Posts Tagged ‘Weimar Germany’

Learning Stations: Crisis in the Weimar Republic

May 14, 2010

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.


Choose your own Adventure: Weimar Germany

February 17, 2010

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.