Holy Propaganda Batman! Comic Book Covers and World War II

wonder-womenSensation Comics Jan. No. 13 (Source)

Overall I really enjoyed and found value in creating a document based lesson. This semester I’ve been reading, Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen and a quote that really stood out to me was, “What would we think of a course in poetry in which students never read a poem? (pg. 7).” I kept thinking about this quote throughout this lesson because that’s how high school social studies have been teaching history to students, and I feel document based lessons is an alternative that fixes that problem. It gives students a chance to work with primary resources and challenges them to be the historians in the process. The challenge for me was what primary resources to use, and what questions did I want my students to answer. I am glad I got to use a topic that I am super passionate about and be able to use it as my document based lesson project. The hard part was finding comic book covers that was available to share. Especially because Marvel and DC comics have heavy copyright laws that protect their work. My plan is to use this next year with my students at OPEN School.

What I gained most from this project was the skills of using google and Apple’s book author program. I am already thinking of creating another document based lesson on a different subject just so I can continue to grow my skills in using this program to be a better teacher. My only feed back I would give about this project that it’s a bit difficult for people that may not have a Apple device on hand.

Triumph of the Will

Nuremberg Rally
Nuremberg Rally

Author: Sarah Wieking

Target Students: 10th/11th Grade History Students

Historical Skills: Sourcing and Contextualizing

The Road to Nazi Power: 

This lesson will be imbedded into a unit on World War II. Therefore, students should already know about the devastation that Germany faced in the post-WWI era. They will know that they endured a dramatic economic recession resulting from the Versailles Treaty and the Great Depression. They will understand the helpless aura of the nation at that time. As a review, we will highlight elements that led to Hitler’s rise to power.

Students will be asked to consider why Hitler was able to gain so much power and support so quickly.

Examples for students to consider: Hitler promised the downtrodden citizens a new and better life, as well as a new Germany. The Nazis attracted the unemployed, the young, and the lower middle classes.

Students will be asked to write down their own definition of Nationalism and then share it with their neighbors. Then a few will share them with the class. Specific elements of nationalism will be emphasized as a class: a feeling of superiority over other countries and the feeling that nations should act independently of each other.

Students will be asked to consider nationalism in Germany and the background knowledge that they know of that time when watching the propaganda video.

The Power of Propaganda:

Then the class will briefly go over the definition of propaganda and how students think it could have been employed in WWII Germany.

Students will then watch the propaganda film: Triumph des Willens (1935). By Leni Riefenstahl

Before they begin watching, each student will be divided into “element groups” and  asked to consider one of the following key aspects of the film: the soundtrack, the tone and noise of crowds and speakers, and the visual elements.

The class will watch the opening scene of Hitler flying into Nuremberg and then Hitler’s speech at minute 55:00.

Starter thought provoking question: What do you think Hitler’s entrance from the sky symbolizes? ——- Students will write down their own answers and then share with each other, hopefully noticing that his descent from the sky alludes to his representation as a “savior”.

Activity:

As a class, students will look at a timeline of events in pre-war Germany. The teacher will guide them into noticing the events in the year 1924, the year before the propaganda was filmed. Students will therefore notice that on August 2nd, Hitler became president in addition to chancellor. Furthermore, on August 19th, a plebiscite was held to determine Hitler’s support. 90% said that they approved of his powers. For a timeline: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/nazi-germany-timeline/

Students will then meet with the other members of their “element groups” and share their findings about the significance of the elements they noticed. Then they will split into groups of three with those of different “element groups” and share their new ideas. They will be asked to consider their answers in answering the future questions.

Students will be asked to answer these following questions in small groups:

  1. Sourcing Question: Who was the intended audience of this propaganda film?

Contextualizing Questions:

  1. What is significant about the date that the film was released? (March 28, 1935)
  2. How does the video reflect the overall mood of the country during that time?
  3. How does our background information support what is seen in the video?
  4. How can we see nationalism at play in this video?

Their answers will be shared to the whole class and we will write down answers on the board to show connections. Then students in the different element groups will contribute significant features they noticed that help support these answers.

Then students will be asked the essential question in a quick write:

Why did so many ordinary German citizens rally behind Hitler and join the Nazi Party?

We will go over this as a class after they have completed writing their individual answers.

Reflection: 

I think that this mini lesson may need some work in its structuring. When I teach this, I want to ask these same questions and ask students to perform these tasks, but I hope to find better methods in doing so. It definitely needs to fit within an overall unit of WWII, hopefully in a world history class so that students also understand the significant after-effects that WWI caused for Germany. The main purpose of this lesson is to approach learning about Germany in WWII from a unique angle. I want students to see what led up to not simply a war, but how a desperate country rallied behind a man who promised change and a brighter future. Therefore, ordinary citizens joined a political party that we could hardly fathom ever joining. I want students to put themselves in the shoes of German citizens of the time and realize just why Hitler was able to gain so many supporters. This lesson will build upon previous lessons towards lessons on the beginning of WWII. Students will also learn about the power of nationalism and propaganda through this lesson.


Creator: Georg Pahl

Date of Publication: September 1934

Archive: Bundesarchiv.de Bild 102-04062A

 

Taking Shape: Thoughts on creating DBQ’s

screenshotAfter spending a few weeks exploring the different avenues available to me for my DBQ, I am finally on a focused track to the finish.  After switching my topic from the more obscure food history topic to the much more document rich Marshall Plan, my issue was not where to find documents, but just the opposite.

There were so many great documents, I found myself following lead after lead on possible directions to take the assignment.  While I learned a tremendous amount about the Marshall Plan, the state of Europe after WWII, and the different opinions throughout U.S. and Europe about the plan, I didn’t feel like I was getting any closer to completing the assignment. But I was finding photos, documents,  and getting more information. Through this research I was able to narrow my focus and choose an angle on which to focus: the differing views on the Marshall Plan from Europe, Russia, and at home in the U.S.. My next challenge was to step away from the history and just look at the documents.  What was I trying to say?  What were the documents telling me?  I finally focused on assembling documents that could tell a story.  Once I had a clear narrative of what I wanted the students to see, the guiding questions practically wrote themselves.

Next up for me is to add the last few pages into iBook Author and begin to fine tune the look and feel.  I will have my classmates review the work to ensure the documents and questions create a clear narrative that will guide the students to address the enduring questions of the unit.

This assignment has been exciting for me on two main levels.  First learning how to write this type of assignment for my students will be something I will continue to work on throughout my career. I am a big believer in having students think like historians.  The other facet is just how much I enjoyed researching the history surrounding the Marshall Plan. Reading all the documents and seeing all the photos was like a DBQ itself.  I will continue to practice, learn, and hopefully inspire my students to do the same.

Dr. Seuss on Domestic Security

A mini-lesson on WWII cartoons by
Kristi Anne McKenzie
Historical Content: World War II (home front)
Historical Skills: Contextualization, sourcing
Intended Grades: 9-12

Directions:   

Use the source information, your knowledge of history, and the video and political cartoons to answer the questions below.

Sources:

Document A is an animated short film written by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and P.D. Eastman and produced by Warner Bros. for the War Department as part of the U.S. Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit. Documents B, C and D are political cartoons created by Dr. Seuss for PM, a New York City daily newspaper.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGP7GebzO_E]

Document A:  Private SNAFU in Rumors

 

Question 1: When was the film produced?

Question 2: Which two of the facts below might help explain why the author wrote this screenplay?

 

  1. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Seuss, like many Americans, developed a concern for national security and a fear of foreign enemies.
  2. Private SNAFU cartoons were only shown on military bases; they were not allowed to be shown to the general public. As they were a product for the use of the War Department, the films did not have to comply with standard censorship regulations in regards to decency or colorful language.
  3. In order to keep the animation studios open during the war, companies like Warner Bros. had to produce military training films.
  4. The goal of the Private SNAFU films was to teach lessons on secrecy, military protocols, and disease prevention to soldiers with poor reading skills.

 

Question 3. Now compare the film “Rumors” with the three political cartoons. How is the intended audience similar and different? How is the intended message similar and different?

damsAccess-2

Document B: War Monuments No. 3, published January 8, 1942

 

damsAccess

Document C:  Waiting for the Signal from Home, published February 13, 1942

 

damsAccess-3

Document D:  Funny… Some People Never Learn to Keep Their Barn Doors Locked, published February 16, 1942

 

Lesson Goals: Students should be able to situate the film and the political cartoons on a timeline of World War II events, primarily around the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) and President Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942). Students should recognize the difference between making an animated film for enlisted men in the military and drawing political cartoons for the general public. They should also note that the message of the cartoons and the film are quite similar, but the difference in the intended audience has an effect on the context.

 

Possible extension activity: Compare and contrast Carlos Mencia’s 2002 stand-up routine for Comedy Central Presents with Dr. Seuss’ cartoon “Waiting for the Signal From Home.” What themes emerge?

 

Reflection:  This was a fun project. It seemed to me that it should have been a more difficult task to assemble a lesson on primary sources using a medium that was new to me (Google Presentation), but the Stanford History Education Group’s assessment model was so clear that this lesson came to together almost effortlessly. In fact, it came together so well I thought I must have done it incorrectly, or left something out. My thanks to Sam for thoroughly examining my first draft and offering his insight and support. This is the kind of lesson that makes me feel like I am doing what I am meant to be doing, and moving in the right direction.

 

Sources:

Document A, Private SNAFU in “Rumors,” is now in the public domain. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGP7GebzO_E

Document B: War Monuments No. 3, published by PM Magazine on January 8, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb76459366

Document C: Waiting for the signal from home…, published by PM Magazine on February 13, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb5222708w

Document D: Funny… Some people never learn to keep their barn doors locked., published by PM Magazine on February 16, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb5700525j