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The International School for Holocaust Studies

Teaching the Legacy: e-Newsletter for Holocaust Educators
(January, 2006)

In March, 2005, the International School for Holocaust Studies inaugurated the ICHEIC Program for Holocaust Education in Europe. This program includes, among other activities, seminars for educators from many European countries. In 2005, 19 such seminars took place at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, and another 20 teacher-training programs with Yad Vashem staff were coordinated in Europe. More information on the ICHEIC program is available in the newsletter and on this website.

First-Ever Seminar for Croatian Educators at Yad Vashem
In July 2005, the first seminar of its kind for Croatian educators took place at Yad Vashem. This seminar is the result of the cooperation between the Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Dragan Primorac and the International School for Holocaust Studies. Twenty-five participants attended the seminar, mostly teachers, from all over Croatia. As part of this project, attendees presented their notes from the seminar in various schools throughout Croatia.

Many pedagogical and historical topics were covered, such as Jewish life and culture before the Holocaust and the roots of antisemitism. In addition, seminar participants met Croatian survivors, an important and emotional experience for both survivors and educators.

The effects of the war in Croatia during the 1990s can still be felt today in Croatian society. As part of the seminar, several meetings were held with Dr. Natan Kellerman, a psychologist who specializes in trauma and group dynamics. This meeting allowed the group to confront events from their own past as the participants learned about the Holocaust.

Following this seminar, an additional seminar featuring staff from the International School for Holcaust Studies will take place in January, 2006 in Zagreb.

The success of this seminar has allowed for greater educational activity and the strengthening of cooperation between the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia and the International School for Holocaust Studies.

First-Ever Seminar for Czech Educators at Yad Vashem
In November, 2005, the first-ever seminar for Czech teachers and educators took place. This seminar was also supported by the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and the Kennedy Leigh Charitable Trust. Like other ICHEIC Program seminars, this was a result of cooperation between the International School for Holocaust Studies and a partner organization in a European nation.

Participants included teachers, guides, representatives of the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and senior staff members from the Terezin Memorial. The seminar stressed practical and pedagogical approaches to Holocaust education.

Special Seminar at Yad Vashem for Survivors of the Rwandan Genocide
Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies has recently hosted a group of Tutsi survivors of the Rwandan genocide for an eight-day seminar on the Holocaust, the shaping of remembrance and the return to life.

The seminar took place in partnership with Nyamirambo, a Tutsi NGO based in Belgium and Rwanda, headed by Yolande Mukagasana, and the French Memorial of the Shoah Organization (CDJC). The seminar included lectures about the Holocaust and the preservation of memory, talks with the staff of the International School for Holocaust Studies, meetings with Holocaust survivors, tours around the country, and more. Among the participants from Rwanda were spiritual and social leaders, judges, journalists, academics and parliamentarians – all Tutsi survivors of the genocide that took place in Rwanda a decade ago, and all of whom are active in commemorating the victims of the massacre as well as in the rehabilitation of Rwandan society.

The seminar was initiated by Dr. Joel Kotek of the CDJC and by author Yolande Mukagasana, herself a survivor of the Rwandan massacre. She lives today in the West, where she wrote her autobiography, which was published in French in 1997 and recently translated into Hebrew. After the massacre, she began to take an interest in the Holocaust. She visited Auschwitz and met with Holocaust survivors in Europe.

Mukagasana said meeting with Jewish Holocaust survivors helped her above all to cope with the trauma she experienced. Her request to hold the seminar at Yad Vashem came from the desire to learn how the Jewish people deals with commemoration and Holocaust remembrance. Participants learned firsthand about the educational activities carried out at Yad Vashem as well as different approaches to Holocaust remembrance. Tutsi survivors told how most of the survivors in their country are ashamed to speak out about their experiences, especially women who were raped by Hutu men. Yad Vashem staff explained that Holocaust survivors also did not receive an attentive ear in the early years, but they turned their efforts into rebuilding their lives and creative activities, and only later on were they able to tell their stories.

Yad Vashem staff encouraged the Tutsis to document the horrors they went through in every way possible, and not allow survivors to be silenced. One of the main difficulties encountered by the Tutsis is that they still live among their neighbors, the Hutus, some of whom killed the Tutsis’ loved ones with their own hands.

During the seminar, a special session was held in cooperation with the Open University called: ‘The Genocide in Rwanda - Have We Learned Anything from the Holocaust?’ The session included testimony from a Tutsi survivor, and a clip from the French film, “Kill Them All.” Participating in the session were: Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Avner Shalev; Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem Prof. Yehuda Bauer; Director of Nyamirambo, Yolande Mukagasana; and Prof. Benjamin Neuberger and Prof. Yair Oron of the Open University.

The highlight of the seminar was, without a shadow of a doubt, the emotional encounter between participants and Holocaust survivors. The Rwandans expected to get answers to difficult questions such as “Why did I remain alive?” and “What is the point in living at all?” Jean Busco Owimana, 24, who lost his entire family in the massacre, told Ha’aretz newspaper how, with great emotion, he asked Eliezer Sharon, a Holocaust survivor 50 years his senior, if he ever succeeded in freeing himself from the trauma. “You will have to fight against it all the time, for the rest your life,” was his answer.

Dr. Alan Michel, coordinator of the seminar, summed up the meeting: “The seminar was unique and exciting. Meeting with Tutsi survivors was for Yad Vashem and the wider community an opportunity to learn more and know more about what happened in Rwanda. The highlight of the seminar was, of course, the meeting between Holocaust survivors and seminar participants. The participants turned to Yad Vashem during the seminar to receive help from the vast experience that Yad Vashem has in the fields of remembrance and documenting evidence of genocide. “The International School for Holocaust Studies plans to live up to these expectations and answer the many requests arising from the seminar. Cooperation with Tutsi survivors has already begun, and it will deepen further in the foreseeable future.”

Educators from the Following Countries Participated in Seminars Coordinated at the International School in 2005:

  • March: Hungary, Russia
  • April: Belgium
  • June: England, Lithuania
  • July: Austria, Croatia
  • August: Germany
  • September: Italy, Poland, Russia
  • November: Czech Republic, Hungary, Tutsi survivors, Poland, Austria, Romania
  • December: Germany
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