Exploring Nazi Propaganda and the Hitler Youth Movement

Learning Objectives

During this lesson, students will begin to:

  • become familiar with a dictionary definition of "Propaganda".
  • understand the historical origins of the word and which context it was used for.
  • view images and texts of Nazi Propaganda, and understand that Nazi Propaganda used different mediums and forms.
  • have the opportunity to go to a web site and view primary source materials of Nazi Propaganda


This lesson outline intends to look at different forms of Nazi Propaganda, and to use the German Propaganda Archive, housed at Calvin College, to explore how the Nazis employed propaganda within the Hitler Youth movement. This lesson makes extensive use of online archival resources and blends traditional materials and pedagogies with an indepth, online experience.



  1. Begin by asking participants to write in their journal a definition of propaganda and to give you one concrete example of propaganda and one that is not propaganda.

  2. Ask participants to share with the whole group their answers. Have the group discuss definitions and examples.

  3. Then present one dictionary definition of the term. This is to establish consensus as to the meaning of the term. Do not leave participants with the idea that everything is propaganda. Seek for a firmer definition. (The above steps should take about 15 minutes in total)

  4. Transition to show a clip from Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth. A good clip is to use Alfons Heck from the beginning of the tape until 10 min into it, and stop at where he talks about his best friend being deported because he is Jewish.

  5. Ask participants to reflect as to what happened to Alfons Heck as a young boy what led him from having Jewish friends to only feeling sorry for watching his friend being deported?

    • What role did propaganda play in influencing him ( in his own words)? Which forms of propaganda did he find most effective? What do you think was the intended purpose of showing a film like the Eternal Jew? ( they would have seen a clip)
  6. Transition the group to a reading of Propaganda at the Movies from Holocaust & Human Behavior. You do not need to read the whole piece, a good place to start is the section beginning with Marion Pritchard, and then have the students reflect on how the film affected her.

  7. After participants discuss the reading, move them to take a look other forms of Nazi Propaganda on the Calvin College website.

  8. Once on the website, ask students to peruse the visuals/posters first before choosing one poster for analysis.

  9. Once they have selected a poster, encourage them to click on the image to enlarge it. If there is an accompanying text they will be able to read it. Then ask them to write about the following in their journal:

    • Examine the image and follow the three steps below in your journal:
      • Describe what you see ( no analysis)
      • Analyze what you see
      • Interpret what you see
  10. Bring back the whole group and ask participants to share their image and their journal entries on it. Not everyone needs to go, take three or four people. If you are in a lab and you have a color printer, go ahead and print their images.

  11. Now, if you have the time ask participants to click on the section titled: "Propaganda 1933-145" and to choose one text. This particular section holds speeches, articles, and other written form reflecting Nazi propaganda. Ask them to analyze the text? Who is being targeted? How is the message being communicated? Is it overt or veiled? Who is being scapegoated for problems facing the country? What is the intended response from the reader?

  12. Ask participants to go back into small groups and share their responses and analyses.

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