UN Holocaust Programme Holds Professional Development Workshop for Educators at New York Headquarters
More than 80 educators from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. came together in a day-long professional development workshop titled “Holocaust Education: Tools and Techniques”, held on 2 May 2013 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, the objective of the event was to share effective methods and technology for teaching the Holocaust, and examine the role of teachers in encouraging students to respect diversity in the classroom and beyond.
“You as teachers perform a vital role in society, shaping the minds of young people – our future leaders – to become responsible and contributing citizens of our world”, said Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in his opening remarks to the event. “And your work is directly related to the aims and objectives of our work here at the United Nations.”
Also speaking in the opening session was Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the newly appointed and first-ever Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth, who spoke about how Holocaust education presents an opportunity to teach students about the dangers of intolerance.
“I believe, the Holocaust presents a unique opportunity to teach young people about tolerance and the dangers of hate”, Mr. Alhendawi told participants. “It’s a lesson in the value of each human being and the need to protect human rights for all.”
Kimberly Mann, the Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme gave participants an overview of the work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, which began in 2006 as called for in General Assembly Resolution 60/7, underscoring the need for Holocaust education as a way to educate people about the consequences of hatred and discrimination in order to prevent future acts of genocide.
The workshop was comprised of five sessions that included presentations by the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education , the Anne Frank House, Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Anti-Defamation League.
The first of five interactive sessions was be led by Stephen Feinberg, an educator with the USC Shoah Foundation, who introduced teachers to “IWitness,” an educational website that brings more than 1,300 testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides from the Institute’s Visual History Archive to secondary schools via engaging multimedia learning activities.
“IWitness provides a transformative educational experience of using testimonies of people who lived through the Holocaust”, Mr. Feinberg explained. “It is transformative because students make personal connections with the voices in IWiteness”.
Also in the morning session, Karen Polak, a senior educator with the international department of the Anne Frank House in The Netherlands, led a session titled “The Process of Exclusion and Persecution of Roma and Sinti in Past and Present”. Participants learned how these people were targeted for discrimination and murder by the Nazis and continue to be marginalized in some parts of the world today.
In the afternoon session, Sheryl Silver Ochayon, an educator and lawyer, guided educators on teaching the Holocaust and other genocides through curriculum created by the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. She explained how the Holocaust can be used to teach about common patterns and processes in the development of genocidal behaviour.
Steven Luckert, Curator of the Permanent Exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, then gave a presentation on the power of propaganda. “Propaganda is an age-old phenomenon that plays on the emotions of hope and fear”, he explained. “It is something the Nazis understood”. Through a multi-year campaign of propaganda against the Jews and in favour of the perfect German and model German family, the Nazis were able to generate support for their racist ideology.
Tanya Odom, an educator with the Anti-Defamation League, concluded the day’s discussions with a lively and interactive session on how teachers can create an anti-bias learning environment. She demonstrated how teachers could use “The Pyramid of Hate”, which starts with prejudiced attitudes and progresses to acts of prejudice, discrimination, violence and potentially genocide in certain cases.
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme demonstrated how, through its educational activities and materials, it draws crucial links between the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, the underlying causes of genocide and the promotion of human rights today. This event for educators is one of many activities organized by the UN Holocaust Programme throughout the year.