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.
A Special Event for “IWitness”
with USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education
On 23 January 2012, the United Nations Department of Public Information, in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, held a special event to debut the new online Holocaust education technology “IWitness”.
Designed as a resource for secondary school teachers and students, IWitness makes 1,000 video testimonies of survivors and other eyewitnesses of the Holocaust available through an online platform. IWitness provides students with a deeper understanding of 20th century history and an opportunity to learn 21st century digital and media literacy skills. The event was held in partnership with the United States Mission to the United Nations, in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
More than 350 New York metropolitan area high school students, who had been learning how to use the new online educational tool in their classrooms, attended the event. They shared their experiences gained through viewing the video testimonies of Holocaust survivors, including survivor Roman Kent. Mr. Kent, who serves as Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants and was appointed by President Obama to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, was present to provide his own reflections on Holocaust education and answer the students' questions. The students also shared the results of the projects they completed using IWitness.
IWitness marks the first time testimonies from the Shoah Foundation Institute, founded in 1994 by filmmaker Steven Spielberg after completing the film Schindler’s List, will be made accessible via the Internet to secondary school teachers and students to fulfil an Institute goal: To make the testimonies available so future generations can learn directly from these Holocaust eyewitnesses and transform their perceptions.
Exploring a Past, One Distant, One Near, in Search of a Better Future
Thirty educators from secondary schools throughout Rwanda gathered from 31 July to 3 August 2011 at the Kigali Memorial Centre to learn how to help their students better understand the causes of genocide and how to foster a commitment to human rights following the 1994 genocide against the Hutus in Rwanda.
Sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Federation of Teachers, and New York State United Teachers, the conference was organized by Andrew Beiter and Mark Gudgel co-Directors of The Educators' Institute for Human Rights, with local support from the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre. During the three-day meeting, experts drew upon their knowledge of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda to find ways to help students grasp the circumstances that can lead to genocide and why it is essential to remember the victims and survivors. Local educators will now be better equipped to help children understand the human dimension of these tragedies and the importance of respecting one another. In fostering a sense of responsibility and community in each of them, teachers will help to build human rights defenders, beginning in the classroom.
Ernest Mutwarasibo from National University of Rwanda led a session on the history of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi
Kimberly Mann, manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, was among the speakers at the conference. She spoke about the role of remembrance in raising awareness to the dangers of hatred and prejudice, recognizing the worth and dignity of each individual and the issues that teachers should be sensitive to or avoid when commemorating these tragedies with students. Among the other presenters were Peter J. Fredlake, Director, National Outreach for Teacher Initiatives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Carl Wilkens, who shared his personal story of courage in helping to provide food and water to orphans in Rwanda when the killing began in 1994; Dr. Mark Mostert of Regent University, who described the Nazis’ euthanasia programme that targeted physically and mentally disabled persons; and Ernest Mutwarasibo of the National University of Rwanda, who gave an in-depth lecture about the history of the Rwandan Genocide. Presenters also provided the educators with teaching materials to be used in their classrooms.
Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme
led a session entitled "Learning from Remembrance"
Over 30 Rwandan teachers from all over the country attended the event.
The location of the conference, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, was particularly symbolic. The Memorial was opened in April 2004, on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried. The Centre is a permanent memorial to victims of the genocide and serves as a place for people to grieve those they lost, co-founded by James Smith, Chief Executive of Aegis Trust, a genocide prevention organization.
Holocaust Educators Network Summer Seminar Visits UNHQ to learn about the UN’s work on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention
Olga Lengyel was a survivor of Auschwitz who had lost her parents, husband and sons who were murdered in the Holocaust. She vowed to remember and tell others about the nightmare of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and founded the Memorial Library, the goal of which is to support Holocaust education and to help teachers promote an agenda for social justice in their classrooms and communities.
Every summer, teachers from all across the United States meet at the Memorial Library to take part in the organization’s summer seminar programme for teachers from schools and communities that are faced with a lack of available resources or with issues related to social injustice. Dr. Sondra Perl, a professor of English, initiated and leads the summer seminar which introduces the teachers to the subject of the Holocaust, and encourages them to think creatively about how they teach this history and other genocides.
During this year’s seminar, participants visited United Nations Headquarters on 13 July to learn about the UN’s work in Holocaust education and genocide prevention.
Following a guided tour of the Headquarters, they met with Inbal Eshed, a public information officer with the Holocaust Programme, and Mario Buil-Merce, a political affairs officer with the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. They learned about the tools that the UN utilizes to encourage youth around the world to learn about the Holocaust and its universal lessons; and they were introduced to the work of the Special Adviser and the UN’s efforts to identify and prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
This was not the first time that the Holocaust Programme partnered with the Office of the Special Adviser when meeting with educators. Last May, the Special Adviser, Francis Deng, joined John Prendergast of the Enough Project in a discussion on the prevention of genocide during a day-long educators’ workshop at the UN Headquarters.
Putting the “Outreach” in the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme: the Programme meets with teachers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
On 4 July 2011, Inbal Eshed, a public information officer with the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, met with teachers participating in the annual Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers Program (HAJRTP) in Washington, D.C. The briefing on the work of the UN in the area of Holocaust education, coordinated with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, was another important step in the Programme’s efforts to expand its network of educators.
The group of middle and high schools teachers from all over the United States came to Washington, D.C., to meet with experts before embarking on a trip to Israel, Germany and Poland to explore Holocaust history and visit historical sites. They learned about the Holocaust Programme’s outreach activities and educational tools that are being used in classrooms all around the world. They were introduced to educational resources produced by the Programme for use with their students.
HAJRTP was founded in 1985 by Vladka Meed, a Holocaust survivor originally from Poland. Meed, who was a member of the Jewish underground in the Warsaw Ghetto, is featured in the Holocaust Programme’s most recent study guide and companion DVD on “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion”. HAJRTP is run by Elaine Culbertson, Chair of the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council, and Steve Feinberg, Director of National Outreach for Teacher Initiatives at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Today, HAJRTP has established a network of teachers in almost all fifty states in the country.
HAJRTP is one of the Holocaust Programme’s newest partners. With only a handful of partners from among civil society organizations when the Programme was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006, it is proud to have more than a hundred today.
The UN’s Holocaust Programme joins teachers for the Jewish Foundation for Righteous’ summer programme
Olga Yatskevich of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme participated in the Summer Institute for Teachers organized by the Jewish Foundation for Righteous, which was held during the last week of June 2011 at Columbia University in New York City. The goal of the Summer Institute is to educate middle and high school teachers about the history of the Holocaust and provide them with the resources to enrich their lesson plans. Since 2001, the Foundation has brought together teachers who are affiliated with Holocaust centres from different parts of the United States, as well as teachers from European countries. Educators from Poland and Croatia joined the group this year.
The week-long programme included intensive academic seminars, which focused on different aspects of Holocaust history, such as anti-Semitism, the judiciary under Nazi rule, rescue efforts, immigration policies, the machinery of murder, and the aftermath of the Holocaust. The lectures were led by prominent scholars in the area of the Holocaust studies, including John Roth, Volker Berghahn, Jeffrey Burds, Peter Hayes, Alexandra Zapruder, Samuel Kassow, Harry Reicher, and Robert Jan van Pelt. Roman Kent and Nechama Tec, Holocaust survivors, shared their heartbreaking personal stories.
The lectures were followed by a discussion and work in small groups during which participants shared their experiences and exchanged information on their teaching methods. European colleagues also made presentations about teaching the Holocaust in their home countries.
Kimberly Mann, manager of the UN’s Holocaust Programme, spoke to the group on the aims and activities of the Programme. She emphasized the importance of organizing commemorative and educational events, of creating and disseminating educational materials, and the significance of partnering with educators networks in order to extend the Programme’s outreach. Ms. Mann provided the teachers with various educational materials produced by the Programme to be used with their students.