Polish-Dutch exchange of experiences


"Teaching about the Holocaust from a European perspective" is the title of the Polish-Dutch educational programme implemented by the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz Museum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. In Poland took place the last seminar of the project which was planned for three years and which began in February 2010.

“Our main goal was to exchange experiences on methods of teaching about the Holocaust among Polish and Dutch educators, as well as the creation of a group of experts carrying out similar projects,” said Marta Berecka of the ICEAH and coordinator of the project from the Polish side. “Teachers, trainers, educators and methodologists, as well as staff from the educational departments of memorial sites were invited to participate — in total, the entire exchange programme was attended by 60 people, 30 from Poland and 30 from the Netherlands,” added Berecka.

According to Karen Polak from the Anne Frank House, one of the coordinators of the project from the Dutch side, within the three years, the participants developed a deeper understanding of what the differences are in the eyes of teachers on education about the Holocaust and what the differences are in working with students when it comes to content and methodology. "The Dutch certainly now know a lot more about the Holocaust and how they viewed the German occupation of Poland and the Polish-Jewish history of the period. However, Polish teachers could become acquainted with a methodology of teaching that engages students and makes them somewhat jointly responsible for the learning process,” she said.

“Meeting with colleagues from the Netherlands provided me with an entirely different perspective when it comes to the transmission of such difficult content. At the moment, a lot of emotions and thoughts are within me, which will certainly pay off. I will keep compiling this knowledge for years,” said Beata Kardasińska, a teacher at High School III in Gdańsk.

“When you read a book about the war in Poland, we know that the Germans looked at the Poles very negatively. However, during our visits, you could feel that the Polish experience of the war is different from the Dutch. Thanks to this, I look at this history from a new perspective, and for that I am very grateful. The stay in Auschwitz, Majdanek, in Sobibór definitely changed the way I teach about this story. This will definitely enrich my classes that I conduct in the teachers' training college,” observed Rob Verheijen from the Netherlands.

One part of the project was to prepare an exhibition on national minorities entitled: "I'm here. Poland of many nations", which was presented in Oświęcim at the Konarski High School. Its principal author was the Polish-German Association Centre.

“All 15 people to whom the exhibition is devoted come from Poland, and they related their future to Poland. At the same time, they wish to cultivate their traditions and culture. Each has a complex identity - feeling for the Poles and members of their respective national and ethnic groups,” said Dr. Piotr Trojański, vice-president of the Association, who also works at the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

“In fifteen panels, we presented portraits and photographs that present the activity of these persons in their communities. First of all, there are fragments of interviews that have helped young people discuss the diversity of identity. The exhibition will soon be supplemented and, apart from panels presenting specific persons, data concerning minorities will also be described,” he added.

During the September seminar, participant visited, among others, the Warsaw Uprising Museum as well as the Memorial Sites in Sobibór and in Majdanek, along with a visit to Lublin, Włodawa and Kraków. In Oświęcim, they took part in workshops at the Roma exhibition, met with former inmate Edward Paczkowski, visited the site of the former camp, as well as discussed the challenges and opportunities in teaching about the Holocaust in Europe. The programme also included a visit to the Oświęcim Jewish Centre.

Carried out within the framework of the project, initiated in 2010, there have been two exchanges between Polish and Dutch experts (two seminars in Poland and in the Netherlands in 2011 and 2012), preparation of the exhibition “Auschwitz”, which is presented in schools in the Netherlands in preparation for youth going to visit the Auschwitz Memorial Site, as well as development of educational materials for the exposition “Anna Frank. History for Today”, which is presented in schools in Poland.

The project "Teaching about the Holocaust from a European Perspective" is carried out under an agreement between the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Many Polish and Dutch institutions are also involved in its implementation (during various stages), such as: the Pedagogical University of Cracow, the Polish-German Association Centre in Cracow, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the State Museum at Majdanek, Museum of the Former Nazi Death Camp in Sobibór, Hollandsche Schouwburg, Fontys Hogeschool, Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught, Netherlands Auschwitz Committee. The entire project is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Welfare, Health and Sport.

Polish-Dutch group of participants during visiting Auschwitz Memorial. Photo: Paweł Sawicki
Polish-Dutch group...
Polish-Dutch group of participants during visiting Auschwitz Memorial. Photo: Paweł Sawicki
Polish-Dutch group...
Opening exhibition on national minorities entitled: "I'm here. Poland of many nations" Photo: Paweł Sawicki
Opening exhibition...