Tuesday, 14 May 2013



After reading the wonderful dissertation of our future FYFT Ambassador, Abigail Jacobi, it got us thinking about the different reasons why we educate about the Holocaust. 'Different reasons why...?' We hear you cry; 'Well, isn't it obvious?'

Surprisingly not. Many organisations and educators teach about the Holocaust with a variety of goals or aims. We'll discuss these momentarily, as well as some complications that arise from certain types of Holocaust education, but first of all let us declare FYFT's position...

FYFT believes two things regarding (general) Holocaust education;
No. 1.  The Holocaust is a complex, heart wrenching subject in itself and deserves to be taught respectfully as such - not just as a spring board to other topics.

No. 2. One of the most crucial reasons to educate people about the Holocaust is in order to allow each individual to allow the lessons of the Holocaust  (i.e. the power of prejudice, the power of action/inaction and the importance of tolerance) to resonate personally within them. The Holocaust is an incredible example to teach with in order to show directly what happens when prejudice goes unchecked. Additionally, the stories of those who acted positively within a culture of horrifically cruel proportions are hugely inspirational, and a driving force to influence people of our time to act personally to prevent such a culture from being perpetuated again.

However, not everyone agrees with us on this subject (which we totally understand, especially as it makes for interesting discussions!) - some organisations believe that because of the Holocaust's enormity and complexity, it is not up to educators to tell people what the lessons are that they must learn from it. They believe that the job of a Holocaust educator is to educate solely about the history of the Holocaust; the events and the impact and allow people to decide about what lessons they can learn from it. 

While this is obviously true (in the sense that there are almost unlimited lessons one can learn from the Holocaust), our belief is that the above approach can be overwhelming. To give a mass of often upsetting information without providing direction could 'scare' people from the subject. We believe that it is helpful to try and properly process the Holocaust with a certain structure and specific lesson in mind. FYFT's approach towards teaching about the Holocaust, is in our concentration on the emotions of the period; drawing from stories and testimonies of eye-witnesses. We believe it should be taught (to the general public, not specialist scholars) with a focus on learning the costs of prejudice - something we feel is a crucial element in ensuring such atrocities are not repeated.

Another approach to Holocaust education is to teach it solely in a Jewish context; i.e. to link it with Judaism and talk only of the 'Jewishness' of the victims. It is true that the Holocaust is defined as the persecution of Jewish people during WW2, but it is vitally important to remember and in the process, respect the other groups of people persecuted by the Nazis. Gay, disabled, Roma Sinti and other minorities and ethnic groups were all victimised. It is also important to state that, for many, the Holocaust has completely altered both past and current Jewish life. For many Jewish people the Holocaust is 'in their blood', so to speak, and they cannot remember a time when they have not been aware of it and its relevance. However, from FYFT's perspective this 'angle' is more suitable for exploration within the studies of specialist students of the Holocaust. We feel that by solely focusing on the link between Judaism & the Holocaust, it can force the implication that it 'belongs' to Jewish people, subsequently harming the connection of the wider community with the Holocaust, and in turn hindering non-Jewish people learning the wider lessons from it. Our view is that it is vitally important to humanise the victims of the Holocaust, stating first and fore-mostly they were people, regardless of their religion. Of course, you cannot teach the Holocaust without discussing Judaism and Jewish life - both for context and out of respect to the persecuted who faced alarming anti-Semitism, but in our opinion to present it as a solely Jewish topic is not the way forward. 

FYFT obviously believe that it is vital to teach about the Holocaust, and we respect any organisation doing so, however, it's important to clarify our position and enlighten others as to the thinking behind our resources. What do YOU think?


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