A good Hitler Pants card

The classic analytic answer to many K impacts has now become the “Hitler wore pants” arg, and as persuasive as clothing analogies can be here is a pretty good card that says something similar but in a (arguably…) more intelligent way


As a history teacher, I’ve always found it interesting to discuss with high schoolers the complicated idea of ‘causation’ (that is, what caused, what contributed to, past events).


What’s striking about conversations involving this topic is the extent to which students are willing (often through no fault of their own) to attribute events to ideologies – as if Nazism itself were responsible for the Holocaust.


Regarding Nazism (and Fascism, too), I stress that, without Nazis, Nazism (as an ideology) would have been unable to do, well, to do anything.


This, I think, is key: that students confront the idea that systems of belief are not, in and of themselves, capable of destruction. Ideology becomes dangerous – in a historical sense – when individuals activate their core tenets.


At the high school level, conversations involving causation can lead in other directions as well. Most rewarding, I think, are those which involve the idea of ‘attribution.’


Continuing for a moment with the example of the Second World War: students must address in their thinking the notion that Germany (with a capital ‘G’) was not in itself responsible for the Holocaust.


True, that country initiated the events which conspired against Europe’s Jews, but again, a nation cannot act without individuals. To attribute to Germany (as many text books do) blame for the Holocaust seems, therefore, as irresponsible as attributing that same umbrella of blame to Nazism.


After discussions involving ideology and attribution, students, I find, are more effectively positioned to handle the crux of the issue involving causation – that is, that individuals, and individual action, trigger historical events. To get at the Holocaust, students need to wrestle with documents which reflect the mindset, the priorities, of the German people.


8 thoughts on “A good Hitler Pants card

  1. GunnerGA

    The people and the nation are inseparable as it relates to Germany. True, there are some German INDIVIDUALS who actively worked against the actions of the state during WWII, but the vast majority were either actively involved or silent and inactive to what their government was doing… and as such, are complicit in the crimes of the state. The German government understood this after WWII and as a country – took responsibility for the crimes of the state – even though individuals were prosecuted and executed in many cases. Germany – as a state – continues to pay reparations. As the nation state of Germany is willing to accept the principle of the nation state's responsibility in the Holocaust, I will accept their interpretation. Nation states are guilty when their population chooses to act in a horrific way or chooses to stay silent when their voice would have had an impact. Every human has a responsibility to not stand idly by as injustice happens around them. As both were present, it is totally proper and appropriate to lay blame on Germany as a state as much as individual Germans.

  2. gwaddell

    Okay, new high school coach here. What is the "Hitler wore pants" argument? Do you have a link or something to elucidate that particular argument?

  3. maximiliantiger

    For someone who doesn't do HS policy, what's the 'Hitler wore pants' argument? Something like "Hitler also wore pants', that doesn't mean pants caused the holocaust; you haven't proven causation" ?

  4. AbeCorrigan

    Why is this only applicable to critique impacts? It seems that the same illogical jumps exist equally if not more in 'policy' arguments. The Obama agenda DA that says the plan undermines his legislative efforts which are key to Peruvian silver prices which in turn are key to hegemony seems equally problematic.

  5. SuperCapitalist

    It's a good card, but it seems that it's not a very qualified source. Jesse Freedman has a couple history degrees, so what?

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