When we were diligently studying WWII in American history in our homeschool, I assigned the kids the project of making a game. Foolishly I assumed they would come up with some sort of board game with the Axis and Allies picking sides and battling it out with cards, or dice or Popsicle sticks to dominate the world. I should have known better with MY children.
When I give my students active assignments such as this there is always a laundry list of requirements for their “class” presentation. Just like real school. This particular list included, but was not limited to: make a game that 4-6 people can play, design a game board, include historical information, wear an applicable costume when presenting, have props for the players and make it fun!
(To my dismay, I did not take a picture of Austin wearing his costume… but this shows what he looked like at that time… thrilled to be giving a report!)
To say I was surprised when my son walked in dressed like Hitler is an understatement. He had absconded the master closet with a tan Royal Rangers shirt of his father’s. He designed a swastika arm band, found a skinny tan tie, and made gold medals for the getup. His blonde hair was slicked over and he had a felt mustache in miniature taped to his upper lip. Scarily, he did resemble the German fascist.
For props we all wore similar black felt mustaches and hand drawn arm bands. The game board was pretty straight forward with six columns leading to the top where he had boldly scribed, “Who Wants to Be Hitler?” … sort of like Jeopardy. At this stage I was falsely assuming that my son was glorifying a mad man and I was simply waiting for the moment to stop the game.
To my surprise (and relief), as we rolled the dice to move up the board, we had to answer detailed questions about the Jews, Germany, death camps, Hitler, the Nazis, Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), persecution, ethnic cleansing, the death trains, etc. The strategy of the game was well thought out. As players, you didn’t want to be Hitler, so you had to understand the times and his hideous plan in order to stay where you were on the board and not ascend to the top. For every wrong answer, you moved closer to “being Hitler.”
The process of playing the game brought home the idea that if you didn’t understand what was going on in society, you would be caught up in the nightmare becoming part of the problem. Discussions following the game were extremely contrite and somber. These kids understood the sins of at least THIS past generation, hopefully being somewhat equipped to stand up against injustice if a situation arose in their lives.
My son received an A on his game and presentation and the game was laid to rest forever.
Unfortunately, somehow the swastika-armband-clad-shirt ended up on a hanger in the front room of our house before it made its way back to my husband’s side of the closet. In the 18 hours it hung in the front room, the doorbell must have wrung at least five times for various and sundry reasons. When spying the shirt, several eyebrows were raised heavenward wondering what in the world was going on in the Crosby homeschool. Fumbling through various thoughts in my head, I knew I should NOT say, “We just played Who Wants to be Hitler!” I feebly came up with, “We are studying World War II,” and smiled my pretty homeschool-mom-smile… the one that makes people assume I have my act together.