My favorite subject in school was History. My senior year during an afternoon of taking notes about the Holocaust my teacher let loose the following anecdote and it further cemented her as my favorite teacher and History as my favorite thing to study.
She paused in the midst of her notes and said something to the effect of, “You know everyone talks about how awesome Winston Churchill was. And he was a great man. But he also smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. And when he found out that Hitler was dead and they were going to be able to claim victory over Germany, Churchill got in his car, drove over (some bridge between wherever he was commanding and the enemy line), pissed on enemy soil, got back in his car and went back to HQ.”
That’s why I love history. No, not because you discover the bathroom habits of famous politicians, but because when you hear stories like this you rediscover the humanity of the people who lived before you. Eras are no longer shrouded in the mist of the unknown, but are populated with normal people who did things much like we do (they just wore different clothes and weren’t as obsessed with their cell phones).
The Book Thief reminded me again of this passionate love of history. The second half of my senior year in high school was devoted to learning about the Holocaust. We watched Schindler’s List, discussed Anne Frank and Winston Churchill, and learned so many facts and figures about Hitler’s meticulous takeover. What was particularly interesting to me was the sheer amount of policy Hitler put in place to make what he did legal. That blew my mind as a student, to think laws could be so corrupted. I was fascinated by propaganda (and the roll it still plays today). We visited a Holocaust Museum and learned about other schools’ Holocaust projects. About six months after I graduated President Ahmadinejad made waves claiming the Holocaust didn’t happen and I remembered thinking, “Really?”
Another story kind of like this happened in sixth grade when we had a substitute teacher for my hour and half long math and science class. I wish so much that I could remember his name because I think it’s because of this man that I find weird historical stories so interesting. He told us bizarre things about the Lincoln assassination and subsequent trials. As well as a very strange story involving a hanging and a man who seemed too light to hang so they tied a boulder to his feet. (You can imagine for yourself what happened as well as the room full of sixth grade boys’ reactions).
So, I’m looking through Pinterest and I find these three prints:
Turns out they were posters made by a girl named Jenny Burrows as part of her design portfolio and they’ve sort of blown up all over the internet the past week or so. Serendipitous for this week’s posts which all have something to do with The Holocaust and The Book Thief (or will anyway). And it is cool to me that graphic art and literature play such an important part in historical education. (I’m not a proponent of the historical revision that my Grampa Russ gripes about quite often) which romanticizes events inaccurately. But anything that sparks a little curiosity is great in my mind. Spark some curiosity, do some research, and learn something new… all the cool kids are doing it.