Tag Archives: Adolf Hitler

This Day in History 5/2: Nazis fall in Berlin and Italy

Red Army soldiers at a hotel near the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thus stars must have aligned perfectly, as the day in which Osama bin Laden was announced dead marks the anniversary of another milestone in the fight against oppression and terror.

On May 2, 1945, the Red Army finally announces the capture of the German capital of Berlin.  With the Soviet flag flying over the Reichstag, the German parliament building, the European theater of World War II was effectively over.

At the same time, in the Italian front, German general Heinrich von Vietinghoff signs the documents of surrender, as German forces give up all of Italy to the Allies.  Benito MussoliniHitler‘s busom buddy, was shot and strung up a few days previously on April 28, and Hitler would meet his own inglorious end on the 30th.

Like Osama bin Laden, their deaths were long overdue.  Furthermore, the world is a better place without them.  Their deaths were met with little saddness: just as today, crowds gathered in London, Times Square, Moscow and other cities to celebrate the end of lives that did far more harm than any good.

My grandmother had a soft spot for Mussolini.  Good thing she’s not around to hear this: Il Duce was as big a piece of crap as Der Fuhrer, Comrade Stalin, and the turbaned maniac we just double-tapped.  We’re a better country–nee, a better planet–without these people.

Good riddance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Movies for the Classroom: Triumph of the Will

If any teacher is starting, or is in the middle of, a unit about the Holocaust, you MUST include this film in your lessons.

Triumph of the Will (1935), directed by Leni Riefenstahl, is widely considered among the greatest propaganda films of all time.  Riefenstahi documents the 1934 Party Congress of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), or Nazi Party.  In her camera work, editing, and use of moving and close-up shots, Riefenstahi succeeds in creating a dazzling, upward movement of a people on the rise–and a leader at the forefront of that movement.

 In many classrooms, students have at least a cursory understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust.  However, many teachers, due to either ignorance, lack of content knowledge, etc., paint the tragedy as a simplistic moral tale: innocents slaughtered by heartless, unfeeling monsters.  Here’s an experiment I do that proves this otherwise.

Play the film for the students–and make sure you don’t tell the children any more than its a movie from the 1930s.  Watch and note how many times the children tap or play along to the marching music, cheer, give a Nazi salute, etc. 

I then ask, “Class, you know about Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, right?”  Most of my kids will probably respond about the Holocaust, about starting wars, hating Jews, or at the very least “he’s a bad guy.”

Then comes my response: “…then why did you enjoy the film so much?”

Most of the class would sit, stunned.  One year, a girl started to cry.  For the students, the realization that they became immersed in Nazi propaganda is a frightening experience.  Its an experience that’s absolutely necessary in order to understand the Holocaust.

The slaughter of millions of people was not done by mere monsters.  As shown in Triumph of the Will, an entire nation of regular people–people just like you and me–was seduced by the call of a return to glory and happiness.  

Little did they realize then the horrible cost of that seduction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Many Styles of Principals

seymour_skinnerPrincipals are not necessarily the lynchpin of a school–just ask Seymour Skinner here, Principal of Springfield Elementary School on The Simpsons. Springfield Elementary runs in spite of its principal, not because of it.

However, a good principal can make a school an efficient, exciting and pleasant place to work in and to learn.  Bad principals turn into Seymour Skinner.  An indifferent principal can make a bad situation worse, or make a good situation better due to a staff that, unlike their leader, has a clue.

I got to thinking about principals and their leadership styles when I was listening to colleagues over the past couple of weeks.  Many feel that the problem is not overbearing leadership, but rudderless leadership–especially in maintaining morale among teachers.  There are incidents of infighting, gossip-mongering, and undercutting at any school, to be sure.  Yet it seems that in my school there are people out to make sure no one is outperforming the others, either through gossip, subterfuge or downright sabotage.  There is little, if any, response from the administration, although a similar attempt at dissinformation was tried by a disgruntled staffer years ago and was thwarted adeptly by the principal.

At first, I thought that this was an attempt to be “above the fray”, to re-focus energies on more important tasks, like children’s education.  However, I began to think of other systems that had infighting and gossip as a common practice. You wouldn’t believe it–Nazi Germany.  Hitler, for all his numerous faults, knew how to keep control of his minions.  There was no one office that answered to Hitler; Nazi government consisted of competing agencies of equal status and power that would compete and undercut each other for Hitler’s favor.   For example, to actually communicate to the Fuhrer, there was the Office of the Reich Chancellory, the Office of the Party Chancellory, the Office of the Presidential Chancellory, the Privy Cabinet Council or the Chancellory of the Fuhrer.  They all had the same job–keep the boss happy.  With such a chaotic situation among the lower managers, Hitler safely asserted his authority.  It is similar to “divide and conquer”, but it’s more like a pack of dogs trying to please their owner.

Now I’m not saying my principal is Adolf Hitler–in fact, he’s probably one of the better principals I’ve seen.  I have a good rapport with him, and he has genuine affection for the kids.  It’s just that his style can best be described as “soft authoritarian.”  While he makes a point to delegate authority and spread the workload, he makes it very clear who’s in charge–and the faculty know this.  Hence the undercutting and gossip; it appears meant to maintain control.

I hope that’s not the case.  Control and leadership are two different things.  Hitler may have been in control, but he was not a good leader.  His system lent itself to the most radical and extreme ideas, without any way to debate or discuss them.  Principals that attempt games with their staff can fall into the same trap–instead of the best and most innovative ideas, internal division can lead to stagnation, or radical changes with little foresight.  Principals in control are not always good leaders.

Educators cannot choose the administration of a building.  However, their actions are tied to the actions of the administrators.  This interaction is vital to the development of functioning schools.

Just don’t get too close.  Ask Mr. Skinner and Ms. Krabappel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized