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Using Comics To Educate About The Holocaust

Legendary comic illustrator Neal Adams and Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff team up on a series of motion comic videos profiling Americans of all faiths who spoke out against the Nazi genocide for a Disney DVD that debuts at San Diego Comic-Con.

For several years, legendary comic illustrator Neil Adams and Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff have partnered on projects that use comics and animation to teach about the Nazi genocide.

Their first DVD--They Spoke Out: American Voices of Protest Against the Holocaust--debuts at San Diego Comic-Con with an exclusive July 19 screening and panel discussion with Adams and Medoff. Episodes can be viewed at TheySpokeOut.com, and the DVD will be on sale at booths 1709 and 1829, where Adams will be signing copies.

"We’re not throwing the Holocaust at you," says Adams. "We’re offering a way to help American kids experience the Holocaust through these videos, so they can make their own decisions as to how deeply they want to go into further study."

Rafael Medoff
Neal Adams

Created by Disney Educational Productions and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C., it features six 10-minute motion comic episodes illustrated and mostly narrated by Adams--best known for his dynamic style and work on Batman and X-Men--and written by Medoff, the Wyman Institute director and author of 14 books. The episodes blend traditional animation and comic book-style illustrations with newsreel footage, photographs, and historical documents.

"Teens raised on YouTube, video games, and other visual media are likely to be more receptive to comic books about the Holocaust than heavy textbooks about the Holocaust," says Medoff. "This presents today’s educators with a whole new set of challenges."

One episode, Messenger from Hell, is narrated by former Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee, cocreator of Spider-Man, Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Messenger tells the story of a Polish courier, Jan Karski, who smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and the outskirts of the Belzec death camp, then risked his life to bring the news of the Holocaust to the free world. The DVD release coincides with the 70th anniversary of Karski’s meeting at the White House with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Another episode is The Dina Babbitt Story about a teenage cartoonist and future Warner Brothers animator who survived Auschwitz by painting prisoner portraits for Josef Mengele. Before Babbitt died in 2009, Adams and Medoff (along with the late comic legend Joe Kubert) attempted to retrieve her art from The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, by auctioning original artwork by noted comic illustrators to earn money for her legal bills.

"My work with Neal Adams began when I approached him about Dina Babbitt’s struggle--she was an artist fighting for the return of her original art," says Medoff. "Neal had led the courageous and successful fight in the 1970s to convince comic book publishers to return original art to the artists. As Neal and I were talking about ways to help publicize Dina’s cause, he said, 'Let’s do a comic strip about it.' The strip was called The Last Outrage and was published by Marvel. That brought a tremendous amount of attention to Dina’s plight. Then Disney Educational Productions suggested making’The Last Outrage into a motion comic, which led to the They Spoke Out series."

Increasing engagement

A page from a middle school student’s graphic novel on Josef Mengele

Jeremy Johnson, a PhD student in the University of Minnesota’s Art Education program, observed firsthand the power that comics have in increasing educational involvement, which he discussed at a July 18 Comic-Con panel called Teaching Comics.

Earlier this spring, Johnson consulted on an experimental lesson that had Wisconsin middle school students studying the Holocaust by creating mini graphic novels on the subject, rather than writing research reports.

“We asked them to create narratives around the facts they found,” says Johnson. “Ninety-eight percent of them said they learned more by creating comics than by repeating facts they pulled off the Internet or out of a book. They were more interested and emotionally invested.”

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  • peter

    The First Holocaust Of The 20th Century From Multiple Sources1-26-5 Victims of Soviet genocide Mass murder of a type never before seen in human history was carried out in Russia by the Soviet government from 1917 until roughly 1953. That was the world's first modern holocaust, i.e. the systematic murder of millions of people by a government. The Soviet holocaust began years before the Nazis committed their holocaust [1]. After communists created the Soviet Union, they murdered or oppressed anyone who opposed them, or might oppose them in the future. The result was a 36-year campaign of bloodshed and mayhem. The people who ran the Soviet Union were felons who were not elected to power. Many of them had been wanted by the law, or had served time in jail, before they achieved their positions of authority. [Given that fact, it seems odd that anyone would consider the Soviet Union to be a valid entity. Yet American president Franklin Roosevelt did, as did various Western celebrities]. At least twenty million Russian citizens were murdered in the Soviet holocaust, and many more than that were imprisoned and/or tortured in some way. Many of the people who were murdered or oppressed were politically conservative or moderate Russians who simply opposed Soviet communism. But some of the people who were killed by the Soviets were political leftists who, for certain reasons, opposed the Soviet government, or, were seen as a political threat to the government. Most of the murders committed during the Soviet holocaust were committed by people who were racially/ethnically Jewish [in fact, Jews, via their political activism, built the Soviet Union]. Granted, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was not a Jew, and his predecessor Vladimir Lenin was only part-Jewish [however both were married to Jews]. But most of the top people who served in the Soviet government under both Stalin and Lenin were Jewish, and their names are well-known to many historians - for example Leon Trotsky, Lazar Kaganovich, Lev Kamenev, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov [2]. The Soviet holocaust is rarely mentioned in the West today. And when it is mentioned, it isn't referred to as a holocaust. The reason for that is because public mention of that holocaust - and calling it a holocaust - would cause the Nazi-committed holocaust to be significantly overshadowed. Such overshadowing would have major political, racial and financial consequences, not just for the Jews but for other people as well. Let's look at the types of murders that were committed by the Soviet government during the 20th century's first mass murder event: 1. Death by gunshot: millions of innocent Russian citizens were rounded up, jailed in various detention centers, and then shot in the back of the head - right where the head meets the neck. That type of 'neck shot' was a Soviet specialty, and is described Here. 2. Death by famine: in the Ukraine, the Soviet government created a famine by seizing livestock, crops, grain and other necessities from the citizens. Any citizen who resisted the governmental food or livestock mandates was usually shot. Desperate Ukrainian citizens ate anything to try to survive the famine: bugs, grass, even leather shoes. At least seven million people starved to death in the Ukrainian famine that began in 1932. The Jewish commissar L. Kaganovich oversaw that famine. There was another Soviet-produced famine in the Volga region of Russia beginning in 1921, in which up to5,000,000 people died. Both famines were carefully planned by the Soviet government [3]. 3. Death by gulag: Russian citizens were rounded up by the millions and put into Soviet forced-labor camps called gulags. Many gulag prisoners died from over-work, malnourishment or disease. Prisoners were also abused - for example, some were forced to eat human feces. Other were routinely beaten or left in freezing temperatures. A prisoner who was unable to reach quota - i.e. perform a set amount of work per day - was deprived of food or other necessities, which often led to the prisoner's death. The gulags were usually located in very remote areas of Russia, meaning that even if a prisoner managed to escape, he would probably not reach a populated area and would then die from exposure to the elements. Unlike the victims of the later, Nazi-committed holocaust, the victims of the Soviet holocaust were mostly innocent citizens. They had usually done nothing wrong. They had merely opposed communism's aims. Or, perhaps they had instead committed the "crime" of owning a nice house, or land. Hitler's victims, on the other hand, were mostly communists, anarchists, ultra-liberals, gypsies, homosexuals or common criminals - in other words, they weren't exactly the cream of society. The distinction between the types of victims in those two holocausts is noteworthy. Victims of Soviet genocide Interestingly, apart from the Soviet government, Jews also dominated many Eastern European communist governments [4], and as such they oversaw what might be referred to as micro-holocausts, i.e. the murder, torture and jailing of scores of other innocent citizens, most of them gentiles as well. Some Jews might make excuses for the Soviet holocaust. They might say that the Jews in Russia were only responding to anti-Semitism when they carried it out. But that's a weak excuse. Murdering 20 million people and enslaving millions more for decades is not an appropriate response to a social feature that was caused by Jewish behavior in the first place. Other Jews might say that the Soviet holocaust was not a 'real' holocaust. But of course it was: certain people were methodically murdered over a long period of time. Certain people were selected for persecution. Actually, Hitler's holocaust - which was in many ways a response to the Soviet holocaust - could possibly be described as having been more humane than the first holocaust. After all, Hitler gave his victims many opportunities to flee Europe during the 1930s - and many did. Hitler even planned to send Jews to Madagascar, until WWII made that idea unfeasible. But the Soviets didn't give their victims a chance to flee Russia. A sad footnote to the genocide committed in the Soviet state is that no major Soviet officials were ever legally charged with committing murder, even after the fall of the Soviet Union. Kaganovich, Stalin's right-hand man and the most important figure in the Soviet holocaust after Stalin himself, died of old age in 1991 without ever facing criminal charges. Yet Nazi 'war criminals' were executed by the allies even when they did not commit any murders, for example the publisher Julius Streicher, who was executed solely for what he printed. A similar example is German navy admiral Karl Doenitz, who was jailed for 10 years after WWII for the "crime" of commanding Germany's navy during the war. Let the world begin to learn that there was a holocaust before the Holocaust [it's usually spelled with a capital "H" now]. The first holocaust claimed more innocents and lasted far longer than the Nazi-committed murder event [5]. The first holocaust's perpetrators were mostly Jewish and their victims were mostly gentiles who merely said "no" to a hateful Jewish idea called communism [6]. [1] the number of people killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust is nowhere near 6 million -- the actual number is more likely about 3 million, with the causes of the deaths of those people being shooting, disease and starvation in concentration camps. There is hardly any evidence to back the claim that concentration camp inmates were "gassed" by the Nazis. Empty containers which may have held cyanide-producing pellets - which were apparently found at German concentration camps by the allies after WWII - prove nothing, since such pellets were used throughout Europe long before WWII in pest-control fumigation. [2] there are three standard Jewish answers to the charge that Jews committed genocide in the Soviet Union: a) "Stalin wasn't a Jew"; b) "Stalin was an anti-Semite" [maybe that's why he married a Jew]; and c) "you're an anti-Semite." Jewish denial of the role that Jews played in the Soviet holocaust is rather revealing of the mentality of the Jewish community in general. [3] some eyewitness accounts of the Soviet-produced famine.http://www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/1986... [4] Jewish-dominated Eastern European communist countries included Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. [5] the Nazis did not attempt to end the Jewish race in Europe, since the victims of the Nazis included many types of people besides Jews. Had the Nazis wanted to focus solely on the Jews, they would have. [6] the Jewish political activist Karl Marx is the godfather of communism. The ideology of communism was spread throughout Europe by activists who were usually Jewish, e.g. Karl Radek in Germany and Bela Kun in Hungary.  Com