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Networking between the ITS, Yad Vashem and Educators

Between 8 and 10 November 2012 educators who had passed an advanced training course at the Israeli Remembrance Authority Yad Vashem convened a graduate seminar at the International Tracing Service (ITS). It was the second joint seminar and the cooperation with Yad Vashem shall continue in 2013. Eight educators from various regions of Germany and a student who is also studying the issues of memory and mediation discussed, investigated and tested multi-perspective educational science methods of approaching the subject.

Two tutors who had taken part in the first network seminar in 2011 gave guidance to the “newcomers” and a helping hand to the organisers of the seminar. “The seminars are important for the network between educators and to prevent a tunnel vision. The exchange furthers a lively education”, said Matthias Schickel and Alex Schoener. The participants brought manifold areas of interest and ideas, they were curious to see and work with the ITS holdings and open to broaden the perspective of the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews, following their visit to Israel, to also cover other victims’ groups of Nazi persecution and annihilation.

“The holdings on forced labour are almost beyond grasp - making it clear that every place, every community, every factory exploited these people”, observed Daniel Felder from Villingen-Schwenningen. “There are information on my hometown as well. A future history workshop at my school might look into the subject.” Anna Esters, educator at a comprehensive school in Schermbeck, intends connecting pupils’ visits to the Majdanek memorial site with the individual stories of Polish children retraceable in the ITS archives. “Thanks to the partnership built between our school and a Polish school, we have chosen Majdanek to learn more about Nazi persecution.”

Johannes Kuber, teacher trainee at Regensburg University, was astonished and moved by learning about a death march of emaciated prisoners which had passed his hometown at the time. “One man among the survivors of this death march subsequently married a German woman and immigrated to the USA in 1947. I am going to follow his trace.” Solveig Strauch embraced the files of the “Lebensborn” and “Germanization” of children, a subject which had more or less been neglected by educational science so far. “I have learned a lot on the single aspects and will continue to familiarize myself with the topic.”

Apart from research in the documents, discussions constituted an important and integral part of the seminar - for instance centring on the iconization of Anne Frank in education and on the question whether reducing the fate of the girl - that perished so miserably in Bergen-Belsen later on - to her diary would not be tantamount to trivializing the Holocaust. The educators widely agreed that learning biographies and historical facts have to complement each other. While disallowing an identification with the victim, the shared educational principles of Yad Vashem and the ITS advocate empathy with the individual. There was a consensus among the participants that a simple dismay could not be an educational goal.

Presentations of teaching material from Yad Vashem and the ITS prompted further discussions, and it became clear that these network meetings have an enormous potential: the participants dispute, discuss and learn a lot from one another. “Seminars like that promote networks and reflections. The Holocaust was an event of global effect, and, as history continues to cast a shadow over our present, the memory is to be passed on to future generations,” stated Susanne Urban, Head of the Department for Research and Education at the ITS.

Deborah Hartman from Yad Vashem emphasized: “Such a seminar will be organised next year as well, but maybe differently structured. In any case we are most content with the ITS as partner, as we have similar aims and methods which connect us professionally and humanly. We see clearly, be it in the holdings of Yad Vashem, be it in the holdings of the ITS: an individual’s fate is also decided by omissions and decisions of the surroundings. That is why today’s education has to be based on social competence.”