What does learning about the choices people made during the Holocaust teach us about the power and impact of our choices today?
Image: August Landmesser, 1936, Hamburg, Germany. August Landmesser was a German worker at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg. In this photograph, Landmesser is identified as the man refusing to perform the Nazi salute at the launching of a vessel.
The Range of Responses
A thought-provoking lesson from Facing History and Ourselves. Requires two 50 minute class periods.
- What choices did individuals, groups, and nations make in response to the events of the Holocaust?
- What factors influenced their choices to act as perpetrators, bystanders, upstanders, or rescuers?
- Students will analyze, discuss, and explain the range of choices available to individuals, groups, and nations during the Holocaust and explore the possible motivations and reasons for decision making in this time of crisis.
- Students will recognize that the range of choices available in the 1940s was not as wide as the range available in the decades before the outbreak of war, but that despite these constraints, many upstanders and rescuers still chose to take action and help people targeted by the Nazis.
No Time to Think
Throughout the reading “No Time to Think,” the slow, incremental, yet willful choice to not act, to become a bystander and to remain indifferent is revealed. Cynthia Ozick, author of Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, reminds us that the bystander—the one who does not take part in any evil act directly, but turns away —is still a participant. “The act of turning away, however empty-handed and harmlessly, remains nevertheless an act.” Reading and discussion questions from Facing History and Ourselves. No Time to Think