Lesson
Duration:
Two 50-minute class periods

Nuremberg Remembered Documentary: A Lesson on Guilt and Responsibility

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • examine their own views guilt and responsibility during wartime.
  • analyze who should have been judged - the individuals who gave orders, the people who carried them out, or the people allowed the atrocities to occur
  • evaluate whether justice was achieved at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

Overview

This outline provides a comprehensive examination of the Nuremberg Trials, and can be used to address issues raised in the Judgment and Justice chapter of Holocaust and Human Behavior. Readings from the resource book are accompanied by selected websites and videos.

The Nuremberg trials, held from 1945 to 1949, were a galvanizing moment in history, international law, and human rights. The documentary Nuremberg Remembered combines archival footage and modern-day interviews with trial participants who served in a variety of roles, including members of the legal team for the prosecution and a journalist reporting on the events for the press. Some of these people include Sally Falk Moore, Ernest Michel, Bernard Meltzer, Benjamin Ferencz, and Richard Sonnenfeldt.

This lesson is designed to accompany the 12-minute documentary Nuremberg Remembered. Using this lesson along with the documentary will introduce teachers and their students to the essential questions of guilt, judgment and responsibility that were initially posed at the end of World War II and continue to be raised in the twenty-first century.

 

Context

Beginning with the end of World War II, a series of war crimes trials have been conducted, the first being the trials held in Nuremberg in 1946. Since this lesson outline examines the goals and methods of these trials, the following readings from Holocaust and Human Behavior build a vocabulary and chronology necessary for the activities included in this lesson: Chapter 10 Introduction, Establishing the Nuremberg Trial, and Obeying Orders.

Materials

Activities

1. Have students begin with a pre-writing activity by asking them to comment on their journals about the following questions.

  • Who is guilty and who is responsible for the atrocities committed during the World War II?
  • Are individuals responsible for wartime atrocities if they have obeyed the laws of their nation?

2. Debrief their reactions to this quote in small groups or with a think-pair-share activity.

3. A homework or classwork journal assignment can be used at this point to transition these activities towards an examination of the Nuremberg trials. Combined with Chapter 10 of Holocaust and Human Behavior, the following questions could be useful in directing students attention to the trials of the Germans after World War II:

  • Are there rules for war?
  • Who should enforce them?
  • What happens if you break them?

4. Begin an examination of Nuremberg by showing the short film Nuremberg Remembered

Optional: The personal reflections by Alfons Heck in both the video Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth and the readinig Betraying the Youth from Holocaust and Human Behavior, could also be used to begin an examination of the trials.

5. Based upon the following readings, students will participate in a barometer activity in which they respond to the assertion:

The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were successful in punishing those responsible for the crimes of World War II

After reviewing the following selections from Holocaust and Human Behavior, students should organize themselves into a line, with one end representing absolute agreement with the statement and the other end absolute disagreement. Once they have situated themselves, invite students from either the extremes or the middle to explain their reasoning, and see if they can shift the location of other students.

  • Chapter 10: "Humanity's Aspirations to Do Justice," "Obedience to Orders," "A Man of Words," Obeying Orders, "The Scientists of Annihilation," and "Less than Slaves."

Extensions

  1. The reading Choices that Define Us from Holocaust and Human Behavior features the 1991 Yale commencement address by Guido Calabresi. This reading examines additional questions about justice, war guilt and responsibility.
  2. To examine the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa, see our Our Facing the Truth with Bill Moyers Study Guide.

New Edition of Holocaust and Human Behavior

We've released a new digital edition of Holocaust and Human Behavior. We're working on updating all of our content to reflect the new resources and scholarship. For now, some content on this page may reference the previous edition.

Search Our Collection

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