Aya Academy of Excellence


Teaching About Social Justice: The Holocaust Through the Literary Novel Night

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Night by Elie Wiesel is a gripping autobiography about a young Mann’s tortuous experience during the Holocaust. Although the book has a low page count, it is not a quick read. To fully absorb Wiesel’s journey, the account can and should be juxtaposed with other literature and documents. The images above are of a novel study handout I created for my student to accompany their reading. Questions posed were the basis of longer discussions we had in class about the Nazi’s treatment of Jews and others deemed dispensable. During these discussions other instances of social injustice, including the treatment of African Americans prior ti the passage of the Civil Rights Act, were discussed. The universal themes of power and resistance injustice were the topics of dialogue as we challenge how people have acted in the past to other ethnic and racial groups. This enabled students to challenge contemporary instances of social injustice.

Students also created thematic poetry using examples we read from those composed by children residing in ghetto Terazin. Analysis of quotes and images, including a mountain of collected shoes from souls lost to the gas chambers of a concentration camp, provided students an opportunity to think through the points of view of opposing voices during this conflict.

The students also created their own illustrations to depict events occurring within Wiesel’s account. The image above was from a highly artistic student and i realize in hindsight that she could have contributed an even more illustrative contribution had I provided more time and resources to this component of the novel study. In the future, I would have the students create their depictions on larger paper to create a museum exhibit akin the Washington, DC Holocaust Museum.

Night is an amazing book to use as a springboard for understanding the importance of social justice. Mr. Wiesel’s experience captures a place and time that is unique in history and highlights the societal issues of prejudice and power mongering which are timeless and universal.

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