"No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it."

- William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany 
Studying about the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany requires students to reflect on the importance of preserving and protecting democratic values and institutions and to consider the role of a responsible citizen in that process. Students may have the impression that the Holocaust was inevitable. Whenever possible, educators should help students recognize that the Holocaust took place because individuals, groups, and nations made decisions to act or not to act.
In order to set the stage for this understanding, teachers can use the following excerpts from our Teacher's Resource Guide Lesson 3: Nazi Germany.
Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party

The Weimar Republic was a fragile democracy. This unstable democracy paved a path for the Nazi Party. However, it must be made absolutely clear to students that the German people did not have to vote for the Nazis in the 1933 election; this was a choice they made.
Begin this lesson with the following:
  • Challenge students think about the word "democracy" and chart their responses to the sentence stem "Democracy is..." on the board or on chart paper.
  • Provide students with an introduction to Alfred Caro and Frank Shurman and show their testimonies.
  • Follow with a discussion using the questions below.
    • How does Alfred Caro characterize the Weimar Republic?
    • What example does Frank Shurman share to illustrate the "insecure situation" that Germany was facing in the early 1920s? How does Frank indicate that Hitler took advantage of the situation?
    • Based what you heard, how confident do you think the German people were in their government?
    • Distribute The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party. After reading this text have a discussion using the following questions:
      • Do you think that the Nazis' rise to power was inevitable based on what you read?
      • According to the text, why was the democracy of Germany so fragile? How does information in the text compare to what Alfred Caro and Frank Sherman shared in their testimonies?
      • Show students the maps of Europe before and after the Treaty of Versailles and have them identify how the borders changed after 1919. Have student refer back to the text and summarize the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles in addition to the change in borders. 
Contemporary Connections - Engage Students in Discussion!  

  • What are the characteristics of a democracy?
  • Do you think that democracy, in general, is fragile? Explain your thinking.
  • How does democracy benefit the individual? How does democracy benefit society?
  • How can a democracy be affected by individuals and society?
Refer to the Echoes and Reflections Teacher's Resource Guide for additional discussion questions and the remainder of Lesson 3: Nazi Germany.
Additional Resources

Register/Login to view these IWitness Testimonies

This lesson from USHMM offers case studies based on actual German voters and encourages consideration of the realities in Germany after WWI.
Campaigns and elections are a great opportunity to discuss the role of government in our lives and the importance of social issues. These ideas from the Anti-Defamation League provide suggested strategies and activities for teachers to undertake with students. 
Defending Truth - Holocaust Denial in the Classroom

What is Holocaust denial? Should we talk about it with our students? Dan Leshem, PhD, defines contemporary Holocaust denial and offers a framework for unpacking this complex issue. 
Upcoming Professional Development - Fall 2016
Echoes and Reflections | info@echoesandreflections.org