How does one rise to public office? In part, by flattering the sensibilities of those one seeks to serve.
Do you appeal to their higher nature, their sense of civic responsibility and interconnectness?
Or do you capitalize on pre-existing biases, stoking already simmering fears and resentments to the boiling point?
The world paid a ghastly price when Germany’s Chancellor and eventual Führer Adolf Hitler proved himself a master of the latter approach.
It seems like we’ve been hearing about Hitler’s rise to power a lot lately… and not in anticipation of the fast-approaching 80th anniversary of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
We must always resist the temptation to oversimplify history, especially when doing so serves our own ends. There are way too many contributing factors to Hitler’s ascendancy to squeeze into a five minute animation.
On the other hand, you can’t dump a ton of information on people’s heads and expect them to absorb it all in one sitting. You have to start somewhere.
TED-Ed lesson planners Alex Gendler and Anthony Hazard, in collaboration with the Uncle Ginger animation studio, offer a very cogent explanation of how “a tyrant who orchestrated one of the largest genocides in history” achieved such a calamitously powerful position. All in a democratic fashion.
The video doesn’t touch on Hitler’s mental illness or the particulars of Weimar era political structures, but even viewers with limited historical context will walk away from it with an understanding that Hitler was a master at exploiting the German majority’s mood in the wake of WWI. (A 1933 census shows that Jews made up less than one percent of the total population.)
Hitler’s reputation as a charismatic speaker is difficult to accept, given hindsight, modern sensibilities, and the herky-jerky quality of archival footage. He seems unhinged. How could the crowds not see it?
Perhaps they could, Gendler and Hazard suggest. They just didn’t want to. Businessmen and intellectuals, wanting to back a winner, rationalized that his more monstrous rhetoric was “only for show.”
Quite an attention-getting show, as it turns out.
Could it happen again? Gendler and Hazard, like all good educators, present students with the facts, then open the floor for discussion.