Rise and fall of the Third Reich — in Legos

February 1933: Hitler Gets Emergency Powers

Assigned a school report — with visuals — about World War II, a Liverpool teenager depicted the Nazi rise and fall with his Legos. John Denno, 16, feared his lack of artistic skills would lower his grade.

For Hitler, Denno added a mustache with a magic marker. “Stalin was a combination of Star Wars Chancellor Palpatine, Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker,” reports David Moye on the Huffington Post.

Denno concluded with the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945.

It’s oddly compelling.

March 1933: The Nazis Open First Concentration Camp

Bieber sees Anne Frank as ‘a belieber’

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here,” wrote Justin Bieber after spending an hour touring the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”


Adolescent girls obsessed with the Canadian singer, who’s now 19, are known as “beliebers.”

I guess being a pop star rots the brain.

Anne Frank hid with her family and other Jews for two years in the attic of the house before they were discovered. She died of typhus at 15 in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Her father, who survived the camp , edited and published it in 1947 as The Diary of a Young Girl. It must be one of the most assigned books in U.S.  schools.

School apologizes for ‘evil Jews’ assignment

“You must argue that Jews are evil” in a five-paragraph essay, using Nazi propaganda and personal experience “to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”  Hoping to teach persuasive writing, critical reading of propaganda and  history, an English teacher at Albany High School (New York) told students to pretend the teacher was a Nazi official who needed to be convinced of their loyalty.

A third of students refused to write the paper. Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard said the assignment should have been worded differently and apologized. “I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith,” she said.

Vanden Wyngaard said the exercise reflects the type of writing expected of students under the new Common Core curriculum, the tough new academic standards that require more sophisticated writing. Such assignments attempt to connect English with history and social studies.

I’m quite sure the teacher doesn’t believe Jews are evil. But the assignment was unwise. Plenty of people still think Jews are evil. Anti-Semitic trolls lurk in the comments section of most blogs. It’s current events, not history.

If the teacher had come up with a uncontroversial assignment, would it have taught critical thinking as effectively? asks Ann Althouse.

Why not ask students to write an essay urging Germans to vote for Hitler in 1933? (Advanced students could pretend to be American communists defending the Hitler-Stalin pact.)

Integrating history with other subjects requires forethought. A New York City math teacher raised hackles earlier this year with slavery story problems that seemed to trivialize slave ship deaths and whippings.

Update: The Albany teacher has been placed on leave, reports AP. That’s an over-reaction. Meanwhile, her classes are about to begin reading Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, Night. 

KIPP = Nazi Germany?

In musing about democracy on Bridging Differences, Deborah Meier equates KIPP and other “no excuses” schools with Nazi Germany‘s schools.

What troubles me most about the KIPPs of the world are not issues of pedagogy or the public/private issue, but their “no excuses” ideology implemented by a code that rests on humiliating those less powerful than oneself and reinforcing a moral code that suggests that there’s a one-to-one connection between being good and not getting caught. It tries to create certainties in a field where it does not belong. . . . Life is never so simple that we can award points for “badness” on a fixed numerical scale of bad-to-good. As we once reminded colleagues, Nazi Germany had a successful school system—so what? I’d be fascinated to interview some KIPP graduates to learn how its work plays out in their lives.

KIPP schools don’t suspend students for misbehavior or send them out of class. Instead, they sit in a separate area with the school polo shirt inside out until they’ve apologized to their teacher and classmates and the apology has been accepted. I assume that’s what Meier means by humiliation.

The moral code that equates “being good and not getting caught” baffles me. What is she talking about?

Life is not simple, but surely it’s possible for teachers to award merit or demerit points to students for good or bad classroom behavior without turning into Nazis.

After all, very few schools try to operate as democracies.

What’s in a (Nazi) name?

Adolf Hitler Campbell, 3, younger sister JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and baby Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie (named for SS chief Himmler) have been removed from their New Jersey home by child protective services workers. Why? Nobody’s saying, But a New Jersey Youth and Family Services spokeswoman says it’s not because of their Nazi names, reports Lehigh Valley Live.

“Just to be clear, removal of a child from a family is only done when there’s an imminent danger to a child and that wouldn’t include the child’s name alone,” spokeswoman Kate Bernyk said. “We wouldn’t remove a child based on their name.”

The children’s parents, Heath and Deborah Campbell, complained last month that a supermarket bakery refused to put their son’s full name on a birthday cake. In response to the furor, the father took down some swastikas and acknowledged that the Holocaust happened.

The family is supported by disability payments: The father says he has emphysema and the mother says she has a bad back.  One wonders about their IQs.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.  The state will have to present evidence of abuse or neglect. Parental idiocy is not grounds for loss of custody.

Update: The family court hearing has been postponed.