British teachers undergo training at Yad Vashem

Twenty high school teachers learn to make the Holocaust more accessible to children as part of three-week course.

August 14, 2011 01:32
3 minute read.
Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Twenty high-school teachers brought to Israel by the UK-based Holocaust Education Trust will complete on Sunday a 10-day education training seminar at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem.

The group, which arrived in Israel on August 5, participated in a series of workshops and lectures conducted by leading academics and experts, covering issues such as 19th-century anti-Semitism in Europe, Jewish life between the world wars in Poland, the Final Solution, and Jewish theological responses to the Holocaust.

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Yad Vashem collecting personal items from Holocaust

“The Holocaust is a heavy and complex topic, and it’s hard to make it accessible to children,” Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “High-school students aren’t going to gain an understanding and appreciation of the Holocaust over night, but the course really empowers the teachers who come back from it to make it as meaningful as possible and to teach it in a sensitive manner.”

Now in its sixth year, the 10-day course at Yad Vashem is part of a three-week Holocaust Education Trust program involving a week-long introductory course in the UK, the visit to Israel, and a final week back in Britain to integrate the knowledge and skills acquired during the entire course.

“We must never shy away from facing up to humanity at its worst, said Emma Mckean, a history and religious studies teacher from Fife in Scotland. “Historical truth has to be the foundation of what we do and facing up to the truth is the best defense against those who would deny it or passively accept that it happened without learning anything from it.”

Lisa Hagan, an English teacher from Coventry, spoke of the importance of studying those who carried out atrocities during the Holocaust and the capability of humans to harm each other.

“Many of the perpetrators were normal people and they weren’t just a small section of the population,” Hagan said. “This is the most dangerous aspect of the Holocaust and it tells us something very disturbing about the nature of humanity. Genocide has not been removed from our landscape, and as long as humans have the capability to commit such crimes, an event like the Holocaust needs to be studied and examined.”

Speaking about the impact and effectiveness of current Holocaust education in the UK, Karen Pollock said that although most young people do have a comprehension of the basic facts and details of the Holocaust, broader understanding of the historical processes leading up to it and the affect it had on individual lives is harder to judge. It is for precisely this reason that the Holocaust Education Trust continues to provide educational services for as many teachers in the UK as possible.

“We want to get students to think about the issues and reflect on them. It’s not simply about passing an exam or knowing a date,” she said.

More broadly, Pollock says the Holocaust Education Trust tries to educate students not only about the historical event but about its implications and lessons for the future.

“Our aims are to teach about the people who died, but also to try to get young people to examine how and why it happened and what message they can take from it in their own lives. We see students who have studied the Holocaust in a serious manner become much sensitized to issues of contemporary prejudice, whether it’s anti-Semitism, racism or general hatred toward the other.”

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