THE ASSIGNMENT by Liza Wiemer: Would YOU speak up for what is right?

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).

18 comments

  1. WOW! Thank you so much, Laura, for reaching out to me and for sharing this incredible post! I am deeply humbled and honored.

    Since I met Jordan April and Archer Shurtliff, the teens who spoke out against the assignment that inspired this novel—(check out: http://lizawiemer.com/the-story-behind-the-assignment/)—empowering people, especially our youth, to be upstanders and allies against all forms of hatred, bigotry, and injustice, has become a primary focus of my work/life.

    To educators: If you might want to utilize this novel as part of your curriculum, please get in touch with me. We have a benefactor who is helping to supplement the cost of classroom sets. (While funds are available.) My email is: lizawiemerauthor@gmail.com for more information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Liza! It was my honor and privilege to write about your amazing novel. If there are any middle or high school teachers reading this, I urge you add this crucial book to your curriculums!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Laura, for sharing such an important book with us. I need to read it. I hope there are educators out there reading this and putting it on their schools’ book lists.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jilianne, me too! It truly opened my eyes and rocked me to the core. As I wrote above, I would love for this book to be required reading in our schools!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Marianne: now you understand why I felt I had to write about this book! It was so powerful, I will never, ever forget it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Putting this on my must read list! While I am absolutely appalled that an assignment like this could be conceived in this day and age, I am heartened to know there are young people who not only found it deplorable, but recognized it as one of the oldest forms of racism, and were willing to stand up against it, despite the personal cost.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The teens in this book, as well as the real teens who led Liza to write about this appalling assignment, are truly inspirations for us all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think a better assignment for a high school class would have been to try to reveal the atrocious emotional reasons for Nazis wanting to be rid of Jews. For instance, maybe they wanted someone to point their fingers at so the average citizen would feel better about their own lives. I also think there are so many divides in this country besides that extreme divide of neo-Nazism that would be a better start for students in high school to delve into. For instance, the abortion and pro-life issue.

        Liked by 1 person

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