The Declaration – An Extraordinary Offer
Using a unique primary document, this lesson highlights the difficult choices made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, a small group of people who adhered to their beliefs despite brutal efforts to make them conform to Nazi ideology. Unlike other concentration camp inmates, the Witnesses could buy their freedom for a price if they signed a carefully drafted document, a “Declaration” renouncing their faith and fully endorsing Nazi ideology. The SS kept this prospect for freedom in front of the Witnesses while subjecting them to the brutal, deadly treatment of daily camp life. Relatively few signed.
- Students will analyze why Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to conform to Nazi ideology.
- Students will identify Nazi pressure tactics through examination of primary source document
- Students will compare and contrast choices and consequences of conforming to or rejecting Nazi demands.
Facing History and Ourselves
Free online lesson plan Stand Firm: Choice and Consequences is available to teachers who are members of the Facing History Educator Network.
Lesson plan explores the issues of conformity and obedience through the eyes of two young Jehovah’s Witnesses who chose to stand firm for their beliefs. The Nazis took hundreds of young Witnesses from their parents and sent them to juvenile camps, reformatories, and Nazi foster homes. Using primary sources and first-person survivor testimony, this outline focuses on the difficult choices made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group of people who adhered to their beliefs despite brutal efforts to make them conform to Nazi ways.
- Identify Nazi propaganda and pressure tactics
- Analyze why certain individuals refused to cooperate with the Nazis
- Evaluate decision-making that helped individuals resist negative peer pressure
- Compare and contrast real-life choices and consequences of conforming to or rejecting destructive behavior
USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education
Online exhibit Standing Out—Standing Up: A Jehovah’s Witness Experience. Includes free downloadable lesson plan and survivor testimony video clips.
Lesson plan uses clips from the video testimony of Simone Liebster, a Jehovah’s Witness survivor, who recounts her struggles to stand up for her beliefs in the face of Nazi pressures. Teachers can implement this exercise in their classroom using the material provided in the lesson plan, which includes free downloadable lesson plan and survivor testimony clips.
- Use primary sources to learn about Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust
- Define the term “core values”
- Learn to recognize and counter peer pressures that might undermine those values
- Understand the importance of adhering to one’s own voice of conscience