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Learnings on Holocaust Still Emerging, Summer School Finds

Holocaust Summer School2 September 2016 Last week, a summer school organized by the Herzog Centre,  School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies, Trinity College Dublin and Holocaust Education Trust Ireland brought together school teachers and community educators for a three day in-depth look at some of the challenges of teaching the Holocaust to secondary school students and the wider community.

Hosted at the Trinity Long Room Hub, participants heard from experts Holocaust educators and scholars, and gained new insights into the latest research and testimony from a second generation holocaust survivor.

Among those attending the summer school were secondary school teachers from History, Religious Education, Drama, Classical Studies, and English; special needs teachers, Community Holocaust Educators and a member of An Garda Síochána. The summer course can be taken as a stand-alone course or as one of the modules for the Certificate in Holocaust Education offered by the Herzog Centre and HETI.

A keynote public lecture as part of the summer school examined the ‘The Last Transport: The Deportation of the Jews of Rhodes, 1944’. Outlining the fascinating history of the Aegean island of Rhodes where the exiled Spanish Jews first settled in the sixteenth century, Professor Anthony McElligot of the University of Limerick studied survivor testimony and censuses of the island’s Jewish population, the last Greek Jewish deportees to the concentration camps.

Professor McElligot set the scene of an idyllic island life and the close-knit integrated Jewish community before he described the developments leading up to the deportation - from the arrival of the Italian colonists in the 1930s to the imposition of anti-Jewish measures,  the race laws of the late 1930s and the eventual deportations of the Jews from Rhodes island in 1944.  

Speaking of his study of testimony from both survivors and perpetrators as part of this new research project, Professor McElligot noted that many of the testimonies were made 20 years after the deportations, and even as recently as the 1990s. He said that while perpetrators try to cover up their own involvement and survivors try to come to terms with the senseless act of violence, ‘the historian is left to navigate the contradictions or ambiguities of the testimonies.’

Holocaust Summer SchoolAlso speaking at the summer school was second generation survivor Oliver Sears and board member of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland (HETI), who spoke of the experience of his mother Monica and grandmother Edita (renamed Krishu during the war) who managed to survive under extraordinary circumstances the persecution of the Jews from their homes in Łódź, Poland, due in large part to the tenacity of his grandmother. Born to a wealthy Jewish secular family, Monica was only two years old, when she and her mother became trapped in the Warsaw ghetto, two years after her father Pavel went missing in 1939 to meet his death in what was a small detention centre for Jews nearby Łódź, unbeknown to his daughter, Oliver’s mother until many years later. He was shot in the forest.

Discussing the events which took place during the Holocaust, Oliver said he believed that the line between victim and perpetrator was not always as apparent as it seemed. This was also the theme of another session of the summer school entitled ‘Being Human? Perpetrators, Collaborators, Bystanders and Rescuers’, taught by Paul Salmons from the Centre for Holocaust Education, University College London.

Addressing the educators and teachers present, Paul Salmons said that teaching the history of the Holocaust to students and its moral lessons will undoubtedly raise questions such as ‘who would do this?’, ‘how is this possible?’ and ‘who let this happen?’ Through famous films and literature about the Holocaust, a clear divide is portrayed between the heroes, the villains and the victims, however, as Paul Salmons demonstrated through various case studies, these roles weren’t exactly clear cut. On reading the case studies, participants were surprised by the many ‘mixed motivations’ of the characters and their stories.

Zuleika Rodgers, Director of the Herzog Centre, TCD and Lecturer in Jewish Studies, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, highlighted the multi-disciplinary nature of the study of the Holocaust, with research being carried out in many different departments across the University, including the Departments of French, German and in the Department of History. She said there is always new research questions as well as archive evidence emerging around the Holocaust as witnessed in the lecture by Professor McEliggott in relation to the Aegean island of Rhodes. Concluding the three-day summer course, she appealed to educators to always teach the Holocaust afresh by bringing new understandings to its study.

Other speakers included Peter Garry from École Européenne Brussels. Yiftach Meiri, International School of Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, and Kristen Thompson, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Summer Course for Teachers is supported by the Teacher Education Section of the Department of Education & Skills, Ireland and the Claims Conference, USA.

Catch up on the podcast of the keynote lecture by Professor Anthony McElligott (University Limerick) below:

Contact: Aoife King, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | | 01 896 3895