It is easier to commit harsh acts towards someone who is seen as an absolute Other–one whose very existence threatens your own.
- 1In what ways are we prone to dehumanizing another?
- 2If people always viewed each other as equals, how would their attitude towards one another change?
Write the term “dehumanization” on the board. As a class, compose a definition. Present and review the definition of dehumanization with students. Students should have a basic understanding of the process of dehumanization.
Dehumanization: As a political or social measure, dehumanization is intended to change the manner in which a person or group of people are perceived, reducing the target group to objects or beings not worthy of human rights.
Direct students to the resource, Identity in the Camps by Facing History and Ourselves. Read the passage by Primo Levi as a class. Explain that Primo Levi is a Holocaust survivor that spent time as a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp and has written works about his time there.
According to Primo Levi, what happened to the identities of the prisoners in the camps?
Divide the class into groups of two or three and assign the group a single year, between the years 1933-1945.
Ask students to examine their assigned year using the Timeline of the Holocaust by Echoes & Reflections and find what they believe to be the three most influential events and stories for that year that contributed to the dehumanization of the Jewish people. Identify and be prepared to justify choices.
Have students share the events they identified from their research of the Timeline, and then as a class respond to the following questions:
- What are some examples of how Jews were dehumanized socially? How was their political power taken away?
- Identify three opportunities in the year you were assigned that show how an individual was able to make their own choices or have “agency” -to act independently.
- How might a neighbor, friend, or citizen have helped?
- What choices were Jews forced to make?
- Whose opportunity for human agency is most resonant with you? In your opinion, why is this story meaningful? What does this show you about dehumanization?
Wisconsin Academic Standards
This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.