EROSION OF RIGHTS Defining the Problem When we first learn about the Holocaust and discover what happened to the Jews of Europe we ask the question, ‘how could civilised people allow this to happen’? After all, during the 1920’s Germany was considered by many to be one of the most civilised societies in the world . There is no simple answer and no single reason to help us understand why the Holocaust happened. Nevertheless, it is clear that the mass murder of 6,000,000 European Jews is one of the greatest atrocities in human history. The Nazis developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s an extensive racial ideology that portrayed the Germans as a master race (the Aryan race) and all other groups as inferior. Two other important parts of the ideology were anti-semitism (which had always been present in German society) and an elaborate conspiracy theory. In addition to being viewed as inferior the Jews were also blamed for all the economic and social ills of Germany. The Nazis effectively used propaganda to convince the German people that behind the scenes the Jews were destroying German society and culture, and “contaminating” the German race. The active persecution of the Jews began immediately after Hitler came to power in March 1933 and continued until the end of the War in 1945. If we examine the anti-Jewish restrictions between 1933 and 1945 we can see the step-by-step process of gradually depriving the Jews of their civic rights and segregating them from society. This step-by-step method of the Nazi’s enabled them to hide their real intentions and made the German people passive. The lack of action on the part of other German people during this time, especially the pre – war period, made it possible for serious human rights to take place. Of course, this is only part of the answer, but it shows that societies have to guard at all times against the politics of exclusion. In this module students will work quite intensely with the anti-Jewish restrictions imposed by the Nazis. Module Objectives: To understand what happened to Jews living in Hitler’s Germany. To understand the dangers of gradual depriving minorities of their rights To help young people to develop an understanding through the situation faced by Jews in their every day life, of why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so important Resources: Copy of the power point presentation ‘The Erosion of Human Rights in Germany’; print outs of each restriction faced by German Jews between March 1933 and March 1945; several large sheets of plain paper; felt tipped pens. Activities: Step 1: The teacher explains briefly to the students what propaganda is, what the aims of propaganda are, and how in Berlin (and in Germany) this propaganda was disseminated in the 1930s and 1940s. The teacher can also ask if the students feel that propaganda exists today., and how it is now disseminated. Step 2: the teacher shows the power point to the students. This is a fairly passive activity and students will remember only a few of the restrictions, though they will be impressed by the sheer number and the gradual nature in which they were imposed. This power point will form the basis of the remainder of the activities. Step 3: Small groups of four students are created. The students are given roles in the group (see teacher’s manual). Each group receives a print out of the restrictions (no longer in chronological order but scrambled). The students place the restrictions in chronological order (they will need considerable space for this). In this manner they will become better familiarized with the restrictions. Step 4: Students categorize the restrictions. They make piles according to the TYPES of restrictions that they can distinguish (groups will create different categorize). Each group presents its categories (examples might include: restrictions against children, economic restrictions, etc.) Step 5: Within each pile the groups must now prioritize. They select one restriction from each pile that they think had the greatest impact on children living at that time. They write this down a large sheet of paper. They also briefly write down why they feel this is the case. Each group presents its findings. Step 6: Groups discuss what they think the Nazis were trying to accomplish (their aims) by imposing these restrictions. Each group tells the teacher what it has come up with and the teacher keeps a visible (master) list of these aims on the blackboard. Step 7: Students are debriefed and the teacher explains how the Nazi policies had various aims (e.g. isolating the Jewish community, creating space for “Aryan Germans”, humiliating Jews, etc.) Follow-up: Each group is given a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (a children’s version can be found at: together with a set of flash cards, with each article placed on an individual card. Using this information, the groups match the restrictions against the Jews with an article from the Declaration of Human Rights, which, in their opinion, was created to protect people from the kind of suffering the Jews experienced. The class discusses situations today or in the recent past in their own community, where despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people still face discrimination, oppression, torture and death. What are possible solutions to these problems.