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S3 / Year 9: Tips for Doing a Josef Mengele class

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by lfuller18, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. lfuller18

    lfuller18 New commenter

    Hi there,

    I'm a student teacher and have been asked to plan a lesson on Josef Mengele but I'm really at a loss as to how I can create a beneficial and meaningful activity that makes sense and doesn't spend too much time working on sources or extraction from sources exercise as we've done those to the max throughout our Holocaust module.

    Any tips would be much appreciated.
    Best wishes,

  2. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    You could do an ethics topic linked with Nazism (one of my tutors did that) and instead of just giving the horrific and sickening details. This would be more active and the students could also look at other experiments, such as Tuskagee or how society treats those they deem 2nd class or even not human.

    It might offer a different perspective to them.

  3. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I think (as a retired History teacher with more than 30 years experience) that you have been given a pretty thankless task; I wouldn't really want to teach such a lessons myself. (Not to Y9!)

    But if I had to, I might start looking here: https://www.het.org.uk/
  4. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    There is a German movie about Mengele, in the style of a fictional courtroom drama. Quite thought-provoking and created a lot of discussion at the time.
    If you can get hold of it, you may be able to show a scene as a hook. Might be too gimmicky for Year 9 (if they don't listen properly, they may remember the fictional trial as historical truth...), but maybe you yourself could find an interesting angle in it.
  5. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    Agreed, it's a thankless task with limited applicability. That sort of "disgust tourism" looking at the perpetrators' crimes rather than the causes or the victims' experiences makes me faintly queasy.

    A "beneficial or meaningful activity" is slightly cart before the horse. What do you want them to learn about Mengele? That he was a horrific piece of work who tore up the Hippocratic Oath in the most egregious way possible? That Nazi Germany created a perverse culture and incentives in which a sadist like Mengele could thrive? Or simply the disgusting details of his unethical "experiments"?

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Talk to your RS department. I ran a lesson like this just yesterday, where we examined the argument that science without ethics is highly dangerous.

    We were looking at modern progress in genetic engineering and asked what characteristics the students would 'remove' from the gene pool. We started with things like genetic illnesses, early death etc etc and then went into ones like being short sighted or deaf, then right down to the areas that a are highly questionable, like gender and sexuality. Would you define a persons gender identity clearly in the womb or not allow trans people to even exist? As we got closer to those arguements the support for genetic manipulation fell away to nothing, thankfully.

    We finished with the question of - would any scientist do anything like this? Which is obviously where Mengele came in. But it was just a very swift trot through what he did.

    But I worry a lot about teaching lessons which are just lists of atrocities (holocaust, jack the ripper, unit 731). They are quick win because children like them but it gets a bit like Stephen King's 'Apt Pupil'.

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