Golems – Jewish Holocaust and Resistance through art, comics, gaming, and literature

9th grade students usually come to me with a decent understanding of the Jewish Holocaust – but the one question I am most often asked is – why didn’t the Jews fight back?  The first time I was asked this question, it really made me take a step back and think about how this topic was taught.  I realized that students, and society in general, often learned about Jews as victims (I begin teaching about Antisemitism in the beginning of the school-year during the Medieval unit), as being passive in their struggles.  We then began to research as a class and came up with some great information – students often went and rented the movie Defiance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw6Rwum7zcU) and would become excited as we focused more on empowerment (this is a focus in my classroom – it’s why I teach about Nat Turner during the Atlantic Slave Trade unit).  This year, I plan to include historical Jewish literature about Golems, a graphic novel, and individual student art to support my team Language Arts colleague’s teaching of Elie Wiesel’s Night.  I will update this blog later in the year, but I wanted to share my initial plans and would love to hear any suggestions/feedback.


Night by Elie Wiesel.  This book is taught by the Language Arts teacher – the social studies classroom will be used to create background knowledge of the historical events.

The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague by Yudl Rosenberg.  This book was published in 1909 – it is a collection of stories centering on 16th century Prague and events surrounding the creation of a Golem.  It is a fascinating read full of Jewish cultural references and would be a great resource just for this aspect.  Additionally, it helps teach historiography as it is a fiction within a fiction – the book was written as a historical collection of true stories about events that happened in the 16th century – Rosenberg suggested that he had only “discovered” the stories hundreds of years later and had them published – not that he had written them.  Without knowing the history, one can be easily duped into believing that the stories are much older than 1909.

The Golem by Elie Wiesel.  This book presents cultural stories from a Jewish perspective about the creation of Golems.  It repeats a lot of the same information originally presented in the book by Yudl Rosenberg.  However, it does add some perspective to the literature and is obviously a great connection to Night.

Breath of Bones: a Tale of the Golem by Steve Niles and Matt Santoro.  This phenomenal graphic novel visually illustrates the Golem as a method of resistance against the Nazis in a small Jewish town in 1944 Europe.

Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual by Mike Mearls. This book outlines the different types of golems used in this popular fantasy role-playing game.  There are obvious connections to Frankenstein – was Shelley inspired by the Golem?

Golem Golem4 Golem3

Clash of Clans – iPhone app game.  This is currently a popular game many students play and it utilizes golems as part of the war strategy.

Two “children’s” books that could easily be integrated – wonder if students might be able to create their own?

Video of the author reading the book along with the pictures from the above book – http://vimeo.com/28875697.  Cute story that is reminiscent of Mickey Mouse and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  This book by Kimmel follows the historical literature/stories of golems – a bit of the history is explained in the book.  I read this book to my kids (4, 6, and 8 years old) and they loved it.

This book changed the historical literature a bit – the Golem is able to speak.  There is a good historical synopsis in the back of this book.

Teacher created Powerpoint – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0q0hv_n2-9xWXJqNVozRXh6Rlk/view?usp=sharing.  Incorporates X-Men, Superman, Band of Bothers, excerpts from Night, and excerpts from Ordinary Men.  This file is large – if you cannot view, I would be happy to share a smaller version (historycomicsguy@gmail.com).


Length??? Unsure at this point – I would imagine it will take 3-4 days.

Big Question – what does the creation of golems in Jewish literature depict about their culture/struggles?  In other words – why was there a need for the golem to be created?  (blood libel, antisemitism, etc)

I intend to begin the lesson with showing images from the Clash of Clans game and from the Monster Manual of golems.  I will ask students to create their own golems and draw a representation of its image.  They are to write a short piece on the purpose of the golem – for what could this being be used?  We will already have discussed Frankenstein during the Industrial Revolution unit, so we will be able to make connections.

I will then assign students to “read a book in a period” – they will each be given an excerpt from Wiesel’s The Golem book.  The students will discuss their common reading, then break out into expert groups where the  students will be able to share out the entire book.  We will then make discuss why the golem was created in these stories and compare to why the students created their own.

We will then read the Breath of Bones graphic novel and discuss.

The students and I will then begin going through my powerpoint.

This is as far as I have gotten as of 1/9.  I will have the next two months to formalize.  Again – I would LOVE to receive feedback and/or ideas.

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