Seminar at Yad Vashem – 2013

From June 21 until June28, 2013 a special seminar was held at the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies, for the fifth time in collaboration with the Jewish Museum of Greece, on teaching about the Holocaust in Greek schools.

21 educators from various parts of Greece and all educational levels, surpassing the difficulties of an ambiguous time for the educational community, in our country, had the opportunity to travel to Israel and participate at an educational seminar in Yad Vashem, in the framework of the special program of the “International School for Holocaust Studies”.

Many of the participants had already had a primary contact with the subject after attending the seminars organised by the Jewish Museum of Greece entitled: “Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece”, in Ioannina, Volos and Athens (from November 2012 until February 2013), that engendered a need for further knowledge on the subject and on how to teach about the Holocaust in the classroom.

During their stay in Israel, the participants had also the chance to meet with educators from Cyprus that attended the seminar for the first time, and exchange their experiences and concerns.

Meeting with Mr. Yiftach Meiri, head of the educational program for Greek educators, made the participants realise the inspired work that is carried out by the specialized staff of Yad Vashem. During the daily attendance, the lectures and the workshops, the educators were introduced to useful educational sources and teaching methods, while, they recognised the importance of experiential teaching through workgroups, watching movies/documentaries, survivors’ personal testimonies etc.

Visiting the Yad Vashem Learning Center was a unique experience mainly because of the particularly advanced technology used to provide knowledge through short videos with lectures from historians, intellectuals, artists, clerics and survivors on interesting issues, mainly philosophical, that relate to the Holocaust.

During the sessions, the participants had the chance to expand their historical knowledge and familiarized themselves with the terms: Judaism, Anti Semitism, Genocide and Holocaust, the Jewish presence in Europe and Greece, pre war and post war life, with Holocaust denial and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The lectures by distinguished scholars, profoundly experienced in the subject, prepared the participants for further training and reflection, while attending the lecture by award-wining Prof. Yehuda Bauer, was a great honour for the Greek Delegation. “If you really want to deal with the Holocaust, you first have to learn what actually happened” – “Information is not knowledge” are some of the Professor’s simple phrases that can easily be used by the educators as fundamental principles in order to help them teach about the Holocaust, bearing always in mind that: the Holocaust constitutes a source for knowledge that never runs dry.

Greek educators face the challenge of a difficult endeavour. The need for effective teaching that will help students comprehend the history and the significance of Holocaust, while they may have to deal with deniers in the classroom. This was one of the seminar conclusions that might create doubts, but at the same time, could lead to a hopeful solutionaccording to the participants’ feedback. It’s through constant learning, the specialized programs designed by Yad Vashem and the rich educational material that is offered, as well as the educational activities, the digital material and the museum cases that are accessible at the Jewish Museum of Greece that can enrich the educators’ tools and support their educational work, at a national level.

Impressions by the participating educators in their own words