CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS LIBRARY
Part I: Prior to Viewing the Exhibit/Novel (90 minutes plus time for research)
- In the center of a large sheet of chart paper write, “THE PLOT,” and beneath it add the following quote:
Whenever one group of people is taught to hate another, a lie is created to inflame the hatred and justify a plot…The target is easy to find because the enemy is always the other.
Allow students to react to the quote and discuss some of the following questions:
Tell students that the author wrote these lines as a prelude to a book about one of history’s most diabolical conspiracies to “inflame hatred” against a group of people. Explain that they will engage in research that will provide background information on the conspiracy, and that will ultimately reveal the target of this infamous plot.
- What might have motivated the author to write something like this?
- Can you think of any examples of a lie used to stir up hate or prejudice?
- What kind of plot might the author be referring to?
- What groups of people have historically been “the other”?
- Does this quote bring to mind any specific incident in history or current events?
Draw eight spokes emanating from the title/quote in the center of the chart posted earlier, and write the following topics at the end of each spoke:
Divide the class into small groups of 3-4 students and assign each group a topic. Direct groups to consult 2-3 sources and write a summary paragraph describing what they have learned about their topic. Instruct groups to then create a visual representation of the topic that can be placed on the chart posted earlier (e.g., copy of a primary document, depiction of an artifact, illustration, imagined letter or journal entry, etc.)
- The Bolsheviks
- The Russian Revolution
- The Black Hundreds
- Theodore Herzl
- The Dreyfus Affair
- Alfred Rosenberg
- Zionism/First World Zionist Congress (1897)
NOTE: For the purposes of this lesson, students should focus their research on the late 19th and early 20th centuries only. If there is not sufficient time or resources in class, have students do the research for homework and work on the visual representation in class.
Have each group, one at a time, post its visual representation on the chart and read aloud its summary paragraph. Answer any questions students may have about each topic.
Following the presentations, point out that these topics—like pieces of a puzzle—provide the historical context for “the plot” discussed earlier. Ask if, based on what they have learned about events taking place in Russia and Europe at the turn of the 20th century, students have any ideas about the nature of the lie or the hatred referred to in the quote. Ask who they think “the other” or the target of “the plot” was.
After some conjecture, reveal that the Jewish people were the targets of a campaign of hatred by the Russian secret police, who fabricated a book called The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which falsely claimed to be the confidential minutes of a Jewish council plotting world domination. Make sure that students understand the meaning of protocol (a detailed plan of a procedure; the records of a conference) and Zion (the Jewish people; the Jewish homeland that is symbolic of Judaism).
Ask students to think about what might have motivated a conspiracy of this nature. Tell them that in order to investigate further, they will be viewing the work of Will Eisner, who chronicled the story of how The Protocols was created and disseminated in a graphic novel called The Plot. Share the information about Will Eisner included in the text box below.
Will Eisner (1917-2005) was a legendary figure in comics. He was present at the birth of the comic book industry in the 1930’s, creating such titles as Blackhawk and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. He created The Spirit in 1940, a unique and innovative 16-page Sunday newspaper insert which was syndicated until 1952. As a Pentagon-based Warrant Officer during World War II, Eisner pioneered the instructional use of comics, continuing to produce them for the U.S. Army under civilian contract into the 1970s, along with educational comics for clients as diverse as General Motors and elementary school children. In 1978 Eisner created the first modern “graphic novel,” A Contract With God, launching a bold new literary genre. Nearly twenty celebrated graphic novels by him followed, including To the Heart of the Storm, The Dreamer, Fagin the Jew and The Plot. Established in 1988, the comic industry’s top award for excellence is named after him, “The Eisner Awards.” See http://willeisner.com for further information.