Franklin Roosevelt was president during the destruction of European Jewry. Was his administration’s response correct for fighting total war or should he have done more to save those doomed by Nazism? This lesson will familiarize students with both sides of the current historical controversy, assessing Roosevelt as a wartime leader.
Standards Addressed: History/Social Science:
11.75: Discuss the constitutional issues and impact of events on the U.S. homefront including…the response of the administration to Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other groups….
12.82: Describe the roles of broadcast…media…as means of communication in American politics.
2.3: Synthesize the content from several sources or works…paraphrase the ideas and connect them to other sources and related topics to demonstrate comprehension
English Language Learner (ELL) Strategies: Partnering: students work in partners to analyze video. Teacher asks for verbal answers from prepared students.
Group Work: students jigsaw and summarize paragraphs from scholarly journal and present synopsis to class. Results are written in T-chart form on worksheet.
Who is the last president who was assassinated? Who killed President Kennedy? Today, 32 years later, there is still some controversy over the Warren Commission’s report. The facts—who was hit and how many shots were fired—are not greatly contested. The debate rages over the interpretation of those facts. Likewise, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration provided little direct aid for victims of Nazi genocide. Is it reasonable to assume that FDR could have done more to save the doomed Jews of Europe? Some historians’ interpretation of the facts leads them to believe that FDR should have done more. Other historians write that the president did what was possible, considering the political climate of the pre-war and war years.
Task Summary: 1. Introduce PBS documentary. PBS aired a documentary about eleven years ago called America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference. This video was based on historian David Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews. The media prefers Wyman’s outlook and has contributed to make it the dominant view on FDR and the Holocaust.
2. Show segments of the video, adding up to about seven minutes.
3. Students work with partners to fill out the left side of the worksheet (Roosevelt Should Have Done More). I call upon three students to share their answers.
4. Introduce historians Henry Feingold and Richard Breitman who represent the right side of the worksheet. These historians, in contrast to Wyman, look at the Roosevelt administration and the American people not as they should have been but as they actually were.
5. Divide the class into seven groups and jigsaw seven paragraphs from Feingold’s and Breitman’s articles in Dimensions.
Each group writes three to five bullet-points summarized from their paragraph on large sheets of paper posted around the room. Each large sheet is titled to match the paragraph.
Each group presents its findings and all student finish the right side of the worksheet.
Students work again in pairs and discuss how the Roosevelt administration should be judged, drawing from their worksheet. If needed, step eight can be assessed with a homework paragraph asking the same question.
1. Paragraphs from Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, Volume 8, Number 2, 1994.
2. Worksheet and rubric
3. Large sheets of paper taped around the room. A blackboard/dryboard can substitute.
4. America and the Holocaust, American Experience Series, WGBH Video, 1994
How were America’s Jewish groups a potent or impotent force in dealing with anti-refugee forces in American society? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
When did Roosevelt know about the Final Solution? How did the administration help victims of Nazism? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Write what you would have done as president during WWII. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What were Roosevelt’s priorities, 1942-1945? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________