Rethinking Perpetrators, Bystanders and Rescuers: The case of Max Schmeling
PURPOSE OF LESSON
This lesson allows students to analyze and reflect on the actions of a famous sports figure that do not really fall neatly into the now familiar categories of perpetrator, bystander, and rescuer. Students are able to compare and contrast Schmeling’s complexity with the familiar figure of Schindler, but perhaps more important, they are able to compare and contrast Max Schmeling’s choices in various situations with their own choices.
GOALS FOR STUDENT UNDERSTANDING
- Students will develop a more complex understanding of human behavior and an understanding that people do not always neatly fit into the categories perpetrator, bystander, and rescuer. They will learn how the changing historical circumstances influenced the choices made by individuals during the Holocaust.
- Students will understand how a study of individuals' choices during the Holocaust relates to the choices they are making in their own lives today.
WHAT STUDENTS WILL DO TO BUILD THEIR UNDERSTANDING
- The students will read and analyze a Sports Illustrated article and take notes about the life of Max Schmeling.
- The students will analyze three specific choices Schmeling made in his life:
- He turned to Hitler to clear up a financial problem, thus indebting himself to Hitler; Schmeling hung an autographed picture of Hitler in his study.
- Schmeling openly acknowledged the existence of concentration camps in Germany yet did nothing as the Gestapo arrested his Jewish friends.
- Schemling hid two Jewish teens in his hotel suite for two days.
- The students will assess Schmeling’s choices in light of the changing political and cultural contexts surrounding him at each step, recognizing the difficulty of stereotyping people into one, unchanging role.
- The students will compare and contrast Schmeling’s choices with those of other figures already studied to draw conclusions about the effects of choice in changing circumstances.
- The students will apply their knowledge of Schmeling’s motivations and choices to situations they see in their contemporary lives.
- The students will synthesize the goals of the lesson through small group discussion, full class discussion, and individual journaling at the end of the lesson.