Redefining How We Teach Propaganda

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda promotes new understanding about the nature and consequences of propaganda. The exhibition illustrates the Nazis’ use of the latest, most sophisticated technologies and techniques to disseminate propaganda. It chronicles their use of propaganda to win votes in a democracy, to consolidate power in a dictatorship, and to create a climate of indifference as they persecuted and systematically murdered Jews and others viewed as enemies of the state. The exhibition asks us to consider—and act—upon the lessons and implications of this powerful history.

This unit, paired with a visit to the State of Deception exhibit, will increase your students’ ability and commitment to critically analyze messages presented in both traditional and new forms of media. As students learn about the use and devastating consequences of propaganda leading up to and during the Holocaust, they will more deeply understand why media literacy is an essential skill for citizens in a democracy.

These lessons provide an opportunity for teachers to use a new framework for teaching propaganda. Where traditional methods focus on identifying propaganda techniques, this approach encourages more profound critical thinking and reflection. It explores contexts in which societies can become vulnerable to extreme messages, equips students with critical thinking skills to assess propaganda’s potential consequences, and empowers them to respond to messages that could be dangerous, including hate speech.

Throughout this unit students will be asked to reflect on three guiding questions.

  • When is propaganda most dangerous?
  • What makes you vulnerable to propaganda?
  • How can you guard against propaganda?


Download and use the Lesson plans and Talking Points for the Traveling Exhibition


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