History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Why did Clara Haber kill herself in May 1915?

Clara Haber Why did Clara Haber take her own life?

This well structured history ‘mystery’ is intended to help students develop their reasoning and thinking skills. Clara Haber (previously Immerwahr) shot herself with her husband’s revolver in May 1915.

Her husband, Fritz Haber was a brilliant chemist who invented the Haber process. This revolutionized agricultural production but also the manufacture of explosives. The question simply asks ‘Why did Clara kill herself in May 1915?’

As with all good mysteries, it can be answered in more than one way and the uncertainty it creates makes students realize that the study of history is rarely about finding definitive answers. We like to teach it as a prelude to trench warfare and the significance of the First World War.

There were most likely a number of reasons why Clara took her own life, including her unhappy marriage and frustrated scientific career. However, there seems little doubt that her husband’s involvement (and pride) in weaponising poison gas played a large part in her decision to shoot herself.

Can your students use their new find knowledge to critique a modern documentary account? Great interpretations work.

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  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • Resource 1: PDF
  • Resource 2: PDF

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