This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
To deepen your understanding of the ideas in this lesson, read Chapter Five in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior.
WHY teach this material?
In previous lessons, students considered how Germany became a totalitarian state. Beginning with this lesson, students engage with material that will help them answer the question, “Once the Nazis came to power, why did most Germans follow the policies dictated by Hitler and the Nazi Party?” Students begin to answer this question by examining the human tendency to obey authority. Through analyzing two historical examples (one scenario describes the experiences of students at a school in California in the late 1960s and the other comes from 1935 Nazi Germany), students have the opportunity to understand obedience not as a distinctive German trait, but as an aspect of human behavior that is relevant to their decisions as individuals living in a larger society. In this lesson, students learn how to differentiate between obedience and blind obedience—obeying authority without question—and they practice the habit of distinguishing between situations when it is important and appropriate to obey authority and situations that call for resistance to authority.
The purpose of this lesson is to help students: • Reflect on these guiding questions: • What is obedience? What factors encourage obedience to authority? • What is resistance? What factors encourage resistance to authority? • What are some reasons why Germans obeyed authority in Nazi Germany? • What is the difference between obedience and blind obedience? • Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate to obey authority? Why? • Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate to resist authority? Why? • Practice these interdisciplinary skills: • Defining abstract concepts • Interpreting historical narratives • Defending ideas with evidence • Sharing ideas in writing and speaking • Deepen understanding of these key terms: • Obedience • Blind obedience/unconditional obedience • Authority • Resistance • Oath • Fear • Conformity/peer pressure
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(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key terms.)
WHAT is this lesson about?
When Paul von Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler combined the positions of chancellor and president. He was now the Führer and Reich Chancellor, the Head of State, and the Chief of Armed Forces. During the Weimar Republic, German soldiers had taken this oath: “I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will at all times loyally and honestly serve my people and country and, as a brave soldier, I will be ready at any time to stake my life for this oath.” Now Hitler created a new oath. “I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht [armed forces], and as a brave soldier will be ready at any time to stake my life for this oath.”1 While in the earlier oath German soldiers swore allegiance to the country, under Hitler’s oath German soldiers, and eventually all government workers, swore their “unconditional obedience” to Hitler himself. Soldiers recalled how taking this oath allowed them to commit horrible crimes in Hitler’s name. Historian William L. Shirer, author of the book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, said the new oath distanced perpetrators from responsibility for the crimes they were committing, enabling ofﬁcers “to excuse themselves from any personal responsibility for the unspeakable crimes which they carried out on the orders of the Supreme Commander. . . .”2 A culture of obedience pervaded not only the military, but all aspects of German society. German children who grew up in the 1930s, such as Hede von Nagel, describe how obedience was a central part of their upbringing and schooling. “Our parents taught us to raise our arms and say, ‘Heil Hitler’ before we said ‘Mama,’” she recalls.3 Under the Nazis, students did not call their instructors by the title Lehrer, meaning teacher, but instead they referred to their teachers as Erzieher. “The word [Erzieher] suggests an iron disciplinarian who does not instruct but commands, and whose orders are backed up with force if necessary,” explains Gregor Ziemer, a teacher and journalist who lived in Germany when the Nazis came to power.4 Alfons Heck, a teenager in the 1930s, remembers how the constant messages to obey inﬂuenced his behavior. “Never did we question what our teachers said,” Heck said. “We simply believed what was crammed into us.”5 This included believing the idea that some groups, especially Jews, were racially inferior, and that their very presence could harm the health and prosperity of the German people. These beliefs ultimately allowed Germans to make choices that resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. After the Holocaust, many observers and scholars wondered if there was something distinctive about German identity that made Germans more prone to obedient behavior than individuals from other cultures. Stanley Milgram, a professor at Yale University, decided to ﬁnd out by recruiting college students to take part in what he called “a study of the effects of punishment on learning.” Working with pairs, Milgram designated one volunteer as “teacher” and the other as “learner.” As the “teacher” watched, the “learner” was strapped into a chair with an electrode attached to each wrist. The “learner” was then told to memorize word pairs for a test and warned that wrong answers would result in electric shocks. The “learner” was, in fact, a member of Milgram’s team. The real focus of the experiment was the “teacher.” Each was taken to a separate room and seated before a
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“shock generator” with switches ranging from 15 volts labeled “slight shock” to 450 volts labeled “danger—severe shock.” Each “teacher” was told to administer a “shock” for each wrong answer. The shock was to increase by 15 volts every time the “learner” responded incorrectly. The volunteer received a practice shock before the test began to get an idea of the pain involved. In Milgram’s words, “The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inﬂict increasing pain on a protesting victim. At what point will the subject refuse to obey the experimenter?”6 Milgram’s hypothesis was that Germans would be more obedient than United States subjects and that most volunteers would refuse to give electric shocks of more than 150 volts. A group of psychologists and psychiatrists predicted that less than one-tenth of 1% of the volunteers would administer all 450 volts. To everyone’s amazement, 65% gave the full 450 volts! Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford University, made the following comments about Milgram’s study:
The question to ask of Milgram’s research is not why the majority of normal, average subjects behave in evil (felonious) ways, but what did the disobeying minority do after they refused to continue to shock the poor soul, who was so obviously in pain? Did they intervene, go to his aid, did they denounce the researcher, protest to higher authorities, etc.? No, even their disobedience was within the framework of “acceptability,” they stayed in their seats, “in their assigned place,” politely, psychologically demurred, and they waited to be dismissed by the authority.7
In this lesson, students will read about an experiment conducted by Ron Jones, a history teacher in California in the 1960s, whose ﬁndings also reveal how obedience is a dominant facet of human behavior.* While teaching a unit on Nazi Germany, he asked his students to obey speciﬁc commands about how to sit, answer questions, and salute him. Jones was shocked to ﬁnd that nearly all of his students willingly, and even enthusiastically, obeyed his every command. Within several days, Jones orchestrated a series of rules for “Third Wave” members to follow, including reporting infractions of classmates who were not obeying these commands. Again, an overwhelming majority of students followed Jones’s plans, even threatening to beat up the minority of students who were skeptical of the Third Wave. Worried parents of these students called Jones to ﬁnd out what was happening in school. “I was hoping he would come in with a tremendous amount of rage,” say Jones, referring to his conversation with a concerned father. Instead of being angry, the parent accepted Jones’s explanation.8 At this point, Jones was looking for an excuse to stop the Third Wave, such as intervention on the part of parents or school administrators. But, this was not to be. After about a week, when Jones recognized that the experiment had gotten out of control, he knew he had to take steps to end it. At an assembly, he told his students, “There is no Third Wave movement. . . . You and I are no better or worse than the citizens of the Third Reich. We would have worked in the defense plants. We will watch our neighbors be
* Facing History uses the “Third Wave” experiment to reveal how obedience is a natural aspect of human behavior. Facing History does not condone the use of simulations and experiments used on students. Simulations like this one have unintended consequences. Some of Mr. Jones’s students were emotionally disturbed by their involvement in the Third Wave. One student remarked how it hurt to have been fooled like that by a teacher. A respectful, safe classroom environment is based on trust among students and teacher. Simulations, like the one carried out by Mr. Jones, can violate that trust, not only between the students and one particular teacher, but they also have the power to cause students to distrust teachers in general.
taken away, and do nothing,” Jones declared, referring to the three skeptics who had been exiled to the library for the crime of disbelief. “We’re just like those Germans. We would give our freedom up for the chance of being special.” Explaining his involvement in the Third Wave, Philip Neel shared, “You want to please your teachers, your peers and you don’t want to fail.”9 What these studies, and others like them, demonstrate is the universal tendency of individuals to obey authority. Surely the desire to belong and succeed, and the fear of ostracism and failure, inﬂuenced the decisions made by the majority of Germans who obeyed the commands of Nazi ofﬁcials, just as they inﬂuenced the decisions made by students in California. While the tendency to obey is universal, the particular consequences for obeying, and refusing to obey, must be analyzed within their unique historical context. In the 1930s, Germans who quietly resisted Nazi commands often faced social ostracism or might have lost their jobs; rarely were they jailed or hurt for refusing to say “Heil Hitler.” Ricarda Huch, a poet and writer, refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler. She had to resign from her prestigious academic position and lived in Germany throughout the Nazi era in “internal exile,” unable to publish her work but also physically unharmed.10 With the start of World War II in 1939, failing to obey authority could be a matter of life and death. Historical evidence implies that some Germans were excessively obedient to Hitler’s demands, going above and beyond to show their loyalty to the Reich. For example, Germans took it upon themselves to report their neighbors to the Gestapo, even when they were under no pressure to do so. (Similarly, the students in the Third Wave experiment reported “deviants” even when this was not required of them.) However, historian Robert Gellately refutes the argument that many Germans went along with the Nazis simply because of a desire to obey authority. His research about “Gestapo’s unsolicited agents” revealed that in most cases, informers were motivated by factors such as greed, jealousy, revenge, or a desire to be taken seriously.11 Thus, while on the one hand it is important to recognize the signiﬁcance of obedience as a factor that inﬂuenced decisionmaking in Nazi Germany, on the other hand, we must avoid explaining decisions as only a matter of obedience. Multiple factors, such as opportunism, propaganda, fear, conformity, prejudice, and self-preservation, shaped the choices made by individuals before and during the Holocaust. [Note: These factors will be explored in greater depth in subsequent lessons.] Finally, although the examples discussed above, and included in this lesson, demonstrate moments when obedience to authority resulted in negative consequences for vulnerable groups, this is not to suggest that obedience itself is harmful. Indeed, in most situations obedience to authority is appropriate and necessary to maintain peace and order in a community. For example, it would be difﬁcult for a classroom of students to learn without any respect for authority. What these examples do reveal is the danger caused by “blind obedience”—when individuals follow orders without really “seeing” or questioning what they are being asked to do. Individuals who blindly obey authority fail to contemplate the moral consequences of their decisions. Because of this, they are prone to make unjust or unethical choices that inﬂict harm on members of a community, especially those in the minority. The history of Germany in the 1930s lends support to the statement that human rights are more likely to be abused when individuals blindly obey authority—when they fail to
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consider whether what they are being asked to do is appropriate and morally just. Through the use of propaganda, fear, and opportunism, the German citizenry had been conditioned to avoid questioning the rules they were being asked to follow—rules that required Germans to treat their non-Aryan neighbors as second-class citizens and eventually as non-humans. What started as obeying laws requiring Germans to ﬁre Jewish colleagues or avoid Jewish stores developed into laws requiring Germans to report their Jewish neighbors to the SS (the Nazi police) so that they could be deported to ghettos and concentration camps. During the Holocaust, blind obedience to Nazi policies was a signiﬁcant factor that contributed to the murder of millions of innocent children, women, and men. From studying other moments in history—from Gandhi’s salt march in India, to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, to the civil rights movement in the United States—we learn that when citizens have the capacity to wisely and respectfully question authority, they can make better decisions about whether or not their obedience is ethically justiﬁed and can push for unjust laws to be changed. Related readings in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior “A Matter of Obedience,” pp. 210–13 “Taking Over the Universities,” pp. 172–74 “No Time to Think,” pp. 189–90 “A Refusal to Compromise,” pp. 192–93 “Do You Take the Oath?” pp. 198–200 “The People Respond,” pp. 203–4 “Rebels Without a Cause,” pp. 249–50 “Taking a Stand,” pp. 268–69
HOW can we help students engage with this material?
Duration: one class period Materials
Handout 1: Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part One) Handout 2: Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part Two) Handout 3: Do You Take the Oath? (Part One) Handout 4: Do You Take the Oath? (Part Two)
Begin this lesson by giving students the opportunity to think about the words “obey” and “obedience.” When they hear the words “obey” or “obedience,” what experiences, questions, thoughts or comments come to mind? You might post these words on the board and ask students to write or draw their reactions to these terms. After one or two minutes, you can go around the room allowing each student to contribute one idea that they recorded. As they share their ideas, ask students to listen for similarities and differences in their reactions to these terms. At the end of this exercise, explain that the purpose of this lesson is to help them understand how obedience inﬂuences decision-making, in Nazi Germany and in their own lives.
Remind students that in the previous lesson they learned about the various factors that resulted in the end of democracy in Germany and the beginning of Hitler’s dictatorship. One of Hitler’s ﬁrst acts as dictator of Germany was to establish a law mandating that soldiers and government workers take an oath of allegiance, not to the country or a constitution, but to Hitler himself. The oath was worded as follows:
I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Führer [leader] of the German Reich [empire] and people, Adolf Hitler, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht [armed forces], and as a brave soldier will be ready at any time to stake my life for this oath.12
Read this oath to students. Then, write the phrase unconditional obedience on the board or on your word wall and ask students to record a working deﬁnition of this phrase in their journals. You might want to use the think-pair-share teaching strategy (described below) to help students with this task. Students can add or change this deﬁnition after this lesson and throughout this unit as they continue to learn about the meaning of unconditional obedience.
Think-Pair-Share Teaching Strategy Step one: Think Have students react to a text or respond to specific questions in their journals. Step two: Pair Have students share their responses with a partner. Step three: Share Ask a representative of each pair to share an idea from their discussion. Alternatively, you can have two or more pairs discuss their ideas together. Or, you can form groups that include one member of several pairs.
Next, ask students if they think many Germans will agree to take this oath of allegiance to Hitler. To make this question more concrete, you can read to them the ﬁrst few lines from the reading, “Do you take the oath?” As you slowly read these lines, ask students to record important words or phrases.
I was employed in a defense [war] plant…. That was the year of the National Defense Law…. Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity. I said I would not; I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to “think it over.”13
After you read, have students report the words or phrases they recorded. Several important words and phrases in this excerpt are law, required, and “opposed it in conscience.” Then ask students to discuss with their neighbor whether or not they think this man will take the oath and the factors that may shape his decision. Again, you can use the thinkpair-share teaching strategy to structure this conversation. Inform students that before they come back to his decision at the end of the lesson, they will learn about obedience in a context closer to their lives than Germany in the 1930s, by reading an excerpt of a true story that took place in a school in the United States in
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1967. Distribute handout 1, “Strength through discipline: The Third Wave.” You can ask student volunteers to read the excerpt aloud. As students read, have them highlight or underline examples of obedience. You can use the questions following the excerpt to frame a whole class discussion, or you can have students answer them with partners using the think-pair-share strategy. Before distributing handout 2, have students share their answers to questions 2 and 3. You might even take a poll by a show of hands to gauge how many students think Ron Jones’s students will return his Third Wave salute. Repeat this process for handout 2, allowing time for a thoughtful discussion about obedience and authority. At this point in the lesson, you might want to provide students with the opportunity to revise their working deﬁnition or obedience. Now that students have a deeper understanding of obedience, distribute handout 3. You can repeat the same process of reading the text aloud and then having students debrief the reading using the think-pair-share teaching strategy. Or you can use the barometer teaching strategy to structure students’ discussion of questions 1 and 2 on this handout. The barometer teaching strategy helps students share their opinions by lining up along a continuum to represent their point of view.
Barometer Teaching Strategy 1. To prepare for this activity, you need to identify a space in the classroom where students can create a line or a U-shape. 2. At one end of the line, post a sign that reads “takes the oath” and at the other end of the line post a sign that reads “does not take the oath.” 3. Give students several minutes to respond to questions 1 and 2 on handout 3. 4. Ask students to stand on the spot of the line that represents their answer to question one. Once all students have lined up, ask students at different ends of the line to explain their position. Encourage students to keep an open mind; they are allowed to move if someone shares an argument that alters where they want to stand on the line. 5. Repeat this process for discussing question 2 on handout 3.
Then distribute handout 4, in which the man explains why he decided to take the oath and the consequences of his decision. Encourage students to apply their understanding of obedience, including the conditions that encourage and discourage obedient behavior, to help them understand this man’s decision to take Hitler’s oath of loyalty.
Follow-Through (in class or at home)
The two examples of obedience students explored in this lesson both addressed instances when blind obedience to authority had negative consequences, resulting in bullying, ostracism, and discriminatory treatment of innocent victims. (although by no means should students equate the consequences of the students’ actions in Mr. Jones’s class to the consequences of the actions of millions of Germans in the 1930s). Yet, it would be irresponsible if students came away from this lesson with the impression that obedience is bad. To be sure, for societies to function it is critical that individuals obey authority. Thus, one important learning goal for this lesson is for students to develop their ability to draw distinctions between situations when it is appropriate to obey authority and situations that call for resistance to authority.
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One way you can help students practice this important skill is to ask them to create examples of situations when it is good, and even vital, that individuals obey authority. For example, as a matter of public safety, when a mayor asks citizens to leave town before a hurricane, it is important that residents of that town listen. Then, ask students to brainstorm examples that call for resistance to authority. These examples could come from history or from students’ own experiences. You might have students work in groups to develop at least one obedience scenario and one resistance scenario. Students could read the scenarios aloud and ask the rest of the class to suggest if they think that scenario calls for obedience or resistance. If there are scenarios where the class does not agree about the appropriate course of action, give students the opportunity to explain their positions and to listen to the ideas of others. This also could be structured as a barometer activity.
At the end of this lesson, you can ask students to turn in an “exit card” where they deﬁne the term obedience and write one question they have about obedience. Exit cards provide immediate information about what students have learned and where their confusions may lie. By having students reﬂect on a particular question or theme, exit cards also help students retain important information. Another way to measure students’ understanding of obedience is to review their answers to the questions on the handouts. When reviewing students’ work, whether it be their participation in class discussions or their written work, look for responses that indicate an understanding of obedience as a universal human trait, and for responses that identify factors that encourage obedience, such as the presence of a charismatic leader, fear, peer pressure, and traditions that provide a sense of belonging.
• As part of the opening activity, ask students to compare Hitler’s oath of loyalty to the United States Pledge of Allegiance. Prompts you might use to guide students’ comparison of these two statements include: What is an oath or a pledge? What is similar about these statements? What is different? To what is the speaker being asked to pledge allegiance? What is the signiﬁcance of pledging loyalty to values and ideals versus pledging loyalty to a person? • In an article Ron Jones published about his experience leading the Third Wave, he writes that he was surprised and disturbed that parents did not intervene to stop this experiment. He recalls how several concerned students told their parents about what was happening at school. Yet, according to Mr. Jones, he only heard from one parent, who happened to be a rabbi. When this father called him to ﬁnd out what was going on at school, Mr. Jones was able to convince him that everything was under control and the parent did nothing further to intervene. After students read part two of “Strength Through Discipline” (handout 2), you might ask students to explain why they think parents let this experiment continue. Why didn’t any parents call the principal or refuse to send their children to Mr. Jones’s class? • One common phrase used to refer to Germans during the Nazi years is “blind obedience.” As a follow-through activity, you can ask students to distinguish between obedience and blind obedience. Then, students can apply this phrase to the readings in this lesson by answering questions such as: Were the students in California “blind”? If so, what caused this blindness? By the end of this experiment do you think their vision was restored? How might this have been accomplished? Was the German man who took the oath blindly obedient or just obedient? How do you know? You also can have students identify a moment of blind obedience from their
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own lives and reﬂect on the conditions that encouraged this blindness. Students can also brainstorm what they could do in their own lives to discourage blind obedience. • The ﬁlm Obedience is a documentary about Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment. It can be borrowed from Facing History’s library. Some teachers might choose to show excerpts from this ﬁlm instead of, or in addition to, using the Ron Jones excerpts. We strongly recommend that you preview this ﬁlm before deciding whether or not it is appropriate for your students. If you decide to show this ﬁlm, make sure that students know that the learners in the experiments are not really getting shocked; they are actors working in collaboration with the researchers. The important point is that the “subjects,” the test administrators, are led to believe that they are actually shocking the learner. Also, teachers who have used this ﬁlm comment on the importance of planning sufﬁcient time for debrieﬁng during that class period, so that students can process their reactions before moving on to their next class. Often Facing History teachers do not show the whole ﬁlm, but focus on the part when the “teacher” volunteer obeys the instructions of the test administrator to the most advanced degree (minutes 21:50–35:15). While viewing this clip, ask students to closely observe the behavior of the “teacher” and the test administrator. The following questions might be written on the board or on a note-taking template to guide students’ viewing of the clip: What language is used by the experimenter and the “teacher”? What is the teacher’s body language? How does the teacher act as he administered the shocks? What does he say? What pressures were placed on him as the experiment continued? This ﬁlm has been known to provoke strong emotional reactions in students, as they try to make sense of why individuals obey authority, even if it means inﬂicting harm on others. Many teachers have been surprised when students laugh at sensitive moments of the documentary. This laughter can be interpreted in many ways, but often it is a sign of discomfort or confusion, not of enjoyment. • The Wave (46 minutes) is an Emmy Award–winning ﬁlm that recreates Ron Jones’s classroom “experiment.” It can be borrowed from Facing History’s lending library. You may wish to show part or all of this ﬁlm as part of this lesson on obedience. Even though the ﬁlm was made more than twenty years ago, students are typically very engaged by this true story of obedience in an American school.
Lesson 9: Handout 1
Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part One)
The following story is told by Ron Jones, a history teacher in California: On Monday, I introduced my sophomore history students to one of the experiences that characterized Nazi Germany. Discipline . . . To experience the power of discipline, I invited, no I commanded the class to exercise and use a new seating posture; I described how proper sitting posture assists mandatory concentration and strengthens the will. In fact I instructed the class in a sitting posture. This posture started with feet flat on the floor, hands placed flat across the small of the back to force a straight alignment of the spine. “There can’t you breath more easily? You’re more alert. Don’t you feel better?“ We practiced this new attention position over and over. I walked up and down the aisles of seated students pointing out small flaws, making improvements. Proper seating became the most important aspect of learning. I would dismiss the class allowing them to leave their desks and then call them abruptly back to an attention sitting position. In speed drills the class learned to move from standing position to attention sitting in fifteen seconds. . . . It was strange how quickly the students took to this uniform code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed. . . . 14 To provide an encounter with community I had the class recite in unison “strength through discipline, strength through community.” First I would have two students stand and call back our motto. Then add two more until finally the whole class was standing and reciting. . . . As the class period was ending and without forethought I created a class salute. It was for class members only. To make the salute you brought your right hand up toward the right shoulder in a curled position. I called it the Third Wave salute because the hand resembled a wave about to top over. . . . Since we had a salute I made it a rule to salute all class members outside the classroom. When the bell sounded ending the period I asked the class for complete silence. With everyone sitting at attention I slowly raised my arm and with a cupped hand I saluted. It was a silent signal of recognition. They were something special.15
Questions: 1. What are two things Mr. Jones asked his class to do? How did they respond?
2. At the end of this excerpt, Mr. Jones gave the Third Wave salute. What are three different ways his students might have responded to this action?
3. How do you think they did respond? Explain your answer.
Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 136
Lesson 9: Handout 2
Strength Through Discipline: The Third Wave (Part Two)
Ron Jones continues his story: Without command the entire group of students returned the salute. . . . Throughout the next few days students in the class would exchange this greeting. You would be walking down the hall when all of a sudden three classmates would turn your way each flashing a quick salute. On Wednesday, I decided to issue membership cards to every student that wanted to continue what I now called the experiment. Not a single student elected to leave the room. . . . To allow students the experience of direct action I gave each individual a specific verbal assignment. “It’s your task to design a Third Wave Banner. You are responsible for stopping any student that is not a Third Wave member from entering this room. . . . I want each of you to give me the name and address of one reliable friend that you think might want to join the Third Wave.”. . . The school cook asked what a Third Wave cookie looked like. I said chocolate chip of course. Our principal came into an afternoon faculty meeting and gave me the Third Wave salute. I saluted back. . . . By the end of the day over two hundred students were admitted into the order. . . . While the class sat at attention I gave each person a card. I marked three of the cards with a red X and informed the recipients that they had a special assignment to report any students not complying to class rules. . . . Though I formally appointed only three students to report deviate behavior, approximately twenty students came to me with reports about how Allan didn’t salute, or Georgene was talking critically about our experiment. This incidence of monitoring meant that half the class now considered it their duty to observe and report on members of their class. . . . Many of the students were completely into being Third Wave Members. They demanded strict obedience of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly.16
Questions: 1. What are two things Mr. Jones asked his class to do? How did they respond?
2. Why do you think that many of the students and the larger school community “were completely into being Third Wave members” and followed all of Mr. Jones’s instructions, even demanding “strict obedience of the rules from other students”? What factors encouraged their obedient behavior?
3. What might have prevented so many students from obeying Mr. Jones? Under what conditions do individuals resist authority?
Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 137
Lesson 9: Handout 3
Do You Take the Oath? (Part One)
Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior A German man recalled the day he was asked to pledge loyalty to Adolf Hitler:
I was employed in a defense [war] plant. . . . That was the year of the National Defense Law. . . .Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity [loyalty]. I said I would not; I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to “think it over. . . .” [R]efusal would have meant the loss of my job, of course, not prison or anything like that. . . . But losing my job would have meant that I could not get another. Wherever I went I should be asked why I left the job I had, and when I said why, I should certainly have been refused employment. . . . I tried not to think of myself or my family. We might have got out of the country, in any case, and I could have got a job in industry or education somewhere else. What I tried to think of was the people to whom I might be of some help later on, if things got worse (as I believed they would). I had a wide friendship in scientific and academic circles, including many Jews, and “Aryans,” too, who might be in trouble. If I took the oath and held my job, I might be of help, somehow, as things went on. If I refused to take the oath, I would certainly be useless to my friends, even if I remained in the country.17
Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 138
Lesson 9: Handout 3
Do You Take the Oath? (Part One)
Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior
Questions: 1. List reasons to support why he should obey authority (take the oath) and why he should resist authority (refuse to take the oath).
Reasons in favor of taking the oath
Reasons against taking the oath
2. What do you think this man decided to do? Place an “x” on the place in the scale below that represents whether or not you think this man took the oath of loyalty to Hitler.
I am certain this man did not take the oath. I am certain this man did take the oath.
Explain the reasons why you placed an “x” at this place on the scale, referring to ideas from the passage and your own ideas about obedience to authority.
Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 139
Lesson 9: Handout 4
Do You Take the Oath? (Part Two)
Excerpted from pp. 198–201 in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior The man explains his decision:
The next day, after “thinking it over,” I said I would take the oath. . . . That day the world was lost, and it was I who lost it. There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in birth, in education, and in position. . . . If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or, indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence or of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost. . . .18
Questions: 1. What does the man mean when he says, “If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. . . . Thus the regime would have been overthrown”?
2. Do you agree with his statement? To what extent do you believe that the choice of one individual can make a difference (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree)?
3. The man says that he “was not prepared to resist.” What does it mean to resist? Under what conditions are people more likely to resist authority?
4. Compare the opportunities for resistance for this German man and for the students in Mr. Jones’s class. In what ways were they the same? In what ways were they different? For whom was resistance more of a possibility? Explain your answer.
Purpose: To deepen understanding of how obedience to authority influences decision-making. • 140
“The Führer Oath,” Jewish Virtual Library, Jewish Virtual Library website, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/oath.html (accessed January 8, 2009). 2 William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 227. 3 Mede von Nagel, “The Nazi Legacy: Fearful Silence for Their Children,” The Boston Globe, October 23, 1977. 4 Gregor Ziemer, Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), 15. 5 Eleanor Ayer and Alfons Heck, Parallel Journeys (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995), 1. 6 Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974), 3–4. 7 Philip Zimbardo, “The Pathology of Imprisonment,” Society 9 (April 1972):4–8. 8 Leslie Weinfeld, “Remembering the 3rd Wave,” The Wave, Ron Jones website, http://www.ronjoneswriter.com/wave.html (accessed January 8, 2009). 9 Ibid. 10 Wolfgang Beutin, A History of German Literature (Abingdon: Routledge, 1993), 496. 11 Robert Gellately, Florida State University website, http://www.fsu.edu/profiles/gellately/ (accessed January 9, 2009). For more information on German citizens reporting neighbors to the Gestapo, read Gellaty’s book Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, 1933–1944 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). 12 “The Führer Oath,” Jewish Virtual Library. 13 Joachim Remak, The Nazi Years: A Documentary History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 162. 14 Ron Jones, No Substitute for Madness: A Teacher, His Kids, and the Lessons of Real Life (Covelo: Island Press, 1981), 5–6. 15 Ibid., 8–9. 16 Ibid., 9–13. 17 Remak, The Nazi Years, 162. 18 Ibid.