Hitler and the Nazi Party
As a result of this lesson, students will:
- Explain how and why the Nazis gained power.
- Understand the basic tenets of Nazi ideology.
- Recognize rhetorical clichés and political propaganda.
Key Glossary Terms:
The following glossary terms are used in Lesson 6.
Reading 6A, "The Beliefs of the Nazi Party"
Reading 6B, "The Fuehrer Speaks"
Reading: Reading 6A, "The Beliefs of
the Nazi Party" (10 minutes)
- Check to see that students have completed the assignment before discussing
their responses to the question.
NOTE TO TEACHER: You should be alert to the potential attraction of Nazi
propaganda. Should students be drawn to acceptance of racist ideas, you should
confront and question that acceptance.
- Discuss student responses to the question preceding the reading.
- Choose two beliefs of the Nazi Party and explain why they appealed to
Suggestions for discussion:
- Superiority. The Nazi philosophy was based on the idea of exclusiveness.
If one was a member of the party, he (or she, although women were seen as
less significant than men) was part of an exclusive, superior group. The
concept of racial selection attracted many people who had relatively low
status and were downtrodden-the displaced of modern society.
- Return to traditional values. The Nazis constantly portrayed themselves
as the bearers of the traditional virtues of pre-modern, even medieval society.
Thus, women were to be homemakers and caretakers of children; children were
to be seen and not heard and, most importantly, were to be obedient; men
were to be hard workers, quiet, strong willed, persevering and vigorous
defenders of the Fatherland and all the good qualities for which it stood.
Thus, life would gain more structure. There would be fewer decisions to
be made. The Nazis offered a much less complicated world than what bombarded
Germans in the 1920s and 1930s.
- Restoration of national pride. Many Germans, humiliated by defeat in World
War I, were attracted to his element of Nazi ideology. This was based on
the rejection of the Versailles Treaty and the attainment of revenge for
defeat in World War I.
- Persecution of Jews. State authorities persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany.
State-ordained discrimination allowed those who were against Jews to persecute
them with the approval of those in authority and, thus, avoid responsibility.
The simplest explanation for the ills of society and individuals was the
scapegoat. The Nazis offered Jews as scapegoats, responsible for everything
considered wrong with the modern world.
NOTE TO TEACHER: Nazism was not only anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism was
at the heart of the Nazi philosophy, but there were many who became Nazis
who were not anti-Semites. Thus, the strong anti-Communists, the Nationalists,
and the Conservatives longing for a simpler time, could subscribe to different
aspects of the Nazi creed. Drawn in, many people became "passive"
anti-Semites, that is, they allowed the persecution of the Jews because it
was not their concern.
Reading: Reading 6B, Dramatization of "The
Fuehrer Speaks" (35 minutes)
Teacher should set the stage:
- Have students put books away in order to observe the dramatization.
- Students should be instructed to listen attentively to speakers and watch
carefully as the play unfolds.
- If possible, play a recording of one of Wagner's overtures (Die Meistersinger
- Have a podium for the reading of Hitler's speech. (Other props and/or
costumes may be added at the discretion of the teacher.)
- For the news analysis: Provide glasses of water, note pads and microphone
props to create the atmosphere of a news program.
Inform students that the descriptions of the rally are based on first-hand
observations recorded by William Shirer in his Berlin Diary (1936)
and Alfonse Heck's recollections of his years in the Hitler Youth in A
Child of Hitler (1983). Hitler's speech is composed of a series of
written and/or spoken statements by Hitler from 1923-1941, and the stage directions
are derived from gestures he commonly made during his speeches.
NOTE TO TEACHER: The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the attraction
of Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930s. Emphasis should be placed on the
method of speaking, as it becomes more important than what is said. This point
is highlighted by the final quote from the news analysis: "Man's-or
at least the German's-critical faculty is swept away at such moments."
- Have students write their responses to the following questions regarding
"The Fuehrer Speaks," Reading 6B.
- How did you react to the rally and Hitler's speech? Did you have
any reactions to the dramatization of the Nazi rally and Hitler's
speech that help you understand how Germans actually reacted to such rallies
and speeches in the 1930s? If yes, describe your reactions. If no, explain
why you think you did not respond the way many Germans did in the 1930s.
- Write a paragraph summarizing the concerns of the American journalists.
Begin by commenting on the final quote Edward R. Murrow borrows from William
Shirer: "Man's-or at least the German's-critical faculty
is swept away at such moments."
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