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This educational module aims to help students think more deeply about what it means to be an outsider. Using material from the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism, the module:

  • Illustrates the existence and broad impact of contemporary antisemitism;
  • Demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the Holocaust to law, faith, the arts, and other areas;
  • Introduces, punctuates, or ends sections of study; as homework or in-class listening.

The module is divided into six sections:

  • Episodes from the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism series relevant to being an outsider;
  • Rationale, which explains why this theme is important today;
  • History section, which connects the Holocaust to the theme;
  • Questions for Discussion or Writing;
  • Activities for students; and
  • Resources for further information and material.

Episodes

Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz is concerned over what he views as a rising tide of antisemitic speech on American college campuses. Learn more

 

Margaret Lambert

Margaret Lambert

In 1936, Margaret Lambert was poised to win a medal at the Berlin Olympic Games. Just one month before the Olympics began, Lambert was informed by the Reich Sports Office that she would not be allowed to compete. Learn more

 

Laurel Leff

Laurel Leff

In examining how the New York Times could have missed—or dismissed—the significance of the annihilation of Europe's Jews, Laurel Leff found many universal lessons for contemporary journalists. Learn more

 

David Pilgrim

David Pilgrim

In 1996, David Pilgrim established the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan. As the university's Chief Diversity Officer and a professor of sociology, one of Pilgrim's goals is to use objects of intolerance to teach about tolerance. Learn more

 

Mark Potok

Mark Potok

After reporting on extremism for many years, Mark Potok decided to move from journalism to activism. Today, he directs the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups in the United States. Learn more

 

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Rationale

Propaganda is biased information designed to shape public opinion and behavior. It simplifies complicated issues or ideology for popular consumption, is always biased, and is geared to achieving a particular end. Its purpose is not solely negative, as demonstrated by the frequent use of slogans and symbols in election or health care campaigns. Propaganda is often transmitted to the public through various media, drawing upon techniques and strategies used in advertising, public relations, communications, and mass psychology. The real danger of propaganda lies when competing voices are silenced. Using the internet and bypassing respected media outlets, propagandists have been able to transmit their messages to a wider audience. It is important to fight against the hateful and racist messages that propaganda can carry. There are responsible citizens who are already doing so, some of whom are represented in the Voices on Antisemitism podcast series. Voices on Antisemitism is designed to bring together a variety of distinguished leaders of different backgrounds to comment on why antisemitism and hatred matters today. Propaganda and its negative effects are discussed in depth in this series, through Margaret Lambert, who was used as a propaganda tool by Hitler in the 1936 Olympics; Laurel Leff, who encourages journalistic responsibility; and David Pilgrim, who started a museum on Jim Crow and anti-black propaganda.

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History

Propaganda served as an important tool to win over the majority of the German public who had not supported Adolf Hitler and to push forward the Nazis’ radical program, which required the acquiescence, support, or participation of broad sectors of the population. The Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Joseph Goebbels, ensured that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials, and the press. Goebbels goal was to manipulate and deceive the German population and the outside world. He and other propagandists preached an appealing message of national unity and a utopian future that resonated with millions of Germans. At the same time, they waged campaigns that facilitated the persecution of Jews and others excluded from the Nazi vision of the “National Community.” Propagandists often targeted youth audiences because they knew that if Nazism was going to be everlasting, they would need to look to the future—the children. The message directed toward them was that the Party was a movement of youth: dynamic, resilient, forward-looking, and hopeful. Many German young people were won over to Nazism in the classroom and through extracurricular activities.

Antisemitic messages were frequently broadcast over the radio and print in newspapers in Nazi Germany. In 1923, Julius Streicher established his virulently antisemitic newspaper, Der Stürmer (The Stormtrooper). In 1938, Streicher’s Stürmer reached its highpoint in terms of circulation; his successful publishing house of the same name (Stürmer-Verlag) produced, among other works, a host of antisemitic children’s literature, including the infamous Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom). Because the lies of propaganda were so widespread, many under German control believed them. Propaganda messages portrayed Jews as an “alien race” that fed off the host nation, poisoned its culture, seized its economy, and enslaved its workers and farmers. This made it easier for citizens to turn a blind eye to the persecution and murder of the Jews and other victims of Nazi brutality.

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Questions for Discussion or Writing

  • What are some potential risks of propaganda?
  • Mark Potok discusses the devastating effect that propaganda from small hate groups is having today in America.
    • What current social conditions encourage and allow these lies to spread?
  • How was Margaret Lambert used as a Nazi propaganda tool? What are some contemporary analogies?
  • Alan Dershowitz sees a new type of propaganda developing, one used to dehumanize and demonize people and countries one dislikes.
    • What are other examples of this new form of propaganda?
    • Do we have a responsibility to act when confronted with this type of hatred? Please explain.
  • Laurel Leff explains how the Holocaust was “buried” in the New York Times.
    • Why did this happen?
    • In what ways does it happen today?
  • David Pilgrim discusses propaganda against African Americans in the United States
    • Discuss his motivations for collecting “objects of intolerance"?”
  • What prevents a society and its citizens from being misled by propaganda?
  • How can you recognize propaganda?
  • What role do the media play in a democratic society?
    • What elements of that role are important to you?
  • Who can weaken or obstruct the role of the media in a democracy and how can they do it?

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Activities

  • Create your own podcast interview: Students discuss the role of propaganda in the media today.
  • Group Activity: In groups, students examine in-depth how the individuals in the Voices on Antisemitism episodes have been affected by propaganda in the media.
  • Photo Activity: Using quotations from the podcast series, students portray their thoughts and feelings about that quotation through photographs selected from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Photo Archive database.
  • Propaganda Image Analysis Activity: Deconstructs Nazi propaganda images.

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Resources

Museum Resources

Holocaust Encyclopedia articles:

Additional Online Resources Related to Propaganda and Media

  • Anti-Defamation League (Fights antisemitism and all forms of bigotry in the US)
  • Confronting Antisemitism: Myths & Facts (Booklet about the history of antisemitism and the myths that surround the theories.)
  • German Propaganda Archive (An online collection of propaganda materials created in Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Includes examples of antisemitic broadsides and cartoons, speeches by various Nazi leaders, and visual materials that promoted the National Socialist agenda. Created by a member of the faculty of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
  • Southern Poverty Law Center (Internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists, and its tracking of hate groups.)
  • Yad Vashem Resource Center (Provides in-depth information about the Holocaust using sources from the Yad Vashem Archives.)

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