The last class finished with the students looking at the evolution of one character. How did his experiences in the Holocaust change him? Now I want them to consider the impact WWII and the Holocaust had on people living in occupied Poland.
The graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor's Tale, begins right before the war and ends in 1945 just before the end of the war. It focuses on how Art Spiegelman and his wife survive. From 1939 to 1945, they encounter a variety of people: other Jews, Germans, and non-Jewish Poles. I want the students to consider the perspectives of these other minor characters in the book. What is their point of view of WWII and the Holocaust (CCSS.RL 9-10.6).
I begin by asking my students how are different groups represented in Maus. Jews are mice, Nazis are cats, and Poles are pigs. Next I ask my students what they know about these other groups based on the information in the graphic novel. In chapter 4, Art makes his way home from a POW camp by disguising himself as a Pole on a train.
I take volunteers to explain the role of each group aloud.
Then I give each group a handout that is a planning sheet for the Maus on a train exercise.
The students spent the last two lessons exploring the juxtaposition in Vladek. These two Vladeks exist due to the war. If the Nazis had not invaded Poland, it is unlikely that Vladek would have been a soldier or a prisoner of war. In Maus the setting has a direct impact on the evolution of the character. Now, this task gives the students an opportunity to imagine how they would have reacted to the war.
Students have to consider: What would you have done if you were a Jew living in Poland during the Second World War? What would you have done if you were a Pole? A German? Why?
Consider the scenario: It is 1939 Poland. There are three people on a train traveling between Sosniwiec and the regional capitol. One person is Jewish, one is German and one is a Pole (not-Jewish). Consider why and under what circumstances this situation would occur. Draw a minimum of six panels to show the interaction of these three people on a train. Your panels must include description and dialogue.
First they had to define who is on the train. They have to create the character by establishing a background, his/her purpose for being on the train, and what his/her plans are when they arrive at the destination. The students use this information to develop their story. They have to create 3 panels on a train that tell these characters' story (CCSS W 9-10. 3).
The wrap up is the reporter for each group sharing the story they created for Maus on a train. It is important for each group to share its story. This task has no one right answer or correct way of telling the story. By allowing each group to share its story, all the students can experience multiple perspectives of the same event (CCSS SL 9-10. 4).
After they finish sharing the story and giving feedback to each other, they hand me their character descriptions and stories as they rush out the door to the pep assembly.