act, in the face of injustice. Through large and
small acts of kindness, thousands of Jews and other victims were saved. At the same time,
the inaction of the majority allowed millions of children, women, and men to suffer hor-
rible deaths. Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize–winning scientist who emigrated from
Germany because of his Jewish heritage, declared, “The world is too dangerous to live
in—not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it
happen.” As members of an increasingly global community, it is within all of our interests
to gain a deeper understanding of the conditions that encourage individuals, groups, and
nations to intervene in the face of injustice. In a commencement address to law students,
Calabresi remarked on how the range of responses during the Holocaust provides a hope
and a warning to all of us. He said:

We should remember that the capacity to do good . . . unexpectedly to do something


which is profoundly right, even if profoundly dangerous, is always there. But more
important, some good people made catastrophically bad decisions. . . . All of us, I and
you, are as subject to being careless, uncaring. We will all thoughtlessly applaud at
times we shouldn’t. Or even dramatically at times . . . mislead ourselves into following
what seem like good reasons . . . to a dreadful decision. . . . I would like to leave with
you the ease, the simplicity, of making mistakes. Not to dishearten you—far from it
—but in the hope that it will both make you more careful, more full of care of others
in need, and more understanding of those who do wrong because they can be, they
are, you and me. . . . I emphasize this to remind you that the choices which reoccur,
do make a difference. If not always or even often to the world, they will make a differ-
ence to the children of some mothers and fathers around us as we all struggle to live.22

The stories of upstanders highlight the “capacity to do good” that “is always there,” while
the stories of bystanders, and perpetrators, suggest how easy it is for good people to make
bad decisions. Calabresi’s words can be helpful in answering students who ask why they
are learning about the Holocaust: “In the hope that it will make you more careful, more
full of care of others in need, and more understanding of those who do wrong because
they can be, they are, you and me.”23

Related reading in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“What Did People Know?” pp. 364–66
“Bystanders at Mauthausen,” pp. 370–72
“From Bystanders to Resisters,” pp. 373–75
“Protest at Rosenstrasse 2-4,” pp. 376–78
“Fateful Decisions,” pp. 378–80
“Choosing to Rescue,” pp. 380–81

Lesson 15 • 261
“Links in a Chain,” pp. 382–84
“The Courage of Le Chambon,” pp. 385–87
“A Nation United,” pp. 393–95
“The Response of the Allies,” pp. 402–5
“Should Auschwitz Have Been Bombed,” p. 407

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: two class periods
Suggestion for how to divide this lesson over two class periods: During the first day, stu-
dents can interpret one story together as a class and then receive their assigned text.
Before the end of class, groups might have a few minutes to begin reading the text
together. For homework, students can finish reading and interpreting their assigned
bystander or upstander story. Day two can begin with students meeting in groups to
review their reading before they present this story to the class.

Materials
Handout 1: Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust (Readings 1–10)
Handout 2: Upstanders and Bystanders presentation preparation worksheet
Handout 3: Upstanders and Bystanders presentation preparation worksheet (sample)
Handout 4: Upstanders and Bystanders presentation note-taking guide
Handout 5: A scene from middle school (Ostracism Case Study)

Opener
To prepare students to look at these stories of upstanders and bystanders, students can
respond to the following prompt in their journals:
1. Identify a time when you went out of your way to help somebody else—a friend, a
family member, a neighbor, or a complete stranger. What were the consequences of
your actions for you and for others?
2. Identify a situation when you knew something was wrong or unfair, but you did not
intervene to improve the situation. What were the consequences of your actions for
you and for others?
3. Compare these two situations. What led you to act in one situation but not to inter-
vene in the other?

The purpose of having students respond to this prompt is not to make them feel badly
about themselves that they acted as bystanders. Rather, the purpose is for students to
begin to develop a deeper understanding of their own decision-making process. Because
these stories might be embarrassing or private, before students begin writing you might
want to inform them that they will not be required to publicly share what they write. You
can also reassure students that many people choose to act as bystanders, and that there are
sometimes very good reasons for choosing not to intervene in a particular situation.
Another way to help students feel more comfortable writing honestly is to share your
own answer to this journal prompt.

Focus a discussion of this prompt on the third question—the reasons why students acted
in some situations, but not in others. You can record their reasons on a two-column

Lesson 15 • 262
chart, where one column is labeled “reasons for bystander behavior” and the other col-
umn is labeled “reasons for upstander behavior.”

Main Activities
Lesson 14 focused on the experiences of perpetrators and victims during the Holocaust.
Explain to students that not everyone involved in this event fell into one of these two cat-
egories. Indeed, most of the individuals in Europe and around the world acted as
bystanders—people who are aware of injustice but choose to “stand by” while it occurs.
And, a small group of individuals acted as upstanders—people who act in ways to pre-
vent or stop injustice.

Divide the class into small groups of 3–4 students. Give each group one reading from
Chapter 8 of the resource book, “Bystanders and Rescuers.” Handout 1 includes excerpts
of ten of these readings. You can use the readings directly from the resource book or
select from these excerpts. Students will present the main ideas in their readings to the
rest of the class, including answers to questions such as:

• Identify the significant choices made in this story.


• How do you think this individual, group, or nation would explain their decisions?
• What might have been the consequences of their actions given their specific
context?
• To whom did he/she/they feel responsible?

Connecting images to ideas helps many students retain information. Therefore, we sug-
gest that each group designs a symbol that represents the choices made in this story. For
example, the image of a boat could represent how the Danes were able to rescue nearly all
of their Jewish citizens by shuttling them on fishing boats to Sweden. Students can dis-
play this symbol on a poster that can accompany their presentation. The poster might
include the name of the reading, the symbol that represents the choices made in this
story, and one thought-provoking quotation selected from the reading. You might also
ask students to point out where the story took place on a world map. This will help illus-
trate how individuals, groups, and nations from all over the world were in the position to
act as bystanders or upstanders during the Holocaust. Identifying the location of these
stories will also help students consider how the context, especially where the situation
took place, might have influenced the choices that were made and the consequences of
these choices. Handout 2 is a graphic organizer students can use to prepare for their pre-
sentations.

Before students are assigned texts and begin their group work, we suggest you model the
process of interpreting these readings by going over reading 1, “The Courage of Le
Chambon,” as a whole class. Here is a process you can use to review this text (this process
can be posted on the board as a reminder when students are working in small groups):

1. Have a student volunteer (or volunteers) read the passage aloud.


2. Read the questions on handout 2 aloud.
3. While one member of the group reads the passage aloud, the rest of the group marks
specific text that helps answer the questions.
4. Identify any confusing parts of the story. As a class, try to answer any questions you
have about the reading.
5. Once everyone understands the story, begin answering the questions.

Lesson 15 • 263
6. Prepare for your presentation. You might assign roles such as presenter, symbol
drawer, and quotation finder.

Handout 3 provides one example of how a student might answer questions about “The
Courage of Le Chambon.” Other questions raised by this story include:

• Why do you think all of the members of Le Chambon made the same choice to
protect the Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution?
• What does this story reveal about community, conformity, and peer pressure?
• What did the phrase “It was the human thing to do” mean to the people of Le
Chambon? What might this phrase have meant to perpetrators during the
Holocaust, such as head officers at Auschwitz? What does this phrase mean to you?

These questions could be prompts for journal writing and for large or small group discus-
sion.

Once students are familiar with the process of interpreting stories of bystanders and
upstanders, they can repeat this process in small groups with their assigned reading. This
lesson is designed to run over two class periods. An appropriate time to end the first part
of the lesson would be during the group work time. Any work that was not finished dur-
ing class time can be completed for homework. Day two of this lesson can begin with
group members preparing for their presentations of their upstander or bystander story.

During the presentations, students can record notes about the factors that encouraged
bystander behavior and upstander behavior (see handout 4). This activity provides the
opportunity to help students understand the concept of the universal and the particu-
lar—that some themes, such as self-preservation, resonate for people all over the world
throughout history, but that these themes look different when played out in their unique
situation. For example, obedience for a German transportation officer who arranges for
millions of Jews to be shipped to concentration camps carried much more significant
consequences than obedience for an American teenager in California during the Third
Wave experiment. Encourage students not to draw direct parallels between their own
decisions to act (and not to act) and those of bystanders and upstanders during the
Holocaust. Help them understand how the specific historical context for individuals,
groups, and nations during World War II meant that, especially after 1939, almost every
choice carried life and death consequences. At the same time, the readings reveal that dif-
ferent contexts presented distinct opportunities and consequences for action. By referring
to where events took place on a map, students can see how the particular geography of a
place (i.e., Denmark’s location on the water across from Sweden) helped them to pursue
acts of rescue. And, while it is true that many Europeans could have faced imprisonment
in concentration camps and possible death if they were caught rescuing Jews, American
officials who tried to help Jews escape Europe, or who took action to prevent people from
being transported to Auschwitz, would not have faced these same consequences.

Also, when discussing the choices of bystanders and upstanders during the Holocaust,
invite students to draw from material they explored earlier in this unit. For example, in
the reading “Do you take the oath?” (from Lesson 9) a German worker in a defense plant
chooses to take the oath because if he doesn’t, he will lose his job and it would be diffi-
cult to find another. Likewise, in the reading “No Time to Think” (from Lesson 14), a
university professor mentions his fear of being ostracized by his peers for refusing to go

Lesson 15 • 264
along with Nazi beliefs. From the material in Lesson 12 about the lives of German youth
during the 1930s, students can imagine how teenagers would have faced ridicule from
peers and teachers, as well as poor grades in school, for any signs of resistance to Nazi
ideology. Additionally, given the context of widespread antisemitic and pro-Nazi propa-
ganda, it is possible that many bystanders did not act to stop or prevent the persecution
of Jews and others because they believed the lies they had been taught in school or read
in the newspapers; in other words, some bystanders may have actually thought it was
acceptable to mistreat Jews because Jews were believed to be dangerous and less than
human.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


The purpose of this lesson, and of this unit as a whole, is to help students think about
the ethical consequences of decisions. As 8th graders and beyond, they will likely have to
confront some tough choices. We all do. Facing History has found that studying the rise
of the Nazis and the steps leading up to the Holocaust helps students confront questions
and define concepts that can be applied to their own role as individuals living in a com-
munity. Given these goals, as a follow-through activity, we suggest ending the lesson with
an activity that requires students to reflect on the range of choices in their own lives.

One way you might accomplish this goal is to have students re-interpret the Ostracism
Case Study they read during Lesson 2. Handout 5 includes a paragraph description of
this event from a middle school classroom. A student can read this story aloud and then
students can answer questions such as: Why do you think this event turned out this way?
How can you explain the actions of the girls and boys in this situation? Do you agree
with the choices made by the students in this classroom? Why or why not? After this dis-
cussion, you might ask students to reflect on how their interpretation of this event has
changed since the beginning of the unit. (Note: To answer this question, students might
need to review what they wrote during Lesson 2.)

As a final class activity or homework assignment, you can ask students to write a letter to
themselves reflecting on their own ideas about decision-making. Prompts that might help
students write these letters include the following:
• Whom do you feel you have a responsibility to care for and protect? How can your
answer to this question help you make decisions about how to act and how to treat
others?
• What have you learned from this unit that could help you make decisions in the
future?
• Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate to stand by while conflict
or injustice occurs?
• Under what circumstances do you think it is especially important to stand up to
injustice?
• What is your responsibility as an individual who lives and works in larger commu-
nities—in a school, a family, a neighborhood, a nation, a world?
• What advice can you give to friends and/or family about their role as individuals
living in a larger community?

Assessment(s)
Students’ presentations, as well as responses on handout 2, will provide evidence about
students’ ability to identify factors that influenced the choices made by individuals,

Lesson 15 • 265
groups, and nations during the Holocaust. In their journal writing and their participation
in class discussions, should students be able to synthesize ideas from several of the read-
ings in order to draw some conclusions about the conditions that encourage upstander
and bystander behavior. Students’ interpretation of the Ostracism Case Study can reveal
the extent to which they are able to apply what they learned about human behavior and
choice-making through a study of the history of the Holocaust to an event closer to their
own lives. Their interpretations might include references to conformity, consequences,
responsibility, fear, peer pressure, inclusion, exclusion, membership, and belonging.

Extensions
• Another resource that helps students explore the concept of bystander behavior is
Maurice Ogden’s poem “The Hangman,” on pp. 204–6 in the resource book. The
poem tells the story of a community in which the people are hanged, one by one,
by a mysterious stranger who erects a gallows in the center of the town. For each
hanging the remaining townspeople find a rationale, until the hangman comes for
the last survivor, who finds no one left to speak up for him as the final stanza
describes:

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky


None had stood as alone as I–
And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there
Cried “Stay!” for me in the empty square.24

Students could demonstrate what they have learned in this lesson by analyzing how
the ideas in this poem relate to events in Nazi Germany.

• The video The Hangman is available from the Facing History library. Teachers who
have used the film indicated a need to show it several times to allow their students
the opportunity to identify and analyze the many symbols. After viewing the film,
students might discuss the filmmaker’s artistic decisions, such as why he turned the
animated people into paper dolls.

• Instead of using the reading “The Courage of Le Chambon,” you might want to
show an excerpt from Weapons of the Spirit, a documentary about Le Chambon.
The film was written, produced, and directed by Pierre Sauvage, one of the many
children rescued by the residents of this special town. The film is available through
the Facing History Resource Center. So is the film The Courage to Care and the
book that accompanies it. This film features the work of five rescuers in France, the
Netherlands, and Poland. Among those profiled are Marion Pritchard and the
Trocmes, whose stories are included in this lesson. The accompanying book
includes many more rescuers from both Eastern and Western Europe.

• Many teachers also use this famous quotation by Martin Niemoeller to help stu-
dents understand the impact of bystander behavior: “First they came for the
Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came
for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when
they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”25 Niemoeller was a
Protestant pastor in Germany who spent seven years in a concentration camp for
speaking against Hitler during his sermons.
Lesson 15 • 266
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 1
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

The Courage of Le Chambon


(Excerpt from pp. 385–87 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

In the summer of 1940, the Germans invaded and took over sections of France. Over the next two
years they controlled nearly the entire country. During these years, French Jews were subjected
to some of the same treatment as Jews in other areas occupied by Germany. They were stripped
of their citizenship and they had to wear yellow armbands. Eventually, around 80,000 Jews,
including 10,000 children, were sent to concentration camps. Only 3,000 of them survived.

In Le Chambon, a tiny mountain town in southeast France, people were aware that Jews were
being murdered. The people of Le Chambon were Protestants in a country where most people are
Catholic. They turned their community into a hiding place for Jews and other victims of Nazi per-
secution. Magda Trocme, the wife of the local minister, explained how it all began:

Those of us who received the first Jews did what we thought had to be done—nothing more
complicated. . . . How could we refuse them? A person doesn’t sit down and say I’m going to
do this and this and that. We had no time to think. When a problem came, we had to solve it
immediately. Sometimes people ask me, “How did you make a decision?” There was no deci-
sion to make. The issue was: Do you think we are all brothers or not? Do you think it is
unjust to turn in the Jews or not? Then let us try to help!26

Even though the residents of Le Chambon tried to keep their secret from the police, rumors
spread about Jews finding safety in this village. In 1942, Magda Trocme’s husband, Andre, and his
assistant were arrested for helping Jews. After they were released, Andre continued his efforts to
help Jews, saying, “These people came here for help and for shelter. I am their shepherd. A shep-
herd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I know only human beings.”27 Later,
Andre had to go into hiding for ten months to avoid getting arrested again. During this time,
everybody in the town hid Andre’s location from French and German police. Unfortunately, the
Gestapo were able to arrest Andre’s cousin, Daniel. Daniel Trocme was sent to a concentration
camp where he was murdered.

When they were interviewed forty years later, the people of Le Chambon did not regard them-
selves as heroes. They did what they did, they said, because they believed that it had to be done.
As one villager explained, “We didn’t protect the Jews because we were moral or heroic people.
We helped them because it was the human thing to do.”28 Almost everyone in the community
took part in the effort. Even the children were involved. The people of Le Chambon drew support
of people in other places. Church groups, both Protestant and Catholic, helped fund their efforts.
From 1940 to 1944, the residents of Le Chambon provided refuge for approximately 5,000 chil-
dren, women, and men who were fleeing Nazi persecution, including as many as 3,500 Jews.29

Glossary
Gestapo: German police
Refuge: a safe place

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 267
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 2
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

What Did People Know?


(Excerpt from pp. 364–66 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Below is an interview with Walter Stier, the official responsible for the “special trains” that trans-
ported millions of Jews and other victims to concentration camps such as Auschwitz.

What’s the difference between a special and a regular train?


A regular train may be used by anyone who purchases a ticket. . . . A special train has to be
ordered. The train is specially put together and people pay group fares. . . .

But why were there more special trains during the war than before or after?
I see what you’re getting at. You’re referring to the so-called resettlement trains. . . . Those
trains were ordered by the Ministry of Transport of the Reich [the German government].

But mostly, at that time, who was being “resettled”?


No. We didn’t know that. Only when we were fleeing from Warsaw ourselves, did we learn
that they could have been Jews, or criminals, or similar people.

Special trains for criminals?


No, that was just an expression. You couldn’t talk about that. Unless you were tired of life, it
was best not to mention that.

But you knew that the trains to Treblinka or Auschwitz were—


Of course we knew. I was the last district; without me these trains couldn’t reach their desti-
nation. . . .

Did you know that Treblinka meant extermination?


Of course not!

You didn’t know?


Good God, no! How could we know? I never went to Treblinka. I stayed in Krakow, in
Warsaw, glued to my desk.

You were a . . .
I was strictly a bureaucrat!30

Glossary
Extermination: death
Bureaucrat: person working for an organization whose job it is to follow orders and procedures

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 268
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 3
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

Bystanders at Mauthausen
(Excerpt from pp. 370–72 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

After the Nazis invaded Austria, they took over buildings in a number of villages. One of those
buildings was Hartheim Castle. In 1939, the Nazis began using this building to kill individuals
deemed unfit for society because of physical or mental handicaps. As evidence of mass murders
mounted, Christopher Wirth, the director of the operation, met with local residents. He told
them that his men were burning shoes and other “belongings.” The strong smell? “A device had
been installed in which old oil and oil by-products underwent a special treatment . . . in order to
gain a water-clear, oily fluid from it which was of great importance to U-boats [German sub-
marines].” Wirth ended the meeting by threatening to send anyone who spread “absurd rumors
of burning persons” to a concentration camp. The townspeople took him at his word. They did
not break their silence.31

Here are two testimonies [reports] of people who lived in the town of Mauthausen where the
castle is located:

Karl S., a resident of Mauthausen


From a window in his father’s barn, Karl S. could see buses arriving at the castle, sometimes
two to three buses came as frequently as twice a day. Soon after they arrived, Karl remem-
bers that “enormous clouds of smoke streamed out of a certain chimney and spread a pene-
trating stench. This stench was so disgusting that sometimes when we returned home from
work in the fields we couldn’t hold down a single bite.” Karl mentioned that he did not know
for sure what was happening in the castle because only people from outside of the town
worked on the renovations of the building and because the Nazis did not allow townspeople
to get close to the building.32

Sister Felicitas, a former employee:


“My brother Michael, who at the time was at home, came to me very quickly and confiden-
tially informed me that in the castle the former patients were burned. The frightful facts
which the people of the vicinity had to experience at first hand, and the terrible stench of
the burning gases, robbed them of speech. The people suffered dreadfully from the stench.
My own father collapsed unconscious several times, since in the night he had forgotten to
seal up the windows completely tight. . . . When there was intense activity, it smoked day
and night. Tufts of hair flew through the chimney onto the street. The remains of bones
were stored on the east side of the castle and in ton trucks driven first to the Danube
[River], later also to the Traun [River].”33

Glossary
Renovations: repairs

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 269
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 4
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

Protest at Rosenstrasse 2-4


(Excerpt from pp. 376–78 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

There is evidence of only one successful protest in Germany against the Nazis. According to his-
torian Nathan Stoltzfus, it began on Saturday, February 27, 1943. It was the day the SS rounded
up the last Jews in Berlin—about ten thousand men, women, and children. Most were picked up
at work and herded onto waiting trucks. Others were kidnapped from their homes or pulled off
busy streets. It was not the city’s first mass deportation, but this one was different from any
other. This time, two thousand Jews in intermarriages were among those targeted. The Nazis had
excluded them from earlier deportations, but now they were to be treated like other Jews.

Aryan relatives of these Jews began to make phone calls when their loved ones did not return
home. They quickly discovered that their family members were being held at the administration
building of the Jewish community at Rosenstrasse 2-4. Within hours, relatives began to gather
there. Most were women. As the women arrived at Rosenstrasse 2-4, each loudly demanded to
know what crimes her husband and children had committed. When the guards refused to let the
women enter the building, the protesters vowed to return until they were allowed to see their
relatives. They kept their word. In the days that followed, people blocks away could hear the
women chanting. Charlotte Israel, one of the protesters, recalls:

The situation in front of the collecting center came to a head [on March 5]. Without warning
the guards began setting up machine guns. Then they directed them at the crowd and
shouted: “If you don’t go now, we’ll shoot.” Automatically the movement surged backward
in that instant. But then for the first time we really hollered. Now we couldn’t care less. We
bellowed, “You murderers,” and everything else that one can holler. Now they’re going to
shoot in any case, so now we’ll yell too, we thought. We yelled “Murderer, Murderer,
Murderer, Murderer.” We didn’t scream just once but again and again, until we lost our
breath.34

Nazi officials were worried that the protests would draw attention to the deportation of Jews. In
order to silence the protestors, the next day, Joseph Goebbels ordered the release of all Jews
married to Aryans. Yet, eight thousand Jews imprisoned at Rosenstrasse 2-4 who did not have
Aryan relatives were shipped to death camps. No one spoke on their behalf.

Glossary
Intermarriages: marriage between people with two different backgrounds, in this case marrying someone from a dif-
ferent religion, such as a Jew marrying a Protestant.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 270
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 5
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

Fateful Decisions
(Excerpt from pp. 378–80 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

In 1943 in Germany, Christabel Bielenberg was asked to hide a Jewish couple. Her husband, Peter,
was out of town. Because she knew her neighbor Carl was involved in hiding Jews, she went to
him for advice. She was very surprised when he advised her not to hide the Jewish couple. Here is
Christabel’s account of the situation:

I had come to him (Carl) for advice, well, his advice was quite definite. Under no circum-
stances whatsoever could I give refuge to the man, or to the woman. . . . Seeing that Nick
[my oldest son] was going to school, it could not be long before I would be found out, and
the punishment for giving refuge to Jews was concentration camp, plain and simple—not
only for myself but for Peter. . . . But—Where were they to go? Was I to be the one to send
them on their way? . . . Carl said, “Now you have come to a crossroads, a moment which
must probably come to us all. You want to show your colors, well my dear you can’t, because
you are not a free agent. You have your children. . . .”

As soon as I pushed through the hedge again and opened our gate to the road, letting it
click back shut behind me, I sensed rather than saw some movement in the darkness about
me. “What is your decision . . . ?” The voice, when it came, was quite close to me and pitched
very low—it must have belonged to a small man, for I was staring out over his head. “I
can’t,” I said, and I had to hold on to the railings because the pain in my side had become so
intense that I could hardly breathe, “at least”—did I hope to get rid of that pain by some sort
of feeble compromise?—“at least I can’t for more than a night, perhaps two.” “Thank you,”
again just the voice—the little man could not have been much taller than the railings—
thanking me, in heaven’s name, for two miserable days of grace. I loathed myself utterly as I
went back to the house to fetch the cellar key.35

Glossary
Refuge: safety, a hiding spot
Crossroads: A dilemma, a place where a tough choice has to be made
Loathed: hated

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 271
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 6
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

Choosing to Rescue
(Excerpt from pp. 380–81 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

In Germany, the government imprisoned anyone caught sheltering a Jew. In Poland, the penalty
was death. Yet, about 2 percent of the Polish Christian population chose to hide Jews. Stefa
Dworek was one of these rescuers.

It began in the summer of 1942, when Stefa’s husband, Jerezy, brought home a young Jewish
woman named Irena. A policeman involved in the Polish underground had asked him to hide her
for a few days. . . . A “few days” stretched to a week and the week, in turn, became a month and
still the unexpected guest remained. The policeman was unable to find another hiding place for
her. After several months, Jerezy Dworek demanded that Irena leave. His wife Stefa, however,
insisted that the woman stay.

Was Stefa aware of the danger to herself and her baby? “Sure I knew,” she said, “everybody knew
what could happen to someone who kept Jews. . . . Sometimes when it got dangerous, Irena her-
self would say, ‘I am such a burden to you, I will leave.’ But I said, ‘Listen, until now you were here
and we succeeded, so maybe now all will succeed. How can you give yourself up?’ I knew that I
could not let her go. The longer she was there the closer we became.”

Then in 1944, the people of Warsaw rebelled against the Germans. As the fighting spread, it
became too dangerous to stay in the apartment. So Irena bandaged her face and Stefa introduced
her to neighbors as a cousin who had just arrived in the city. But they still had reason to worry.
Irena described what happened next:

Before the end of the war there was a tragic moment. . . . We learned that the Germans
were about to evacuate all civilians. My appearance on the streets even with my bandaged
face could end tragically. Stefa decided to take a bold step which I will remember as long as
I live. She gave me her baby to protect me. [The Germans did not evacuate mothers with
young children.] As she was leaving me with her child, she told me that the child would save
me and that after the war I would give him back to her. But in case of her death she was
convinced that I would take good care of him. . . . Eventually we both stayed.36

Stefa Dworek explained that she knew she could not let the Germans evacuate Irena. When she
was deciding what to do in that moment, she shared:

What could I do? Even a dog you get used to and especially to a fine person like she was. I
could not act any other way. . . . I would have helped anyone. It did not matter who she was.
After all I did not know her at first, but I helped and could not send her away. I always try to
help as best as I can.37

Glossary
Evacuate: to force people to leave an area

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 272
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 7
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

Links in a Chain
(Excerpt from pp. 383–84 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

One morning in 1942, as Marion Pritchard was riding her bicycle to school, she passed a home for
Jewish children. What she observed that day changed her life. She recalls:

The Germans were loading the children, who ranged in age from babies to eight-year-olds,
on trucks. They were upset, and crying. When they did not move fast enough the Nazis
picked them up, by an arm, a leg, the hair, and threw them into the trucks. To watch grown
men treat small children that way—I could not believe my eyes. I found myself literally cry-
ing with rage. Two women coming down the street tried to interfere physically. The
Germans heaved them into the truck, too. I just sat there on my bicycle, and that was the
moment I decided that if there was anything I could do to thwart such atrocities, I would
do it.

Some of my friends had similar experiences, and about ten of us, including two Jewish stu-
dents who decided they did not want to go into hiding, organized very informally for this
purpose. We obtained Aryan identity cards for the Jewish students, who, of course, were
taking more of a risk than we were. They knew many people who were looking to onder-
duiken, “disappear,” as Anne Frank and her family were to do. We located hiding places,
helped people move there, provided food, clothing, and ration cards, and sometimes moral
support and relief for the host families. We registered newborn Jewish babies as gentiles
[non-Jews] . . . and provided medical care when possible.

The decision to rescue Jews had great consequences. Pritchard described what happened when
she hid a man with three children:

The father, the two boys, and the baby girl moved in and we managed to survive the next
two years, until the end of the war. Friends helped take up the floorboards, under the rug,
and build a hiding place in case of raids. These did occur with increasing frequency, and one
night we had a very narrow escape. Four Germans, accompanied by a Dutch Nazi policeman
came and searched the house. They did not find the hiding place. . . . The baby had started
to cry, so I let the children out. Then the Dutch policeman came back alone. I had a small
revolver that a friend had given me, but I had never planned to use it. I felt I had no choice
except to kill him. I would do it again, under the same circumstances, but it still bothers me,
and I still feel that there “should” have been another way. . . . Was I scared? Of course the
answer is “yes.”38

Glossary
Thwart: stop or prevent
Atrocities: crimes

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 273
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 8
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

A Nation United
(Excerpt from pp. 393–95 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

The Germans conquered Denmark in the spring of 1940. The Danes were very angry that the Germans had
occupied their country and some Danes found ways to sabotage the work of the Nazis, by working as spies.
In 1943, Danish officials learned that the Germans were planning to deport all of the Jews in Denmark. They
quickly warned the Jewish community to go into hiding until they could escape to nearby Sweden. (Sweden
was safe for Jews because it was not occupied by Germany.)

Leo Goldberger was 13 years old when his family received this warning. He recalls how his father was wor-
ried about how he would arrange to get his family to Sweden, until he met a Danish woman on the train
who helped him make arrangements:

Near panic but determined . . . my father took a train back to the city; he needed to borrow money,
perhaps get an advance on his salary and to see about contacts for passage on a fishing boat. As luck
would have it, on the train a woman whom he knew only slightly recognized him and inquired about
his obviously agitated facial expression. He confided our plight. Without a moment’s hesitation the
lady promised to take care of everything. She would meet my father at the main railroad station with
all the information about the arrangements within a few hours. It was the least she could do, she
said, in return for my father’s participation some years back in a benefit concert for her organization —
“The Women’s League for Peace and Freedom.” True to her word, she met my father later that day
and indicated that all was arranged. The money would be forthcoming from a pastor, Henry
Rasmussen. . . . The sum was a fairly large one—about 25,000 Danish crowns, 5,000 per person, a sum
which was more than my father’s annual salary. (. . . I should add that pastor Rasmussen refused
repayment after the war.)39

Leo’s family arrived safely in Sweden, just as hundreds of other fishing boats carried nearly every Jew in
Denmark—7,220 men, women, and children—to safety. It was a community effort—organized and paid for
by hundreds of Jews and Christians alike.

While in other countries, such as Poland, people often turned their Jewish neighbors into the Germans, in
Denmark the citizens went to great measures to keep their Jewish neighbors safe. Why was this the case?
Some say that the traditions of antisemitism were not as strong in Denmark as in other countries. Jews
were considered full and equal citizens of Danish society. Scholars suggest that Denmark prided itself on
living by the “golden rule”—love your neighbor as you love yourself. One of Denmark’s national heroes
emphasized, “First a human being, then a Christian,” and this idea of “brotherly love” was taught in Danish
schools. Finally, two of the major institutions in the life of Danes, the monarchy and the church, took a
leading role in resisting the Nazis’ racist policies. For example, the King of Denmark wore a yellow star to
show unity with the Jewish residents of Denmark. And the Bishop of Copenhagen, the leader of the
Lutheran Church, wrote a statement that was read in nearly every church in Denmark. This statement
urged Danes to assist Jews as they tried to escape from the Nazis.40

Glossary
Sabotage: ruin Plight: difficult situation
Agitated: worried Antisemitism: hatred of Jewish people

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 274
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 9
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

The Response of the Allies


(Excerpt from pp. 402–6 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

Soon after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, rumors of mass murders began to
circulate in the United States. To many, the stories were too incredible to be true. On the front
page of its June 14, 1942, edition, the Chicago Tribune ran this headline: HITLER GUARDS STAGE
NEW POGROM, KILL 258 MASSACRED BY BERLIN GESTAPO IN “BOMB PLOT.” On November
26, 1942, the following appeared on page 16 of the New York Times: SLAIN POLISH JEWS PUT AT
A MILLION. By the end of 1942, the CBS radio network had picked up the story. In a broadcast
from London on December 13, Edward R. Murrow bluntly reported, “What is happening is this.
Millions of human beings, most of them Jews, are being gathered up with ruthless efficiency and
murdered. The phrase ‘concentration camps’ is . . . out of date. . . . It is now possible only to speak
of extermination camps.” Four days later, the governments of the United States, Britain, and the
Soviet Union issued a statement acknowledging the mass murders for the first time. Yet they
continued to do nothing.41

Then on January 13, 1944, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau received a report which
described how the Nazis were killing millions of Jews. He sent this report to President Roosevelt.
Within days of receiving it, the president set up the War Refugee Board, under Morgenthau’s
supervision. It saved about two hundred thousand Jews. John Pehle, Jr., the man who headed the
group, later remarked that “what we did was little enough. It was late. Late and little, I would say.”42

There was another way that the Allies could have helped the Jews and other victims dying in con-
centration camps. As word of the deportations reached the outside world, Jewish organizations
asked the United States to bomb the railroad lines that led to Auschwitz or to bomb the camp
itself. Officials dismissed the idea as “impractical” because the bombing would use planes needed
for the war effort. McCloy also argued that bombing the train tracks leading to Auschwitz might
provoke the Germans to take even harsher action against the Jews and against the Allies. U.S.
government officials insisted that winning the war against the Germans was the best thing that
the Americans could do for the victims held in concentration camps.

Yet, between July 7 and November 20, American planes dropped bombs near Auschwitz on ten
different occasions. On August 20, 1,336 bombs were released just five miles from the gas cham-
bers. On three occasions, American pilots hit areas near the camp.43

Glossary
Allies: The nations fighting against the Germans including the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 275
Lesson 15: Handout 1, Reading 10
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

From Bystanders to Resisters


(Excerpt from pp. 373–75 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior)

In the spring of 1942, three teenagers (Hans Scholl, his younger sister Sophie and a friend, Christoph
Probst) formed a small group known as the White Rose. In July, the group published a pamphlet that boldly
stated: “We want to inform you of the fact that since the conquest of Poland, 300,000 Jews in that country
have been murdered in the most bestial manner.” The following February, the Nazis arrested the Scholls
and Probst and brought them to trial. The three freely admitted that they were responsible for the pam-
phlets. Sophie Scholl told the judges. “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is
also believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.” She, her brother Hans,
and Probst were found guilty and killed by guillotine later that same day. Soon after their deaths, three
other members—a university professor named Kurt Huber and two students, Alexander Schmorell and Willi
Graf—were also tried, convicted, and beheaded.

Although the Nazis were able to destroy the White Rose, they could not stop their message from being
heard. Helmuth von Moltke smuggled copies of the pamphlet to friends outside of Germany. His friends
were able to give them to the Allies, who copied the pamphlets and then dropped thousands of them
over German cities. By late October, Moltke was asking, “Certainly more than a thousand people are mur-
dered . . . every day. . . . And all this is child’s play compared with what is happening in Poland and Russia.
May I know this and yet sit at my table in my heated flat and have tea? Don’t I thereby become guilty too?
What shall I say when I am asked, and what did you do during that time?” Moltke sought an answer to that
question by meeting secretly with other important Germans. There they considered ways of fighting the
Nazis and building a new Germany after the war.44

On July 20, a member of the group, Claus von Stauffenberg, placed a briefcase containing explosives under
a massive table around which Hitler and his staff were scheduled to meet later that day. The bomb
exploded as planned, but the table blocked the damage. As a result, Hitler and other top officials survived
the explosion. They promptly retaliated by killing nearly twelve thousand people, including Moltke, who
knew of the plan but had not taken part in it. Before his execution in January 1945, Moltke wrote his sons,
ages six and three:

Throughout an entire life, even at school, I have fought against a spirit of . . . lack of respect for oth-
ers, of intolerance. . . . I exerted myself to help to overcome this spirit with its evil consequences.45

Glossary
Bestial: inhumane, cruel
Guillotine: a device used to cut off people’s heads. It has a big blade with a rope that drops down on the person and
cuts off their head.
Beheaded: when the head is cut off from body
Allies: The nations fighting against the Germans, including the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain.
Flat: apartment
Retaliated: got revenge

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 276
Lesson 15: Handout 2
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust

1. Name of reading:

2. Where does this story take place? (Locate it on a map.)

3. Identify the significant (important) choices made in this story.

4. How do you think this individual, group, or nation would explain the choice they made? What might
they say if you asked them, “Why did you make this choice?”

5. How would this individual, group, or nation complete the following sentence: I feel responsible for
protecting and caring for . . .

6. What symbol represents the choices made by this individual, group, or nation? Describe it or draw it
here.

7. Select one thought-provoking or important quotation from this reading and write it here.

Now you are ready to make your poster. Your poster should include the following:

a. Name of your reading


b. Where it took place
c. Symbol representing the choices made
d. One important quotation from the reading

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 277
Lesson 15: Handout 3
Upstanders and Bystanders during the Holocaust (Sample)

1. Name of reading: The Courage of LeChambon


2. Where does this story take place? (Locate it on a map.) Le Chambon, France (a village in the moun-
tains of southeast France)

The residents of Le Chambon, even the children, decided to hide Jews and others. They
3. Identify the significant choices made in this story:

saved about 5,000 people.


All of the residents chose not to tell the police about the Jews and others being hidden in
their village.
The residents also kept the location of Minister Trocme secret so that he was not
arrested again.

4. How do you think this individual, group, or nation would explain the choice they made? What would

They would say they decided to rescue Jews and others fleeing the Nazis because “it was
they say if you asked them, “Why did you make this choice?”

the human thing to do.” This means that they believed that people are supposed to protect
and help each other. Some residents, like Magda Trocme, might not have felt like she
really had a choice. She said the choice was not “complicated,” but that they merely “did
what had to be done.”

5. What were the potential and actual consequences of their actions? How might the specific context

The residents of Le Chambon could have been arrested and sent to concentration camps
(where and when this happened) shape the consequences?

for saving Jews. Indeed, some members of the community were arrested and one member
was killed in a concentration camp. People were putting not only themselves, but also their
families, at risk by sheltering Jews. The fact that Le Chambon is in the mountains might
have made it easier for them to take these risks because it was more difficult for out-
siders to get to the community. Also, their experience as being a religious minority in their
own country might have made them more sympathetic to the Jews.

I feel responsible for protecting and caring for all human beings.
6. How would this individual, group, or nation complete the following sentence:

7. What symbol represents the choices made by this individual, group, or nation? Describe it or draw it

A mountain with a house on top of it and lots of people holding hands around the house.
here.

This symbol represents the fact that Le Chambon is located in the mountains and is some-
what isolated from others. The house represents a place of safety. And the people holding
hands around the house illustrates how the residents were united in their efforts to keep
Jews and others safe during the war.

“We didn’t protect the Jews because we were moral or heroic people. We helped them
8. Select one thought-provoking or important quotation from this reading and write it here.

because it was the human thing to do.”

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 278
Lesson 15: Handout 4
Upstanders and Bystanders presentation note-taking guide

Directions: As you listen to stories of bystanders and upstanders during the Holocaust, record explana-
tions for the choices made by individuals, groups, and nations in the chart below. Record any questions
raised by these stories at the bottom of the page.

Reasons or explanations for Reasons or explanations for


BYSTANDER behavior UPSTANDER behavior

Questions:

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 279
Lesson 15: Handout 5
A scene from middle school

(Adapted from the Ostracism Case Study)46

In December of 7th grade in a public school, Sue and Rhonda considered each other best
friends. They belonged to a popular group of girls, including Jill. One day, Sue wrote
Rhonda a note. In this note, she said that Jill was stupid for breaking up with her
boyfriend, Travis. Rhonda told Jill what Sue said about her in this note. When Jill found
out about Sue’s note, she confronted Sue after school, and they argued in front of a
crowd of students. School staff heard the argument and broke it up. After this brief argu-
ment between Jill and Sue, Rhonda sided with Jill, and they influenced other girls to do
the same. For the rest of 7th grade and almost all of 8th grade, these girls excluded Sue
from her former group of friends, teased and put her down, avoided and ignored her,
spread rumors about her, wrote hurtful letters, and made prank telephone calls to her
home. Other students, including some boys who were not originally involved, joined in.
Most students, if they did not participate directly, kept Sue at a distance and did not
stand up for her. Sue went from being a very strong student to getting poor grades and
not wanting to go to school.

Questions:
1. Why do you think this event turned out this way? How can you explain the actions of
the girls and boys in this situation?

2. Do you agree with the choices made by the students in this classroom?
Why or why not?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of the factors that impact our decisions to act as bystanders or upstanders during
times of injustice. • 280
Notes
1
Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933–1945 (New York: Harper
Collins, 1992), xi.
2
Ervin Straub, The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence (Oxford: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), 87.
3
Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz and the Reawakening: Two Memoirs (New York: Summit Books, 1986),
377.
4
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), 148–49.
5
Victoria Barnett, For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1992), 164.
6
Gordon J. Horwitz, In the Shadow of Death: Living Outside the Gates of Mauthausen (New York: The Free
Press, 1990), 60.
7
Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933–1945 (New
York: The Free Press, 1986), 172.
8
Ibid., 183.
9
Levi, Survival and Reawakening, 381.
10
Maciej Kozlowski, “The Mission that Failed: A Polish Courier Who Tried to Help the Jews,” as quoted in
Antony Polonsky, My Brother’s Keeper? Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust (Abingdon: Routledge, 1990),
87.
11
David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1984), 97.
12
Ibid., 296–97.
13
Ibid.
14
Seeing, VHS (New Haven: Fortunoff, 1982).
15
Daniel Goldman, “Is Altruism Inherited?” Baltimore Jewish Times, April 12, 1985.
16
Guido Calabresi, “Choices,” Williams Alumni Review (Summer 1991).
17
The Courage to Care: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, ed. Carol Rittner and Sondra Myers (New York:
New York University Press), x.
18
Ibid., 115.
19
Wyman, The Abandonment of Jews, 287.
20
The Courage to Care, 115.
21
Ibid., 31–33.
22
Calabresi, “Choices.”
23
Ibid.
24
Maurice Ogden, Hangman (Tustin: Regina Publications, 1968).
25
“Martin Niemoeller,” Jewish Virtual Library website, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource
/biography/niemoeller.html (accessed January 22, 2009).
26
The Courage to Care, 102.
27
Carol Rittner, Stephen D. Smith, and Irena Steinfeldt, The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on
the Past, Challenges for the Future (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000), 163.
28
“Le Chambon-sur-Lignon,” The Holocaust, Crimes, Heroes and Villains website,
http://www.auschwitz.dk/Trocme.htm (accessed January 22, 2009).
29
“Le Chambon-sur-Lignon,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website,
http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007518 (accessed January 22, 2009).
30
Shoah, VHS (New York: Paramount Home Video, 1985).
31
Horwitz, In the Shadow of Death, 61–62.
32
Ibid., 60.
33
Ibid., 61.
34
Nathan Stoltzfus, Resistance of the Heart (Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 1996), 243.
35
Cristabel Bielenberg, When I Was German 1933–1945: An English Woman in Nazi Germany (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 112–13.
36
Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 55.
37
Ibid., 176.
38
The Courage to Care, 29–30.
39
Ibid., 94.
40
Carol Rittner, “Denmark and the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem website,
http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/microsoft%20word%20-%20696.pdf (accessed January 22, 2009).
41
Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 188.

281
42
Wyman, The Abandonment of Jews, 287.
43
Ibid., 296–97.
44
Helmuth James von Moltke, Letters to Freya: 1939–1945 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1990), 175.
45
Ibid., 3.
46
Dennis Barr, Jennifer Bender, Melinda Fine, Lynn Hickey Schultz, Terry Tollefson, and Robert Selman.
“A Case Study of Facing History and Ourselves in an Eighth Grade Classroom: A Thematic and
Developmental Approach to the Study of Inter-Group Relations in a Programmatic Context” (Brookline:
Facing History and Ourselves, unpublished manuscript).

282
Lesson 16
To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Nine in Facing
History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Justice After the Holocaust

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
The purpose of this lesson is to help students define what justice looks like after the
Holocaust and to help them develop a deeper understanding of justice in their own lives.
Through learning about the Nuremberg trials, they consider the legal and ethical dilem-
mas posed after genocide or massive collective violence. The process of listening to differ-
ent perspectives about justice after the Holocaust can help students develop a more
sophisticated understanding of justice in their own lives. What are the different ways jus-
tice can be achieved? How do we judge the actions of perpetrators and bystanders?
Should people be held responsible for following laws or orders that are morally wrong?
These are some of the questions students explore in this lesson.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• What is justice?
• What does justice look like after a horrible event like the Holocaust?
• Who is responsible for the crimes committed during the Holocaust?
• Are individuals responsible for their crimes if they have obeyed the laws of their
nation?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Defining abstract concepts
• Defending a position on controversial issues
• Listening respectfully to the ideas of others
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Justice
• Crimes against humanity
• Nuremberg trials
• Responsibility
• Reparations
• Punishment
• Repair
• Healing
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

Lesson 16 • 283
? WHAT is this lesson about?
Towards the end of World War II, as the Allied Powers began to realize that victory was
imminent, there was disagreement on the question of what to do with the defeated Nazi
leaders. Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, suggested executing at least 50,000
members of the German army, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill advocated
executions without trials for high-ranking Nazi military officials. The United States, how-
ever, was strongly committed to the idea of an international war crimes trial. The victors
ultimately agreed to such an approach, but many questions still remained: Where would
the trial be held? Who would judge those defendants? In what language would the trial
be held? The Allies knew that they wanted trials to begin as soon as possible and they
gave themselves only a few months to figure out answers to these questions.

One of the most important questions the international military tribunal needed to
answer was “Who would be put on trial?” While it may have been obvious to prosecute
high-ranking Nazi officials, it was less clear to what degree lesser officers, bureaucrats,
industrialists, and civilians should be held responsible for these crimes. Should
bystanders, the millions of Germans who allowed their Jewish neighbors to be rounded
up and killed, be held accountable for their failure to stand up to this injustice? Historian
Paul Bookbinder distinguishes between collaborators and bystanders. Collaborators are
those that were not directly involved in the persecution of Holocaust victims, but who
may have assisted the Nazis by providing them with information or supplies. Bystanders,
on the other hand, neither directly cooperated with the Nazis nor helped the Jews.
Bookbinder suggests that collaborators should be judged more harshly than bystanders.

Another key question that needed to be answered: What laws had the Germans broken?
The Allies argued that the Germans had violated international law—a body of rules that
has evolved out of centuries of encounters among the peoples of the world. Although
some insist that “all’s fair in love and war,” most recognize that there are limits to what
soldiers can do in wartime. The various international laws set forth in military manuals
and treaties dealt only with crimes committed as a part of a war. They did not address
genocide—“the crime with no name.”1 The first attempt to do so occurred in 1915, just
after the massacre of the Armenians. In May of that year the Allies formally accused
Turkish leaders of a “crime against humanity and civilization.” Although a new Turkish
government agreed to bring the nation’s former leaders to justice, the defendants had fled
the country. Because they were not present for the trial, the proceedings did not com-
mand worldwide attention. The lack of justice in this case made it easier for the Turkish
government to deny their role in these massacres. (For more information about the
Armenian Genocide and its denial, refer to the Facing History and Ourselves resource
book Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians.)

The context was different in 1945; people around the world knew about the horrible
crimes committed by the Nazis, and they were paying attention to how justice would be
served. In October 1945, five months after the defeat of the Germans, an International
Military Tribunal (IMT), created by Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet
Union, indicted 24 Nazis for one or more of the following crimes: conspiracy, crimes

Lesson 16 • 284
against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity.* Because the judicial proceedings
were held in Nuremberg, Germany, they were called the Nuremberg Tribunals (or trials).
John Fried, Special Legal Consultant to the United States War Crimes Tribunals at
Nuremberg, Germany, explained the purpose of those trials:

The awesome, unprecedented nature of the Nazi war crimes demanded a response
from the victorious Allies after World War II. That response, embodying the shock
and outrage of mankind, was the Nuremberg Tribunals, in which the Nazi leadership
was tried for its crimes. . . . No one . . . could deny the reality of Dachau [concentra-
tion camp] and the mass slaughter of civilians; the question to be answered was: who
was responsible?2

Thus, the purpose of these trials was to find out who was responsible for the Holocaust
and to punish the perpetrators. But the trials had another equally-important purpose: to
show the world that these acts of violence would not be tolerated. The chief prosecutor
Robert H. Jackson, a justice on the United States Supreme Court, explained this point
when he opened the first trial with these words:

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the
world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and
punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization can-
not tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated. That
the four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of
vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is
one of the most significant tributes that power ever has paid to reason.3

Jackson points out that by using the tool of international law, the “four great nations”
were establishing a precedent that crimes against humanity would not go unrecognized or
unpunished. By publicly indicting Nazi leaders, the Allied governments believed that
future leaders might be deterred from inflicting harm on their civilians.

The most famous of the Nuremberg trials was the first one, which began in November
1945. Twenty-four leaders in the Nazi Party were indicted for one or more of the follow-
ing crimes: conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Of
the men actually brought to trial, five were military leaders and the rest were prominent
government or party officials. Their trial was organized much the way criminal trials are
organized in the United States. The defendants were made aware of all charges against
them. Each was entitled to a lawyer and had the right to plead his own case, offering wit-
nesses and evidence in his own behalf. Throughout the trial, the prosecution used the
Nazis’ own records as evidence. Jackson himself was amazed not only at the quantity of
records available but also at the incredible detail in those records. From these abundant
records, it was clear that during the war the Nazis were not trying to hide information
about the deportations, forced labor, and mass murders. This fact alone illustrates what
must have been the mindset of many Nazi officials: we have nothing to hide because we
are not doing anything wrong.

* Only 21 of the 24 indicted men stood trial. Martin Bormann, Hitler’s secretary, was never found. Gustav Krupp von
Bohlen und Halbach, a Nazi industrialist, was deemed too ill to stand trial and Robert Ley, a Nazi politician, committed
suicide before the trial began.

Lesson 16 • 285
Key Crimes Within the Jurisdiction of the Tribunal*
(as written in Article 6 of the Constitution of the International Military Tribunal)4

(a) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of a war
of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or partic-
ipation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;
(b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall
include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment, or deportation to slave labor or for any
other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of pris-
oners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property,
wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military neces-
sity;
(c) CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deporta-
tion, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the
war; or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection
with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the
domestic law of the country where perpetrated.
Leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution
of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all
acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.

* The other major charge was conspiracy. This allowed for the prosecution of individuals who organized and ordered
criminal activity but may not have been directly responsible in executing these crimes.

Throughout the trial, the defendants vehemently denied responsibility for crimes against
humanity. They argued that wars have always been brutal and this war was much like any
other. They also insisted that the victors were equally guilty. After all, in wartime, both
sides commit “excesses.” And they maintained that they were only obeying orders.
General Alfred Jodl’s attorney summarized that argument by telling the court:

It is true that without his generals Hitler could not have waged the wars. . . . If the
generals do not do their job, there is no war. But one must add: if the infantryman
does not, if his rifle does not fire . . . there is no war. Is, therefore, the soldier, the
gunsmith . . . guilty of complicity in the war? Does Henry Ford share in the responsi-
bility for the thousands of accidents which his cars cause every year?5

The judges disagreed with that argument. Ruling that orders from a superior do not
excuse a crime, they convicted all but three of the men on one or more of the charges.

Among the twenty-one men who stood trial at Nuremberg was Julius Streicher, the pub-
lisher of Der Stuermer, an antisemitic newspaper with over six hundred thousand readers.
Week after week, month after month, he described Jews as “vermin in need of extermina-
tion.” In a typical article he ranted that the Jew was not a human being, but “a parasite,
an enemy, an evil-doer, a disseminator of diseases which must be destroyed in the interest
of mankind.”6 At Nuremberg, the judges found Streicher guilty of “inciting of the popu-
lation to abuse, maltreat and slay their fellow citizens . . . to stir up passion, hate, vio-
lence and destruction among the people themselves aims at breaking the moral backbone
even of those the invader chooses to spare.”7 They sentenced him to death because his
“incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being
killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and
racial grounds . . . and (therefore) a Crime against Humanity.”8

Lesson 16 • 286
The courtroom in which the Nuremberg trials took place; in the bench sit the men accused of crimes against
humanity, as well as other war crimes.

Between 1945 and 1949, the fate of 199 individuals was decided in 13 separate trials
held in Nuremberg. The first of those trials, described in the previous paragraph, was an
International Military Tribunal administered by Great Britain, France, the United States,
and the Soviet Union. The United States administered the 12 subsequent trials, convened
between 1946 and 1949, because Nuremberg was located within the American zone of
occupation.* Among those brought to trial were:

• 26 military leaders, including five field marshals;


• 56 high-ranking SS and other police officers, including leaders in the
Einsatzgruppen (Final Solution) and key officials in Heinrich Himmler’s central
office which supervised the concentration camps and the extermination program;
and
• 14 officials of other SS organizations that engaged in racial persecution, including
doctors and judges.

The Nuremberg trials were praised for their commitment to the rule of law. Defendants
were represented by lawyers and the verdicts ranged from acquittal, to jail time, to death
sentences. While the Nuremberg trials punished key perpetrators and helped educate the
world about the crimes committed by the Nazis, it was not without critique. Bernard
Meltzer, a staff member of the prosecution team at Nuremberg, remarked that one crime
that was not prosecuted at Nuremberg was the “crime of silence.”9 While many Nazi

* At the end of World War II, the Allied powers divided Germany into four occupation zones. In the years immediately fol-
lowing the war, France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States each controlled one of these zones. In 1949, the
three zones administered by France, Britain, and the United States joined to establish the Federal Republic of Germany. A
few months later, the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic.

Lesson 16 • 287
leaders were brought to justice, the bystanders—the men and women who allowed this
violence to take place—went unpunished.

Another criticism of the Nuremberg trials is that individuals were held responsible for
breaking laws that did not exist prior to the war. This is often called “retroactive justice.”

Also, some say that justice was not completely served in Nuremberg because not all Nazi
leaders were tried. Some leaders, including Hitler, had committed suicide at the end of
the war. Others disappeared, often to the Middle East or South America. As these leaders
surfaced, new trials were held, and continue to be held (although they are rare these days
because most Nazis who could be charged with war crimes have passed away or have
already been caught). Still, only a fraction of the perpetrators ever saw a courtroom. For
example, of the approximately eight thousand personnel at Auschwitz, less than 10% ever
went to trial and fewer were actually convicted. In the 1960s, when another Auschwitz
trial was conducted, so much time had elapsed that it was difficult to obtain sufficient
evidence to convict many of the defendants.

The most famous of the post-Nuremberg trials was that of Adolf Eichmann, the chief
organizer of the “Final Solution.” Long after other nations had lost interest in punishing
the Nazis, Israel remained committed to finding every individual who had escaped judg-
ment. Eichmann was one of the nation’s main targets. A tip in 1957 led the Israelis to
Argentina. In May of 1960, they kidnapped Eichmann and then smuggled him into
Israel to stand trial. In February 1961, he was indicted on 15 counts, including “crimes
against the Jewish people,” “crimes against humanity,” “war crimes,” and “membership in
a hostile organization.” At the end of the trial, Eichmann stated, “I am not the monster I
am made out to be. . . . I am innocent.”10 Referring to the 1942 Wannsee conference
where the steps of the Final Solution were outlined, he declared, “For at that conference
hard and fast rules were laid by the elite, the leadership, by the Popes of the Kingdom.
And myself? I only had to obey!”11The judges disagreed, finding him guilty on all counts.
After an appeal failed, Eichmann was hanged at midnight on May 31, 1962.

After the war, the Allies had to deal not only with questions of guilt and innocence but
also with questions of restitution. What claims did the victims have on the perpetrators?
On Germany itself? The Allied Military Government in Germany tried to answer those
questions by requiring that all property seized by the Nazis or transferred to them by
force be returned to its rightful owners. If the rightful owner had died and left no heir,
the property was to be used to aid survivors of Nazi persecution. In 1949, with the divi-
sion of Germany into East and West, reparations were handled separately by each state.
Although both Germanies tried former Nazis for war crimes, only West Germany tried to
make restitution for wrongs committed during the war. In 1951, West Germany declared
that “unspeakable crimes had been committed in the name of the German people which
entails an obligation to make moral and material amends” and promised to make repara-
tions to both the state of Israel and various Jewish organizations involved in the resettle-
ment and rehabilitation of survivors.12 In 1953, West Germany also set up a special pro-
gram to compensate all those who suffered injury or discrimination “because of their
opposition to National Socialism or because of their race, creed, or ideology.”13 The pro-
gram is known in German as Wiedergutmachanged, which means “to make good again.”
Dietrich Goldschmidt, a minister in the Confessing Church who was imprisoned at
Dachau, said of Wiedergutmachanged, “I hate the expression. What can one make good
again? Absolutely nothing. . . . I find it a particular scandal that an entire group of special

Lesson 16 • 288
cases have not yet received damages.”14 In this statement, he was referring to the Gypsies,
the Poles, the disabled, and the many others who were denied reparations for various rea-
sons. German corporations that had benefited from the forced labor of camp inmates
were also obligated to pay reparations, although the companies involved went to great
lengths to avoid paying and it took many years for survivors to receive any money.

Besides trials and reparations, the Allied powers put in place a program aimed at ridding
Germany of Nazi influence. This collection of bureaucratic procedures, called “denazifica-
tion,” included removing posters, signs, and other media which represented Hitler or the
Nazi Party and establishing a “re-education” program for anyone who supported or
assisted the Nazi effort. When applying for jobs, Germans had to complete a survey
explaining the degree to which they were involved in the Third Reich. The intent was to
keep those who served as middle or high-ranking officials from holding public service
jobs. Critics of denazification argue that these programs were not successful, either in
punishing offenders of war crimes or in helping the nation reconcile with its past. While
this may be true, Konrad Jarausch, one of the leading historians of postwar Germany,
asserts that imperfect though the Nuremberg trials and denazification programs may have
been, they still were important ingredients in placing Germany on the road to becoming
a successful democracy.15

Accordingly, there is considerable debate as to whether or not justice was served after the
Holocaust. Still, there is widespread agreement that the Holocaust and the subsequent
Nuremberg Tribunals left a significant impression on international law. In the film
Nuremberg Remembered, Ernst Michel, a Holocaust survivor who was a reporter at the
Nuremberg trials, remarked about the legacy of the trials:

Was everything perfect? I don’t believe so. But, under the circumstances it was the best
way of doing it, and hopefully it will be the beginning of future instances like that
where the leaders of a government, and we know who they are, are eventually being
brought to trial for crimes against humanity. That was the lesson of Nuremberg, and
that is why I feel so good 60 years afterwards to be able to talk about it.16

As Michel expresses, these trials reflected a heightened commitment to international stan-


dards of behavior in wartime. Known as the “Principles of International Law Recognized
in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal,” they
were affirmed unanimously by the first General Assembly of the United Nations. As the
horrors of the Third Reich unfolded at the trials, people everywhere resolved that such
things must never be allowed to happen again. The United Nations was created partly in
response to Nazi atrocities, as was the unanimous affirmation of the Nuremberg
Principles, making “wars of aggression” and “crimes against humanity” punishable
offenses. During World War II, Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer, coined the term genocide to
describe “crimes against humanity.” It combined a Greek word gens meaning “a race or
tribe” with the Latin cide meaning “to kill.”17 Thus the word genocide refers to the deliber-
ate destruction of a group of people. On December 9, 1948, the United Nations (UN)
adopted the Genocide Convention, which classified genocide as a crime under interna-
tional law. The following day, the UN General Assembly passed the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). At the time, Eleanor Roosevelt, the chairperson
of the Commission on Human Rights, the group that researched and wrote the docu-
ment, said:

Lesson 16 • 289
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (excerpt)

Article I
The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide whether committed in time of peace or in time
of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish.
Article II
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.18

Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration. The realization that the flagrant
violation of human rights by Nazi and Fascist countries sowed the seeds of the last
world war has supplied the impetus for the work which brings us to the moment of
achievement here today.19

Remarking on the legacy of the Nuremberg trials, Richard J. Goldstone, a justice of the
Constitutional Court of South Africa, explains:

I think the most important legacy of the Holocaust is the state that international
law is in today. It wouldn’t have been, but for the Nuremberg trials. There wasn’t such
a thing as genocide. Nobody conceived of a crime of that nature. There wasn’t such a
thing as “crimes against humanity.” That wasn’t the first time the expression had been
used, but it was the first time it had been given legal meaning and content. . . . If
Churchill had got his initial way, and the Nazi war criminals had been lined up
against a wall and summarily executed, there wouldn’t have been a Pinochet extradi-
tion in London. We wouldn’t have Milosevic standing trial in The Hague. You
wouldn’t have had the former prime minister and leaders in Rwanda being found
guilty of genocide. You wouldn’t have systematic mass rape being recognized as an
international war crime.20

Sadly, while the Nuremberg trials and the conventions and declarations that followed
have resulted in the arrests of perpetrators of crimes against humanity, these legal tools
have not lived up to the hope that they would create a world in which genocide would
never happen again. Tragically, this honorable promise has failed as several genocides have
taken place over the past sixty years. Even today, a genocide rages in Darfur. The
Nuremberg trials laid the groundwork for a structure where an international community
comes together to address genocide after the fact. Our challenge in the twenty-first cen-
tury is to create institutions and tools that allow us to stop crimes against humanity while
they occur and to nurture a global responsibility of caring that has the power to protect
vulnerable children, women, and men so that they do not become victims of genocide.

Lesson 16 • 290
Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Humanity’s Aspirations to Do Justice,” pp. 425–26
“Obedience to Others,” pp. 427–28
“A Man of Words,” pp. 429–30
“Betraying the Children,” pp. 430–31
“We Were Not Supposed to Think,” pp. 432–33

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: one class period

Materials
Handout 1: Nuremberg trials fact sheet
Handout 2: What do you think?: Justice after the Holocaust

Opener
To prepare students to think about what justice might look like after the Holocaust,
begin class by having students define the word justice. To help them develop these defini-
tions, you might first ask them to reflect on moments of justice from their own experi-
ence by responding to the following prompt in their journals:

Identify a time when someone wronged you or someone you care about. It might be a
situation in which you or someone you love was treated unfairly, or it might be an
accident that resulted in a loss. After this event, what would have needed to happen
for “justice to be served”?

Once students have had the opportunity to respond to this prompt, ask them to com-
plete the sentence, “Justice is. . . .” As students share their responses, record their ideas on
the board. Students can come back to these ideas at the end of the lesson.

Main Activities
Explain to students that the purpose of this lesson is to think about the question, “What
does justice look like after a horrible event like the Holocaust?” This lesson includes two
resources designed to help students answer this question. Handout 1 (Nuremberg trial
fact sheet) provides information (eight points) about what was actually done after the
Holocaust to achieve justice and related questions. Handout 2 (Justice after the
Holocaust: What do you think?) lists the eight points from the Nuremberg trial fact sheet
followed by statements that represent some of the main issues that the Allied powers con-
fronted as they tried to figure out how to achieve justice after the war.

There are many ways you could use these materials. You could review the ideas in hand-
out 1 with students, using the questions as prompts for small group or whole class discus-
sion. Many Facing History teachers have found that the Four Corners Activity provides a
structure that encourages students to discuss controversial ideas. This teaching strategy
requires students to show their position on a specific statement (strongly agree, agree, dis-
agree, strongly disagree) by standing in a particular corner of the room. Handout 2 has
been designed to complement the Four Corners Activity.

Lesson 16 • 291
Directions for Four Corners Activity

1. Label the four corners of the room with signs reading: strongly agree,
agree, disagree, strongly disagree.
2. Once students have had a few minutes to consider their personal
response to the statements, read one of the statements aloud and ask
students to move to the corner of the room that best represents their
opinion.
3. After students are in their places, ask for volunteers to justify their
position. When doing so, they should refer to evidence from history,
especially from material they learned in this unit, as well as other rele-
vant information from their own experiences. Encourage students to
switch corners if someone presents an idea that causes a change of
mind.
4. After a representative from each corner has defended his or her posi-
tion, you can allow students to question each other’s evidence and
ideas. This is an appropriate time to remind students about norms for
having a respectful, open discussion of ideas.

As students share their opinions, listen for any misconceptions about the Nuremberg tri-
als or the history of the Holocaust. During the discussion, you can help clarify historical
information, answer questions, and add new information about the aftermath of the war.
Depending on how much time you have and the length of students’ discussions, you can
discuss all eight points, or you can decide to focus on four or five of the points.

Follow-Through
After students have had the opportunity to react to all eight statements (even if they do
not discuss all of them), ask them to consider what else could happen, besides trying per-
petrators in an international criminal court, to help a nation and the larger international
community heal after such a devastating event. For ideas about how to answer this ques-
tion, encourage students to review what they wrote during the opening exercise about
achieving justice in their own lives. As students share responses, you can use this as an
opportunity to provide them with additional information about justice after the
Holocaust. Here are some points you might share:

• Students might be interested to know about the denazification programs adminis-


tered by the Allied governments after the war. Why might people have believed that
ridding Germany of all signs of the Nazis’ existence was a good idea? What do stu-
dents think might have been achieved by removing all signs of Nazism from
Germany?
• A few years after the end of the war, Konrad Adenaur, the leader of West Germany,
declared that it was acceptable for most Germans to put the past behind them. Why
do students think that Adenaur and others suggested that Germans forget and move
on with their lives? What does the act of forgetting achieve? Do you think that for-
getting is an appropriate response after the Holocaust? Why or why not?
• Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) is a German volunteer service
organization founded after World War II to confront the legacy of the Nazi regime.
The work of German volunteers was intended to serve as a form of atonement—
as a way to begin to make up for the crimes committed by the Nazis. Today,

Lesson 16 • 292
volunteers continue to work on service projects around the world, such as working
on memorial sites or cleaning Jewish cemeteries. The mission of the organization
has expanded to include helping volunteers take a stand against racism and anti-
semitism. What do students think about when they hear about this project? Can
providing service be a way to repair the damage caused during the Holocaust? Is
this program still important today, even though none of the participants were alive
during the Holocaust? Why or why not?

As a final activity, students can return to their definitions of justice from the opening
activity. Drawing from the material from this lesson, students can write a working defini-
tion of justice in their journals. You could also ask students to complete the sentence
“Justice is . . .” one more time. As students share their responses, ask the class to pay
attention to how some of their ideas may have shifted after learning more about the com-
plexity of achieving justice after a horrible event like the Holocaust.

Assessment(s)
Students’ responses on handout 2 and their participation in the Four Corners activity also
provide evidence of students’ ability to synthesize their understanding of the history of
the Holocaust with their conceptions of justice.

Following this lesson, you could ask students to turn in a brief essay in which they
respond to the following prompt:

Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with this statement: Justice was
achieved after the Holocaust. Explain your answer.

Or, you might give students the option of turning in a brief essay responding to any of
the eight statements on Handout 2.

Extensions
• For more information about the Nuremberg trials, refer to the Transitional Justice
online module found on Facing History’s website. This informative tool provides
background information about the trial, actual testimony from Nuremberg prosecu-
tors and defendants, and commentary about the trial from leading scholars.

• Facing History teachers have also had success with an activity where they ask stu-
dents to place various individuals or groups on a continuum between “most respon-
sible” and “least responsible” for crimes committed during the Holocaust. Many
readings in Chapter Nine of the resource book provide descriptions of men who
were tried during the Nuremberg trials. You can also refer to the defendants on the
Nuremberg Trial Fact Sheet on the Transitional Justice online module. Individuals
used for this activity need not be limited to German perpetrators and bystanders.
The list might also include Poles who frequently turned in their Jewish neighbors,
Allied military leaders who did not bomb the train tracks leading to Auschwitz, and
even U.S. government officials who limited immigration visas to Eastern Europeans.

• A follow-up activity for this lesson might focus on the legacy of the Holocaust and
the Nuremberg trials. After the Nuremberg trials, many countries joined together to
sign three documents: the Nuremberg Convention, the Genocide Convention, and

Lesson 16 • 293
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Nuremberg Convention set inter-
national rules for how prisoners of war could be treated. The Genocide Convention
said it was illegal for countries to kill or harm individuals just because they
belonged to a particular racial, ethnic, national, or religious group. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) listed the rights that all people have,
regardless of where they live. You can share this information with students and ask
them to consider the questions: Do you agree that there are universal rights that
should be protected at all costs? What are those rights? Who decides when they are
being violated? How should they be protected? For the text of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, refer to the United Nations’ website:
http://un.org/Overview/rights.html.

• The 11-minute documentary Nuremberg Remembered combines both archival


footage and modern-day interviews with trial participants, including members of
the legal team for the prosecution and a journalist reporting on the events for the
press. To deepen students’ understanding of the Nuremberg trials, you can show
them this film and ask them to take notes on how these participants describe their
experience at the trials. This film can be borrowed from Facing History’s library or
downloaded from Google video.

294
Lesson 16: Handout 1
Nuremberg trials fact sheet

After World War II ended with the defeat of Germany in May 1945, the countries that won the war (Britain,
France, the United States, and the Soviet Union), asked the question: Should Nazi leaders be punished for
the crimes committed during the Holocaust? And, if so, who should be punished? What punishments do
they deserve?

1. Winston Churchill, the British leader, thought that Nazi leaders should be hanged. But other leaders
thought they should go to trial.
Should those responsible for the Holocaust be killed or jailed? Do the perpetrators have the right to a fair trial in
a court of law?

2. The Allied countries agreed to put Nazi leaders on trial for two reasons: 1) to punish those responsible,
and 2) to prevent future crimes against humanity. Those who organized the trials wanted future lead-
ers to know that if they acted like Hitler and other Nazi leaders, they would be punished for their
actions; they could not just get away with murdering their own citizens.
Is bringing perpetrators to justice in courts an effective way to prevent future crimes? Why or why not?

3. Beginning in November 1945, an international trial—a court case involving many countries—was held
in the city of Nuremberg in Germany, so the trials were called the Nuremberg trials. The trials included
judges and lawyers from each of the winning countries (Britain, France, the United States, and the
Soviet Union). The Nazis held on charges (the defendants) also had lawyers to defend them. Some
argued that it was unfair for the Allied powers to bring the Nazis to trial because they had not broken
any laws. (At this point, there were no international laws forbidding a government from murdering its
own citizens.)
Is it fair for some nations to push their laws on other nations? Should there be an international court that is
more powerful than the courts of individual countries?

4. Twenty-four men were indicted (charged with a crime) during the first set of trials at Nuremberg.
These included military leaders, Nazi Party leaders, and officers who worked at concentration camps.
Hitler and several other Nazi leaders were not indicted because they had committed suicide or
escaped at the end of the war. Some lower-ranking officers, soldiers, and bureaucrats who participated
in the Holocaust were indicted in later trials. Bystanders also were not put on trial at Nuremberg or in
future trials.
Should bystanders be punished along with the perpetrators of the Holocaust? Why or why not?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of justice, after the Holocaust and in students’ lives today. • 295
Lesson 16: Handout 1
Nuremberg trials fact sheet (continued)

5. The defendants were charged with four different crimes. One of these crimes was “crimes against
humanity.” One of the men charged with “crimes against humanity” was Julius Streicher. He was
Minister of Propaganda of the Nazi Party. He was responsible for spreading hateful lies about Jews in
the newspaper and in other forms, such as children’s books.
What qualifies as a “crime against humanity”? What does it mean for a crime to be against humanity? Can words
be considered a weapon? Should it be against the law to spread hateful lies? What if these lies lead to violence
against innocent children, women, and men? Do those who spread these lies deserve to be punished as much as
those who actually pulled the trigger or operated the gas chambers?

6. Many Nazis charged with “crimes against humanity” argued that they were only following orders and
that they had not broken any laws by their actions.
Are Nazi leaders and others who were following the laws of their country and the orders of their elected leader,
Adolf Hitler, responsible for the Holocaust? Should they be punished for obeying the orders of their superiors, even
if those orders contributed to the death of innocent people?

7. Nineteen of the defendants were found guilty. Twelve were sentenced to death by hanging. Seven
were given prison sentences. Between 1946 and 1949, many more trials of Germans were held in
Nuremberg. In these trials, 97 additional Germans were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against
humanity, including business leaders who used slave labor, doctors who conducted experiments on
concentration camp victims, and Nazi judges who sent innocent people to concentration camps.
Is it possible to achieve justice for the crimes committed during the Holocaust? Were the trials at Nuremberg an
effective way to achieve justice for the crimes committed during the Holocaust? What else could have been done
so that “justice could be served”?

8. After the war, the Allied powers also had to consider what Germany should do to “pay back” the sur-
vivors of the Holocaust and the families of the victims. After all, the Nazis had taken all of their money
and property and had caused immeasurable suffering. A program was set up to provide money (repara-
tions) to those who could prove they were victims of the Nazis, and Germany was supposed to give
back stolen property to its rightful owners (if they were still alive).
Should Germany continue to give money to survivors of the Holocaust, the families of the victims, and Jewish
organizations, even though most of the individuals living in Germany today were small children or were not alive
during the Holocaust?

Purpose: To deepen understanding of justice, after the Holocaust and in students’ lives today. • 296
Lesson 16: Handout 2
What do you think?: Justice after the Holocaust

After World War II ended with the defeat of Germany in May 1945, the countries that won the war
(Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union), asked the question: Should Nazi leaders be
punished for the crimes committed during the Holocaust? And, if so, who should be punished? What
punishments do they deserve? Shade the box that represents your opinion about the statement below.

Fact Statement What do you think?


#1 Circle one:
Winston Churchill, the British leader, Those responsible for the Strongly agree Agree Disagree
thought that Nazi leaders should be Holocaust should be killed
hanged. But other leaders thought Strongly disagree
or jailed; they do not have
they should go to trial. the right to a fair trial in a Explain your choice:
court of law.

#2 Circle one:
The Allied countries agreed to put Bringing perpetrators to
Strongly agree Agree Disagree
Nazi leaders on trial for two reasons: justice in courts is an effec-
1) to punish those responsible, and 2) tive way to prevent future Strongly disagree
to prevent future crimes against crimes. Explain your choice:
humanity. Those who organized the
trials wanted future leaders to know
that if they acted like Hitler and other
Nazi leaders, they would be punished
for their actions; they could not just
get away with murdering their own
citizens.

#3 Circle one:
Beginning in November 1945, an inter- Since each country has its
Strongly agree Agree Disagree
national trial—a court case involving own laws, citizens should
many countries—was held in the city be brought to trial by the Strongly disagree
of Nuremberg in Germany, so, the tri- courts of their own coun- Explain your choice:
als were called the Nuremberg trials. try. It is unfair for some
The trials included judges and lawyers
nations to push their laws
from each of the winning countries
on other nations.
(Britain, France, the United States,
and the Soviet Union). The Nazis held
on charges (the defendants) also had
lawyers to defend them. Some argued
that it was unfair for the Allied powers
to bring the Nazis to trial because
they had not broken any laws. (At this
point, there were no international
laws forbidding a government from
murdering its own citizens.)

Purpose: To deepen understanding of justice, after the Holocaust and in students’ lives today. • 297
Lesson 16: Handout 2

Fact Statement What do you think?


#4 Circle one:
Twenty-four men were indicted Bystanders allowed the Strongly agree Agree Disagree
(charged with a crime) during the first Holocaust to happen. If
Strongly disagree
set of trials at Nuremberg. These more people had stood up,
included military leaders, Nazi Party rather than looked the Explain your choice:
leaders, and officers who worked at other way, millions of lives
concentration camps. Hitler and sev- could have been saved. The
eral other Nazi leaders were not bystanders should have
indicted because they had committed been punished along with
suicide or escaped at the end of the the perpetrators.
war. Some lower-ranking officers, sol-
diers, and bureaucrats who partici-
pated in the Holocaust were indicted
in later trials. Bystanders were also
not put on trial at Nuremberg or in
future trials.
#5 Circle one:
The defendants were charged with Spreading hateful lies that
Strongly agree Agree Disagree
four different crimes. One of these result in harm to individu-
als is a crime against Strongly disagree
crimes was “crimes against humanity.”
One of the men charged with “crimes humanity. Explain your choice:
against humanity” was Julius
Streicher. He was Minister of
Propaganda of the Nazi Party. He was
responsible for spreading hateful lies
about Jews in the newspaper and in
other forms, such as children’s books.

#6 Circle one:
Many Nazis charged with “crimes The only person responsi- Strongly agree Agree Disagree
against humanity” argued that they ble for the Holocaust was
Strongly disagree
were only following orders and that Adolf Hitler. Nazi leaders
they had not broken any laws by their were following the laws of Explain your choice:
actions. their country and the
orders of their elected
leader. They should not be
punished.

Purpose: To deepen understanding of justice, after the Holocaust and in students’ lives today. • 298
Lesson 16: Handout 2

Fact Statement What do you think?


#7 Circle one:
Nineteen of the defendants were It is possible to achieve jus-
Strongly agree Agree Disagree
found guilty. Twelve were sentenced tice for the crimes commit-
ted during the Holocaust. Strongly disagree
to death by hanging. Seven were given
prison sentences. Between 1946 and Explain your choice:
1949, many more trials of Germans
were held in Nuremberg. In these tri-
als, 97 additional Germans were found
guilty of war crimes and crimes
against humanity, including business
leaders who used slave labor, doctors
who conducted experiments on con-
centration camp victims, and Nazi
judges who sent innocent people to
concentration camps.

#8 Circle one:
After the war, the Allied powers also Germany should continue Strongly agree Agree Disagree
had to consider what Germany should to give money to survivors
Strongly disagree
do to “pay back” the survivors of the of the Holocaust, the fami-
lies of the victims, and Explain your choice:
Holocaust and the families of the vic-
tims. After all, the Nazis had taken all Jewish organizations, even
of their money and property and had though most of the individ-
caused immeasurable suffering. A pro- uals living in Germany
gram was set up to provide money today were small children
(reparations) to those who could or were not alive during
prove they were victims of the Nazis, the Holocaust.
and Germany was supposed to give
back stolen property to its rightful
owners (if they were still alive).

Purpose: To deepen understanding of justice, after the Holocaust and in students’ lives today. • 299
Notes
1
Winston Churchill, Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches (New York: Hyperion, 2003),
300.
2
John Fried, Trial at Nuremberg: Freedom and Responsibility (National Project Center for Film and
Humanities and The Research Foundation of the City University of New York, 1973).
3
“The Impact of Nuremberg on Global Justice and Security: Sovereignty,” Robert H. Jackson Center web-
site, http://www.roberthjackson.org/Man/theman2-6-13/ (accessed January 23, 2009).
4
“Nuremberg Charges,” Truman Library website, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/educ
/blevinsnurembergtrialdefinitions.pdf (accessed January 23, 2009).
5
United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression
(Washington, DC: United States War Department, 1946), 768.
6
Ibid., 699.
7
Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10: October
1946–April 1949 (Washington, DC: United States Government, 1949), 435.
8
Robert E. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1984), 496.
9
Nuremberg Remembered, DVD (New York: Racing Horse Productions, 2005).
10
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Penguin Books, 1992),
248.
11
A. Zvie Bar-On, “Measuring Responsibility,” as quoted in Collective Responsibility: Five Decades of Debate
in Theoretical and Applied Ethics, ed. Larry May and Stacey Hoffman (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, 1991), 258.
12
Christian Pross, Paying for the Past: The Struggle over Reparation for Surviving Victims of the Nazi Terror
(Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998), 22.
13
Neil J. Kritz, Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Foreign Regimes, Vol. 2: Countries
(Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1995), 61.
14
Victoria Barnett, For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1992), 231.
15
Konrad H. Jarausch, After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945–1995 (New York: Oxford University Press,
2006), 271.
16
Nuremberg Remembered.
17
Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for
Redress (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), 79.
18
“Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” Prevent Genocide
International website, http://www.preventgenocide.org/law/convention/text.htm (accessed January 23,
2009).
19
Allida Black, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers: The Human Rights Years, 1945–1948 (New York: Thomson Gale,
2007), 973.
20
Richard Goldstone, For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator, VHS (Brookline: Facing History
and Ourselves National Foundation), 2001.

300
Lesson
Lesson 17
1

To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapters Ten and Eleven
in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Remembrance, Participation, and Reflection

? WHY teach this material?


Rationale
To help students synthesize and retain the ideas they explored in this unit, it is critical
that they have the opportunity to reflect on their own learning—what lessons will they
take away? How should what they have learned, thought, felt, and come to believe influ-
ence their own future decisions and actions? In the final lesson of this unit, students will
address these questions by creating a monument to their learning about Facing History
and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. Before they begin this project, they will
view a documentary about a Children’s Holocaust Memorial built by middle school stu-
dents in Whitwell, Tennessee. This documentary raises questions about the purpose of
memorials, as it provides an example of what it means to “choose to participate.”
Hopefully, through the creation of their memorials and the viewing of their classmates’
memorials, the legacy of this Facing History journey will be found in the thoughtful,
wiser, humane choices made by your students in the future. At the end of this lesson, stu-
dents are invited to share their thoughts on their experience in this unit by writing a let-
ter to the executive director of Facing History, Margot Stern Strom.

LEARNING GOALS
The purpose of this lesson is to help students:
• Reflect on these guiding questions:
• Why do people build memorials?
• Why is remembering the Holocaust important? To whom is it important?
• What have I learned about human behavior and decision-making through study-
ing the rise of the Nazis and the steps leading up to the Holocaust?
• What can the material in this unit teach us about ourselves, the past, and the
world today?
• What does “Facing History and Ourselves” mean to me?
• Practice these interdisciplinary skills:
• Identifying specific information from a documentary
• Interpreting ideas in a film
• Synthesizing past knowledge with new material
• Defining key terms
• Reflecting on past learning
• Prioritizing information to select ideas that are most significant to them
• Expressing ideas creatively and/or artistically
• Deepen understanding of these key terms:
• Memorial
• Reflection
• Choosing to participate

Lesson 17 • 301
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key
terms.)

? WHAT is this lesson about?


As students explored in Lesson 16, judgment and reparations were a crucial component
of the aftermath of the Holocaust. Testimony in the Nuremberg trials provided the world
with clear evidence of the human devastation wrought by the Nazis and preserved this
information in the historical record. In this way, these trials were a step toward another
stage of the postwar process: remembrance.

Philosopher George Santayana declared, “Those who cannot remember the past are con-
demned to repeat it.”1 These words gain heightened significance when juxtaposed to
Hitler’s comments in 1939, the year that the Nazi government began to support and
implement state-sanctioned violence against Jews. As he was planning how to rid
Germany of Jews, he asked, “Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the
Armenians?”2 Hitler was referring to the mass murder of over a million innocent
Armenians by the Turks during World War I. Nearly twenty years after that genocide, the
perpetrators had gone unpunished, the Turkish government denied these murders had
occurred, and this tragic episode was largely forgotten by the media and those outside of
the Armenian community. Thus, one reason it is vital that we remember “the evil in his-
tory” is as a defense against it happening again. As Journalist Judith Miller explains:

Knowing and remembering the evil in history and in each of us might not prevent a
recurrence of genocide. But ignorance of history or the suppression of memory
removes the surest defense we have, however inadequate, against such gigantic cruelty
and indifference to it.3

Agreeing with Miller, most scholars and journalists believe that we must challenge “revi-
sionist” attempts to deny that the Holocaust happened. “If you have a hundred books in
the world today that are all devoted to teaching that the Holocaust did not happen,
imagine the seeds that can fall on unsuspecting minds,” Bill Moyers said in an interview.
“Unless we keep hammering home the irrefutable and indisputable facts of the human
experience, history as it was experienced by people, we are going to find ourselves increas-
ingly unable to draw distinctions between what was and what we think was.”4

The nation of Germany bears a unique challenge and responsibility in remembering its
past. Many perpetrators and bystanders had a blind spot, consciously or unconsciously,
which kept them from recalling events during the Holocaust and the years leading up to
these atrocities. Bini Reichel, born in 1946 in Germany, describes how, in the postwar
years, “amnesia became a contagious national disease, affecting even postwar children. In
this new world . . . there was no room for curious children and adolescents. We post-
poned our questions and finally abandoned them altogether.” In her history books, the
Nazi years were covered in 10 to 15 pages of careful condemnation.5 Yet, marking the for-
tieth anniversary of World War II, West German President Richard von Weizsaecker
warned his citizens against ignoring past history, declaring:

The vast majority of today’s population were either children then or had not been
born. They cannot profess a guilt of their own for crimes they did not commit. . . .

Lesson 17 • 302
But their forefathers have left them a grave legacy. All of us, whether guilty or not,
whether old or young, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences
and liable for it. The young and old generations must and can help each other to
understand why it is vital to keep alive the memories. It is not a case of coming to
terms with the past. That is not possible. It cannot be subsequently modified or made
undone. However, anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.
Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity is prone to new risks of infection.6

In these words, President Richard von Weizsaecker emphasizes the need for Germans to
confront their past without becoming paralyzed with a collective guilt for the crimes of
the Nazi era.

There are many ways individuals, groups, and nations, in Germany and around the
world, have confronted the memory of the Holocaust. Some countries, including
Germany and France, have made Holocaust denial a crime, punishable by a fine and
imprisonment. Governments have also encouraged or mandated education about the
Holocaust. German schools are required to teach their students about the Nazi era and
the Holocaust, and in addition to classroom learning, most German students visit either a
concentration camp or a Holocaust memorial.7 Scholars, journalists, survivors, and novel-
ists have helped the public remember the Holocaust through their writing. When
Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986,
the chairman of the Nobel committee remarked, “Through his books, Elie Weisel has
given us not only an eyewitness account of what happened, but also an analysis of the evil
powers which lay behind the events.”8

Another way that communities around the


world have remembered the Holocaust is
through building memorials and monu-
ments. These buildings are created for many
reasons: to preserve the past, to honor heroes
(such as the resisters of the Warsaw ghetto
uprising or the rescuers of Le Chambon), to
commemorate tragedies, and to inspire
action or reflection. These monuments raise
questions about appropriate ways to study
and remember the Holocaust. To what extent
can any memorial help us truly understand
the experiences of victims of the Holocaust?
How can we symbolize the vast number of
victims while still honoring each unique life
that was lost—the schoolchild, the aunt, the
tailor, the physicist, the sister, etc.? Who
should decide how the Holocaust is repre-
sented and remembered—what symbols are
used, what facts are presented, and whose
stories are told?

After studying the steps leading up to the Holocaust, many


When creating the Children’s Holocaust
students create memorials. This one was created by a student in Memorial, the students and teachers at
Los Angeles. Whitwell Middle School had to answer

Lesson 17 • 303
questions like these. The school’s principal, Linda Hooper, describes Whitwell, Tennessee,
a rural community of less than two thousand people, as lacking diversity. “We are all
alike,” she shared. “When we come up to someone who is not like us, we don’t have a
clue.” To help her students learn about tolerance and diversity, Ms. Hooper and two
teachers thought it would be a good idea for students to study the Holocaust. In response
to learning about this human tragedy, Whitwell students decided to collect six million
paper clips, one paper clip to represent each of the Jewish children, women, and men
murdered by the Nazis. The idea of collecting paper clips came to the students once they
learned that during World War II, many Norwegians wore paper clips on their lapels as a
sign of resistance to the Nazis. To this date, the students have collected over thirty million
paper clips. Eleven million paper clips (representing 6 million Jews and 5 million
Gypsies, homosexuals, and other victims of the Holocaust) are housed in an authentic
German railcar that was used to transport Jews and others to concentration camps. This
railcar is the site for the “Children’s Holocaust Memorial,” a museum and monument to
the victims of the Holocaust.9 The memorial, which was dedicated in 2001, has received
thousands of visitors from all over the world. Whitwell Middle School students conduct
tours of the memorial and guide visitors through learning activities about the Holocaust.

The story of Whitwell Middle School presents an example of a memorial that serves sev-
eral purposes. Displaying the collection of 11 million paper clips is intended to help visi-
tors visualize the extraordinary number of lives lost during the Holocaust. Tours and
learning activities associated with the memorial educate visitors about this history.
Additionally, through the process of creating the memorial, the perspectives of partici-
pants in this project expanded. They received visitors from other countries, including
German journalists Dagmar and Peter Schroeder, and they invited Holocaust survivors to
Whitwell to speak to their community. Whitwell students met with Jewish students from
other parts of the country, including an in-depth experience with Jewish students and
their families in New York City. In the film Paper Clips, David Smith, a Whitwell Middle
School teacher, described how his participation in the Paper Clips project has “made me a
better father, a better teacher, a better man.” “When the project first began, I was preju-
diced,” he shared, “I was . . . quick to judge and quick to stereotype . . . I had stereotyped
children in my classes.”10 Thus, not only does the Whitwell Middle School Paper Clips
project demonstrate how the Holocaust can be remembered, but it also exemplifies how
studying the Holocaust contributes to our own growth as individuals and as communities.

The creation of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial depended on the decisions made by
thousands of other individuals: the Schroeders who publicized the project and obtained
the railcar, the people who sent in paper clips, and the community members who helped
build the memorial. In this way, the Paper Clips Project represents what can happen
when individuals and groups participate in their broader community and world. Facing
History calls the last stage in its journey “choosing to participate,” in recognition of the
hope that after learning about the history of the Holocaust students are better equipped
to make thoughtful choices about how to act as a member of a larger community. The
completion of the Facing History unit is not meant to provide a naïve sense of optimism
for students, where they believe they can change the world overnight. Nor is it meant to
leave students feeling helpless in the face of bullying, oppression, and prejudice. Rather,
after reflecting on their learning in this unit, we hope students have a more confident and
informed sense of the role they can play, however small, in creating more tolerant,
humane communities—in their classrooms, their schools, their homes, their neighbor-
hoods, and in the larger world.

Lesson 17 • 304
In 1938, Hitler told a crowd of thousands of young people, “Never forget that one day
you will rule the world.”11 When making this declaration, he recognized that the youth
shape the future. Hitler’s commitment to controlling the schooling of German students
shows that he understood that how the young are educated influences their beliefs and
attitudes as adult citizens. One of the most significant lessons gained from studying Nazi
Germany is the role civic education can play in preparing youth for their role as members
of society—be it a totalitarian regime or a democratic community. What we teach and
how we teach can foster the skills, habits, and attitudes required for thoughtful, civic
engagement in a diverse nation.

One essential aspect of students’ civic education is instilling the belief that choices mat-
ter—that students’ choices, as young people and as adults, have an impact on larger
society. As journalist Bill Moyers explains:

The problem of democracy is the problem of the individual citizen who takes himself
or herself lightly historically. . . . By that I mean if you do not believe that you can
make a difference, you’re not going to try to make a difference, you’re not going to try
to matter, and you will leave it to someone else who may or may not do what is in the
best interest of your values or of democracy’s values.12

Through helping students consider the significance of the choices made by ordinary
people—people like you and me—during and leading up to the Holocaust, students will
hopefully learn to see their own choices as significant. In the words of Moyers, they will
not take themselves “lightly,” but will appreciate how their choices matter to themselves
and to the larger society. The words of Robert F. Kennedy articulate this idea best: Each
time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against
injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.13

Related readings in
Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
“Memorials and Monuments,” pp. 514–15
“In Commemoration,” pp. 515–18

? HOW can we help students engage with this material?


Duration: three class periods
Suggestion for how to divide this lesson over three class periods: We suggest that students
spend the first day doing the opener activity, watching Paper Clips, and beginning to plan
their memorial. Students build their memorials during the second day, completing them
for homework if necessary. During the third day, students share their memorials and do
the follow-through activity. If you only have two days for this lesson, students can work
on their memorials for homework, rather than during class time.

Materials
Paper Clips documentary (running time is approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes; we
have suggested using three excerpts of this film that total about 18 minutes of
viewing time)
Handout 1: Paper Clips comprehension questions
Handout 2: Creating a memorial

Lesson 17 • 305
Handout 3: Writing a found poem
Handout 4: Found poem example

For additional information about the Children’s Holocaust Memorial and the Paper Clips
Project, refer to these websites: www.paperclipsmovie.com and www.whitwellmiddle
school.org.

Opener
Before students learn about how middle school students in Whitwell, Tennessee,
responded as they learned about the history of the Holocaust, give students the opportu-
nity to reflect on their own experience as students of this history. You might begin class
with 10 minutes of silent writing on one of the following prompts:

• Should students study this history? Why or why not?


• What do you think are the most important ideas you will remember from this unit?
• What has this unit helped you better understand about human behavior—about
why people make certain choices about how to think and act?
• What has this unit helped you better understand about yourself and your world?

You could also have students respond to these questions using the Graffiti Board teaching
strategy.

Main Activities

Directions for Using the Graffiti Board Teaching Strategy

Step One: Setting up the graffiti board


There are two options for how to set up the room:
Option #1: Flip chart paper or newsprint can be taped to the walls, covering at least one wall
as much as possible.
Option #2: Have a row of tables with the paper covering their surfaces laid out in the room.
Write questions on the papers that you think will stimulate students’ thinking about their
learning in this unit. In addition to your own questions, you might include all or some of the
questions from the list above. Each student should be given a marker.

Step Two: Reactions


Inform students that they are to remain silent during this activity. When they are ready, they
can respond to the questions on the graffiti board. Students may not get up right away. They
may choose to write or draw in their journals first. Some teachers require every student to put
something on the boards.

Step Three: Reflections


After everyone who wants to (or is required to) has written on the boards, the group, still in
silence, is asked to come up to the boards and read what has been written. An option is to
invite students to keep writing, to respond to what they see.

Step Five: Debrief


The last step is to debrief what they see on the graffiti board. You might ask students to iden-
tify themes or particular comments that surprised them or interested them.

Lesson 17 • 306
The purpose of this lesson is to help students reflect on their learning in this unit
through the creation of a memorial that represents a message, inspired by the material in
this unit that is important to them. Many of the messages students take away from a
study of the Holocaust and human behavior relate to their own decision-making and
capacity to “choose to participate.” The film Paper Clips presents an example of both a
memorial and a “choosing to participate” story. We suggest showing excerpts from this
film to help students think more deeply about the purpose of memorials and the oppor-
tunities for civic participation, even for middle school students. Handout 1 includes com-
prehension questions related to three excerpts. As students watch these excerpts, they can
answer the questions on handout 1. Between each excerpt, you can also give students the
opportunity to discuss questions raised by the film. The viewing guide below includes
sample questions. Most likely, you will have time to discuss one or two questions per
excerpt. You can select the question for discussion, or you can distribute the viewing
guide to students. In discussion groups of four to six, students can select which question
or questions they will discuss.

Paper Clips Viewing Guide

(Note: The total viewing time of all three excerpts is approximately 18 minutes.)

Excerpt 1 (0:33–8:54): This clip introduces the viewer to the Whitwell community and
explains how the Paper Clips Project began.

Suggested discussion or journal questions:


• In the film, the principal, Linda Hooper, said she wanted the students to work on a project
that would focus on tolerance and diversity. Do you think she made a wise choice selecting
the Holocaust to address these goals? Why or why not? In what ways, if any, can a study of
the Holocaust help students better understand tolerance and diversity?
• In this film clip, one of the teachers tells her students, “Hitler murdered six million Jewish
people.” Who do you think was responsible for murdering all six million Jewish victims of
the Holocaust? If you were teaching a group of middle school students, how would you
express in one sentence what happened during the Holocaust?
• Whitwell Middle School students were inspired to collect paper clips when they learned
how wearing a paper clip became a silent form of protest by Norwegians after Germany
occupied their country during World War II. Would you consider the Norwegians’ wearing
of paper clips to be an act of resistance? Why or why not? What do you think they hoped
to achieve by wearing paper clips on their lapels? What is the purpose of a “silent form of
protest” like the wearing of a symbol?
• Whitwell Middle school students decided to collect six million paper clips as a way to better
understand and represent the horrors of the Holocaust. What do you think of their decision
to collect paper clips from people around the world? What do you think they hoped to
achieve with this project? What are other things that could be done to help remember the
victims of the Holocaust?

[Note: In the minutes between excerpt 1 and excerpt 2, the German journalists Dagmar and
Peter Schroeder learn about the Paper Clips Project and then take a trip to Whitwell to find
out more about it. The Schroeders become deeply involved in this project, writing stories
about it for German newspapers.]

Lesson 17 • 307
Excerpt 2 (44:06–48:20): This clip shows the origins of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial,
including the acquisition of the railcar that would be used to house the memorial and the par-
ticipation of community members in developing the memorial.

Suggested discussion or journal questions:


• Do you think that a railcar used to transport victims to concentration camps is an appropri-
ate place for a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust? Why or why not?
• Why do you think that two German journalists who were born during World War II would
be interested in this project? Why might they go through such great efforts to help the stu-
dents at Whitwell Middle School?
• Whitwell Middle School was able to get the railcar for free. The Schroeders raised money in
Germany to purchase the railcar. The Germans shipped the railcar to Baltimore, Maryland,
free of charge. Then the port in Baltimore also waived their shipping fees, as did the train
company that transported the railcar to Whitwell, Tennessee. Why do you think so many
people donated money or time to help Whitwell get the railcar for their memorial?
• Once the Whitwell community learned that they were getting a railcar, many people, stu-
dents and adults alike, volunteered to help build the memorial. What do you think moti-
vated people to get involved? Has anything ever motivated members of your community to
work together to achieve a common goal? What do you think could inspire members of
your community to work together to achieve a common goal?

Excerpt 3 (1:14:20–1:18:44): The final four minutes of the film shows the finished Children’s
Holocaust Memorial and presents testimony from a Holocaust survivor and Whitwell Middle
School students describing the impact this memorial, and the process of creating it, has had on
them.

Suggested discussion or journal questions:


• What are the different purposes of memorials? Why do people build them? What do you
think is the purpose of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial?
• What is the significance of the fact that students are the teachers—that they lead the tours
through the memorial? What purpose is achieved by having students as the teachers, as
opposed to having adults as the teachers?
• What do you think is the impact of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial on the students
who participated in the project, on the Whitwell community, and on the thousands of peo-
ple who tour the exhibit or watch this film?
• What does the phrase “choosing to participate” mean to you? What does this film teach us
about “choosing to participate”?

After viewing and discussing Paper Clips, students can begin creating their own memorial.
As part of introducing this assignment, you might want to review the meaning of the
word “memorial.” Any act or product that strives to remember an event, idea, or person
might be considered a memorial. While Whitwell Middle School students created a
memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, for this assignment, we suggest students create
a memorial to their own learning in this unit. Looking over the past five weeks, what do
students hope to remember? What ideas are most important to them? Students’ memori-
als should represent their answers to these questions.

Lesson 17 • 308
Handout 2 is a worksheet designed to help students plan their memorial. Before students
begin planning, you can brainstorm possible themes or messages students might represent
in their work. Many middle school students gravitate toward concrete ideas, such as a
memorial to children who died in the Holocaust or a monument to commemorate the
upstanders who rescued victims. Encourage students to think about not only the specific
historical facts and stories they explored in this unit, but also the concepts and questions
that they addressed—the ideas that relate not only to understanding the past, but also to
understanding our lives today. For example, students’ memorials could express a warning
about falling prey to propaganda, or a memorial could convey the idea that it is wrong to
label others. For inspiration, students can review their responses on the graffiti board
from the opening activity. They can also review their journals and any artifacts from the
unit in the classroom, such as a word wall.

Once students have brainstormed a list of possible themes or messages that they could
represent, then spend a few minutes listing the materials they could realistically use given
how much time they have to work on this project. Examples of memorials students have
created include the following: poems, children’s books, sculptures (with clay, paper, or
found objects), drawings, paintings, songs, short stories, web pages, power point presenta-
tions, comics, one-act plays, community service projects, and acts of kindness and
responsibility. If students are having a difficult time coming up with an idea, you can
suggest that they write a found poem. Handout 3 provides directions for writing a found
poem. Alternatively, you could have all students write a found poem as their memorial to
their learning in this unit.

Follow-Through (in class or at home)


Give students the opportunity to share their memorials with their classmates. You can
give each student a few minutes to present their memorial to the class. Or students can
set up an exhibit in the classroom showcasing their memorials. As students view the
exhibit, they can respond to prompts such as:

A memorial I found particularly interesting is ___________________________


because _______________________________________________________.
A memorial that helped me think of something in a new way is _____________
because _______________________________________________________.
A memorial that expressed an idea I agree with is ________________________
because _______________________________________________________.

Volunteers can share their responses to these statements with the whole group.
Alternatively, after everyone has had time to tour the exhibit, each student could be given
a minute or two to say something positive about a particular memorial. They might men-
tion a question that the memorial raised for them or how the memorial confirmed one of
their values or beliefs. To ensure that everyone’s memorial is recognized, you could assign
each student a memorial to celebrate. (You can make these assignments by having stu-
dents draw names from a hat.)

As a final reflection, you might have students end this unit in a similar way to how they
began it: by thinking about the meaning of the words “Facing History and Ourselves.”

Lesson 17 • 309
First, ask students to identify a specific moment in this unit when they feel like they
faced history and a moment when they feel they faced something familiar from their own
life. (This could be the same moment.) Allow volunteers to share these moments with the
class. Other questions you can raise with students include: What does “Facing History
and Ourselves” mean? Do you think this is a good name for this unit? Why or why not?
How can studying the past help you better understand yourself and the world today?

Students could also express their thoughts about this unit in a letter that they write to
Margot Stern Strom, founder and executive director of Facing History and Ourselves.
Ms. Strom grew up in Memphis and she developed the resource book Facing History and
Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior when she was a middle school teacher in
Massachusetts. In their letters, students can share information such as:

• Something important they hope to remember from this unit


• A question that is still on their mind at the end of this unit
• Advice for teachers using this material
• What the phrase “Facing History and Ourselves” means to them

Margot Stern Strom’s address is 16 Hurd Road, Brookline, MA 02445.

Assessment(s)
• The memorials can be evaluated for quality and content. Teachers often ask stu-
dents to write a brief artist’s statement that explains the decisions they made when
creating their memorial. Questions students can address in their artist’s statement
include:
—What is the message of your memorial? Why is this message meaningful to you?
—Who is the audience for your memorial? Why did you select this audience?
—Explain two or three specific decisions you made to help express this message to
this audience.
—What did you learn from creating this memorial?

• Students can turn in an exit card with their responses to the statements listed in the
follow-through acti