Lesson
Duration:
2 class periods

Examining Hitler's First Radio Address

Essential Questions

  • What made it possible for the Nazis to transform Germany into a dictatorship in their first years in power?
  • What can a close reading of Hitler’s first radio address as chancellor reveal about how he carefully crafted his words to appeal to the German people?

Overview

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. 

Learning Goals

  • Students will be able to read and reread a text closely in order to deepen their comprehension, find answers to questions, and support claims with evidence.
  • Students will know that in his first radio address as chancellor, Hitler described Germany as a country brought to ruin and chaos by Communists and the leaders of the Weimar Republic, and he declared that Nazi leadership would restore the country to its previous greatness within four years.
  • Students will understand that political leaders carefully and strategically craft their communications to the public in order to help them achieve their goals.

Materials

Activities

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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