Lesson
Duration:
1 class period

Analyzing Nazi Propaganda

Essential Questions

  • How can propaganda influence individuals’ attitudes and actions?
  • How did the Nazis create “in” groups and “out” groups in German society? 

Overview

This lesson complements the resources from Chapter 6 of Holocaust and Human Behavior to help students investigate how the Nazis used propaganda to encourage conformity and consent among the German population in response to their ideas and policies. By following a specific procedure to closely analyze several propaganda images, students will observe both the subtle and overt messages the Nazis wished to communicate to Germans through the media and what those messages suggest about the “national community” the Nazis wished to create. The observation and analysis skills students practice in this lesson will help to develop their media literacy so that they may respond more thoughtfully and deliberately to the countless media messages that compete for their attention each day.

Learning Goals

  • Students will be able to follow a procedure to analyze an image by first observing details and gathering other helpful information about the image before interpreting its meaning.
  • Students will understand that media messages are often carefully crafted to elicit specific feelings and attitudes from an audience and to persuade people to take particular actions. 

Materials

Activities

  1. Analyze The Eternal Jew Poster

    Post or project the The Eternal Jew (Der Ewige Jude) poster from the Holocaust and Human Behavior Chapter 6 visual essay, The Impact of Propaganda.

    • Tell students that this is a poster representing a museum exhibit in Germany in 1937 and 1938 that was titled The Eternal Jew.
    • Walk the class through the four-step procedure described on the Image Analysis Procedure handout to analyze the poster. [1]
    • Give students a few minutes to respond to each prompt on the handout or in their journals, and then encourage them to share their thoughts using the Think, Pair, Share teaching strategy before moving on to the next step.

    Note: The Eternal Jew and other images in the visual essay from this chapter portray inaccurate, offensive stereotypes of Jews. Teachers have the responsibility to acknowledge that these images contain stereotypes and to prepare their students to discuss the material in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Beginning the lesson with a whole-group analysis of this poster provides the opportunity to set an appropriate tone for students throughout the lesson and the unit.

  2. Define Propaganda

    Tell students that The Eternal Jew is an example of Nazi propaganda. You might ask students to work together to brainstorm a definition of propaganda based on their analysis of the poster, or you might simply provide them with the following definition:

    propaganda: information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions

    It is important that students know that propaganda can take many forms and that it was one of the tools the Nazis used to consolidate their power and create a German “national community” in the mid-1930s. For additional background, you can read aloud the introduction to the Chapter 6 visual essay, The Impact of Propaganda.

  3. Analyze Additional Propaganda Images

    Divide the class into groups of two or three and assign one of the propaganda images from the visual essay, The Impact of Propaganda, to each group. Provide each student with a blank copy of the Image Analysis Procedure handout.

    • Ask each group to analyze their assigned image using the procedure on the handout. They should discuss their responses to each step of the procedure and then record them on the handout.
    • Once all of the groups have completed their analyses, ask each group to share the image they were assigned and report on their analysis to the class. If you are able to print out the images, you might choose instead to apply the Gallery Walk teaching strategy, enabling students to see and engage with each other’s work.
    • Once sharing is complete, lead a discussion about the common themes and patterns students observed in the propaganda pieces. The connection questions that follow the visual essay’s introduction can help to guide the discussion.

Extensions

You might lead a class discussion about propaganda today. Focus the discussion on the following questions:

  • Can you think of examples of propaganda in society today?  
  • How do you think this propaganda influences the attitudes and actions of people today? 
  • Is there a difference between the impact of propaganda in a democracy that has a free press and an open marketplace of ideas and the impact of propaganda in a dictatorship with fewer non-governmental sources of information? 

Sources & Notes

[1] This procedure is adapted from the Analyzing Visual Images teaching strategy.

Search Our Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.