“As the multicultural classroom is becoming generalized, every historical topic is addressed to multiple audiences.”
These words come from Mr. Francois Wisard the head of Historical Service of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Weiss Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa has been confronting the challenging and sometimes daunting task of making the subject of the Holocaust relevant to all audiences since its opening in 2012. Many educators encounter students and youth who feel alienated from the events of the Holocaust and they are looking for creative ways to reach them.
An effective way to motivate youth and students to study the Holocaust and to stimulate historical enquiry is to use stories of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Studying the lives of Righteous Among the Nations serves as an opportunity to examine the complex context of a total war and its moral dilemmas and lessons. Such stories provide unique educational tools and teaching resources through which educators and teachers can explain and introduce the history of the Holocaust.
The case of Swiss Vice-Council Carl Lutz, a Righteous Among the Nations, who saved thousands of Jews during the war, can serve as a case study to explore how to integrate the story of the Holocaust into school curricula and educational programs in multi-cultural societies.
The influence of Lutz’s story on Holocaust education is undeniable, as the government designed guidelines that promote “remembrance of the Holocaust tragedy, general remembrance of the genocides which have marked European history in the 20th century, and reflections upon human rights, tolerance, as well as inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.”
Mr. Wisard explains that even in Switzerland, where Holocaust education is explicitly pursued, there are challenges to discussing this topic in a classroom setting. He says, “Swiss teachers are aware of the fact that taking a stand against National-Socialism is not enough to explain the Holocaust, the role of Anti-Semitism and racism. Insofar as approximately one fifth of the population of Switzerland does not own Swiss citizenship and even far more than 20% are descendants of other national and ethnic backgrounds, schools are becoming more and more multicultural. Swiss and/or European history is not always perceived as having the same relevance for their personal or family experience, and the uniqueness of the Holocaust is sometimes challenged against the background of current or past international politics (other genocides and Crimes against Humanity, sometimes the situation in the Middle East).”
On Thursday May 1st, on the heels of Yom HaShoah, the University of Haifa, together with the Embassy of Switzerland in Israel will conduct a seminar which aims at exploring these issues using the case of Carl Lutz as an example. Lutz served as Vice-Consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II. He is credited with saving over 62,000 Jews, the largest rescue operation of Jews of the Second World War. Due to his actions, half of Jewish population of Budapest survived and was not deported to Nazi Extermination camps during The Holocaust. Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, he was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
On the day of the seminar, a traveling exhibit “Carl Lutz and the Legendary House in Budapest” will be exhibited at the university alongside a students’ educational project about Lutz.
The seminar will feature Mr. Francois Wisard; Mr. Andreas Baum, the Swiss Ambassador to Israel and Ms. Agnes Hirschi, the step-daughter of Carl Lutz. Other speakers will include the director of the Humanistic Center at the Ghetto Fighters House Museum as well as students from the International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the university.
Six MA students from the Weiss-Livnat MA Program in Holocaust Studies have been selected to contribute to the seminar and to create supplementary materials for the “Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest” traveling exhibit that they have created with museum expert, Tami Rich, and a graphic design team. Their presentations will utilize different aspects of Carl Lutz’s story to create a lesson plan that stimulates historical inquiry in a multicultural audience. These Student Contributors for the Curatorial Presentation of Multicultural Education Material will present projects, which include questioning the relationship between the rescuer and the bystander; Carl Lutz’s photography as a form of resistance; and a pedagogical exploration of the values exhibited by Lutz.
Born and raised in Orlando, Florida; Miriam Yoachim graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (RN) and a Bachelors of Arts in Judaic Studies and Linguistic Anthropology. Through her involvement as a volunteer with the Holocaust survivor community of South Florida during her undergraduate career Miriam began to work in the field after graduation. Miriam worked as coordinator of the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Miami for one year focusing heavily on Israel programming and Holocaust Education prior to making Aliyah and beginning this program.
Born in London, Simon Goldberg was raised in Jerusalem and later moved to New York, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in History from Yeshiva University and founded the Student Holocaust Education Movement (SHEM), a student-run movement advocating the preservation and propagation of Holocaust memory. A national finalist in the Fellowship for Noble Purpose in 2012, Simon has taught for the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in Europe and, most recently, at Elsa International High School in Hong Kong, where he helped develop the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre as a mainstay for awareness and education of the Holocaust in East Asia. Simon presently directs Triangles of Truth, a global movement of students who honor and remember Holocaust victims by giving charity in their names to help meet the humanitarian needs of current genocide refugees.
Heather Viniar is both honored and proud to be an M.A. candidate in the Weiss-Livnat International Holocaust Studies program at the University of Haifa. Originally from New York, Heather earned her Bachelor’s degree in European History at Stony Brook University in May 2008, as a member of Phi Alpha Theta National History Honors Society. Upon graduation, she relocated to Florida and earned her Master’s degree in Education from Florida Atlantic University. Heather is a third generation Holocaust survivor, and has known she wants to work in the field of Holocaust Studies from an early age. One of the projects she found most rewarding was the interviewing and documentation of Holocaust survivor testimonies, so that the memories of survivors lives beyond their lifespan. She has studied the Holocaust at Lorenzo de Medici University in Florence, Italy, and she looks forward to combining her two passions, the Holocaust and teaching, in the future.
Gabriel Mayer was born in Transylvania, and later fled Communism to Italy where he was eventually brought to the United States by the Hebrew Immigration Aide Society at age 12. Raised from that point in New York he went on to earn his BS and MD at Boston University. After many years as a physician and university professor, he is now committed to this field as an activist, educator and researcher with a special interest regarding Jewish ethnicity in Transylvania, and the medical community.
Stacey Campbell was born and raised in Scotland, but earned her BAS in History and Geology at the University of California in Davis. She focused on Jewish History in Modern Europe. Upon graduation, Stacey immediately cane to the University of Haifa to further her knowledge about the Holocaust. She aims to become a Holocaust educator and help develop Holocaust curricula in schools around the world.
Born and raised in New York City, Amira Mitnz-Morgenthau earned her BA from Brandeis University in Art History with a minor in Environmental Studies. Upon graduating, Amira spent one year working for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Germany, where, among many other things, she created programs for children to adults to engage them in Jewish communal life. During her university years, she worked in the Fine Arts department at Brandeis University, as well as teaching Hebrew and religious studies in two schools in the Boston Area. Caring deeply about German Jewish history and contemporary life, Amira hopes to utilize her MA in Holocaust Studies in order to work in the field of German Holocaust education, Holocaust education through the arts, and Holocaust memorials.
The traveling seminar, along with the students’ posters, will be exhibited at the University from May 1st to May 23rd.
To see the formal invitation to the event please click here!