Kristallnacht: Did the press allow itself to be taken in by Nazi propaganda?

This lesson starts by creating tension between what students have read in preparation for the lesson and a contemporary newspaper. With students clearly aware of the obvious contradiction, they then have to set about working out: firstly, what Goebbels was really up to on Kritsallnacht; and why a YouTube video is at odds with the texts regarding the number of Jews who were killed on that night. The purpose behind the activity is not only to encourage students to focus on the important issue of provenance but also to get them to think carefully about the nature of evidence available to a historian and how they must seek out possible counterbalancing sources.

Learning objectives

  • Students are able to offer convincing reasons why contemporary newspapers’ version of events differed from later textbook accounts;
  • they are able to grasp that Goebbels may well have duped some press reporters at the time;
  • they can explain why some websites and You Tube clips might exaggerate the number of deaths;
  • they can explain a range of ways in which Kristallnacht can be seen as a turning-point in Nazi anti-semetic policy.

Step 1
Students come to the lesson having researched Kristallnacht. One of the issues in

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