Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extension -- Additional activities
The teacher will need to do the following before beginning this lesson.
View the video BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR.
Review the online materials from the Web links bookmarked below. If necessary, print out and photocopy student copies of the online material.
- BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR
- Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
- Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
- Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows¨ 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all the links. Preview all Web sites and videos before presenting them to your class.
Berga: Soldiers of Another War
This companion Web site to the documentary film features in-depth profiles of Berga survivors, maps, timelines, and other interactive features and resources that bring the Berga story to life.
Reference Guide to the Geneva Conventions (Society of Professional Journalists)
This site contains the texts of the current Geneva Convention, background and historical information, and links to online and offline resources.
Geneva Convention of 1929 (Avalon Project, Yale Law School)
This Web site contains the complete and official version of the 1929 Geneva Convention relating to the treatment of prisoners of war. It was this Convention that was in force during World War II.
Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals: Murder and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners of War (Avalon Project, Yale Law School)
This section of the judgment of the military tribunal at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials concerns the treatment of prisoners of war. The Avalon site has a huge collection of materials from the War Crimes trials.
(one class period)
1. The Geneva Convention and other international agreements attempted to create international standards for the treatment of enemy prisoners of war, and tried to address the situations that might arise regarding the treatment of POWs. Assuming that your students are unfamiliar with the Geneva Convention, have them create their own list of standards. Distribute the handout Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs, which includes the following questions for consideration:
2. Ask your students to share the rights and protections that they have enumerated on their Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs with the rest of the class. From their responses, compile a composite list of rights and protections on the blackboard, under the heading "Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs." Discuss with your class how these might be grouped into specific categories (i.e., you may have several items that could be listed under "Disciplining and Punishing POWs.")
- What issues will you need to consider in your Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs, beginning from the original taking of prisoners until their eventual release?
- What rights or protections should be given to enemy prisoners of war?
- Why would warring nations feel obligated to adhere to the Geneva Convention in their treatment of enemy prisoners? (for example: fear of post-war retribution, fear of causing similar treatment of its soldiers held prisoner by enemy nations, fear of criticism on the home front.)
- How might violations of the Geneva Convention be handled? (for example, by the United Nations)
- What controversies have arisen over the treatment of enemy prisoners of war in more recent conflicts? (for example, Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, POWs held in Iraq)
3. Distribute copies of the handout Outline of the 1929 Geneva Convention [link to second organizer] to your students. Explain to them that the entire 1929 Geneva Convention consists of 97 Articles organized under eight separate TITLES (the handout only considers the first 80 Articles). Have them study the outline and consider the following questions:
4. Print out a copy of the 1929 Geneva Convention from Yale Law Schools Avalon Project Web site. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/geneva02.htm The lesson will focus on the first 80 Articles in TITLES I-VI, which should be distributed among your students. Allow your students 10 minutes to carefully read over their set of Articles.
The Outline is organized into TITLES, SECTIONS, and CHAPTERS. How is this similar to creating an outline for a student paper? Which are the broadest categories? Which are the narrowest categories?
- What TITLE are most of the Articles grouped under?
- How do the subject headings in the 1929 Geneva Convention Outline compare with the Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs list created by the class? Are there any similarities or differences?
5. Ask you students to explain, briefly and in their own words, the Articles they've read. Note when an article corresponds to or diverges from the Articles proposed in the classroom's own Standards for the Treatment of Enemy POWs list.
(one to two class periods)
1. The class period will be spent viewing BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR. Each student will be responsible for identifying instances in which the German officers in charge of Stalag IX-B and Berga were either in compliance with or abrogated the 80 articles of the 1929 Geneva Convention discussed in the previous section. Each student should be responsible for monitoring several of the 80 articles. Students can use the handout Berga and the Laws of War [link to organizer] to take notes as they view the documentary.
2. Following the film, have students present instances in which the Germans at Stalag IX-B and Berga broke the articles set forth in the 1929 Geneva Convention.
(one class period)
Following World War II, Allied forces issued indictments against leaders of the Nazi party for the systematic murder of millions of people and for planning and carrying out the war in Europe. The defendants were charged with both "war crimes," which included the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, and "crimes against humanity," which included the activities carried out in death camps, concentration camps, and the organized murders of civilians. In this unit, students will read the judgment at Nuremberg regarding the "Murder and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners of War."
1. Download and print out the Judgment at Nuremberg regarding the "Murder and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners of War." The document, which runs approximately 5 pages, is one section of the Judgment at Nuremberg and is on Yale Law School's Avalon Project Web site. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/judwarcr.htm#prisoners
2. Divide your classroom into groups of five students each, and provide each of the groups with a copy of the "Murder and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners of War" document. The document does not specifically refer to Berga, but should be used as a model. Using the information gathered in the previous lesson unit, have these student groups prepare their own War Crimes Judgment for actions committed by the Nazis at Stalag IX-B, Berga, and other episodes documented in BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR.
3. Have each group present their findings to the class.
1. In 1949 the Geneva Convention was revised again, reflecting conditions which had arose during World War II. In 1977 two new Protocols were added to the 1949 Geneva Convention. They are accessible online at
Compare the Geneva Convention of 1949 to that of 1929.
2. "The only way we're going to bring these transgressors to justice is to have some justice to bring them to. If we are to have a lasting peace in the world, we are going to have to have some system of international law and order. We're going to have to yield some sovereignty to do that; all the nations of the world will have to." -- Walter Cronkite
- What differences can you find between the two documents?
- What might have prompted the changes made in the 1949 Geneva Convention?
- What conditions might have prompted the addition of the two new protocols in 1977?
Listen to IN SEARCH OF JUSTICE, a one hour documentary on the development of an international system of human rights protection. Produced for Public Radio International, the documentary is available online at http://www.humanmedia.org/globaljustice.htm. The first half of the program reports on current U.N. war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and features Walter Cronkite recalling his coverage of the Nuremberg war crimes trial after World War II. The second half of the program features an interview with Benjamin Ferencz, a former prosecutor at Nuremberg and a life-long human rights activist. Consider how the historical events at Nuremberg continue to have repercussions to this day.