How much did the Gestapo really control people’s lives in Hitler’s Germany?

This enquiry-based lesson acquaints students with a live political controversy using an excerpt from ‘The Nazis: a warning from history’ video to stimulate students to consider how they would set about checking whether a new theory about the role of the Gestapo was right.  The lesson ends with a fun way of consolidating students’ understanding of over a dozen different methods Hitler used to control people’s lives. I t is assumed that the students will have some knowledge of the ways people’s lives were controlled.  This lesson works best with more able students.

Learning objectives

  • students understand the historical debate concerning the role of the Gestapo
  • they  consider the evidence that historians might use as part of this enquiry
  • they consolidate their understanding of the range of methods Hitler used to extend his control.


Slowly reveal a Gestapo badge and then set up the enquiry using slides 3 and 4.

Step 1

Use slide 5 to reiterate the commonly-held view of the Gestapo’s role.

Step 2

Introduce students to Professor Gellately’s theory using the PowerPoint slides, followed up by showing the brief excerpt from the BBC programme The Nazis; a warning from history ( not included here) which covers

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