This lesson complements the resources from Chapter 5 of Holocaust and Human Behavior to help students investigate the carefully crafted ideas and messages that Adolf Hitler included in his public statements in the first days of his tenure as German chancellor. By completing a close reading of Hitler’s first radio address after becoming chancellor, students will analyze the ways that he sought to portray the history that led up to his appointment as head of the German government as well as his vision for the future of the country under his leadership. By comparing Hitler’s speech to what they have learned about Hitler’s ideology and the Nazi Party’s platform in Chapter 4, students will analyze the choices Hitler made about what parts of the Nazi program to emphasize in his speech and what ideas to omit, and they will consider what those choices suggest about the Nazis’ sensitivity to public opinion and power to manipulate it.
This lesson uses Facing History’s Close Reading Protocol teaching strategy. You may wish to change or adapt the steps that follow according to the reading level and other needs of your students.
Introduce the Text and Read Aloud
Tell or remind students that Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, to which previous chancellors had not successfully responded. Two days later, Hitler delivered his first speech to the entire country over the radio.
You might ask students to review the Nazi Party platform in the reading Hard Times Return and jot down in their notebooks what themes, ideas, and proposals they think Hitler would want to emphasize in his first national address as chancellor, based on those ideals.
Tell students that they will engage in a close reading of Hitler’s speech. This process involves reading and rereading the speech several times in order to gain a deeper understanding of it. Read Hitler’s First Radio Address aloud. Depending on the available time and the needs of your students, you might read it aloud twice; the first time you, the teacher, can read it, and the second time you can ask a student to read it. The Read Aloud teaching strategy offers other suggestions for reading a text aloud in class. As the speech is read aloud, students should circle unfamiliar words while they listen.
After the read-aloud, as students share the unfamiliar words they circled with the class, decide which words to define immediately to limit confusion and which definitions you want students to uncover through careful reading.
Conduct Group Analysis
Divide the class into small groups, and give each student a copy of the handout Close Reading Guide: Hitler’s Speech. In their groups, ask students to read the speech two more times. After each rereading, the groups should discuss and record responses to the corresponding set of questions on the handout.
Transition to Discussion
Finally, organize a class discussion so that students can clarify any lingering questions from their group work and make connections beyond the text. Focus especially on the second grouping of questions on the handout.
Depending on the available time and the needs of your students, you might choose to provide additional structure for this discussion using the Socratic Seminar or Save the Last Word for Me teaching strategy.