Teacher's Guide: Hints for the Active Learning Questions
For background on the rise of Nazism, students should read the interview with historian Martin Kitchen. Students may also want to consult this timeline on a PBS site about Auschwitz for information on their assigned items.
In preparing their memos, students should keep in mind that they would not have known about any events that occurred after January 1, 1939. Students should include information not only about the Nazi government (such as its violence against German Jews and other aggressive acts), but also about the United States. For example, do the economic problems posed by the Great Depression mean the United States should not intervene against Germany, or does the United States' tradition of promoting freedom mean the United States should intervene? Also, students may want to review U.S. news reports concerning the Nazis to see how the Nazis were being depicted in the American press.
For further background, students may want to read this op-ed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the information challenges the United States faces in the war on terror.
You may want to broaden this activity to include the issue of Internet access in school libraries. This fact sheet from the Federal Communications Commission describes the Children's Internet Protection Act, which affects the information available through school computers.
You may want to follow up this activity by reviewing the list of the most successful films of the Nazi years as a class. How do these films appear to differ from the propaganda films you reviewed earlier? How might the ongoing war have contributed to these films' popularity?
Before starting this activity, you may want to discuss as a class the definition of "propaganda." In 1934 Goebbels stated, "Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership."
Encourage students to read Escape from Freedom to learn more about Fromm's theories.
To spark discussion on this topic, you might want to have students read this 1943 speech by Himmler, in which he discusses the challenge of remaining a "decent" person while murdering Jews.