In 2013, Italian educator Marco Maggi attended an intensive pedagogical seminar on Holocaust education at the International School for Holocaust Studies of Yad Vashem. Maggi teaches history to eleventh-graders at a French-language school in the Aosta Valley, which is located in the far west of Italy.
Following his return home, Maggi took the initiative to buttress his students' understanding of the Shoah and apply what he had learned in Israel. Working with different groups of students, he developed three separate projects to introduce his students to the history of the Holocaust.
One group of students completed a project on refuting Holocaust denial. Maggi began by assigning them case studies and reading from Desecrators of Memory: Combating Holocaust Denial, written by the School's Ephraim Kaye. After identifying common claims by Holocaust deniers, the students then analyzed primary sources written by victims, bystanders and perpetrators that refuted the deniers' arguments. The project culminated with a group of 19 high-school seniors submitting a work entitled "How Can You Deny the Obvious?" in a national Holocaust remembrance contest.
Prior to Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, Maggi contacted Yad Vashem and arranged a video conference for a group of 24 students with the School's Yoni Berrous in French. Berrous provided them with a background overview and spoke about the varied terminology of the Holocaust and other genocides.
In February 2014, Maggi took a group of his students to Poland to attend a workshop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum. Some of them took pictures of the site and showed a select set of photographs with their commentary in a workshop for their classmates. The workshop was a surprising occasion to reflect upon the representation of the Holocaust," said Maggi, citing aspects such as "the influence of mass-media archives, the role of memorial sites and museums, empathic imagination and its limits."
Maggi put the pictures together into an Italian-language album and wrote a photo-diary of the group's visit to the memorial. Following the success of the video conference with Yad Vashem, he has begun to explore his options for the next steps in promoting Holocaust education at his school and beyond. "Hopefully, I will organize a series of videoconferences on Holocaust teaching addressed to teachers in my region, in cooperation with the European Department's French Desk," he said. In view of his dedicated efforts to instill the values of tolerance and Holocaust commemoration in his students, it would appear that Maggi has reason to be optimistic.
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