The International School for Holocaust Studies
Projects of Our Seminars Graduates
Guided Study Tour to Holocaust-related SitesSzilvia Pető-Dittel, Tibor Pécsi, Hungary
Hungarian educators Szilvia Pető-Dittel and Tibor Pécsi have participated in Yad Vashem teacher-training seminars. These teachers, also affiliated with the Holocaust Museum in Budapest, decided to organize an educational project for students and teachers on Holocaust remembrance in September 2008.
The project entailed organizing a 3-5 day guided study tour for a group of 52 people, including teachers and their students, to visit historical sites throughout Hungary. The focus of the tour was to visit: a) sites of pre-war Jewish life such as synagogues, cemeteries, schools attesting to cultural Jewish life across the country and b) authentic Holocaust sites of the Hungarian Jewry, i.e. ghettos, concentration camps, forced labor camps and mass killing sites - especially in northwest of Hungary in the vicinity of the Austro-Hungarian border. The responsibility of the Hungarian authorities for the deportation of Hungarian Jews was also addressed. The aim of this project was to teach about the Holocaust outside the classroom where the events took place and thereby connect elements of historical knowledge, commemoration and personal reflection through a learning experience.
Development Stages of the Project:
- Teachers, who participated from throughout Hungary, were presented with educational goals, trip itineraries and assignments to be done in preparation for the study tour. Each day the group visited a few places in Hungary, returning every evening to Budapest.
- At each site an expert/or historical expert, usually a graduate of a Yad Vashem seminar, guided the group at the site.
- A survivor or representative of “the second generation” also joined the group. S/he conveyed her/his personal story or family story in connection to the site. Towards the end of each day, pupils were expected to organize a memorial ceremony following their impressions of the guided tour. For example, four wreath laying ceremonies were also held at the different mass graves and memorials. At many places along the Austrian border, local Austrian historians helped the participants gain a better understanding of the circumstances in which many Hungarian forced labor victims lost their lives a few months, weeks or days prior to liberation in 1945.
- During the tour, teachers and their students completed forms with guiding questions distributed in advance. The forms served as a way to follow up with the organizers and provide professional feedback for evaluation purposes.
- Students read aloud an unpublished letter of a Jewish father to his nine year old son (relative of one of the teachers) during the trip
- Students drew illustrations in response to listening to survivors’ testimony
- Participants prepared notebooks and pencils for everyone in the group, similar to the one that the famous Hungarian poet, Miklos Radnoti, used before we was murdered during a death march
- Teachers shared copies of documents related to the sites that had been found in the framework of local history projects conducted together with their students
- Various interdisciplinary approaches and completed projects were later modeled
- Professional network was formed among the teachers
This project provided the participants a unique opportunity to face their local and national history. The uniquesness of the sites left a strong impression on the group. For instance, many participants found it difficult to comprehend how such horrible acts had been committed in such picturesque settings. Moreover, during this guided tour they had a first-hand opportunity to see and hear about the events of the Holocaust that took place in Hungary, carried out by Hungarians. Since experts and Holocaust survivors and/or their family members also took part in this educational journey, participants had an opportunity not only to learn about the facts but also to discuss their feelings and reactions.