Teacher's Guide: Master Race

For many Germans, Nazism seems to bring nothing but promise after a humbling defeat in World War I and economic depression. But Nazism's racial ideology produces unspeakable terror and atrocities that destroy the lives of millions.

Unit Themes and Topics:
anti-Semitism and ethnic hatred
Hitler's rise to power
human rights and endurance
World War II

Connections Across History
connection: when: where: program:
antiwar efforts 1919-1935 France, Germany Great Britain, United States "Lost Peace"
Nazi propaganda at the Olympics 1936 Germany "Sporting Fever"
World War II 1939-1945 Western and Eastern Europe, United States "Total War"

Note to Teachers: This program contains graphic scenes and emotionally powerful material that raise sensitive issues. We recommend that you preview the program before using it in the classroom.

Horst Slesina
(former member of the Nazi propaganda ministry, Germany)

"It was a process which developed slowly but surely and took over whole sections of the population who had never thought about it before. A lot of them just talked about it, not necessarily believing it. But gradually their brains became fogged, and they started to say, 'The Jews are our misfortune.'"
photographic portrait of Horst Slesina


Before Watching

1. Explain that the program traces the rise of ethnic hatred and the myth of the master race in Nazi Germany. Divide the class into two groups. As students watch the program, have one group write down the turning points in Hitler's foreign policy and the other group write down the turning points in Hitler's policies toward the Jews and other groups.

2. In the program Norbert Lopper says, "There had always been anti-Semitism in Vienna and in Austria long before 1938. This was nothing new. But then it became official and that made it much worse." Ask students to consider what happens when ethnic hated is sanctioned by the government.

After Watching

1. What were important turning points in Hitler's foreign policy and in his policies toward Jews and other groups? How did the escalation toward war fuel the escalation of ethnic hatred

2. In his quotation, how does Horst Slesina seek to explain the rapid growth of German anti-Semitism? How do other people in the program explain why they supported the Nazis? How did ordinary people's decisions and actions support the Holocaust?


Have students write journal entries to reflect on their emotional response to the program. Ask students to include the events or speakers in the program that affected them the most and to explain why. Then ask them to imagine what they would say if they met one of the speakers. What questions would they ask?

Have students locate and read first-hand accounts of those who lived through Kristallnacht. Why was this such a turning point in the rise of Nazism? What was the reaction in Europe and America? Ask students to write an editorial or newspaper article describing what happened.

FOCUS: A Policy of Hatred

The following lesson focuses on a program segment about the early days of Nazi rule. People who were children and young adults in 1930s Germany explain how the propaganda, policies, and racial myths of Nazism affected their lives.

Program Segment
approximately 24 minutes

The beginning of the program

Horst Slesina says, "They started to say, 'The Jews are our misfortune.'"


Before Watching

1. As students watch the program segment, have them take notes on how Hitler's policies, ideology, and strategies affected different people's perspectives.

After Watching

1. How did Hitler's ideas and policies affect how many Germans thought about themselves and others? How did their beliefs affect their behavior?

2. How did Nazis define the ideal German? What images did they use to create stereotypes of Jews? How did stereotyping Jews help the Nazis create a German identity?

3. Why did the Nazis sponsor youth activities such as the May Day festival? What were other ways Nazis sought to broaden support for Nazism? In what ways did they try to stifle opposition?

4. How are American ideas about what makes Americans special similar to or different from Nazi ideas about what made Germans special? Have these ideas ever been harmful to others in the United States? If so, how?


Have students explore anti-Semitism in the restrictive immigration laws America passed in 1924. First have students research the government's arguments for restricting immigration into the United States from southern and eastern Europe in the 1920s. Ask students to include in their investigation public opinion on the restrictions. How did these laws reflect attitudes towards the Jews? Then, as a class, create a list of the arguments. Compare the arguments to Nazi racial ideologies and the role of public opinion in accepting laws passed against the Jews in Germany. What were the short-range and long-range effects of these laws? Discuss the similarities and differences between how the United States in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s interpreted the relationship between race and nationhood.

Ask students to collect recent news articles on the rise of neo-Nazi movements in different countries, such as Germany, Great Britain, France, and the United States. Brainstorm a list of the factors that led to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. Discuss which of these or other factors contribute to the rise of neo-Nazi movements today.

About participating in the May Day activities, Herta Grabarz says, "We took part because everybody did. We didn't want to be left behind, so we went along with it." Ask students to reflect on how her description compares with "peer pressure" or other societal pressures they may have experienced. Have them write a brief comparison.

Program Summary

Use the following information to assist in finding specific segments within the program. The times listed on the left indicate minutes into the program.

1:20 Berlin, 1933: National socialists come to power. How and why Hitler rose to power.

6:30 Hitler gives the employed jobs by launching public works projects.

8:20 The use of radio for Nazi propaganda.

10:10 Use of propaganda to promote anti-semitism.

12:40 The first official movement against Jews. Nationwide boycott of Jewish-owned businesses.

13:30 Nazi's justification for anti-semitism.

14:20 The development of the SS.

18:00 Other methods of developing master race German propaganda (e.g., Faith and Beauty scheme, May Day Festival, Hitler Youth).

21:10 State-mandated anti-semitism supported by propaganda.

24:00 Nazi discrimination of gypsies.

26:30 Nazi discrimination of mentally ill.

28:10 Germany absorbs Austria in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. State-mandated anti-semitism spread to Austria.

30:20 Spread of German territory with annexing of the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia in January, 1939. Where possible, Jews start to emigrate.

31:40 WWII begins with invasion of Poland. "Racial war" escalates against Jews, mentally ill, and handicapped.

35:50 Jewish Warsaw ghetto.

38:20 December, 1941: Methods of killing Jews.

43:30 Deportation of Jews to concentration camps. Methods used for extermination

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