Lesson plans are shaped from a multidisciplinary perspective. All are ideal for enrichment and for teaching across the curriculum. Use them in whole or in part, per classroom needs.

Lessons are organized around topics and themes central to The Greatest Theft in History. They can be used as a whole, or each lesson can stand on its own to enhance a range of subject areas including: world history; political science; economics; area and culture studies; civics; geography; anthropology; architecture; law; and especially, art. The Greatest Theft in History introduces students to art, artists, and art styles, great museums of Europe, and to such key issues as protection, restoration, and rightful ownership. All lessons are linked to national standards.

Linked video clips support each lesson. The clips draw from the acclaimed documentary film, The Rape of Europa, based on the book written by scholar Lynn Nicholas and from additional material from disc II & III of The Greatest Theft in History Educational Program DVD set, as well as our online ClipGallery. To further develop classroom learning and build on student interest, teachers may also choose to show additional clips from the ClipGallery that are not already built into the lessons.

As with all teaching about war, educators are reminded to be sensitive to disturbing content. The materials in The Greatest Theft in History should be used with forethought, particularly if they are partnered with teaching about the Holocaust or other genocides.

The lessons are available as RTF files (Rich Text Format) so that they can be downloaded into any document and manipulated for use to specific classrooms needs.



Hitler, Art, Race, and Society

The underpinnings of Nazi ideology are explored through an examination of Hitler’s thwarted artistic dreams, along with the German racial “science” that gave further expression and impetus to Hitler’s prejudices.




Degenerate Art

This lesson introduces students to the ideas behind the Hitler propaganda machine and the so-called Entartete Kunst or “Degenerate Art” which could be equated with all major modern art movements across Europe in the first 30 years of the 20th century. The lesson will also engage students in research about artists labeled as Degenerate by the Nazis and what happened to them and their work during the war, and discuss the misunderstandings of modern and contemporary works of art in their own times.




More Than an Object, More Than a Place

How do meanings attach to objects and places? Where do those meanings draw from? The lesson explores these questions and guides learners to understand connections to identity and cultural heritage, and how they fall prey to war.




Heroes and Villains of the Greatest Theft in History

This lesson highlights the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program (MFAA), known as the Monuments Menplus other individuals who, as a way of fighting a dangerous foe, acted in the interest of safeguarding art and cultural heritage. Students also discover the identities and intentions of several particularly lethal enemies. The consequences of their actions on art and heritage are emphasized.




Conservation and Restoration

This lesson examines objects and monuments damaged during World War II and considers the processes and ethics behind art conservation and restoration.




Who Owns Art?

Discover the arguments presented in the lawsuit Maria Altmann vs. The Republic of Austria which involved the return of five paintings to the heir of a victim of Nazi theft.




Is Art Worth a Life?

This stark question generates strong debate. Students probe the idea of sacrifice through classroom activity and discussion.




Going Once, Going Twice ...and Perhaps Gone Forever

Learn about the 1939 Fischer Galerie auction of modern masterworks, and debate the ethical issues accompanying decisions to buy, or not buy works of art once housed in Germany's great museums which were sold on orders from Hitler and the Nazis.




What is the Value of Art?

Consider the importance of art by discussing the different ways in which we find it meaningful and valuable in our culture.




Reparations as Resolution

This lesson presents both sides in the long running debate over who owns cultural property taken from Germany by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II.




What is Provenance?

This lesson investigates the history of ownership of objects or works of art and the difficulties of establishing provenance since World War II.




Casualties of War

The war’s impact on family, community, city, and country is presented. The lesson then enlarges to include other targets.