Saturday, November 30, 2013

KdF in the Classroom: Visual Learning and Thinking

The objective of this post is to 1) explain what the KDF was and 2) to give some background about Hitler's use of the KDF, and then 3) share some methods teachers can use to integrate this into a classroom lesson. (see disclaimer at the very bottom of this blog entry)

The Nazis attained power in Germany in 1933. But how does a teacher explain to students the continued popular support Nazis received in Germany between 1933 and 1945? A piece of that puzzle lies in the KDF. What was the KDF, and how did Hitler use it to win support from many Germans?

First of all, what do the three letters KDF stand for? 
KDF is an acronym for 
Kraft Durch Freude = Strength Through Joy.

Hitler's domestic program, KDF, was designed to increase and maintain support for the Nazi government in a variety of ways. One was by helping the average German worker with free or reduced priced vacations that were formerly out of reach for most German workers.
This image was on the rear of a small pocket ALTAS produced by the KdF that was filled with maps showing where in Europe German workers could go on their state sponsored vacations. Look at the image's details: note the "happy workers" waving as the go on vacation. 

Another undertaking of the KDF was borrowed from Henry Ford in designing an automobile that would be affordable to most German workers. The German Peoples' Car: Volk=People / Wagen= Car. Volkswagen.
The VW Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche who is seen here with Hitler inspecting a model. Hitler had asked Porsche to design a useful and affordable car for the German worker to purchase: A People's Car, a Volkswagen.

Some more background: Germany after World War One was a mess. On one hand, left-wing Communists wanted to take over Germany, and they tried to do so on several occasions in the 1920s and early 1930s, On the other hand,  there were right-wing militarist types, led by the National Socialists (aka NAZIS),  who were anti Communist, pro Kaiser, and strongly believed that Germany was betrayed into surrendering at the end of World War One by a cabal of Jews and Communists. These Communist leaning Germans and Right Wing Militarist Germans supported their respective political candidates and fought it out out on the streets of Germany throughout the 1920s and early 30s. The image below shows this:
Street fighting scene in Berlin 1919. Note that some of the people are in uniforms and some are in civilian attire. The SPARTACISTS were proCommunist Germans who fought against their right wing military political opponents on the streets of Germany between World Wars. This could be a good image to explore with students.

Germany was a de facto battleground between 1918 and 1933, with political factions having armed militias fighting it out on the streets.  Imagine if in the United States the Democrats and Republicans had their own armed militia units in each town who would fight each other, especially following elections. This does not exactly breed visions of stability and orderliness in post World War One Germany.  When Hitler and his crew achieved control, they had to figure out some way to appease a goodly portion of Germans who were Communist leaning worker types. The piece of the solution for Hitler was the KdF.
A 1936 German poster extolling the virtues an dignity of work in Nazi Germany via the KdF.
The Strength Through Joy program was a broad in its scope of operations. It was an attempt by the Nazis to control and indoctrinate the German people in all aspects of their lives: work, leisure, exercise, vacation, etc.  The KdF even had a fleet of luxury cruise liners that catered to workers to ferry them to exotic vacation spots such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. The images below are of a photo album in the author's collection from one such cruise.
Souvenir photo album from a trip on board one of the KdF ships: Der Deutsche 
a collection of menus and agenda of daily events while onboard one of the KdF ships: Der Deutsche

This sticker is inside the cover of the souvenir photo album for Der Deutsche 

As the 1930s ended and the demands of war increased pressure on all facets of German society in the 1940s,  KDF personnel were used to assist the war effort in many other ways, besides vacations. Among other things, they cared for wounded soldiers and acted as bomb wardens when bombing of Germany increased. The images below are of a German firefighter helmet that was used by KdF personnel during bombings of Germany World War Two.

Perhaps one question that may confound students who learn about rise of the Nazis in Germany  is why and how did Hitler and his crew manage to win the allegiance of the German people in the 1930's?
A great way to approach this topic is to look at a visual. The KdF program made ample use of images to promote their programs.

WE WILL USE THE Image BELOW as a way to begin our lesson on the KdF. You will need to be able to PROJECT it on a screen.
Use the VTS method to have students explore the image as a class. VTS is an acronym for Visual Thinking Strategies. Click here to see it in action and for details. This inquiry based visual learning method is effective in allowing students to try to make sense of what they are looking at together. The teacher acts as a facilitator in guiding student discussion, being sure NOT to tell the students (at this stage) what the image is all about.
STEP ONE: show the image to students and ask
                 1. What is going on here?
                 2. As students start telling you what they are seeing, the teacher POINTS to what the student is talking about AND repeats and confirms what the student is saying. DO NOT TELL THEM WHAT YOU MAY KNOW about the image, at this point. LET THEM try to figure it out.
                 3.  The students will gradually shift from pointing out objects they can see in the image to trying to create narratives explaining and trying to make sense of the image.
                 4.  When a student makes such a speculative point like, "They are going on a trip"....YOU say to the student "WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?"  Let the student advance his or her thesis with VISUAL EVIDENCE. Doing this often enough will reinforce the writing process of using supportive details to buttress an main idea
                 5. If the discussion dies down, ask students "What more can we find?"

When student discussion has died down, move on to PART II

           1. This is the part where the teacher can share information with the students. Click here to go to my Thinglink account and entry for the image we are considering.  This is a website that will allow you to upload images and "tag" them with whatever added information you wish: verbal text, other images, web links, Youtube links, audio links, etc.
          2.  Drag your mouse over the "tags" you have created and use this as a way to show and tell the students about how the image is relevant to the historic lesson at hand.

Part III
     1. With responsible students, I teach the them how to present images to the class using VTS, create their own THINGLINK Account, upload, tag, and research an image that relates to our lesson. It has worked very well with my AP World History classes.

Sources for reference:
1. Strength Through Joy by Shelley Baranowski. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
2. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans. Penguin Press, 2003
3. The Third Reich in Power by Richard J. Evans. Penguin, 2003

DISCLAIMER: the goal of this blog entry is to offer some insight into how the Nazis kept power and popularity in Germany. I am not a NAZI, nor do I advocate their ideas. I think advancing Nazi ideas would be a criminal act; however, I think NOT teaching about these horrible pages of history is even MORE of a CRIMINAL ACT.  

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