Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Commemoration.

Hey everyone,

Seventy years ago today, Ravensbruck and Munchen-Allag concentration camps were liberated. Seventy years ago, yesterday, Dachau concentration camp was liberated. The war weary world of the time had suffered continuous shocks from the terrible events that played out within mainland Europe. On discovering these camps, the world suffered even further shocks as they learned about the  genocidal policies of the Nazis. In short, today, seventy years ago, was a pretty big deal. 

However, for many, anniversaries of these horrendous discoveries goes unacknowledged - even unnoticed. Perhaps today's busy existence negates, for many, the need to mark the liberation of Dachau (where  over 30,000 people were murdered) or Ravensbruck (where an estimated 90,000 people were estimated to have died).  For FYFT, such an attitude is problematic. 

It is vital that we remember important events of the past; a loss of memory of that which has passed certainly results in a lack of appreciation of the lessons our history has to teach us.

However, commemoration is a important yet difficult concept to achieve worthily - it is not enough for us to give a nod of acknowledgement to the anniversary of a historical event. To truly ensure our behaviour avoids the mistakes of the past, we must actively learn, remember and understand the lessons history has to teach us. 

It seems sad and a little frightening that so few people 
seemed to have noticed the anniversaries of the liberation of Hitler's  concentration camps. If we ignore these momentous events in history, then what hope is there for us to learn the lessons?

The women of Ravensbruck concentration camp


Today as we concentrate on our fundraising applications, we do so in the memory of the brave souls who liberated the camps, witnessing first-hand the atrocities and horror they suffered. We remember, too, those who suffered before and after the liberation within the camps and in the aftermath - as many know, the extent of physical harm to the survivors of the camp meant that many died after the liberation from disease, exhaustion or simply because the starvation they experienced damaged their bodies to the extent that they couldn't properly digest the food they were mistakenly given. Please take a moment to remember this yourself; this question and answer session of an American soldier who liberated Dachau is a fascinating and moving way to do so. He conducted the online interview on reddit.com yesterday, as he, more than any of us, understood the importance of remembering. 


Thanks,
Ben

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Imagine.

An issue we would like to discuss is the use of the word 'imagine' in Holocaust education.

From many Holocaust educators' points of view, asking people to imagine themselves in the Holocaust is considered bad practise. While in certain contexts we would agree, we do not believe that the word (or technique) should be disregarded entirely. 

For example, in our documentary focusing on the Holocaust, at one moment we ask our viewers to imagine their friends and families being taken to a concentration camp, before being herded into a gas chamber. We have discussed the use of this educational technique amongst ourselves and educators outside of FYFT, and have come to the conclusion that such usage is appropriate considering the empathetic aims of our organisation.

The Holocaust is an enormous, difficult subject to educate people about. It is so vast that many people can find it difficult to relate to. Our belief is that, in the right context, it can be useful to ask people to imagine themselves in the position of those who played a part in the Holocaust. It allows them to further empathise with the victims of the Nazis and connect to them as people. Faced with the almost unimaginable statistics and numbers of victims, such a visionary tool can be the best way in which to understand the loss, heartache and pain of each individual. Few people, realistically, possess the capacity to imagine the deaths - and the real pain and emotions behind those deaths - of 6 million people in a tangible manner.

Encouraging empathetic feelings on a personal level can also help people today to relate to and understand the real pain and emotions that prejudice in our society can cause. Given FYFT's commitment towards helping people garner tolerance and empathy towards others, we simply believe that asking people to 'imagine' in certain circumstances in crucial to developing their emotional intelligence.

However, it is important to note that asking people to imagine themselves as either victims or perpetrators can be misconstrued. There was a recent case of a teacher in New York asking his English class to imagine themselves as Nazis, and to write a letter of loyalty to the party explaining why 'Jews are evil'. The students were asked to draw from their own personal experiences and from a provided pack of Nazi propaganda. This exercise, although well meaning, caused huge offence. Though it's clear that this lesson was not properly carried out - requesting impressional students to invoke empathy with bigoted views must be carried out very carefully and can be a dangerous ask - obviously, due to the risk of increasing or even inciting hatred for that group. 

Context, as with so many difficult issues, is the key in this situation, and we hope that we've made ours clearer.

What are you thoughts on the issue of 'imagine'?

To imagine or not to imagine, that is the question.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Progress.


Phew, it's been a busy week for FYFT!

What to tell, what to tell...

Double-Screening It!
We've been pressing on with our Charity Application & altering our business plan accordingly. Something that'll be useful in fundraising applications - which we're hard at work seeking out & filling in. If you have recommendations of grants or trusts that focus on furthering education, or share the same values of tolerance as we do, please don't hesitate to share them with us in the comments below - we're on a funding mission! Without it, we'll be struggling to continue with our work in the near future.


Funding aside, things are moving along nicely. Ben's in London to meet the Holocaust Educational Trust, leaving Janine - a new member of our team - behind to work twice as hard; twice as many screens = twice as much work completed, right? Fingers crossed we meet with HET's approval!

Outside the world of FYFT, we've been extremely saddened to learn about the Boston bombings - our hearts go out to the individuals and their families who this tragedy has impacted upon, as well as the city itself. Let our voice join those worldwide who have been professing their support through all channels of communication, and our hope that they discover the root of the issue speedily and without further injury.

Additionally, this week has faced the further tragedy of the earthquake in Iran, with 36 losses of life and thousands of families losing their homes - 19,000 in the last report we encountered. Again we want to profess our support for the Pakistani army who are providing emergency relief for those impacted. With Russia, the US & Turkey offering further aid so far, let such relief reach the suffering as soon as possible.

The world is always full of tragedy, it is true, but awareness of this suffering is part of our responsibility as a citizen of the world. Our thoughts go out to those in need.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Present.

Hello FYFT followers!

We're shocked at how long has passed since we've updated our blog, so we thought we better fill you in on our happenings since December last year.

First of all, the documentary is now fully completed - our resources for our Holocaust Unit are 98% complete, and we have piloted them in two schools within Scotland. The piloting was a crucial step which allowed us to tweak and improve our resources from the feedback we received - there's none more honest than a class of School children! Thankfully the feedback was largely positive, so we know we've been pointing ourselves in the right direction in regards to social & emotional education so far.


We're also putting together plans for our next Unit - which we hope to focus on Homophobia - we've been in some exciting talks of partnership with some wonderful organisations, but our lips are sealed until any further developments are confirmed. No talky!

We've also decided to develop FYFT further and set it up as a Charitable organisation (SCIO). We realised that our aim of providing all high-school age children with a social & emotional education was being limited by our status as a limited company - oh, the irony! Being a Charity, we believe, will help us reach a wider audience - something which we also need YOUR help for, so please spread the word of FYFT - you can do this by following/sharing our blog, lending us any publicity you can offer or simply by liking & sharing us on our facebook page or follow us on twitter. We need your support to help make our dream of a tolerant world happen- so if you share our dream, please share your clicks and likes! :)

Last weekend we were delighted to be asked to appear at the Yom Ha'Shoah Memorial of the Newcastle Jewish Community. It was such an honour to present to those we knew had been affected directly by the Holocaust, and it was especially emotional to watch members of the community light candles in remembrance of members of their family murdered so many years ago. It enforced in us once more how important it is to educate about and learn from this subject, meeting so many others who shared our passion.



As our part in the ceremony, we showed our documentary to the community before Ben presented in more detail about the trip around Eastern Europe that brought the documentary to life. 



A new member of our FYFTeam, Grant Thomson then used his amazing talent on classical guitar to accompany a slideshow of pictures from the trip.


Thanks again to Henry Ross & Dorothy Sadlik for the invitation and for so kindly taking care of us during our visit - especially to Dorothy for keeping us well fed & watered - always the most important part of any event! ;) It was fantastic to meet such a lovely community and to be a part of such a moving ceremony.


That's all for just now, but remember to like us on Facebook to keep up to date with our daily goings on! And remember you can contact us if you'd like us to appear at any of your school or organisational events.