Auschwitz and the Holocaust Educational Trust

The work of the The Holocaust Educational Trust and accounts from members of Voice staff.

By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (Yorkshire)

[Longer version of article written for the January 2016 issue of the members' magazine, Your Voice.]   

The Holocaust Educational Trust was established in 1988 with the aim of educating young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach programme for schools, teaching aids and resource material. One of the earliest achievements of the Trust was ensuring that the Holocaust formed part of the National Curriculum for History. The Trust continues to play a leading role in training teachers on how best to teach the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Educational Trust makes a difference by:

  • educating thousands of students across the UK – through the Lessons from Auschwitz programme;
  • training and supporting hundreds of teachers every year;
  • motivating future generations to speak out against intolerance;
  • inspiring individuals to consider their responsibilities to their communities; and
  • working with Parliament and the media to help develop and spread understanding of the Holocaust.

The Lessons from Auschwitz Project Since 1999, over 27,000 students and teachers have taken part in the Holocaust Educational Trust's ground breaking ‘Lessons from Auschwitz Project’. Based on the premise that 'hearing is not like seeing', this four-part course explores the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The LFA Project aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust for young people and to clearly highlight what can happen if prejudice and racism become acceptable. The visits to the former Nazi extermination and concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau are preceded and followed by half-day seminars in order to ensure an exceptional educational experience.

  • Orientation: Hear a Holocaust survivor speak, learn about pre-war Jewish life and prepare for the visit.
  • The Visit: Visit Poland for one day to tour authentic sites and museum exhibits.
  • Follow-up: Reflect on the visit and explore the contemporary relevance of the lessons of the Holocaust.
  • Next steps: Design and carry out a plan to spread the lessons and take action.

www.het.org.uk

Comment and images from Tricia Pritchard:

"I was pleased to have the opportunity to make a visit with the Holocaust Educational Trust.  I think, like most people, I believed I had a good understanding of the Holocaust, of Auschwitz and what happened there but, as it turned out, I’ve decided I knew very little.   It certainly hadn’t registered with me before my visit that, of the six million who are thought to have perished during the Holocaust, of those, 1.5 million were children.  

"I knew about the exhibit of shoes and of the suitcases, but I didn’t know about or expect to see the huge mound of human hair on display in one of the Museum buildings.   Apparently, the Soviet Army found about 7,000 kilograms of human hair, packed in paper bags, when they liberated the camp. This was only a fraction of the hair cut from the heads of the victims at Auschwitz; the rest of the hair had been sent away to be made into various products.  I think this image will stay with me the most, but I’m not at all sure why.  

"I picked up this poem: 

Pigtail

When all the women in the transport

Had their heads shaved

Four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs

Swept up

And gathered the hair 

Behind clean glass

The stiff hair lies

Of those suffocated in gas chambers

There are pins and slide combs In this hair 

The hair is not shot through with light Is not parted by the breeze Is not touched by any hand

Or rain or lips 

In huge chests

Clouds of dry hair

Of those suffocated

And a faded plait

A pigtail with a ribbon

Pulled at schools

By naughty boys. 

Tadeusz Różewicz, The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948.

Comments

In 2015 the BBC flew a drone over the Auschwitz concentration camp to mark the 70 years since it was liberated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=449ZOWbUkf0

The whole world has now 'shrunk' communication-wise to that of a UK village in the early 20th century. Surely this means the lesson of the Holocaust must now be of the overwhelming need to build as good relations/friendships as is possible between/among individuals throughout the world?

This writer is far from being a Holocaust denier, but does admit to being Holocaust squeamish. Having visited Krakow 3 times, I have deliberately avoided visiting the museum at the camp. Similarly when on a visit to Israel, I was one of a few in the party who remained outside the museum there.

Agreed we must not forget, which is why we have Remembrance services in November, but we must move forward; our former enemies are now allies. Bizarrely, some of our former allies became enemies so soon after 1945, and their successors still have a loyalty that in the words of Scot’s Law could be “not proven”.

The Holocaust article above only mentioned the one created by the 3rd Reich, which is usually the case. Dreadful tho' it was, it was not the first, nor the latest, nor depending whose figures you believe, it may not even have been the most deadly.

The definition of Holocaust may even be under question, so is every genocide, of which there have been a number, also a holocaust? Therefore, rather than simply recall one, and almost ignore the others, whether it should be re-named “Genocide Day” is probably too much to ask.

What should we also remember? As an imperfect historian, these suggestions are by no means comprehensive, and one can debate the number needed to “qualify” as a genocide.

Ignoring anything before the 20th century, sadly there are more than enough here. Modern Turkey still refuses to admit to the deaths of about a million Christian Armenians by the Moslem Ottoman Turks during WW1.

Just one problem of any analysis of these activities is reliable statistics, so any/all of them are probably subject to a wide margin of error.

Is it only civilian deaths that count, or should the armed forces' losses also be included if they were concurrent?

Stalin, in an approx 3 decade long reign of terror probably caused the deaths of 20 million if the deliberate sacrifice of under-armed soldiers are included.

Mao Tse Tung in a similar time frame presided over a famine amongst other things, along with the later Cultural Revolution, the toll of which will probably never be known.

Partition in India at the end of the Raj was claimed to cost about a million dead plus another 10 million or so displaced who moved across the newly created borders. How many of those had lives shortened by their re-location will also not be known.

Still in Asia, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge count could have been as high as 3 million, or perhaps, “only” 2.

Moving to Africa, the former Belgian Congo lost a lot at independence in 1960, even more during the disastrous reign of Mobutu, and since his demise, the euphemistically named Democratic Republic of Congo has continued to lose 7 figure totals. In 1994, 800,000 is the usual total for the tribal genocide in Rwanda.

Even “Our” side is not immune. Agreed the atom bombs on Japan ended the war, at a probable cost of a 6 figure death toll. On one count the raid on Dresden in February 1945 killed even more, many of them refugees fleeing westwards in advance of the Red Army. Despite what was probably the raison d’etre for the raid, it was not the plank that broke the camel’s back of the 3rd Reich , and unlike the A-bombs, it did not create a surrender. The total civilian death toll in all the German cities in WW2 was about ten times UK losses in the blitz.

At risk of being blasé over numbers, lesser totals might include the deaths in Bosnia, Saddam Hussein’s cumulative victims, and a larger number, probably about a quarter million of conscripted civilians in the Iran – Iraq war of the 1980s. And we are still counting the totals in the war in Syria.

Yes we do need to remember 1933 - 45, but do not forget all the others.

The Commons Education Committee has published the Government's response to its report on Holocaust education:
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-sele...

@VoiceScotland: "A colleague is on a .@HolocaustUK visit today..." https://twitter.com/VoiceScotland/status/795944869638316033

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