Tel Aviv embassies briefed on Holocaust education

Representatives of the British, French, German and Spanish embassies assembled Monday at the Education Ministry's Tel Aviv headquarters to discuss the educational significance of the UN's declaration of an International Holocaust Remembrance Day. "The UN resolution," said ministry district director Dafna Lev, "offers a unique challenge for educators around the globe." Together, she said, these educators shouldered the responsibility of explaining why the Holocaust had been singled out as a unique atrocity. "The focus has to be on the next generation, on schools, and that is the priority of the British government," said British Ambassador Simon McDonald. Renaud Ferrand, political counselor to the French Embassy, underscored the role that mounting anti-Semitism in France had played in the French government's emphasis on the importance of Holocaust remembrance in recent years. "With anti-Semitic acts and threats on the rise, schools are encouraged to take trips to Holocaust memorials, in particular to Auschwitz," Ferrand said. Holocaust-related educational activities among youth were especially important for stemming anti-Semitism, he noted, since most anti-Semitic acts in France are committed by juvenile delinquents. Peter Fischer, the German acting ambassador, said his country had very much welcomed the day, which is on Friday, and noted that it provided additional opportunities for Holocaust education and for the establishment of common projects with other countries. Most every German student, Fischer said, would go at least once during his life to a Holocaust memorial site. And in addition to government initiatives, he said, the federal government in Germany spent the equivalent of NIS 830 million annually in supporting private commemoration initiatives. "It's important to create a personal link with, and empathy for, the victims," Fischer added, "as well as to meet survivors, young Israelis and other minorities." In Spain, too, according to Deputy Head of the Mission Diego Sanchez, the Holocaust is already taught in philosophy, history, religion and sociology classes, and it will soon also have an important place in a new study program called "Education for Citizenship." Incoming Education Minister Meir Sheetrit, who also attended the meeting, expressed his appreciation of the UN resolution. In Brussels on January 27, Yad Vashem, together with the OSCE, will launch a series of suggestions for educators on how to prepare for the day. Currently available in four languages, the guidelines will be translated into additional languages in the coming months. The guidelines outline practical initiatives and methods for educators to follow. Additional guidelines on how to combat anti-Semitism in schools are currently being developed.