Lesson Plan

Selling Murder

Critically watch a film that promotes to a broad audience the sterilization and so-called mercy killing of non-Aryans by the Nazi regime.

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The Holocaust
Final Solution

Enduring Understanding

To pursue what the Nazis considered a “pure race of Aryans”, the Third Reich used medical techniques to sterilize and kill those they deemed undesirable.

Essential Question

  • 1What is the rationale that leads to an acceptance of using medicine for harm?


10 Min
Teacher's Note
This lesson will address both the T4 euthanasia program and the use of propaganda to convince the public of the need for these murderous measures. So we recommend students are familiar with one subject or another in order to fully benefit from this lesson.

Review the concepts of euthanasia and propaganda and allude to the fact that mercy killings had to be sold to the public in order for there not to be widespread resistance. Before initiating conversation about the video, be sure to clarify relevant terms. Other concepts that are important here include Darwinism and heredity.


25 Min

Watch the first 13 minutes of the video, The Killing Films of the Third Reich. Prepare to stop at various sections to discuss and contemplate the content.

  1. Begin by watching the section from 2:15-5:15 which gives a background to the role of propaganda in promoting the need for euthanasia. Pause for a reflection–written or verbal discussion–on the following questions:
    1. Ask your students to consider the phrase ‘life unworthy of life.’ What does this mean? How could this be possible? Do they see anyone portrayed this way in today’s world?
    2. The first two films called ‘What You Inherit’ and ‘Hereditarily Ill’ set the stage for the conversation. What does it mean to be ‘hereditarily ill’? Can one recover from such illness?
    3. Notice that the ‘hereditary diseases’ are also held against people who have fallen on hard times. What does this say about the science that backs up the discrimination?
  2. Continue from 5:15 – 8:50
    1. Why were these films ‘required’ to be seen by audiences across Germany?
    2. What do you think about the idea that human life should be dictated by nature exclusively?
    3. What is a ‘genetic threat’? What is ‘sterilization’?
  3. Continue again from 8:50 – 13:05
    1. Why do they use the image of a professor or doctor in their propaganda videos?
    2. Hitler ordered the killing of individuals after the war started. Why?
    3. Have you ever heard of any other victims of the Holocaust who were gassed?
    4. Why was evidence destroyed and fictional death reports created?


20 Min

Now, ask students to generate their own responses to the video. Ask them to write about:

  1. What was the most astonishing fact about the video?
  2. What section would they like to go back and watch again?
  3. What questions do they still have about this era of Nazism?

Then, bring the discussion back to a large group and use student answers to have a large discussion/review sections of the video.

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

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