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The Lesson

Starting at $89

A Film by Elena Horn

60 minutes

Scene Selection • Closed Captioned

Grades 9 - Adult
Item #:TLN-2000

Select DVD License (limited PPR included)

K-12 Classrooms, Public Libraries: DVD - $89
K-12 Classrooms, Public Libraries: DVD + Digital File - $139
Colleges, Institutions & Community Screenings: DVD - $345
Colleges: DVD with Digital Site License - $445
K-12 School District pricing available. Please inquire at [email protected]
At age 14, every child attending school in Germany is brought face to face with their nation's past during World War II. For many, this means confronting the reality of the Holocaust for the very first time. The Lesson explores how new generations in Germany grapple with this tragic history, following a group of children coming of age in the rural town of Fröndenberg.

Filmed from 2014 to 2019, the film examines how, despite Germany's reputation for exemplary Holocaust education, its national curriculum is backfiring in rural areas where educators encourage middle school students to view the events of World War II from the Nazi perspective. Younger generations of Germans lack basic factual knowledge of the subject, and are unintentionally taught to empathize with the fascist point of view through immersion exercises that reap the net effect of desensitizing young people to their nation's dark history.

Complicating matters, students hear conflicting ideas that contradict the formal curriculum and are exposed to far-right ideals that manifest in various forms, such as neo-Nazi football hooliganism. As their journey deepens, some students are shocked to discover direct familial links to Nazism. Caught between conflicting family histories, curricular narratives, and on-site learning at a concentration camp, each student struggles to form their own views.

With a haunting overlay of rare archival footage, The Lesson sharply underscores the power of education as a military tool, laying out the architecture of the Nazi educational curriculum that was taught in public schools leading up to World War II. The film demonstrates how bystanders helped to enable the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, but also brings hope by focusing on every day German citizens who take a stand against the rise of the far-right.

This affecting societal study shows how easily far-right movements can grip society, and how the ghosts of Germany's dark past continue to linger into the present day. Filmed against the backdrop of shifting political tides and the rise of the global right, The Lesson is essential viewing amidst the resurgence of xenophobia. Learning the history is the basis, but not enough. In order to create a change, we have to observe and identify, with mature honesty and self-awareness, how human evil exists in each and every one of us - here and now.

FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "While the official state curriculum taught in schools vilifies Germany's tragic past, one of my goals with the film was to conduct a firsthand case study of education in my hometown of Fröndenberg. I wanted to explore the reality of how this explosive topic is handled in practice, in classrooms inside Germany's borders. What I found exposed an astonishing myriad of inconsistencies. I wanted to explore the resurgence of the far-right and xenophobia in politics and various subcultures, the fractured and disparate collective memory of National Socialism in Germany and the surprising lack of intimate knowledge or education of the younger generations on the subject. What I found was that even in a modern and developed state, the remnants of a shameful past still live on and shape the perception of younger generations.

The film shows that Germany's Holocaust education is unfit for our time. I hope that the documentary will help raise awareness of the importance of Holocaust education, which is under dramatic decline. 40 percent of German children today do not even know what Auschwitz means. Germany's self-image of mastering its history of genocide needs to be revisited. The notion that Germans are immune to future Nazi movements because the people have 'learned their lesson from World War II' must be abandoned, a fact which is brought into full relief by the results of the last general election.

We must confront the remnants of nationalist pride in the collective memory of older generations as well as the resurgence of the modern-day far-right. This film focus on ordinary children who are standing in a rift. My hope is that people who watch the film will understand the subtle ways in which fascism self-propogates and lingers within society, and that this understanding will inform and drive us to rectify the future."
— Elena Horn

Preview link available upon request. Contact [email protected] for more information
The Lesson
The Lesson

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