Choose your own Adventure: Weimar Germany

by

A colleague of mine at FHS had used a Choose Your Own Adventure style story to explore the Russian Revolution and the choices people made that led them to join the Bolsheviks or not.  I was inspired to write my own Choose Your Own Adventure about 1930s Germany, an era that I love studying and teaching.

I wanted to show how different elements in people’s lives (economics, social pressure, family pressure, etc) could cause people to become involved with the National Socialists and how it seemed pretty harmless at first.  Many of the elements of the story are inspired by Gisela Heidenreich’s “Das Endlose Jahr” which tells her life story and explains her mother’s involvement with the Nazis.  Other elements are based on works of fiction from that era such as “Trummlerbub unter’m Hakenkreuz” which dramatized the Hitler Youth, and “Das kunstseidene Maedchen” which described a young woman living in the city in the 1920s.

Feel free to use this story with students.  I printed out class copies for students to read and then return to me rather than printing out 100+ copies for each students to keep one.  If you use this with your students, please credit my authorship.  Thanks.  :-)

Choose your own Adventure: Weimar Germany, 1933

By Whitney Nielsen

You are Gisela Schneider, a 17 year-old girl living in Munich, a city in southern Germany.  You live with your parents and two younger sisters, but times are tough.  Your father has been fired from his job as a train conductor and has been looking for a job for months.  Your mother has been washing other people’s laundry to earn money for the family, but it is barely enough to pay the rent and buy bread.

You want to graduate from high school and get a modern job, perhaps being a stenographer or a typist, but your family cannot afford to pay for the abitur, the test you need to take to earn your diploma.

You decide to try to get a part-time job to help support your family, and maybe pay for the abitur exam.  You spend all afternoon walking from shop to shop, applying for jobs.  You have to walk because you cannot afford to ride the streetcar.  No one seems to be hiring.  You return home, desperate.

Your uncle comes to visit your family.  He suggests that you apply for a job as a part-time secretary at the military academy he teaches at, which is run by the National Socialist Party.  He says you can work after school and on the weekends, typing and keeping records for the school.  You’re not sure you want to work at a military academy—let alone run by the Nazis—but you don’t seem to have many other options.  Will you take the job?

If you will take the job, turn to page 2.

If you don’t want the job, turn to page 3.

(Page 2)

You accept the job your uncle offered you at the military academy.  The school is meant to train young men, age 15 to 19, to prepare them for military life.  Most of the boys hope to become officers in the Schutzstaffel (or the SS, Hitler’s elite Nazi troops).

Your job is fairly easy—you mostly type up documents for the school administrators and help process applications for the school.  You enjoy earning money to help your family, and in a few months you may be able to earn money to take the abitur.

One young man at the academy—Hans—seems to stop by your office a lot, running errands for his teachers or simply when he has time.  He is very cute and you love his deep blue eyes.

One day he tells you about a weekend field trip the school is planning to go to Berlin for a political rally.  They are going with a local girls’ school, so you could stay with the girls in their rooms.  You aren’t much into politics, but the rally should only take a few hours, so you could spend the rest of the weekend sightseeing in the city, and you really want to spend some time getting to know Hans.  The trip would also be paid for by the school, and you’ve never been to Berlin.  Will you go to the rally?

If you want to go to the rally in Berlin, turn to page 4.

If you won’t go to the rally in Berlin, turn to page 5.

(Page 3)

You do not take the job at the military academy, and continue looking for a job.  Day after day, you have no luck.

With your family’s meager income, there isn’t much for you to do for fun.  You cannot afford to go to the movies, buy new books, or go to a café with your friends.  You spend a lot of time, helping your mother wash other people’s laundry for money.  Your father is mostly at home, reading the paper to look for jobs, feeling guilty that his wife and daughter have to work.

Your neighbor, Marta, tells you about a club she joined called the League of German Girls.  The girls met every week to play ball, go hiking in the parks outside the city, sing songs and learn about sewing and fashion design.  They also went on special trips that didn’t cost girls’ families anything, such as camping trips and sight-seeing tours in the city.  In three weeks, they’re all going on a trip to go skiing in the Alps!  This sounds too good to be true!  Marta says many other girls from your neighborhood have joined as well, and your sisters can join too if they want to.  Will you join the League of German Girls?

If you want to join the League of German Girls, go to page 6.

It you don’t want to join the League of German Girls, go to page 7.

(page 4)

You ask your parents for permission and they allow you to go on the trip to Berlin with Hans and the students of the military academy and the girls’ school.  You make a lot of new friends on the train and have fun staying with the girls in the youth hostel, an inexpensive hotel for young people.  You stay up late the first night, telling stories and talking about the boys from the academy.

The next day, the chaperones let the students explore downtown Berlin until the rally that afternoon.  You, Hans, and your new friends look in the luxurious shop windows on Under den Linden, walk around Potsdammer Platz, and visit the Brandenburg Gate.  Berlin is a beautiful city and even though you live in a fairly big city, Berlin is more than you had ever imagined.

That evening you get on a train with the students and your chaperones to go to the site of the rally, just outside the city.  You learn that Adolf Hitler will speak tonight.  The site of the rally is amazing.  A huge stage was set up, covered in red banners and black and white swastikas.  Thousands of seat face the stage, lit by enormous torches.  Thousands of young people are already there, singing patriotic songs and waiting for their führer, or leader, to speak.

When Hitler walks on the stage, accompanied by a brass band playing the national anthem, everyone rises to their feet and cheers.  You are swept up in the emotion.  You’ve never seen anyone famous in person before, let alone the Chancellor of Germany.

His speech is about how important young people are to the future.  He warns them to live honorable lives, working hard and protecting the nation from their enemies: the communists.  He warns you of how they seduce young people to join their organization and corrupt their minds with lies.  He explains how communism caused the economic crisis, and he asks all young people there to pledge to protect their country from this outside threat.  You don’t know much about economics, but you look over at Hans and he is cheering the führer.  Hitler asks everyone there who is not yet in the National Socialist Youth Organizations, the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, to join to help their cause.  Will you join?

Join the League of German Girls?  Go to page 6.

Don’t join the League of German Girls: go to page 7.

(page 5)

You don’t go to the rally with Hans, so you don’t have anything to do this weekend.  With your family’s meager income, you can’t afford to do anything around town.  You want to go to the movies, buy new books, or go to a café with your friends, but it costs too much money.  You time helping your mother wash other people’s laundry for money.  Your father is mostly at home, reading the paper to look for jobs, feeling guilty that his wife and daughter have to work.

Your neighbor, Marta, tells you about a club she joined called the League of German Girls.  The girls met every week to play ball, go hiking in the parks outside the city, sing songs and learn about sewing and fashion design.  They also went on special trips that didn’t cost girls’ families anything, such as camping trips and sight-seeing tours in the city.  In three weeks, they’re all going on a trip to go skiing in the Alps!  This sounds too good to be true!  Marta says many other girls from your neighborhood have joined as well, and your sisters can join too if they want to.  Will you join the League of German Girls?

If you want to join the League of German Girls, go to page 6.

It you don’t want to join the League of German Girls, go to page 7.

(page 6)

You decided to join the League of German Girls.  There are dozens of girls you know from school at the meeting.  One of the girl’s mothers hosted the meeting at her home and taught the girls how to crochet flowers out of yarn to decorate sweaters or hats.  Yours turned out very pretty and your friends were impressed at how quickly you learned.

The girls also made plans for a hiking trip at Staffelberg, a small mountain several hours away in another city.  It would be fun to get away from dull family life for a while and have a little adventure.

At the end of the meeting one of the older girls made a speech about racial purity and why it’s important that blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan girls only married other Aryans.  She said that starting now none of us could date boys who didn’t fit this ideal of racial purity.

You’re not sure if you believe in everything they’re teaching you in the League of German Girls, but you’re not sure if it’s worth losing this great opportunity to spend time with your friends, go on trips, and learn new skills, all for free!  Leaving the League would mean going back to your dull, poor life, helping your mother wash laundry.

You stay in the League of German Girls: go to page 8

You decide to leave the group: go to page 9

(page 7)

You do not join the League of German Girls.  It is getting even closer to time to take the abitur exam, but your family still cannot afford to pay for it.  You know you’re smart enough, but you won’t be able to go to university or get a good job without your abitur certificate.

Your father keeps looking for jobs, but is still having difficulty.  One day your aunt’s family from Nuremberg comes to visit.  Your uncle, Thomas, tells your father he might be able to get him a job as a manger at his company, but that the boss is a big believer in National Socialism, so he only hires National Socialists.  Your father will have to join the Nazi Party, and you and your sisters will have to join the League of German Girls to show how committed you are to the Party.

If your dad gets this job, your family will have to move, but it will mean that you will finally be able to afford to take the abitur and your mother won’t have to work as a laundrywoman anymore.  This is a difficult decision for you.  Will you join the League of German Girls to help your father get this job?

If you will join the League of German Girls, go to page 12

If you will not join the League of German Girls, go to page 13

(page 8)

You decide to stay in the League of Germans Girls.  You get to know the other girls better at the meetings and on the weekend trips, and you really feel like you belong.

As time goes by, the League of German Girls takes up more and more of your time.  You learn to sing the National Socialist songs they sing and listen to their speeches, and it starts to make sense to you.  You go to Nazi rallies and marches to demonstrate to the community how much you care about Germany.  When you are old enough, the other girls in the League officially join the Nazi Party.  You do too.

(the end)

(page 9)

You leave the League of German Girls.  At school you are talking about it with your friend, Johanna.  You tell her that you didn’t agree with their ideas at the League and that you don’t ever want to go back.

“I completely agree with you: their Nazis ideas are wrong.  Do you want to do something about it?”  She asks.

“What can I do?” you ask.

“Come with me tonight.  I am going to an anti-Nazi meeting.  You cannot tell anyone—I don’t want any trouble from the SS.  Just tell your parents you’re going over to my house.”

You agree with her, but you’re not sure if you want to risk going to a secret meeting.  Will you go with her to the meeting?

Attend the secret anti-Nazi meeting: go to page 10

Do not go to the secret anti-Nazi meeting: go to page 11

(page 10)

You go to the anti-Nazi meeting, in the back room of a grocery store owned by Johanna’s uncle.  You, Johanna and her uncle are there, as well as about a dozen other people.  There is one older man who seems to be in charge.

“Thank you all for coming.  We are in danger for being here, but it is important that we take these risks because we need to fight the oppressive Nazi regime,” the man said.

Then one of the young men at the meeting stood up and took a gun out of his coat.  “You are all under arrest!”  He shouted and brandished his gun.

“Oh no!” someone shouted, “A Nazi informant!”

There is chaos and people try to escape.  Policemen are waiting outside to grab anyone who tries to escape.

You try to run out the back door, followed by Johanna and her uncle.  Johanna is grabbed by a policeman who starts beating her with his gun.  She falls to the group and you turn to help her, but her uncle stops you.

“There’s no time, we’ve got to go!” and he pulls you out the door.

Johanna’s uncle walks you back to your family’s apartment.  He asks if you want to go to another anti-Nazi meeting next week.  You tell him you’ll think about it.

When you get home, you’re shaken up and concerned.  Will Johanna be okay?  Will the police find out I was there too?  What will happen to me?  Is it worth the risk to go to another anti-Nazi meeting?

You don’t want to give in and join the Nazis, so you seem to have two options: stick to your beliefs and go to another anti-Nazi meeting, or refuse to join the Nazis but also don’t go to more anti-Nazi meetings.

Refuse to join the Nazis and avoid future anti-Nazi meetings: p. 13

Go to another anti-Nazi meeting: go to p. 14

(page 11)

You do not go to the secret anti-Nazi meeting.  Nothing in your life has changed.  It is getting even closer to time to take the abitur exam, but your family still cannot afford to pay for it.  You know you’re smart enough, but you won’t be able to go to university or get a good job without your abitur certificate.

Your father keeps looking for jobs, but is still having difficulty.  One day your aunt’s family from Nuremberg comes to visit.  Your uncle, Thomas, tells your father he might be able to get him a job as a manger at his company, but that the boss is a big believer in National Socialism, so he only hires National Socialists.  Your father will have to join the Nazi Party, and you and your sisters will have to join the League of German Girls to show how committed you are to the Party.

If your dad gets this job, your family will have to move, but it will mean that you will finally be able to afford to take the abitur and your mother won’t have to work as a laundrywoman anymore.  This is a difficult decision for you.  Will you re-join the League of German Girls to help your father get this job?

Re-join the Nazis to help your family: go to page 12

Do not join the Nazis: go to page 13

(page 12)

You enroll in the league of German Girls, but only to help your family.  You get to know the other girls better at the meetings and on the weekend trips, and you really feel like you belong.

As time goes by, the League of German Girls takes up more and more of your time.  You learn to sing the National Socialist songs they sing and listen to their speeches, and it starts to make sense to you.  You go to Nazi rallies and marches to demonstrate to the community how much you care about Germany.  When you are old enough, the other girls in the League officially join the Nazi Party.  You do too.

(the end)

(page 13)

You don’t give in to the Nazis and you try to stay out of politics.  Your father still hasn’t found a job.  Your mother is taking in more laundry to wash.  You and your little sisters have to help out with the ironing and folding.  It’s getting close to graduation and you still don’t have money to pay for the abitur exam.  You wish you could do something to pay for your exam and help out your family, but you’re not sure what to do.  Things don’t seem any brighter for you than they were when this economic depression began.

(the end)

(page 14)

You go to another anti-Nazi meeting, this time in the basement of the church around the street from your school.  The group is a lot smaller than last time, but you still see some familiar faces.  You wonder why Johanna isn’t there.  Her uncle explains that she hasn’t returned since she was arrested by the police.  You feel sick to your stomach, and wonder what has happened to her.

The meeting begins, and a young woman addresses the group.  She talks about her brother joining the Hitler Youth and how it ruined his relationship with their family.  A few minutes into her speech, the police come rushing down the stairs.  This time there is no back door to make an escape.  You try to run for the stairs, but you get hit in the head and are knocked unconscious.

You wake up in the police wagon on the way to jail.  Your head aches.  You see the young woman from the meeting, and ask her what’s going to happen.

“We’ve been arrested as political prisoners,” she explained.

“What’s going to happen to us?” You ask.

“I don’t know, Gisela.  I don’t know.”

(The end)

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2 Responses to “Choose your own Adventure: Weimar Germany”

  1. Becca Says:

    Holy cow you wrote that whole thing??? Wow … I wonder if I can use the choose your own adventure thing with my class … I’m very impressed!

  2. Whitney Nielsen Says:

    You’re not the only author in town. Well… not exactly in town. ;-)

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