ON THE FOURTEENTH SEMINAR FOR TEACHERS
“TEACHING ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST IN GREECE”,
BY THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF GREECE
ATHENS, 26–27 FEBRUARY 2015
From 2004 to 2014, the Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) organised and conducted 13 seminars for primary and secondary teachers, as well as museum educators, on the subject of “Teaching about the Holocaust in Greece”, nine of which were held in Athens (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014) and two in Thessaloniki (2005, 2015). Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and with the support of the General Secretariat for Youth, in November and December 2012, seminars were held in Ioannina and Volos, respectively, which focused on the local dimension of the Holocaust in these cities. The initiative to expand the seminar beyond Athens, a concept which has been incorporated into the future 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 14th seminar was held in Athens on 26–27 February 2015 on the premises of the JMG and the Cervantes Institute. 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, 107 teachers participated in the proceedings over two days, representing one of 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 of what is called the “Holocaust”, but also in its ability to assist and support the work of the Greek educational system.
The seminar retained the main historical and educational core of past JMG seminars, with presentations on the history of Greek Jews, the Holocaust and the use of educational tools. Anastasia Loudarou, a special researcher and associate of the JMG and a PhD candidatein 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, Jason Chandrinos, an historical researcher and special associate of the JMG, PhD candidate in modern history at the University of Athens, provided an overview of and historical introduction to the German occupation, the Nazi persecution and the Holocaust in Greece. The first session ended with a contribution by Maria Kavala, professor of political science at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, who 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 and ethical measures of the postwar world. The first part of the seminar – this historical approach – ended with the screening of the documentary Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance, which accompanies the current JMG exhibition of the same title, and an open discussion.
This was followed immediately afterwards by the book launch of A Narrative of Evil: Lisa Pinhas Confronts the Holocaust, which was open to the general public. Historian Odette Varon-Vassard, psychoanalyst Ariella Asher and author Savvas Michail spoke at the launch of the memoirs, written by Holocaust survivor Lisa Pinhas, which the JMG have published in Greek and English. The three presentations revolved around questions of great historical and pedagogical value concerning individual and collective memory, duty and the transformation of trauma in the historical narrative.
The second day (February 27) consisted of two parts: the educational approach and pedagogical workshops. The first speaker was journalist and writer Dimitris Psarras, who discussed Holocaust denial, relevant statistical surveys in Greece and their revealing results on contemporary forms of antisemitic discourse in Greece. The lively discussion that ensured vindicated the firm intention of the JMG to devote part of the seminar to the dark side of public life and the challenges they pose to the educational process. Then, historian Odette Varon-Vassard devoted her speech to the “second life of events”, offering attendees a panorama of Holocaust memory in Greece, detailing examples of institutional initiatives, academic studies and procedures to erect monuments marking the events of the Shoah. After the break, artist Artemis Alcalay, who was participating in the seminar for the first time, presented her latest work of art, a photographic record entitled Greek Jewish Holocaust Survivors, which is based on finding and photographing Greek Jewish survivors in Greece and Israel. The first section was completed by choreographer and dance therapist Nina Alcalay, who presented her workshop entitled “Proposals for an experiential teaching of the Holocaust through art”. Eleni Beze, a PhD candidate in modern history at the University of Thessaly, conducted the first of the workshops, analysing the importance of oral and local history, as evidence for the Holocaust and as vehicles for teaching about it at school. Finally, JMG museum educator Orietta Treveza-Soussi presented the JMG current educational programmes and museum cases relating to the Holocaust (“Antisemitism–Racism,” “Synagonistis”, Crocus Project, etc.) and conducted a workshop designed to demonstrate their use in the classroom.
This year’s seminar was another important experience for those involved in it. It was gratifying to note that the awareness, interest and knowledge of participating teachers increases with each seminar, which contributes in a decisive way to a successful outcome. The study of the 52 evaluation questionnaires that were completed, reveals that there is general approval for this JMG program and a strong desire not only to see that the seminars continue, but that they are extended in terms of duration and content. Most comments and observations expressed a keen interest for more presentations from different approaches (local history, world history, comparisons with other countries). 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, Holocaust denial, Golden Dawn activity).
© The Jewish Museum of Greece, March 2015