International Summer Academy at the Educational Centre
Students from such countries as Israel, Sri Lanka, Greece and Great Britain participated in the Summer Academy, a four-day English-language seminar by the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
Included in the programme of the Academy were historical lectures as well as discussions and meetings concerning the commemoration and preservation of the historic authenticity of the Memorial Site. It was also discussed how the memory of Auschwitz can be used in the education of modern societies. Above all, the participants had the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the area of the former German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz.
“I am a computer engineer, but also a guide for groups of young Israelis coming to Poland. In addition, my father survived Auschwitz, so there is also a personal connection,” said Rami Umschweif from Israel. “The opportunity to study here is of great importance. Through the windows, we see the site of the camp. It's strange, but also very strong. During the seminar, we saw various places that are not normally shown to visitors. This was the first time I was in, for example, the conservation workshop. It was also the first time I was in Monowitz. For me, being on-site is the best way to learn about it. It is also interesting to meet with other participants from different countries, which contributes to interesting discussions and establishing cooperation,” added Umschweif.
In addition to the study visit at the Museum, participants also took part in a series of workshops on the subjects of archives, camp art and preserving the authenticity of the Memorial Site.
“In my work, I deal with the art created in the camps and ghettos. The ability to have access to the original work, which I had previously written about, was very touching for me,” said Jodie Elowitz from Minnesota. “Being here is very important from several perspectives, both in terms of understanding as well as the historical perspective, commemoration and education. It does not matter how much you have read or studied; a visit to this place puts everything in context. Such an experience can not be forgotten, and in this sense, I can impart knowledge in a different way. I will certainly also encourage others to come, because the physical and emotional experience guarantees that the work in the classroom with the students will look different,” she added.
The introduction to the topic of the history of the camp was a lecture by Dr Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Research Department of the Museum, entitled “German occupation in Poland - the political and racial principles of the Nazi extermination policy”. Participants also had the opportunity to meet with a former inmate of Auschwitz, Zbigniew Kączkowski. An important part of the Academy was also a discussion panel with experts: prof. Jan Grabowski, prof. Marek Kuci, prof. Zdzisława Macha and Dr Sławomir Kapralski on the subject of Polish-Jewish relations after the Holocaust and a lecture by Dr Edyta Gawron from the Jagiellonian University on the subject of the Jews before and after the Shoah.
“Four days is not enough, because this story has so many interesting aspects,” stated Georgios Pilichos from Greece. “I hope that, for example, a second part of this meeting could be held in the winter because a lot of information can not be found in books. At the moment, I am finishing writing a book about the history of Greek Jews in Auschwitz. Thanks to the seminar, I have learned many new things, and I know that I can improve some inaccurate information that resulted from an erroneous understanding of the source material. I could only get this knowledge here,” he said.
Participants of the Summer Academy also visited the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue in Oświęcim and spent one day in Kraków visiting, among others: the district of Kazimierz, the former grounds of the Kraków ghetto and the Jewish cemetery.