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University of Kassel and the ITS: teaching materials developed on surviving child victims of National Socialism

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen and educationalists from the University of Kassel today presented teaching materials on biographies of young victims and survivors of National Socialist persecution. The teaching materials were developed in a joint teaching research project with students of the University of Kassel. Documents from the Child Tracing Service in the archives of the ITS formed the basis of the project "I did not know who my parents were". "We would like to convey history and stories based on the fate of individuals. The fates of children are particularly suitable for learning groups of a comparable age and from multi-ethnic backgrounds", said Dr. Susanne Urban, Head of Research at the ITS.

Dr. Andreas Neuwöhner, who was a teacher at the Institute of Educational Science, Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of Kassel until the end of this winter semester, selected the model of station learning for the new teaching materials. In this way, he would like to motivate pupils to research the life stories of these children and young people themselves and to deal with National Socialist persecution from a biographical perspective. "The pupils are to find out that ideology and persecution are not abstract quantities of history, but are realised on a biographical level as painful experience", explains Neuwöhner. In cooperation with the students Franziska Bömeke, Elina Entes, Jens Hecker, Kristin Hunger and Carsten Hennig, the station learning was designed in such a way that the learners can work largely independently: biographical sketches were composed about selected people. Supplemented by historical documents and a didactic and methodological commentary, materials were developed that are suitable for interdisciplinary teaching at a lower secondary school level.

One example is Salek Benedikt: born as a Polish Jew in Lodz, he was sent to Ausschwitz concentration camp. Salek is one of many thousands of children and young people who were looking for a new home at the end of the Second World War. He was 15 years old when the Child Tracing Service searched for surviving relatives for him, as his parents and siblings were murdered. In its search for relatives, the Child Tracing Service came across a niece who survived the holocaust and emigrated to Palestine. Salek left Germany for London on 31st October 1945. There, he became a British citizen.

Professor Dr. Edith Glaser, Dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences and Head of the Department of Historical Educational Research in the Institute of Educational Science emphasised the importance of teaching research projects: "It is clear that, through this format, even in modularised teacher training, there is still space and time to work with students in a research-based and results-oriented manner."

The teaching materials consist of eight stations of one teaching hour each. In terms of subject, they deal with the holocaust, slave labour, the race ideology of the National Socialists, displaced persons and the international relief organisation UNRRA which was established in 1943. "Issues of identity, options for action, forced migrations and aid for the survivors are also to be discussed by the pupils", explained Urban. "Here, we see points of reference for a positive identification, the encouragement to show moral courage and the assumption of social responsibility."

Urban went on to say that the ITS intends to use the still relatively unknown documents from the post-war period, in particular, in the educational work. These include the documents of the Child Search Branch that describe the support of surviving children and the search for relatives and adoptive families. The Child Search Branch was established as a department of the ITS after the end of the Second World War and operated until 1950. "We hope that the pupils will pass on the memory of the victims of the persecution, even if they can no longer speak to eyewitnesses themselves", stated Urban.

Download of the teaching materials (pdf/in German only)