Author Shares Anti-Discrimination Message with Students
Liza Wiemer, author of “The Assignment,” visited Bloomfield Hills Middle School to speak about their book, the history of the Holocaust, and the power of students to make a difference. The presentation “Allyship and Upstanders: Helping Students Speak Up Against Injustice and Hate” was sponsored by the Detroit Anti-Defamation League. Students from the eighth grade class at BHMS attended the talk.
Wiemer’s novel is based on a true story and has won multiple literary awards. It focuses on two students who refuse to take part in a school assignment where students were asked to argue for and against the Holocaust. “Imagine, how would you feel about being put in the position of having to play a Nazi?” Wiemer asked the assembled students. “That represents hate and evil. You never want to do anything like that.”
Wiemer further emphasized, “With any form of hatred, there is nothing funny about it. Nazi costumes for Halloween are not ok. A racist comment is never a joke.”
The presentation included photos and videos related to World War II, including an actor speaking about the difficulty of just playing a Nazi character in a movie. Students also learned how less than 1,000 refugees were brought to the United States during World War II and were held in an internment camp in the very town where “The Assignment” takes place. Wiemer contrasted this with the fact that 425,000 German prisoners of war were fed, housed, and provided with jobs across the U.S.
Wiemer then provided a connection to current events, such as the Uyghur genocide and Weimer’s recent encounter with a Uyghur refugee on a plane. “It’s so important to learn about history,” explained Wiemer, “because history teaches us so much. It’s not only about the past, but about how to behave and interact with people today.”
Students were encouraged to make a difference themselves. “We might hear someone make a racist comment or see someone being bullied,” said Wiemer. “You never want to regret not saying something or standing up for that person.”
BHMS Media Center Specialist Laura Amatulli thanked ADL representative Carla Chennault for being at the presentation and for bringing it to Bloomfield Hills Schools and also BHMS staff members Alan Neuwirth and Jill Sloan for their collaboration with the ADL on this project. Sloan is also the No Place For Hate Coordinator at BHMS.