Study Guide

The Wave Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

  • World War II is the topic in Ben Ross' history class. The movie he's showing is about Nazi concentration camps, or death camps.
  • (Since we know your curious minds are itching for more, here's a brief historical interruption. Concentration camps were a tool of the Holocaust: in Germany, Poland, and other eastern European countries, millions of Jewish people – and other minorities – were imprisoned in these camps. They were starved, tortured, and murdered. A really important and awful historical moment.)
  • The students stare at the men and women shown in the film. These people are literally starving to death, and they are pure skin and bones. Ben's already seen this film, but it's still hideous to him.
  • Now Ben gives the class some history: he says that a man named Adolf Hitler is responsible for what they are watching, and that it all went down between 1934 and 1945. Hitler believed that non-Jewish German people were "a superior race" (2.3) and that Jewish people were the enemies of the rest of the Germans, so he developed and carried out a plan that was meant kill all Jews. (So scary.)
  • The film is now showing starving Jewish people being forced to stack dead bodies while Nazi soldiers supervise.
  • Ben says that the Nazis imprisoned millions of Jewish people and anyone else they thought of as inferior. He says that Hitler called his plan "the Final Solution to the Jewish problem" (2.5)
  • (We get a little more history in here, too: people in the camps usually didn't last a year; some only lived for days or weeks. Ben says that over ten million men, women, and children were killed during this time period.)
  • This is not easy stuff to stomach, we know.
  • The film is over, and Ben turns the lights on. Most of the students don't seem affected by the hideous film. Maybe it seems like just another violent movie, or maybe they can't relate to it because their lives are basically free of war and suffering.
  • Robert Billings is actually asleep. He slept through that?!
  • Laurie Saunders, though, looks like she's been crying. And Amy Smith looks like the film bothered her, too.
  • Amy asks Ben if all German people were Nazis. Answer? Far from it. It turns out that only about ten percent of Germans were actually Nazis.
  • (Here you might be wondering, what the heck is a Nazi? Well, we're giving you a little bonus history lesson. Use it to impress friends, family, and teachers: See, the Nazi party was a legitimate political party in Germany. In 1933, a man named Paul von Hindenburg was reelected as President of Germany. He wanted nothing to do with the Nazi party [or its head, Adolf Hitler], but he gave in to certain pressure and appointed Hitler as chancellor of Germany. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler claimed the presidency and the Nazis became the ruling political party in Germany until the end of World War II in 1945. Got it? Okay, now back to the book.)
  • Amy asks why the rest of the Germans didn't stop the Nazis from murdering the Jewish population. This is a tough question and Ben isn't sure. He says that after World War II, many German people said they didn't know what Hitler was doing.
  • (If you want some food for thought on this issue, check out Marcus Zusak's awesome young adult novel about the Holocaust, The Book Thief.)
  • Some people in the class think it's impossible that the German people didn't know what was going on.
  • Ben responds: he says Nazis were "highly organized and feared. The behavior of the rest of the German population is a mystery – why they didn't try to stop it, how they could say they didn't know. We just don't know the answers" (2.15) Not much of an answer, but it's the truth.
  • The class is still talking about all this when the bell rings. David Collins, for one, is ready to go. The film did bother him, but his stomach is bothering him more. It's lunchtime!
  • David tells his girlfriend Laurie to hurry up so they can get to the cafeteria before the crowds start. He's not psyched when she tells him she'll meet him there soon.
  • Laurie approaches Teacher Ben: she says that she can imagine any human being, even a Nazi, being that horrible to other people.
  • Ben says that after the war, lots of Nazis said that they were forced to do what they did. They would have been murdered themselves if they hadn't done what they were told.
  • Laurie just can't believe that either. She's a tough sell.
  • Robert Billings tries to sneak out without confrontation about the homework, but Ben catches him. He warns Robert that if he doesn't do better, he'll have to give him a failing grade.
  • Turns out Robert couldn't care less, and Ben isn't sure what to tell him. He knows that Robert's big brother, Jeff, was the perfect student, Mr. Popular, and a star athlete when he was at Gordon. Maybe Robert isn't trying at all because he thinks he can never measure up to his brother.
  • Ben decides to voice this: he tells Robert that he doesn't have to compete with his brother. Robert doesn't react, he just says he has to leave.

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