Directors of Auschwitz Memorial and Yad Vashem discussed future of Holocaust education
The climax of the 10th International Conference on Holocaust Education was the discussion between Avner Shalev, chairperson of the Yad Vashem Directorate and Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum regarding the future of education about the Holocaust.
The moderator of the discussion, Dr. Iael Nodam-Orvieto, said that in spite of the various differences between the Yad Vashem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which has such significant Memorial under its care; it goes without saying that these are the two leading global institutions on the subject of the Holocaust whose voices to a considerable extent shapes the global development of education on this subject.
Avner Shalev pointed out the need to draw deeper into the legacy of direct witnesses of the Holocaust, memories and accounts of victims. He urged for the interpersonal nature of the teaching not to get lost in the changing world. He stated that one must approach the rapid evolution of new technologies with great caution so as not to lose the essence of content in the ostensible attractiveness of the form. He referred to the examples of educational practices developed at Yad Vashem, in which the human factor is the pillar of today's profound understanding of the significance of this unique genocide resulting from the policies of Nazi Germany.
Piotr Cywiński proceeded with his reflection on the changes in civilisation that affect our world today, often arousing uncertainty and anxiety, and resulting in such phenomena as the strengthening of particularism, separatism, xenophobia and the growth of populism in the political language. He stated that today, we need a profound reflection on new programs adapted to this new situation. ‘The inclusion of the Holocaust to the curriculum of history teaching of schools is not enough; we must connect these facts with teaching in ethics, religions, civic mechanisms, teaching in mass media, political science and sociology, if we do not want people to be only aware of what happened but to feel a personal responsibility for the future of the world. Meanwhile, the silence and indifference to the recent genocide in Burma raise severe questions about the effectiveness of today’s teachings,’ said Piotr Cywiński.
He juxtaposed various threats facing this education with a vision based on the transgression of the tendency to confining the issue of the Holocaust only to the historical sciences, seeking support for in-depth scientific research, translating sources and accounts distributed today in many languages, directly implementing knowledge about the Holocaust in threatened regions of the world and the decisive strengthening of cooperation with the media, especially in the age of growing populist discourse.
Among the over 120 lecturers and panellists of the four-day conference were, among others Prof. Yehuda Bauer (Hebrew University), Yehuda Bacon, Prof. Michael Berenbaum (American Jewish University), Naama Shik, PhD (Yad Vashem), Annette Wieviorka (Fondation pour la Memoire de la Shoah) and Stephen Smith, PhD (Shoah Foundation). The conference was attended by nearly 400 people - specialists, researchers and educators from over 50 countries of the world. The international educational conference takes place every two years at Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and it is the largest international debate platform on the objectives and methods of education about the Holocaust.