Seminar for teachers – 2014 – Zakynthos




The Jewish Museum of Greece has already organised and conducted eleven seminars entitled Teaching about the Holocaust in Greecefor teachers of primary and secondary education, as well as for museum educators. Eight of these seminars took place in Athens (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014) and one in Thessaloniki (2005). In November and December 2012 two seminars were held in Ioannina and Volos respectively, specialising in the local history of the Holocaust. Many teachers from Attiki and the provinces participated in the seminars, as well as representatives of ministries, organisations and bodies. The proceedings were described as particularly constructive and successful.


The seminar in Zakynthos follows on from the 2012 initiative to extend the JMG’s educational activities to the provinces. The museum’s 2012 initiative to hold the seminar for teachers Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece in places other than Athens – indeed this has been done twice – was the fulfilment of a long-lasting desire. The establishment of the Museum as the most reliable organisation charges with handling the memory of the Holocaust and make it an integral part of Greek educational system, has opened up new directions. Just as in Ioannina and Volos, so also in Zakynthos, it was the Museum’s aim to delve deeper into local history on the one hand, and also to give teachers in the provinces the chance to be more involved in developments resulting from research, new educational materials and in turn also supplement the JMG’s research programme. The fruitfulness springing from the relationship of this replenishment was confirmed at this year’s seminar which took place under the auspice and support of the Ministry of Education and Religion, the General Secretariat for Youth and which was honoured by the presence of local officials, the Metropolitan Bishop Dionysios of Zakynthos  and the Metropolitan Bishop Chrysostomos of Dodoni.

The basic historical and educational frame of the JMG’s seminars regarding the history of the Greek Jews, the Holocaust and the use of its educational methodology, was retained and enriched with new information regarding the history of the Jews of Zakynthos. Anastasia Loudarou, a JMG permanent associate and archaeologist, opened the seminar proceedings with her presentation of the history of Jews in Greece from ancient times until the 20th century, using archaeological evidence and items from the Museum’s collection. Then, Samuel Mordos, historical researcher and author of The Jews of Zakynthos, a Brief Historical Review of Five Centuries, presented the age-long history of Jewish presence on the island with a focus on its structural characteristics (social classes, professions), and also gave a detailed presentation of the facts of the entire community’s impressive rescue during the period of Occupation.

The historical approach continued with Odette Varron – Vassar, a historian and professor of the Open University, who spoke about the Holocaust, its memory and its inclusion in education, while analysing the difficulties in dealing with the memories of the extermination of the Greek Jews, the associated silence and its exploitation within the Greek educational system. The fourth speaker was historian, Dr. of Mediterranean and Oriental Studies of the University of Starsburg, Stefanos Kavallierakis, who spoke on The educational policy of the Greek state and Greek Jews in the 19th century, an overview of Greece’s educational policy regarding religious groups and the identity established by this policy. The seminar’s first day ended with the screening of the documentary “The Song of Life” by Tony Lykouresis, which constitutes a sensitive view of the history of Zakynthian Jews. Before the screening there were impromptu questions and answers on the rescue of the  entire Jewish community and the haughty stance taken by the then mayor Louka Karrer, and the then Metropolitan Bishop Chrysostomos Demetrios, towards the Germans. Mrs. Eleni Kriezi, Louka Karrer’s daughter, talked about her father’s motives, while Metropolitan Bishop Chrysostomos and student of Chrysostomos Demetrios, vividly described the personality of Zakynthos’ hierarch and praised the JMG for selecting Zakynthos as a venue for a seminar on the Holocaust.

The 24th June, the second day of the seminar, was dedicated to the Holocaust’s educational tools. Zanet Battinou, the JMG’s director, talked to the people attending the seminar about the activities of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), the highest organisation in teaching and disseminating knowledge about the Holocaust around the world. Jason Chandrinos, the JMG’s special associate and historian, presented the JMG’s exhibition Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the Resistance and discussed the possibility of using the exhibition in the classroom. The next workshop was also based on the museum’s project, in particular on the JMG’s older exhibition Jewish Neighbourhoods in Greece. The workshop was presented by historian Eleni Beze – Kamhi, who talked about the significance of testimonies in the teaching about the Holocaust. Next, Anastasia Loudarou, talked about the European educational programmes Judaica  Europeana  and Crocus Project, while Vasiliki Keramida, an educator, spoke about her impressions on the seminar for teachers at the Yad Vashem institute with the audience. Orietta Treveza – Soussi, the JMG’s museum educator, presented the museum’s case and examples of the use of educational material on which the Holocaust teaching is based – exhibitions of photographs, art, literature, children’s literature, plays and films etc.


The seminar in Zakynthos has to be considered a success despite the small turnout of teachers. A total of 10 people attended the two-day seminar. The low number of participants is due to unavoidable, organisational and technical difficulties in holding the seminar and under no circumstances should they be regarded as an indication of lack of interest. On the contrary, the people present exhibited great sensitivity to matters of teaching about the Holocaust and were very positive about the seminar. They noted the significance of local history, especially in the case of Zakynthos, and admitted that they had not realised the significance of the history of the Jews of Zakynthos and their rescue from deportation and extermination as key factors in the comprehension of concepts such as cultural identity, otherness, solidarity, tradition, bravery and justice, which are particularly useful to students.  Having praised the high level and educational value of the talks, they discussed the lack of a permanent information centre in Zakynthos and expressed their desire for more frequent repetitions of similar initiatives which convey historical and educational information to provincial schools. They also requested access to more historical data and information, more workshops and methodological guidelines, stressing how eager they are to teach about the Holocaust in the classroom. The JMG demonstrated that it possesses the infrastructure and expertise needed to evolve into a research centre for teaching the History of Greek Jews and the Holocaust, reaching and gaining recognition everywhere in Greece.