“TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST IN GREECE”
One year after the successful first seminar for teachers “Teaching the Holocaust in Greece”, the second seminar under the same title took place, on October 23rd 2005, in Thessalonica, at the city?s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The one-day event was organised by the Jewish Museum of Greece under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Education. It was hosted by the Jewish Community of Thessalonica, which also was one of the sponsors, together with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, and the Cultural Departments of the embassies of Germany and the U.S. The Morris Gattegno company kindly offered the stationary used at the seminar.
On the eve of the seminar, the Jewish Community of Thessalonica gave a reception at the Chamber?s foyer, attended by representatives of the local authorities and schools, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Holocaust survivors from the local community and many others.
Proceedings were opened by Ms. A. Zagouta, of the General Secretariat for Intercultural Education of the Greek Ministry of Education, followed by Mr. G. Karatassios, Head of the Central Macedonia School Board, Ambassador Filon, for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mariusz Edgaro, representative of the Polish Presidency of the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Mr. M. Mordochai, member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Museum of Greece, and Mr. Hasdai Kapon, representing the Board of the Jewish Community of Thessalonica. Finally, Ms. Erica Kounio-Amarilio, representative of the Holocaust survivors, made a brief reference to her own experience.
The seminar lasted from 9 a.m. until 18 p.m., while two traveling exhibitions of the Jewish Museum, “The Holocaust of Greek Jews, 1941-?44” and “Hidden Children in Occupied Greece” were shown in adjacent halls.
Besides the seminar?s rich printed material, the participants also received catalogues and informational publications of the Jewish Museum of Greece for their schools? libraries, while the Jewish Community of Thessalonica offered 5 books on the Holocaust. Three more publications of the Jewish Museum were presented and handed out to attendees: a manual for the teaching of the Holocaust and two illustrated books for children.
The aim of the Jewish Museum of Greece is to provide the Greek Ministry of Education with a sufficient number of books to supply the libraries of all Greek schools. We believe that they will further the teaching and understanding of the Holocaust, the acceptance of differences and the development of informed and alert citizens.
The first speaker, Mr. Alexios Menexiadis, Ph.D. candidate in History, in his speech “The Holocaust of Greek Jews – the case of Thessalonica” briefly presented the historic facts of the Holocaust in Europe, Greece and particularly in Thessalonica during the period 1941-?45.
Mr. Joël Kotek, educational director for the “Memorial de la Shoah” in Paris in his speech “From Anti-Semitism to Holocaust: the Culture of Hatred” presented the ignorance of the average citizen about the Holocaust, including students and teachers. He stressed the need of teaching the Holocaust as a tool to shape better citizens.
Dr. David Silberklang, editor of the Yad Vashem Studies Magazine showed how the inconceivable aspects of the Holocaust spurred incredulity that led to inaction; the latter inadvertently helped the perpetrators, as it always does.
Finally, Ms. Hara Galanou, attorney and criminologist, spoke on “Genocide and Holocaust: Legal term and Historic Example” stressing the difficult but essential issue of properly defining the terms genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The abuse of those terms may corrupt their meaning and belittle the gravity of the actions they describe. Using examples, she then showed how the documented case of the Jews? genocide during the Holocaust may be used as a means of identifying similar cases.
A brief tour of the Jewish Museum of Thessalonica followed, during which participants met Holocaust survivors from the local community.
After lunch, the participants had the chance to take a more active role in the exploration of the subject in the afternoon workshops.
The director of the J.M.G., Ms. Zanet Battinou, examined with them the topic “The Importance of Teaching the Holocaust in Modern Societies in order to Enhance the Values of Democracy, Social Equality, Respect and Human Rights”.
After handing out to participants material based on the experience of various international organisations that have been teaching the Holocaust for years, she presented a booklet of detailed information on how to teach the Holocaust, the texts of which had been selected from the web page of the International Task Force. She also presented the Museum’s own study manual for the Holocaust.
The participants discussed the potential offered by the processing and interpreting of that material in the classroom, as well as the teaching approaches recommended by the experts. They then worked on specific examples of issues that may come up as a result of teaching the Holocaust in Greek schools: tolerance to differences, prejudice, discrimination, the place of groups and individuals in society, the conclusions we can draw from the Holocaust that affect life today.
The Jewish Museum’s education officer, Ms. Orietta Treveza-Soussi, presented the second educational museum case, “The Holocaust of Greek Jews 1941-’44” based on the exhibition of the same title. It contains teaching aids and materials for use in the classroom, designed so as to introduce the students to the issue in an interesting and memorable way. Its main target group is 12-15-year-old children and it may enrich the school’s curriculum or function as a stepping-stone for the discussion of other historic issues. The participants expressed great interest for this original and effective educational tool.
Finally, the dance teacher and therapist, Ms. Nina Alcalay, made recommendations for an “Experiential teaching of the Holocaust through Art”. She demonstrated that art, especially music and dance, is superior to any academic presentation in helping children understand the Holocaust, by grasping the feelings of those involved in the events and then transforming them through artistic expression.
The seminar ended with a brief recapitulation of points covered and conclusions reached. The participants were asked to fill in evaluation forms with a view to improving the seminar. The consensus of opinions was positive, while many offered suggestions for further improvements. Many participants also put their names on a mailing list in order to receive information on future educational activities. This seminar will be held once a year.