Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, presenting a painting to the Fuehrer as a birthday gift on his 50th birthday
Heroism during wartime takes many forms. The Second World War presents virtually unlimited opportunities for students to learn about courage, risk, responsibility, and sacrifice. The Greatest Theft in History highlights the brave men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives effort (MFAA), plus other individuals who fought evil by safeguarding art and cultural heritage. This lesson introduces learners to some of these heroes and their deeds.
War, by definition, includes individuals who are seen as enemies. In World War II, enemies presented themselves amid numerous settings, though sometimes those classified as “enemies” behaved in surprising and courageous ways. To be sure, however, students discover the identities and intentions of particularly lethal “villains.” The consequences of their actions on European art and heritage are emphasized. The deliberate theft of objects and the deliberate destruction of cultural richness—often out of purely selfish motives—are understood as a fundamental part of the Nazi goal to decimate people perceived as enemies to Germany and Aryan progress.
This lesson plan is available as part of The Greatest Theft in History Educational Program. We’ll regularly be adding more teaching aids, interviews, photos, archival footage and other valuable information.