Jess Smee

Its creators took great care to keep the fictional saga factually accurate.

German students are getting a colourful insight into the darkest chapter in 20th century history, in the form of a graphic novel on the Holocaust.

A far cry from your average history textbook, Die Suche (The Search), uses bold graphics to chronicle the fictional story of Esther, a woman who unearths the truth about her Jewish family which was deported to Auschwitz.

“Through the comic format, the subject becomes more realistic and closer to home for young people,” Julia Franz of the Anne Frank Zentrum said. “There is definitely a huge knowledge gap among teenagers. Most know about the Third Reich but there are lots of myths, prejudices and misunderstandings.”

The Anne Frank Zentrum, which works to boost awareness about the Holocaust, has distributed the graphic novel to schools in Berlin and North Rhein-Westphalia. It will be used by 20 classes of 13-15-year-olds. If it is a success, the material will be used by other schools across the country. In a parallel project, schools in Poland and Hungary are also using the book in lessons.

It is the second of two graphic novels illustrated by Eric Heuvel on the subject. The first, A Family Secret, was published in 2003. The books, available in English, are the brainchild of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a museum housed in the building where Anne and her family hid.

Die Suche’s creators took great care to keep the fictional saga factually accurate. Historians were closely involved with the project and many of the drawings are based on original Nazi-era photographs. In Germany, which this week sees the 75th anniversary of Hitler becoming chancellor, many fear that young people are disinterested in or misinformed about this important chapter of history. — ©Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008