Implementation of ‘Medieval Anti-Judaism and Modern Anti-Semitism’ (SOI-EU-224)

Background and context

I implemented parts of this Ida Ljubić’s learning scenario in my advanced (four-period) history course, high-school level, at the fourth European School in Brussels. I found the materials and activities in this learning scenario relevant to our considerations of Nazism as an ideology and the policies enforced by the hierarchy of the Third Reich.

Note that a significant portion of our discussions of the Second World War happened at the time of the confinement period during the COVID-19 pandemic. All the activities created out of parts of this LS were done online: we primarily made use of a virtual classroom (Microsoft Teams) and online quiz tool (Microsoft Forms); the relevant video lectures and documentaries were available online and/or uploaded on an online video library (YouTube).

Part 1: Preparatory lecture

The students were prepared for the activities linked to the learning scenario through video lectures they could watch on YouTube. These recordings were about the basic attitude of the Nazi hierarchy towards Jews in Germany and in occupied territories, the racialized aspects of carrying out the war (a fight to the death against perceived subhumans), and the Final Solution. They were followed by a 10-item quiz on Forms.

During remote learning, a typical history class consisted of:

  • a short video call on Teams for checking attendance and addressing questions,
  • time for watching 10 to 15-minute video lectures uploaded onto YouTube,
  • and a quick quiz and/or writing task on Forms towards the end.

I stayed available in the Teams chat for questions throughout the class period.

Part 2: Ancient roots of Anti-Judaism

In the next class period, the students were then asked to watch the video recommended in the learning scenario: “The Ancient Roots of Anti-Judaism”. A short viewing comprehension quiz followed this; the responses to the questionnaire and the significant points made in the video were then discussed in a call on Teams during the rest of the class period.

Part 3: Medieval Anti-Judaism, Modern Anti-Semitism

With the help of an accompanying slideshow presentation made available on Teams and introduced at the beginning of the class, the students were then given the task of individually reading the Wikipedia entry mentioned in the learning scenario about common and persistent “Stereotypes of Jews” from medieval to modern times.

The reading task was accompanied by a writing one, where students had to briefly respond to some of the discussion questions included in the LS, such as “What are stereotypes?”, “What is Anti-Judaism?”. Moreover, the students also had to refer to the Wikipedia entry in responding to the following additional questions:

  • Using your own words, explain what Anti-Semitism is in at least two complete sentences.
  • Based on the Wikipedia article, briefly describe a stereotype about the supposed physical features of Jews.
  • Based on the Wikipedia article, give an account of one stereotype about the behavior of Jewish people or describe a stereotypical Jewish character or figure.
  • Drawing from the Wikipedia article, describe at least one stereotype about the Jews in (Medieval) Europe and/or the United States.

Part 4: Europeana sources mini project

For the next two class periods, I implemented an adapted version of the “Group work on Europeana.eu” that is outlined in the learning scenario. The students were allowed to work with a partner or within a group of a maximum of three people. They had to look for at least two sources that showed stereotypes about Jewish people; one source (an image, for instance) should be modern, while the other could be ancient/medieval. At least one of the sources had to be located on Europeana.eu. The references (or links to them) had to be inserted into a Word document, along with accompanying descriptions. The document had to be submitted on Teams.

The other crucial part of the task was identifying the stereotypes in the sources and comparing them with those mentioned in the Wikipedia entry. Additionally, the students had to provide a discussion of whether the source was consistent with or contradicted elements of Nazi anti-Semitism. They had to make use of what they had already known about Nazi stereotypes, policies, and actions against the Jews, as well as any other information about anti-Semitism that might be relevant.

Reflections

I was happy to discover this learning scenario as it is rich in activities and resources that can flexibly be used and inserted at different points in a History, Philosophy, or Ethics syllabus. The students also liked the learning activities, as most of them led to the confirmation of what they had already known and what they had just recently learned about Jewish stereotypes. Moreover, given the confinement period, my students appreciated the freedom they had to explore Europeana and other online resources.

In implementing parts of this learning scenario, I saw that preparatory work and availability to students were crucial. The context in which the activities were carried out had to be clear from the start; the main goal was to help students understand that the Nazis tapped into entrenched ways of thinking about the Jewish people.

Given the distance learning situation, I found it pedagogically useful to be available online during the time the students had for research to be available via chat or call on Teams. Questions and responses could easily be shared with the entire class.

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario?

Medival anti-Judism and modern anti-Semitism created by Ida Ljubić

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Rijksmuseum.

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