Learning Pack

Hitler's Daughter

Based on the book by Jackie French
Adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry

This award-winning production follows the narrative of Hitler's imagined daughter through the perspectives of four Australian children: Mark, Ben, Anna, and Tracey. Set against the backdrop of rural Australia as the friends await the school bus, Anna takes on the role of storyteller, weaving the tale of Heidi, the fictional daughter of Hitler. The play seamlessly transitions between the 1940s Nazi Germany and contemporary Australia, drawing Mark into Anna's captivating narrative. As he becomes immersed in the story, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, leading him to question his own identity and the complexities of the world around him.

This pack is designed to be used in your classroom and is perfect for students in Years 5, 6, 7 and 8. Inside, you will find engaging History and Drama activities that directly link to the Australian Curriculum. The pack also includes information about how we adapted the book for the stage.

Creative and Critical Thinking
Ethical Understanding
Intercultural Understanding

Identity and self-reflection: The play delves into questions of identity, particularly through the character of Mark, who begins to question his own identity and place in the world as he listens to Anna's story about Heidi. The exploration of Heidi's identity as the daughter of Hitler and Mark's contemplation of his own identity create a backdrop for self-reflection and personal growth.

Historical responsibility and guilt: The play raises thought-provoking questions about historical responsibility and guilt. Through Heidi's character, it examines whether she could have played a role in preventing the atrocities committed by her father, Adolf Hitler. This theme prompts the audience to consider the ethical implications of being connected to a dark historical figure and the notion of collective guilt.

Morality and choices: Hitler's Daughter explores the moral dilemmas faced by its characters, particularly Heidi, who may have been in a position to influence her father's actions. The play invites audiences to contemplate the difficult choices people make in the face of extreme circumstances and how those choices can shape the course of history.

Society's fears and prejudices: The play tackles societal fears and prejudices by juxtaposing the historical context of Nazi Germany with contemporary Australia. It challenges the audience to examine how prejudices and biases persist across different times and cultures and how these attitudes impact individuals and society at large.

Narrative and perspective: The storytelling aspect of the play is crucial, as Anna recounts the imagined tale of Heidi to her friends. The play raises questions about the power of storytelling, the reliability of historical narratives, and the influence of perspective on how events are understood and interpreted.

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Making the Play

The Vision

Theatre begins with an idea, a spark of imagination. This is what we call the vision.

When the Monkey Baa team read Hitler’s Daughter, they were deeply affected by the themes and the characters. Mark’s journey and Heidi’s story, the need for children to be heard, and their frustrations to be answered. Mark’s question, Do kids have to be like their parents? Anna’s comment, Do you believe something is right or wrong, just because your parents say? For me the great question in the story is Mark’s, How do we know we are doing the right thing? The question of racism, fascism and unaccountable horrors being allowed to take place, from fear. In the times that we now live, it takes courage and even humour to consciously look for the good, but it’s important. To place ourselves on the side of the caring, the kind, having empathy and compassion for others. By acknowledging our humanity we can embrace the past and thus enhance our future, not only as individuals but also as a race, the human race.

Hitler’s Daughter demands its young audiences to question the reality of truth and notions of personal responsibility and prejudice. The play uses a facto-fictal storytelling device to highlight the tenuous value of truth in our current political and media landscape. In 2019, an age of fake news and fact manipulation, extreme ideologies and rising nationalism, there has never been a more important and relevant time to present this work.

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Interview with Jackie French, Author

What was your inspiration for writing Hitler's Daughter?

When I was younger, a friend of my mother's told me about a 14-year-old boy, in Hitler’s Germany, who joined the Nazi Party because his parents were Nazis, and his teachers were nazis. All he had ever heard or read said it was good to be a Nazi. He believed it all the duty to rid the race of anyone who was blind, or lame, who was Jewish or gypsy or homosexual, or anyone who believed in their religion more than Hitler, or who disagreed with his policies and had the courage to say so.

He became a guard in a concentration camp because that is what 14-year-old boys were doing in Germany at the end of the war. And when the war was over he was illegally smuggled out of Germany, with his parents, as many Nazi war criminals were.

I forgot his words for many years. Then ten years ago I took my mother, my brother, my cousin and my 14-year-old son to the theatre to see Cabaret for my mother’s 70th birthday. The play is set in Germany, just as Hitler is coming to power. Halfway through the teenage waiter sings the most beautiful song Tomorrow belongs to me. I watched as my son stared at the singer entranced. As he said to me later, that song was about me and my friends. Tomorrow belongs to us. Then halfway through the song, it changes. The lights come up and you realise the waiter is wearing a Nazi uniform. The orchestra stands, and they too are wearing Nazi uniforms. And my son sat there in shock because he had been identifying with a Nazi song. He said he realised how he so easily may have become a Nazi if he had been 14 in Hitler’s Germany.

How do you know what is good and evil when you are 14, and the world around you is insane? If you are 14, and you realise evil is happening, what can you do? No one listens to 14-year-olds... or do they? If you are Hitler’s Daughter, after the war, do you have to say you are sorry for what your father has done, and that you had no part in it?

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The Script

The vision is transformed into a script by a playwright

Excerpt from Hitler's Daughter

Heidi: Are there any Jews near here?

Frau Mundt: No, of course not. But if one did escape and come near here the guards would catch them and send them back. There is no need to worry.

Heidi: I’m not worried.

Anna: Why would she worry? Why would Heidi think any differently?

Mark: But, she must have known. If she’d just started to think about it all…

Anna: Would you know if your parents were doing something wrong?

Mark: Of course, I would. But they wouldn’t do anything really wrong anyway.

Anna: Are you sure? All the things your mum and dad believe in — have you ever really wondered if they are right or wrong? Or do you think they’re right because that’s what your mum and dad think so it has to be right?

Mark: Well, I... it’s not the same.

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Excerpt from Hitler's Daughter

Mark: How did great, great grandpa get our farm?

Dad: What? He bought it.

Mark: He didn’t steal it from the Aborigines?

Dad: No, of course not. It wasn’t like that in those days, anyway. No one thought of it as stealing.

Mum: Banana or an apple?

Mark: But what if he did take it from the Aboriginal people… just suppose. It wouldn’t be our fault, would it?

Dad: Who’s been feeding you all that stuff?

Mark: I was just listening to the news, and someone said—

Dad: The things they teach kids nowadays. Do-gooders poking their noses where it doesn’t concern them.

Mark: But Dad—

Mum: Mark, give it a rest, would you?

Mark: You told me that if we disagreed about anything we should talk about it. You said…

Dad: I haven’t got time for this.

Mum: Mark, that’s enough.

Mark: But Mum, what if everyone thought a really bad person was right? Like all the German people thought Hitler was right?

Mum: I don’t think all the German people thought Hitler was right. It was a totalitarian country. If you tried to speak out you were sent to a concentration camp.

Mark: Did people protest? Mum No idea. I suppose so… here’s your lunch.

Mark: Mum… if Hitler had been in power… would you have protested?

Mum: Of course.

Mark: Even if it meant going to prison?

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The Rehearsal

Once a script is developed, it is handed over to a director and rehearsals begin.

In rehearsal, the director was interested in exploring the notions of times crossing and characters weaving in and out of the stories and the worlds. The possibility of both Mark and Heidi meeting briefly, the past and present worlds gently colliding. Doubling as a theatrical technique encourages the formation of connections between character journeys, and shines a light on themes and ideas within the story. The actors used physical and vocal transformation to become other characters in front of the audience. They used posture, tone of voice and costumes to aid their transitions. This technique also allowed for the seamless transitions from the Australian landscape in the 1990s to the backdrop of Germany in the 1940s.

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The Design

As the show takes shape in the rehearsal room, the designer begins to create the world of the play.

The staging was multifunctional and minimal. The bus stop bench became Mark’s mother’s car, a German SS car, the school bus and the single bed in the final bunker scene. Trees were used as an integral part of the set design to represent the Australian bush and the German woods. The roof of the bus shelter was yellow as referenced in the book.

Strobe lighting flashes were used to create the fall of Berlin, and these flashes lit up the trees and brought them alive so that shadows thrown onto the cyclorama became soldiers and buildings falling. Red lighting was used to represent the swastika as well as the blood on the land, whereas more cool blue tones were used to represent the wet Australian countryside.

Sound effects were constructed from everyday sounds, roadwork drills and the like, thus blurring the past and the present.

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The Performance

To bring it all together, actors help create characters, tell the story and bring the world of the play to life.

An actor interprets and plays characters in a performance. Sometimes characters are based on real people or are made up (fictional). The main characters are Mark, Anna and Ben. Mark is 11 years old, quiet and intelligent. As Mark becomes more engrossed in Anna’s story, he finally takes on this imaginary character of the guard in the final scenes in Berlin. Anna is 11 years old, quiet, serious, highly intelligent and thoughtful. The same actor who plays Anna also plays Mark’s Mum, a farmer’s wife and Fraulein Gelber. Ben is 11 years old, boisterous, loud, rude and funny. In contrast, this actor also plays Mark’s Dad. This actor is a male but plays several female characters. Another important character is Heidi, Hitler’s daughter. She is described as small and dark like her father, she has a birthmark on her face and a profound limp.

Rather than having an actor portray Hitler, Hitler appears as a shadow representing evil, monsters and the darkness that dwells in humankind. His lines of dialogue are prerecorded and heard as a voiceover.

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Historical Context

The Rise of Nazi Germany

“Soon the day will come when science will win over victory, over error, justice a victory over injustice and love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.”

— Magnus Hirschfield

Hitler came to power as chancellor of Germany in 1933. From August 1934, he ruled as a dictator, being named Führer (leader) of Germany, running a totalitarian state that impacted nearly all aspects of life.

After the loss of World War I, Hitler claimed that he was going to return Germany to its former greatness by creating an empire ruled over by one ‘Aryan’ race. The Nazi Party promised citizens a bright future, and they also portrayed Hitler as a ‘father’ figure who was capable of cleansing their racial state of people who were considered a threat.

Nazi propaganda portrayed various groups as a threat to the future of the promised empire. Targeted groups included the Jewish community, people with disabilities, Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, political opponents (especially communists) and many others. These groups were often referred to as untermenschen or underpeople.

To create this promised empire, Hitler wanted to gain more land and power. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland which sparked the beginning of World War II and the continuing of the Nazi reign of terror.

The Nazis used various violent methods in an effort to eradicate the Jewish community. Jewish people were sent to Ghettos where they were segregated from society and some were forced to undertake labour in atrocious and inhumane conditions. Various types of camps were also used to inflict unspeakable torture and mass murder on the Jewish community as well as other targeted victim groups.

Over 6 million Jewish people were murdered under the Nazi regime, this genocide came to be known as the Holocaust.

In addition, more than 250 000 people with disabilities, 220 000 Roma and Sinti, 70 000 ‘a-socials,’ and many thousands of homosexuals were murdered in this regime.

It wasn’t until 1945 that the Germans surrendered to the Allied forces, which saw the end of World War II in the European theatre. On the 30th of April in 1945 Adolf Hitler committed suicide to avoid being captured by the Soviet Red Army.

World War II was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, in which historians estimate over 60 million people lost their lives. For further information and resources regarding the history of World War II and the devastating impact of Hitler’s reign, please visit the Sydney Jewish Museum’s Resource Centre.

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Classroom Activities

Drama Activities

Script Analysis

How it works: After reading the play, students explore it further

Put the students into pairs and give them each a sheet of butcher's paper. Then ask them to brainstorm all of the clues about the character of Heidi that they can find in the play.

Ask the students to individually choose a character and then create a profile by writing a list of all of the details that they know about the character.

Ask the students to write down five things that their chosen character would say about themselves when they are alone, five things they would say about themselves to other people, five things other people would say about them behind their back, and five things other people would say about them to their face.

Performing a Scene

How it works: After reading the play, students perform scenes from it

Put the students into groups of three and ask them to consider how they can effectively stage a scene by focusing on the physical plot of each character: entrances, exits, timing, focus, levels, movements and gestures.

Some scenes are quite long so they will need to focus on how they can find climatic moments throughout to create a dynamic and engaging performance.

Once the students have had enough time to rehearse their scenes, ask them to perform in front of the rest of the class.

Exploring Values Through Improvisation

How it works: Students explore values through improvisation. Ask the students to walk around the space, then ask them to find a group of 2.

Call out one of the values on the previous page, and give the groups 10 seconds to create a freeze frame in response to that value.

Ask the students to walk around the space, then ask them to find a group of 4 and freeze.

Call out another value, and give the students 10 seconds to create a freeze frame in response to that value.

Continue this process until you’ve covered all of the values above, and increase the size of the groups as you go.

For an extra challenge, you can ask the students to create a freeze frame that is the opposite of the value you call out.

Divide the students into groups and give them each a value.

Then ask them to devise a short scene that portrays their value.

They can use any style of theatre they want, however, they must ensure that they are building tension and creating a clear climatic moment.

Ask each group to perform to the rest of the class, and ask the class to guess what value each group was trying to portray.

Discussion Activities

Identifying Values

How it works: Students explore values through discussion

Discussion: Who influences your values the most in your life? Is it your family, school, friends, community, religion or country?

Discussion: Do you feel like you have the freedom to choose what you believe in?

Discussion: How much have your values changed as you’ve grown up?

Morals and Ethics

How it works: Students explore values through physical activities and discussion.

Allocate spots across the room where students can stand to indicate whether they strongly disagree, disagree, are neutral, agree or strongly agree to the following statements:

  • Kids have to have the same values as their parents

  • We all have a responsibility to stand up for what we believe in

  • Our actions control the future It’s ok to disagree with a friend even if its difficult to do so

  • Doing something to stand up for what you believe in is better than doing nothing We have no control over evil It’s never ok to lie to someone

  • Every day our choices affect other people

  • Everyone is equal

  • Do you feel that you have control over your own future?

Discussion: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? How would you make that change?

Discussion: What is one thing that you can do every day to make the world a better place?

Discussion: How do you react when you see or hear something that you don’t agree with?

Discussion: How can you express your point of view in a respectful way What holds people back from speaking their truth?

Discussion: What does it mean to embrace diversity?

Divide students into groups of 3-4 and give each group one of the script excerpts from either Scene 4 or Scene 9 (above). Groups are to discuss and report on what the main issues are within the scene and what important questions have been raised. Then get each group to report back to the class.

Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links


Stage 3

ACELT1608, ACELT1610, ACELY1699, ACELY1709, ACELT1613

Stage 4

ACELT1619, ACELT1620, ACELT1626, ACELT1627, ACELT1807


Stage 3


Stage 4



Stage 3


Stage 4


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