Learning Stations: Crisis in the Weimar Republic

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Last year my co-teacher and I were a little crunched for time when teaching the interwar years in Europe.  We wanted to get across the economic and social problems that Europeans faced and how it influenced the choices they made, so I designed these learning stations to allow students to use primary and secondary sources to discover these facts for themselves.

We set up the classroom with the documents (printed from the PowerPoint, attached below) for each station taped to the walls around the room in clusters.  Students worked with a partner to complete the questions on their worksheet (included below).   The questions included reading graphs, analyzing political cartoons, and using photographs and quotes to find facts and make judgments about what was happening to the German people in the 1930s.  The PowerPoint and worksheet can be downloaded here:

The PowerPoints: learning stations_weimar republic

Worksheet: weimar_worksheet

At the end of the activity, we read excerpts from two speeches from major politicians in Weimar Germany* (the last two slides on the PowerPoint, above).  They were read without the candidate’s name.  The class then voted on which candidate they thought would best solve Germany’s problems.  The majority of students chose candidate #1, who they were then told was Adolf Hitler.  (The other candidate was Heinrich Bruenning.)  Students were generally shocked, and we had good discussions about what lead to our choices and how it must have happened in 1930s Germany.

Most of all I wanted students to think about how terrible things, such as the election of a dictator, happen.  I believe that people usually do what they think is right, as German voters did in the 1930s (and many other people at many other times in history).  Thinking that those people were unusually stupid, naive or sinister is dangerous, because it obscures the fact that it could happen here or anywhere else if people do not do their homework, read between the lines, and think for themselves.

*Note: I selected the speeches and translated them from Germany personally because I am sometimes a little wary of translations of Hitler that can be found online.

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