Ted's teaching tips

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
It seems shocking now to see innocent-looking children giving a Nazi salute, but only a couple of generations ago it was a requirement in Nazi Germany. Do today's children, even those studying the Second World War, really understand the horrifying events that happened in the lifetime of their grandparents?

Nazi Germany

What are these children doing (giving a Nazi salute, the greeting in 1930s Germany)? Germany is a civilised country, so how did one evil man, Hitler, dominate it in such a frightening way (exploited grievances from the First World War; advocated territorial expansion and an enlarged Germany incorporating Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia; used Jewish people as a scapegoat; came to power on a minority vote; enrolled children)? Ask older people what they remember about the Nazi period.


What is a dictator (a ruler who tells others what to do, usually banning or eliminating opposition)? Do you know any historical figures who acted as dictators (Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Mussolini, Franco)? Do you like the idea of a single "strong" leader, or does it horrify you?


Most of us want national sports teams and representatives to do well. Where is the borderline between patriotism and some of the odious forms of nationalism (wars, violence, attacks on foreigners, vandalism when abroad)? Do you think of yourself as a citizen of your town (Londoner), village, region (Midlander, Northerner), country (English, Wels); a European; or all of these? Why do you identify yourself in this way?


(a) Write about yourself as a pupil in this picture. Although you salute like the rest, you are secretly against what is going on. (b) Describe how being in a group can influence the way you behave: eg at someone's house when their parents are away, at a football match, singing in a choir, out with your friends when someone suggests crime or vandalism.

Ted's talking points

Are children gullible, or can they think for themselves? Do they usually do whatever their elders want?


Young people everywhere join whatever movement or group is fashionable at the time. All over the world children belong to their local organisations, political movements and religions, because this is what their society expects of them. It is only when they are adult that they can start to think for themselves. What else could they possibly know as children? Their knowledge depends on what they have been told by their parents and elders.


Children may look as if they are doing what is expected, but they are much more critical underneath. Look at the faces of the children in the picture, they do not exactly look convinced. Childhood and youth are well-known times of rebellion, when adult beliefs are challenged. If children fear the consequences of rebelling they will appear to conform. But independence of mind is not something you only acquire when you are grown up.

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