Teachers’ Seminar- 2016


From 2004 to 2016, the Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) has organised and conducted 15 seminars for primary and secondary teachers, as well as museum educators, on the subject of “Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece”, ten of which were held in Athens (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and three in Thessaloniki (2005, 2014, 2015). Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and with the support of the General Secretariat for Youth, seminars were held in Ioannina and Volos, in 2012, and in Zakynthos, in 2014, which focused on the local dimension of the Occupation and the Holocaust in these cities. The initiative to expand the seminar beyond Athens, a concept which has been incorporated into the planning of the JMG, serves a very important purpose: to strengthen educators in the Greek periphery with pedagogical/historical material and museum expertise and, at the same time, to provide the JMG with feedback on its activities through the deposition of issues, questions and concerns by the teachers themselves.

The 16th seminar was held in Athens on 18-19 February 2016, on the premises of the JMG and the Cervantes Institute, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and with the generous support of the Claims Conference. The Museum was very pleased to receive two high Claims Conference officials who attended the seminar as observers. Ms. Elvira Glueck, Senior Program Officer for European Projects from the organization’s Berlin office and Mr. Tony Rodriguez, Program Officerhailing from New York, followed both days of the seminar and had an opportunity to speak with the contributors as well as the multipliers, the educators themselves. The attendance rate and response from the public, as well as the high level of historical knowledge and awareness of participating teachers, confirm the effectiveness of past efforts. In total, 152 educators enrolled and 130 participated in the proceedings over two days, representing the highest participation rates to date. This confirms the JMG as a reputable institution, not only as regards its scientific approach to the teaching of the historical uniqueness that is called the “Holocaust”, but also in its ability to assist and support the work of the Greek educational system.

The participants were addressed, via a message, as he was not able to be present, by the Greek Education Ministry’s Secretary Mr. Georgios Kalantzis. The seminar was opened by the JMG President Mr. Samuel Matsas, while Ms. Elvira Glueck was called upon to greet the participants and made several pertinent and inspirational remarks.

The seminar retained the main historical and educational core of past JMG seminars, with presentations on the history of Greek Jews and the Holocaust, while this year more emphasis was given to the use of educational tools. Ms. Anastasia Loudarou, a special researcher and associate of the JMG and a Ph.D. candidate in ancient history at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, opened the seminar by providing an overview of the presence of Jews in Greece – a 2,300-year history – while illuminating the historical significance of terms and concepts such as “Jew”, “Hebrew”, “Israelite” and “Israeli”, which even today are either misinterpreted or ignored. Next, Dr. Odette Varon-Vassard, historian and professor at the Open University, provided an overview of and historical introduction to the German occupation, the Nazi persecution and the Holocaust in Greece. She also offered a panorama of Holocaust memory in Greece, detailing examples of institutional and educative initiatives. The first session ended with a contribution by Ms. Zanet Battinou, archaeologist and director of the JMG, who provided detailed information on Hidden Jewish Children in Greece during the Occupation and presented the ongoing research program of the JMG on the topic as well. At the last part of the first day of the seminar – which focused on an overall historical approach – educators had the chance of meeting two “Hidden Children”, Ms. Rosina Asser-Pardo and Mr. Benjamin Albalas, who shared with them their personal stories and willingly answered numerous interesting questions.

The second day (February 19th) consisted of two parts: the educational approach and pedagogical workshops. The first speaker was Dr. Giorgos Antoniou, historian and holder of the Jewish Studies chair at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, who discussed Holocaust denial, relevant statistical surveys in Greece and their revealing results on contemporary forms of anti-Semitic discourse in Greece. The lively discussion that ensued vindicated the firm intention of the JMG to devote part of the seminar to the dark side of public life and the challenges it poses to the educational process. Then, DrMaria Kavala, historian and professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, attempted a historical approach towards genocide and the mass crimes of the 20th century, in order to understand the historicity of the term “Holocaust” and the ways in which the genocide of the Jews was inscribed in the legal, institutional measures and the ethical choices of the post-war world. At the end of this morning session, historian and representative of the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies, Mr. Yiftach Ashkenazy presented several new and very useful educational tools in Greek, available in Yad Vashem’s site,and answered numerous questions asked by educators.
After the break, Ms. Eleni Beze, a special researcher and associate of the JMG and Ph.D. candidate in modern history at the University of Thessaly, conducted the first of the workshops, analysing the importance of oral and written testimonies as evidence for the Holocaust and as vehicles for teaching about it at school. Then, artist Ms. Artemis Alcalay offered a guided tour to her latest work, a photographic record entitled Greek Jewish Holocaust Survivors, which is a visual recording of the Greek Jews who survived the horrors of the Concentration camps, a unique artistic transcription in Greek documentation. Choreographer and dance therapist  Ms. Nina Alcalay, worked with educators, using specific material (pictures, drawings, musical work), on how art can contribute to the study of the Holocaust. Finally, JMG’s own museum educator, Ms. Orietta Treveza-Soussi, presented the JMG current educational programmes and museum cases relating to the Holocaust (“Hidden Children” and the “Crocus Project”) and conducted a workshop designed to demonstrate their use in the classroom.

The 16th seminar was a significant experience for the participants and the JMG. It was gratifying to note that the awareness, interest and knowledge of participating educators increases with each seminar, which contributes in a decisive way to a successful outcome. An able number of evaluation questionnaires were completed and they revealed that there is general approval for this JMG programme and a strong desire that the seminars are extended in terms of duration and content. Most comments and observations expressed a keen interest for more presentations from different approaches (e.g. history of the Greek Jews before the Holocaust, local Greek and Jewish history, specific educational tools, and survivors’ accounts). Given the concern of teachers to tackle intolerance in the school environment, there was a request for more emphasis to be placed on the connection between the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as for analyses on the alarming contemporary reality (the rise in racism-nationalism, anti-Semitism).

© The Jewish Museum of Greece, March 2016