CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS LIBRARY
Part II: Viewing the Exhibit/Novel (90 minutes - 2 hours)
This part of the lesson can be used in conjunction with the ADL special exhibit of Will Eisner’s The Plot
or with the graphic novel that inspired it. The sections below correspond with the four panels of the ADL exhibit. Approximate page ranges from the book that match up with each section are included for those who cannot attend the exhibit. All page numbers are from the first edition (hardcover) of Eisner, Will. 2005. The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
- The Plot is Hatched (corresponds roughly with pages 21-30 and 53-60 of The Plot)
- If students have not participated in Part I of the lesson, provide them with a brief overview of the exhibit/novel they are about to view/read (see Part I, step #7-8 ).
- Post the following question so that all students can view it: “What will it take to save Russia at this time and how do the Jewish people factor into your thoughts?”
- Tell students that they will view/read the first part of the exhibit/novel in small groups, and will pay special attention to the key players in the evolving plot against the Jewish people.
- Divide students into five groups and assign each group one of the following historical figures: Nicholas II, Sergei Witte, Ivan Gorymikine, Pyotr Rachkovsky and Mathieu Golovinski. Tell each group that as they view/read the exhibit/novel, they should focus on the motivations that drove their specific figure to become involved in “the plot.”
- Tell students that when the class reconvenes, each group will be asked to take the perspective of their assigned figure and answer the question posted in step #1b above in character. Allow 15 minutes for viewing/reading, and remind groups to discuss how they will accomplish the role play assignment.
- Reconvene the class and have each group present their role play. After all groups have answered the question in character, summarize the various motivations that contributed to “the plot.”
- Engage the group in a discussion using some of the questions below and answer any questions they may have about the first part of the exhibit/novel.
The Plot Spreads (corresponds roughly with pages 66-67 and 95-106 of The Plot)
- How would you describe Czar Nicholas II? In what ways did he fuel the unrest that was brewing in Russia in the last years of the 19th century?
- What political conflicts existed in Russia at this time?
- What was the relationship between the Russian leadership and its Jewish citizenry during the late 1800s? What is a pogrom (an organized attack or massacre) and why were pogroms directed against the Jewish people?
- What is a scapegoat (a person or people blamed or punished for things done by others)? How were the Jewish people used as scapegoats by the opponents of Sergei Witte and others who sought to modernize and liberalize Russia?
- What was “the plot”?
- Explain how each of the following influenced the conspirators behind “the plot”: (a) the Dreyfus Affair; (b) Maurice Joly; and (c) Theodore Herzl and the First Zionist Congress.
- Give students 10-15 minutes to view/read the second part of the exhibit/novel (independently or in small groups), and direct them to pay special attention to the specific circumstances that made it possible for a deception of such magnitude to take hold throughout Europe and the world.
- Reconvene the group. Engage them in a discussion using some of the questions below and answer any questions they may have about the second part of the exhibit/novel.
Read aloud the following quote:
- Who was Sergius Nilus and what role did he play in circulating The Protocols?
- What was Bloody Sunday? How did escalating violence and unrest in Russia lead to the spread of The Protocols?
- How did Russian defeats at the beginning of World War I contribute to further acceptance of the idea of a Jewish plot to dominate the world?
- How did the overthrow of the Czar help to spread The Protocols to other countries?
- How did The Protocols reach Germany and influence Hitler and the Nazis?
- How did The Protocols get publicized in the U.S.?
- What is propaganda (a type of message aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people)? How was The Protocols used to support campaigns of misinformation among various groups?
When we get through with the Jews in America, they’ll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing.
Ask students what feelings these words elicit and who might have said them. Explain that after giving a Nazi salute, these words were spoken at a 1938 rally in New York City by Father Charles Coughlin, a popular Michigan-based radio personality listened to by millions of people each week. Tell students that Coughlin republished The Protocols in July of 1938 with financial help from Henry Ford and from the Nazi Party in Germany. Ask students if they are surprised to learn that prominent Americans helped to spread The Protocols, and that there was a large audience for such anti-Semitism in this country.
The Plot Is Exposed (corresponds roughly with pages 67-94 and 102-112 of The Plot)
- Give students 10-15 minutes to view/read the third part of the exhibit/novel (independently or in small groups), and direct them to pay special attention to the methods used to expose The Protocols as a fraud.
- Reconvene the group. Engage them in a discussion using some of the questions below and answer any questions they may have about the third part of the exhibit/novel.
Tell students that in the final part of the exhibit/novel, they will learn how The Protocols has lived on despite being proven a forgery and denounced for over 80 years. Post the following quote for students to read or ask for a volunteer to read it aloud.
- How was The Protocols proven to be false and first exposed to the world as a fraud?
- What did the court in Bern, Switzerland say about The Protocols? Did this decision help to stop the spread of the ideas in the book?
- What led Henry Ford to apologize for his series, “The International Jew”? Did his public statement have an impact on the spread of anti-Semitism?
- What did the U.S. Senate report on The Protocols conclude?
It is as if, after Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, one were to continue publishing textbooks claiming that the sun travels around the earth. How can one explain resilience against all evidence, and the perverse appeal that this book continues to exercise?
—Umberto Eco, Italian writer
Ask students to think about this question as they move on to the last part of the exhibit/novel, and to be prepared to share their responses when the group reconvenes.
The Plot Lives On (corresponds roughly with pages 113-128 of The Plot)
- Give students 10-15 minutes to view/read the fourth part of the exhibit/novel (independently or in small groups).
- Reconvene the group. Engage them in a discussion using some of the questions below and answer any questions they may have about the last part of the exhibit/novel.
Ask students if they have ever encountered hate literature in school, while online, etc. Direct students to pair up and to briefly discuss any experiences they have had and how they have responded. Reconvene the group and ask for a few volunteers to share their experiences. Elicit ideas about effective ways to respond to hate literature and hate online. Reinforce the importance of reporting hate literature to trusted adults and refraining from spreading it or responding to it in any way.
- How would you answer the question posed by the author: “Why? When everyone knows that the ‘Protocols’ is a fake, why are they still publishing it?”
- What does the research librarian mean when he explains that The Protocols is a “weapon of mass deception”?
- Regarding the Umberto Eco quote shared earlier, what do you think is “the perverse appeal that this book continues to exercise”?
Homework: Assign students to read A Hoax of Hate: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and to write a brief essay in response to the reading as instructed on the handout.