Imagine this scenario: Your favorite high school history teacher passes out an assignment requiring you and your fellow classmates to debate the Final Solution as members of Hitler’s Nazi Elite. You must provide five well-researched points to defend a PRO or CON position on how best to destroy all Jews. The PRO position is extermination and the CON position is sterilization, ghettos, and work camps.
“Your arguments should be based on the Wannsee Conference held on January 20, 1942…to debate how the handle the biggest threat to the Aryan race-the Jew.” (page 8)Mr. Bartley addressing the class, Page 8
Are you startled? Are you appalled? Are you shaking your head, thinking this is so unrealistic? If you think no public or private school in our United States would ever sanction such an offensive assignment, it pains me to the depths of my soul to reveal that THE ASSIGNMENT is based on a true story.
In this powerful and riveting YA novel, Logan and Cade are the only two students in the entire class who display the courage, conviction, and morality to fight against this abhorrent assignment. When the teacher and principal refuse to rescind the debate, the friends make their objection public. These students, who speak and act with honor and respect, are vilified and bullied by fellow students and teachers alike. When their objection goes viral, their entire upstate New York town gets embroiled in the controversy.
THE ASSIGNMENT is a MUST READ in every high school and every home, and I guarantee readers will identify with and root for main characters Logan and Cade as they persevere despite staggering challenges and revelations. Though Mr. Bartley aims for students to reach the conclusion that Nazis and the Holocaust were evil, his assignment emboldens some students, teachers, and others to speak and act in the most despicable, discriminatory, and antisemitic ways.
Liza Wiemer, a Jewish author and award-winning educator of 25 years, was inspired to write THE ASSIGNMENT after meeting Archer Shurtliff and Jordan April, two teenage activists who fought against a similar antisemitic assignment in their Oswego, New York high school. Through the book itself as well as Liza’s notes, it became shockingly clear this wasn’t the only school system to sanction ill-conceived “Holocaust from the Nazi perspective” assignments. Liza did an incredible amount of research for THE ASSIGNMENT, and helpful resources offered at the end of the novel are separated into organizations, websites, films, books, and places to visit.
For more about Liza’s inspiration for this novel, go to lizawiemer.com. I’ll leave you with this important message from the author:
“Antisemitism was not exclusive to my youth. In recent years, my family and I have endured violent antisemitic actions…
For students, speaking out against any injustice, especially when adults are involved, can be a formidable task. But it’s critical, life-changing, and perhaps even life-saving.” (from A Note from the Author, page 308).