Today's Overview Question: Did the German people elevate Hitler, or did Hitler victimize the Germans?
How do historians formulate claims about complex historical events? In this lesson, you will consider competing historical claims about responsibility for the rise of Adolf Hitler and then examine primary sources to generate and support your own historical claims. You will also consider what the significance of these claims might be for today's society.
Before we begin you will need the Staking a Historical Claim handout
Historical Warm-Up: Watch this short film of crowds cheering as Adolf Hitler is driven through the streets of Berlin in 1940. As you watch, write down everything you notice. Afterwards, write two questions you have about what you just watched.
Discussion Questions: What is happening in this film? What does it tell you about the time and place that it depicts? What more do you want to know about the setting and context? What have you learned previously about Hitler and Nazi Germany? What perspective does this film give you on Hitler and his supporters? What questions do you have? And finally: How and why do you think Hitler was able to become so popular in Germany?
Related Information: In the article “Hitler Exhibition Explores a Wider Circle of Guilt,”Michael Slackman discusses an exhibition at the German Historical Museum in Berlin that focuses on the society that gave rise to Hitler:
"As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women.
But the exhibits that opened Friday at the German Historical Museum are intentionally prosaic: they emphasize the everyday way that ordinary Germans once accepted, and often celebrated, Hitler.
The household items had Nazi logos and colours. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest.
“This is what we call self-mobilization of society,” said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. “As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.”
Questions: Please answer the following in your notebook
FROM THE LEARNING NETWORK
AROUND THE WEB
Your Job: Two quotations from the article stand out: “Hitler did not corral the Germans as much as the Germans elevated Hitler” and “The Germans were the first victims of Hitler.”
These statements are competing historical claims about the German people’s responsibility in promoting the rise of Hitler. Your job, as a historian, is to examine historical evidence and then make historical claims supported by that evidence.
In small groups (3 or 4), you will examine primary source evidence in the form of videos, images, artifacts and historical newspaper articles. Using the evidence that you collect, you are to make your own historical claims about the extent to which the German people were responsible for the rise of Hitler.
When the small-group work is complete, the class will come together to engage in a round-table discussion at which all groups of historians will present their claims and supporting evidence and engage in discussion about the significance of their findings for today's society.
More sources for you to consider: