REPORT

Seminar for Teachers

Title:  “New Approaches And Resources For Holocaust Education: Three Institutions Present”
Jewish Museum of Greece, Yad Vasehm and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Athens, December 7, 2018

 Introduction

The Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) has already organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, twenty-four (24) seminars carrying the title “Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece”, which are addressed to teachers working in the primary and secondary education. Twelve seminars have taken place in Athens (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018) while three have been organized in Thessaloniki (2005, 2004, 2015). In 2012, as well as in the period between 2014 and 2016, seminars have also taken place in Ioannina, Volos, Zakynthos, Patras, Larisa, Karpenisi, Distomo, Drama and Chania, which sought to emphasize the local dimension of the Holocaust. The organization of this seminar in Athens in collaboration with internationally recognized institutions offers the possibility to renew our program, test new workshops as well as enjoy the participation of distinct scientists and academics from abroad.

General frame

The seminar took place on 7th December 2019 in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in Athens. The seminar was held once again under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, following the invitation and support by the Israeli and Polish Embassies in Athens. Approximately 40 teachers participated enthusiastically in the meeting and contributed immensely to its success by actively putting forward their thoughts and concerns. This positive atmosphere, which has by now become a status quo, is by all means the most powerful motive for the JMG to continue its efforts in the domain of democratic education.

It was at the opening of the seminar, that the General Secretary of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, Giorgos Kalantzis, extended a warm welcome to all participants and praised the importance of these educational seminars for the political education of all future generations, so as they can be alert and stay immune against dangerous ideas, which could threaten the democratic order. He also underlined the significance of the successful call for competition concerning the making of a short film on the Holocaust of the Jews of Greece and laid special emphasis upon the fact that this competition could not survive without the educational seminars of the JMG. Anna Barbarzak, Ambassador of Poland in Greece, as well as Sawsan Hasson, Councilor of the Embassy of Israel in Greece, extended their warm greetings to everybody present. The President of the JMG, Samouil-Makis Matsas, spoke about the uniqueness of the phenomenon “Holocaust” and stressed how important it is for the young generation to be aware of the catastrophic results which intolerance and bigotry can lead to. The last speaker to extend her warm greetings to the seminar was the Director of the JMG, Janet Battinou, who spoke about the history of the seminar and presented the material distributed to all participants. This included : a) a six- page report referring to the main facts of WWII as well as to the Holocaust, starting with the founding of the Nationalsocialist Workers’ Party (NSDAP) by Adolph Hitler in 1920  and ending with the founding of the Organization for the Relief and Rehabilitation of Greek Jews through Royal Charter in 1949; b) a five-page bibliography containing both Greek and non-Greek titles as well as internet  sites pertaining to the Holocaust; c) curriculum vita of all speakers; d) audiovisual material (2 interactive CD-Roms, a digital catalogue of an exhibition and a documentary).

The first presentation was held by Anastasia Loudarou, JMG researcher and PhD candidate in the field of ancient history at the Aristoteleian University. Ms Loudarou retraced the first signs of Jewish presence in Greece during the antiquity and then moved on to the Roman and Byzantine era. Her lecture ended by defining the terms “Jew”, “Israelite”, “Judean” and “Israeli”. Thereafter, Dr. Alexandra Patrikiou, historian and JMG researcher took the floor and presented the main events of the Jewish persecution in Greece during WWII. She referred to the implementation of the anti-Semitic measures upon the Jewish communities in Macedonia and Thrace by the German and Bulgarian occupying forces as well as to the deportation of the Jewish population from these regions between March and August 1943 to Auschwitz and Treblinka. Special emphasis was laid upon the destruction of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, which had always been the centre of Jewish life in Greece. Her lecture ended with the persecution of those Jewish communities in Greece, which on the heels of the Italian capitulation in September 1943 fell into the German occupation zone thus resulting to the deportation of their members in 1944 to Auschwitz.

The lectures of Andrzej Kacorzyk and Alicja Wόjcik, both members of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (ABSM), presented a number of long-lasting educational programs organized by the museum which bore direct relevance to the educational character of the seminar of the JMG. They also presented new educational programs and actions which are being currently organized for teachers. Finally, Garyfallia Micha, researcher at Yad Vashem, presented a new educational program based on the example of a Muslim family in Albania, who was awarded the honorary title “Righteous Among the Nations” for having saved persecuted Jews.

CONCLUSIONS

The assessment of the 39 completed questionnaires speaks volumes for the enthusiasm with which all participating teachers greeted the seminar, who were unanimous in their verdict to encourage even more teachers to attend the seminar organized by the JMG. Moreover, their comments and recommendations prove their strong will to offer their own contributions for the sake of improving the JMG educational program. For example, many teachers asked for more information on the issue of antisemitism, the connection between the Holocaust and the rise of right-wing extremism and racism in Europe, the correlation between the Holocaust and Art, the “loud silences” in postwar Greece, the issue of the traumatic memories of the genocide, oral history in the form of personal testimonies, pictures of victims and survivors, the fate of those Jews who survived and emigrated to Israel. Last but not least many teachers uttered their interest in visiting memorial sites in Greece as well as abroad and, if possible, participating in even more interactive workshops.