Over the years, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev has emphasized the importance of effective Holocaust education. In 1993, Shalev established the International School for Holocaust Studies and positioned it to become the foremost global educational entity promoting Holocaust education around the world. In 2018, the International School has hosted over 60 international educator seminars for over 1,000 teachers aimed at providing tools and skills to deal with this sensitive topic and has forged connections and formal agreements with over 50 countries worldwide. In October 2010, Yad Vashem signed an educational agreement with the People's Republic of China, coinciding with an increased interest by Chinese educators, politicians and tourists in visiting the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Yad Vashem has since hosted an international educational seminar from China every year.
This year we hosted the tenth seminar for educators from China entitled, "Teaching about the Holocaust, Antisemitism and Israel." This year's seminar hosted thirty-two guests from all over China, including Beijing and Hong Kong. During their two-week intensive visit, the participants attended lectures on the history of the Holocaust, an introduction to antisemitism and the Jewish religion, and an introduction to the State of Israel, which included tailor-made visits to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as day trips to the north and south of the country.
Educators also participated in various lectures, workshops and discussion panels, and took several tours around the Yad Vashem campus, including its impressive museums and exhibitions. Particular emphasis was placed on the educational philosophy of the International School for Holocaust Studies, addressing the difficult questions of how to teach the Holocaust in an age-appropriate manner as well as how to incorporate the stories of the victims, perpetrators and bystanders in the classroom; a guided tour of the Holocaust History Museum accompanied by educational and methodical enlightenments; the rise of modern antisemitism; and confronting the phenomenon of Holocaust denial.
The meeting with Holocaust survivors – Yehudit Kleinman, Rina Quint and Tibi Ram – was a very emotional experience: It was the first the opportunity the participants had had to meet firsthand witnesses of the Shoah. After thanking the survivors for sharing their "traumatic and tragic personal stories," one participant commented, "You are so brave to tell us the traumatic truth… which we now have a responsibility to share."
In addition to the educators' seminar, the Vice President of China H.E. Mr. Wang Qishan also visited Yad Vashem this week. The Vice President toured the Holocaust History Museum, hearing about the Holocaust from the Jewish perspective, and learned about individual victims through original artifacts, personal possessions and survivor testimonies. Following his tour, the Vice President participated in a memorial service, commemorating the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust by laying a wreath in their memory in the Hall of Remembrance. Finally, he visited the Children's Memorial, which commemorates the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust.
Due to the increase of tourists visiting from China over the years, Yad Vashem has recently added an audio guide for visitors in Chinese. Yad Vashem looks forward to continue hosting Chinese educators, diplomats and tourists in the coming years.
The International School for Holocaust Studies Educational Seminars from China are supported by the Adelson Family Foundation.