Visual: ©Terraforming

Graphic Novels: Bridging Historical Narrative with Archival Evidence

On the 16th of April, we were thrilled to host Milana Meytes, Program Manager at Terraforming, for our ninth Lunch Talk. The Lunch Talk, titled Bridging Historical Narrative with Archival Evidence, dealt with the use of graphic novels as a tool for Holocaust education. Milana introduced us to The Red Race Car, a graphic novel written by Miško Stanisic, Co-Founder and Director of Terraforming.

This graphic novel served as a vivid example for using sequential art to transmit historical information engagingly. The Red Race Car is supported by resources such as photos, newspapers, maps and other archival materials, all available digitally to the students and teachers. It is aimed at an international audience, which begs the question of familiarity with and relevance of the local Belgrade history to students abroad. Making the materials interactive and providing thorough explanations about the context of the setting Terraforming has bridged the gap of distance and made the story accessible to students from different countries. Historical and present-day images of Belgrade are also designed to help international students understand and visualize the setting of the story in a place and a time. In addition, the compelling story and the character development are constructed to appeal and engage, much like other works of (historical) fiction. “Instead of treating the Holocaust as an abstract macro-concept, we make it relatable by addressing the tangible, local histories of it”, says Milana. The story follows one Jewish family from Belgrade and incorporates historically accurate illustrations of the city, some elements of which will naturally be familiar to those living there. Students learning with this tool in Belgrade might follow the family and visit the actual places illustrated in the graphic novel, compare and contrast the changes they have undergone.

The interdisciplinary approach of a graphic novel is perfect for relating the abstract term “Holocaust” to pupils since it couples visuals with narrative text, concretizing the events by focusing on a few characters, one family. In this way, emotional investment in the characters leads the readers through microhistory, tying it with the wider, European, and global history.