In early December the students of the Weiss-Livnat MA in Holocaust Studies program enjoyed a weeklong seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. The seminar was comprised of inside perspectives on the museum’s mission, creation, and various exhibits and activities. One of these days was spent in the museum’s exhibit for children, yad layeled.
The main exhibit was designed for children to touch and feel, encouraging them to engage with the content in whatever way is comfortable. The narrative of the exhibit is comprised of various mediums of authentic testimony from survivors who were children during the Holocaust. These real accounts become more accessible for children as they are relayed through the voice of a child, or presented as a video of an elderly survivor in a comfortable corner of the exhibit.
Our students explored the museum as children would, with the contextualization of the curators aims coming only after they had finished walking through. Many of our students implored the techniques they had developed in their course on Visual Culture and the Holocaust with Dr. Rachel Perry. Being able to identify the different methods the museum utilized was a new experience for many of our students.
After the exhibit the students had the opportunity to discuss the content and creation of such an exhibit with the professionals working in the museum today. The discussion consisted of many important questions of how to form age-approporiate Holocaust education, and what the aims of such education should be. Many of our students are taking a course on The Holocaust, Memory, and Education, with Dr. Sharon Kangisser-Cohen, so this exploration of pedagogy was especially exciting.
Tucked away in the middle of Yad Layeled is a special exhibit about Janusz Korczak, the Polish educator, author and physician who is famously remembered for the orphanage he ran in Warsaw before the Holocaust. This exhibit is a bright contrast to the main exhibit, and serves as historical context for the life of some children before the Holocaust, a nod to the pedagogic approach of the institution, and a memorial to the incredible educator it is based on. Being able to hear about his narrative from Beth Dotan was a special treat.
We are grateful to the museum for providing us with such a rich seminar. Each day provided something meaningful, and our time at Yad Layeled allowed the students to explore the practical application of many things they have learned this past semester. It was an inspiration to see the important work our friends at the Ghetto Fighters’ House do, and we can’t wait to go back.