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Source: Susan Karlin, Using Comics to Educate about the HolocaustCo.Create, July 19, 2013.

For several years, legendary comic illustrator Neil Adams and Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff have partnered on projects that use comics and animation to teach about the Nazi genocide.

Their first DVD–They Spoke Out: American Voices of Protest Against the Holocaust–debuts at San Diego Comic-Con with an exclusive July 19 screening and panel discussion with Adams and Medoff. Episodes can be viewed at TheySpokeOut.com, and the DVD will be on sale at booths 1709 and 1829, where Adams will be signing copies.

“We’re not throwing the Holocaust at you,” says Adams. “We’re offering a way to help American kids experience the Holocaust through these videos, so they can make their own decisions as to how deeply they want to go into further study.”

Created by Disney Educational Productions and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studiesin Washington, D.C., it features six 10-minute motion comic episodes illustrated and mostly narrated by Adams–best known for his dynamic style and work on Batman and X-Men–and written by Medoff, the Wyman Institute director and author of 14 books. The episodes blend traditional animation and comic book-style illustrations with newsreel footage, photographs, and historical documents.

“Teens raised on YouTube, video games, and other visual media are likely to be more receptive to comic books about the Holocaust than heavy textbooks about the Holocaust,” says Medoff. “This presents today’s educators with a whole new set of challenges.”

One episode, Messenger from Hell, is narrated by former Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee, cocreator of Spider-Man, Hulk, and the Fantastic Four.Messenger tells the story of a Polish courier, Jan Karski, who smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and the outskirts of the Belzec death camp, then risked his life to bring the news of the Holocaust to the free world. The DVD release coincides with the 70th anniversary of Karski’s meeting at the White House with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Another episode is The Dina Babbitt Story about a teenage cartoonist and future Warner Brothers animator who survived Auschwitz by painting prisoner portraits for Josef Mengele. Before Babbitt died in 2009, Adams and Medoff (along with the late comic legend Joe Kubert) attempted to retrieve her art from The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, by auctioning original artwork by noted comic illustrators to earn money for her legal bills.

“My work with Neal Adams began when I approached him about Dina Babbitt’s struggle–she was an artist fighting for the return of her original art,” says Medoff. “Neal had led the courageous and successful fight in the 1970s to convince comic book publishers to return original art to the artists. As Neal and I were talking about ways to help publicize Dina’s cause, he said, ‘Let’s do a comic strip about it.’ The strip was called The Last Outrage and was published by Marvel. That brought a tremendous amount of attention to Dina’s plight. Then Disney Educational Productions suggested making The Last Outrage into a motion comic, which led to the They Spoke Out series.”

Read the full article.

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Bob Staake is an American illustrator, cartoonist, children’s book author and designer. He created many covers for The New Yorker. He also creates visual parodies of classic children’s books fron the 1940s through the 1960s. In this one, Zippy the Chimp – a popular tv character in America during the 1950s – is shown as a typical reader of a children’s version of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Traumatic past experiences can haunt the present as ghosts. It is no surprise, thus, that many Holocaust-related fictions have reworked a mythological figure from the Jewish folklore: the dybbuk, a malevolent wandering spirit that takes possession of the body of a living being in order to fulfill his unfinished tasks. In the Mossad file on Adolf Eichmann, shown recently at an exhibit in Tel Aviv, the Nazi criminal was code-named dybbuk.

This legendary figure gained popularity in the first decades of 1900 after the play The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds (1914) by Russian Jewish playwright S. Ansky and the Polish fantasy film The Dybbuk, based on the play and directed by Michał Waszyński in 1937.

As a post-Holocaust theme, the dybbuk has been used both in a comic key and in a horror register.

1. Genghis Cohn

The Dance of Genghis Cohn (1967) by French novelist Romain Gary features a former SS officer, commander Schatz, haunted by the dybbuk of a Jewish ventriloquist he had sent to death in the camps with a public execution. In 1993 Elijah Moshinsky made a tv-film adapted from Gary’s novel, Genghis Cohn. The comedian’s ghost does his best to cause his “host” the most awkward and embarassing misadventures.

The film can be watched on YouTube.

2. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk is a 2007 short novel by Sid Fleischman, renowned author of children’s books. It tells the story of Freddie, an American soldier who has stayed in Europe after the war to work as a ventriloquist. One day Freddie finds in his closet the ghost of a twelve-year-old boy killed in the Holocaust. The boy, Avrom, asks Freddie if he can inhabit him during his shows, and uses this opportunity as a way to find in the audiences the SS officer who shot him and his sister.

3. The Unborn

The Unborn is a 2009 horror film directed by David S. Goyer. Sofi Kozma and her twin brother Barto, at Auschwitz, were subjected to the experiments of Doctor Josef Mengele. Many years later a young woman, Casey (we eventually learn she is Sofi’s granddaughter), begins to have strange hallucinations and her eye color shifts from brown to blue. Barto, as it turns out, died during a Nazi experiment to change his eye color, and awoke from the dead in the form of a dybbuk. Sofi’s unresolved past is the cause of his perpetuation. The key issue of the film, according to Aaron Kerner, is

(…) how one generation might haunt the proceeding generations. Goyer’s film then might function as a literalized manifestation of second or third generation survivors riddled with “survivor guilt”. The weight of the Holocaust, even when survivors elect not to speak about it (perhaps because they don’t want to burden anybody with their traumatic memories), can be enormous and return to the succeeding generations as an uncanny specter, manifesting in forms of (survivor) guilt or melancholia. (Film and the Holocaust, p. 160).