Special Tours

A Visit to the Atlit Detention Center

Students from Cohort V recently visited the Atlit Detention Center, now a heritage site, with Dr. Tami Rich for part of her Curating the Holocaust course.


Cohort V on a ship which was made into an exhibition at the Atlit Detention Center

After the establishment of a National Socialist government in Germany, the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine exponentially increased. Because of the infighting and violence already existing in the country, the British imposed immigration quotas, restricting Jewish immigration in accordance to a ratio of Jews and Arabs represented in the population. In 1939, the British established a detention center in Atlit in order to maintain compliance with immigration quotas. Naturally, women, children and the elderly were released from the Atlit Detention Center at a quicker rate than men, because the British wanted to control the numbers of young, able Jewish men into the general Palestinian population for obvious reasons.


Our Guide describing barrack life at the Atlit Detention Center, this was a women’s and children’s barrack. 

In 1946, the immigration situation was amplified by the Jewish refugee crisis in Europe. Most, if not all, Jews lost their homes to members of the community, or otherwise, who moved in after they were deported to the East. Holocaust survivors were kept in displaced persons camps, as before the war they applied for visas elsewhere but were continually denied. With promises from organizations like Haganah, the Joint Distribution Committee, and Mossad many Jewish refugees boarded overcrowded ships to Palestine. Many of these ships were meant to hold half of the occupants they were now taking to Palestine. In 1946 alone, 22 ships brought 22,000 Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Only some were allowed to enter the country, others were sent back to where they came from or kept in British detention centers.


A photo of the disinfection showers. 

The Weiss-Livnat students of Cohort V were given a tour of one of these camps earlier this semester, the Atlit Detention Center which is just south of Haifa. Most immigrants came to Haifa first, as it was and is the main port in Israel. Upon arrival they were taken by train, not unlike the cattle cars used in the Final Solution, to Atlit. Here they were required to take disinfection showers, which was traumatic for the Holocaust survivors whose families were killed in gas chambers marked as disinfection showers. If the British guards were kind they would turn the water on to prove the pipes were real, and in fact, water did come out of the faucets.


An example of the trains used to bring immigrants to the Atlit Detention Center.

Only 4,000 people could be kept at the Atlit Detention Center, so the British opened a second detention camp in Cyprus, Operation Igloo, which housed many more immigrants. The demands of the Jewish immigrants were ignored and not met; they were stuck between a rock and a hard place, between displaced persons camps in Europe and British operated detention camps. The decision to come to Palestine was already difficult, the voyage itself was perilous; 3,000 migrants died on their way to Palestine. The ships they used were often derelict and overcrowded. When they were detained by the British they were kept on the ship much longer than they had planned for, and their provisions ran out.


This is an example of a ship that would be used to bring displaced persons to Palestine. 

Tami Rich’s “Curating the Holocaust” class requires a tour of the detention center, though all students are welcome. One of their assignments after visiting is to prepare a mock exhibition for the Heritage Site, and this experience will hopefully help the students obtain jobs in the museum field after graduation. Many of Tami’s students in the past are already working in museums, and this class helped them achieve their goals. Tami will work on this project with the students and teach them how to design exhibits for museums.  

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum: The Center for Humanistic Education

This is part four of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit hereour second day here, and our third day here.

On the last day of our seminar at the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum, our students spent the day at the Center for Humanistic Education (CHE), which is located just next to the main museum. CHE hosts groups of school aged youths from all over Israel to learn about human rights and realistic application. They have many workshops designed to teach students about different forms of oppressive governments and genocide prevention.


Cohort V in one of the exhibitions at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

Our students’ host took them through one of these workshops. They discussed different currents of theory based on Holocaust education. The students split into five groups, and each group was given a quote from leading Holocaust scholars about the value of Holocaust education. Some scholars claim that the Holocaust is unique, there was a certain set of preconditions that made the Holocaust possible. Other scholars affirm that genocide is universal, and so the Holocaust offers general education about genocide to some extent, and through studying the Holocaust genocide can be prevented. Another scholar claimed there is actually no worth in studying the Holocaust, because, as an affected society, Jews should forget the Holocaust and move forward with future-oriented thinking. Our students defended each of these theories, and then they had to pick which theory they most identified with. Discussing these theories reminded our students why they are studying the Holocaust.

Another workshop that CHE leads students through is called Brain Land. In this workshop, students create a government based on the ideology that people with a high IQ are high class and the governing one, while people with a low IQ are the lower class. The students work together to create a government based on this ideology. The students find that it is easy to create laws that oppress the lower class group. After this exercise they talk about how the Holocaust is universal, hate is hate, and ideology based on hate is dangerous.



Noha Khatib, Deputy Director of CHE, discussed with our students how Arab and Jewish students study the Holocaust both differently and similarly. Many students compare the Holocaust to the Nakba, which in Arabic this means “Great Catastrophe.” The Nakba occurred in 1948 when the Palestinians lost the War of Independance. Most people who study the Holocaust compare their own feelings of loss and hurt with what the Jews went through during the Holocaust, at least to their own extent. If the Holocaust can be considered universal, and the ideology of hate is universal, then these comparisons come naturally and they can be used to further Holocaust education. At CHE, Arabs and Jews can come to the same room and discuss difficult conflicts. Four graduates of this program, aged 17, came to speak with our students – two Arabs and two Jews. They candidly shared their experiences and explained education at CHE.

We would like to thank the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum and Kibbutz for hosting us and offering valuable Holocaust education knowledge and methodologies.


The outdoor Auditorium at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum seats thousands for their ceremony on the eve of Yom haShoah. This year’s ceremony will be on Monday April 24. 

Here are some informational links:

Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

The Center for Humanistic Education

Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum: Children and Holocaust Education

This is part three of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit here, and our second day here.

On the third day at the Ghetto Fighters’ House our students met with Madene Shachar who guided them through Yad Layeled, a children’s Holocaust museum. Madene discussed the challenges presented to the museum staff regarding children’s Holocaust education, where one of the questions was: is this museum experiential or educational? She talked about how the museum made decisions when constructing Yad Layeled, both the physical building and the philosophy behind the education.


Memorial to the Children of Theresienstadt

For example, at the entrance of the museum there is a memorial space for the children who perished in the Holocaust. The circular room’s walls, with a vaulted ceiling, is covered with stained glass windows.  Roman Halter designed the project; he based it on pictures children drew while living in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Rami Karmi took these ideas and made the project reality. These children were living in two worlds: the ghetto and their imagination, an imagination only a child could live in. Most of the drawings are of plants and nature, swings and homes; they don’t depict accurately what their life was in Theresienstadt but rather what they dreamed of. As the light pours into the room, through these small windows, visitors are reminded that the children were kept from the outside world and trapped, yet the drawings themselves are beautiful and full of life. Madene shared some of the ideology behind this memorial: the museum wanted to focus on the life of the children rather than their death, and this is one of the ways the museum emphasizes their lives.


Theatre in the Round, Cohort V on the way to see the play

After the students walked through the museum, they were invited to see a play based on the true life story of one of the child survivors featured in the museum. The play was performed in a dome theatre just outside of the museum, where the theatre hosts audiences almost every day for different groups that tour the museum. Our play was special because it was the first time it was performed in English. The museum staff uses this play, the survivor’s testimony, and other educational tools to teach the Holocaust to children, and most often they will include workshops where children can use art to express how they feel about the survivor’s story, which will usually include drawing, music or drama.


At the Janusz Korczak Exhibition

Our students also visited the Janusz Korczak Exhibit which is located at the center of Yad Layeled. This exhibit tells the story of Janusz Korczak, who was the director of a Jewish Orphanage in Poland when the Germans invaded Poland. When the Nazis came to take the children to Treblinka, Korczak refused to leave them and went to Treblinka with them on August 5, 1942. Janusz Korczak was devoted to the children in his orphanage, and testimonies from orphaned children who survived the Holocaust relate his love for them. The exhibit has five different installations which comprise the “Circle of Life” of Janusz Korczck. 


Cohort V students at the Janusz Korczak Exhibit.

Yad Layeled recorded many interviews with survivors who were children during the Holocaust; many of these survivors are gone now. The survivor generation is almost completely gone. The question of remembrance is coming to the forefront of Holocaust Studies, Yad Layeled offers an answer to this question with the integration of testimony and artistic expression.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum: Research in the Archives

This is part two of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit here.


Cohort V visiting the Remembrance Hall exhibition.

On the second day of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Seminar, Cohort V met with Anat Bratman-Elhalel, the head of archives. She took us to the Remembrance Hall, an exhibit that was just finished a year ago. The exhibition is designed in such a way that the archives are brought to the public. The artifacts are behind dark glass, the visitors use touch screens to illuminate the objects and get information about each of the objects. Four of our students are helping further the research of the exhibit. Anat talked to us about what remembrance is and how to allow the artifacts tell us history.


The students were also taken to the Researchers Room and given access to the vast archives. The Ghetto Fighters’ House has an exceptional collection of art made during the Holocaust, and most of their pieces are available for viewing online. One of our students will be assisting with an exhibition of Malva Schalek’s work from the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Malva was killed in Auschwitz but her paintings linger and relate what life was like in Theresienstadt. This exhibition will start in June, so stay tuned for more information.

The students were also taken through different exhibitions at the museum, including the Warsaw Ghetto Fights Back exhibition. The museum was designed in such a way for groups to be taken through each exhibit exclusively their their own group. Each exhibit has a place for a group to sit and discuss the exhibit. Our students discussed the importance of resistance in the Holocaust, including spiritual resistance, a term coined by Miriam Novitch, a Holocaust survivor and founding member of the Ghetto Fighters’ House kibbutz. Miriam advocated for Holocaust survivors who weren’t involved in active violent resistance, but called attention to resistance through participation in Jewish traditions, prayer, even living.


Cohort V at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising exhibition.

The students were also brought to the Camps Exhibition, here they were asked to dissect the symbolism in the exhibition design. They talked about exhibition design pertaining to the Holocaust and how to successfully show and impart messages. The Ghetto Fighters’ House staff was excellent in sharing museology with our students.


Cohort V working with testimonies from founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Kibbutz

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website


Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum: Creating Normality After the Holocaust

Cohort V just completed our annual 4-day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. The Museum was founded in 1949, by Holocaust survivors that had just moved to Israel. After the war, many survivors returned to Lodz, upon arrival they found themselves homeless and without any material possessions, as their homes had been looted and taken. While in Lodz, a group of survivors that also took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising made plans to establish a kibbutz and a Holocaust museum for their friends and family who had perished. The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum became the world’s first Holocaust Museum, and the only Holocaust museum established solely by survivors.


Welcoming Cohort V to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

When the students arrived at the kibbutz, our hosts organized a tour of the kibbutz, from Tali Shner, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who were part of the founding group. She showed us the first building where the museum had been housed. In the early days of the museum, they slept in tents while the only buildings left by the British Mandate housed artifacts, which demonstrates their dedication to remembrance. Everyone at the kibbutz, originally, were survivors, which posed challenges to finding a normality.


Out students learning about Kibbutz life.

For example, the kibbutz cook had learned how to cook in a concentration camp. They food that she made was not very good, but she didn’t know how to make it better. After so much complaining from the kibbutz she got up early one day and walked 10km to the next nearest kibbutz. There she learned some from the cook there, and then walked 10km back to make dinner that night for the kibbutz. They worked hard to build a community that was full of life and good things.


Cohort V on the tour of the Kibbutz

They embraced the kibbutz way of life, with babies and children sleeping apart from their parents in nurseries and in the school buildings themselves. In the evening the children would see their parents for a long dinner. This way of living which was already established by other kibbutzim gave the survivors a sense of normality and a ideological and cultural framework of community. (The first kibbutz in Israel was established in 1909.) Our tour guide told us that most of the young mothers had lost their own mothers in the Holocaust so they didn’t have anyone to ask about how to raise a child. The fact that the kibbutz offered unformed child care was relieving to most parents, while other parents had a difficult time spending such little time with their children, and they eventually left the kibbutz. There was also the constant question of whether or not it was okay for children to hear the story of the Holocaust everyday.

In a way, the Holocaust shaped their daily life. For example, our tour guide told us about a man who was very mean to the children and really everyone around him. When their teacher told them that he had lost his whole family in the Holocaust and he was the only one left, the children understood him and offered him more kindness. Death was their normality. But one the other hand, life and family became the most important things defining their daily life. Antek Zuckerman, founder of the kibbutz, said “We came here to build homes filled with life.”


At the Elementary School for the Kibbutz children, they had school and slept in this building.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Seminars, Special Tours

The Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum Seminar on Pedagogy & Educational Methods: Day 3

IMG_2529Our students are participating in a three-day seminar at the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum.  Day Three was centered on learning about and experiencing the Center for Humanistic Education under the Guidance of Dr. David Netzer, who works at the center and teaches an education course in the program. The Center for Humanistic Education was established in 1995 on the inspiration of an Israeli history teacher after she spent a sabbatical year at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. She was fascinated by the Museum’s ability to make the Holocaust relevant for non-Jews and wanted to do the same in Israel. The center integrates Holocaust education for Jews and Arabs with a Jewish-Arab dialogue about the current conflict. The program is voluntary and contains three parts: the meaning of the Holocaust for us today, Jewish-Arab relations, and an optional session for graduates on shared and active citizenship.  The second part of the program has existed since 1996 as a result of a comment by an Arab student who participated in the first course and asked “what about our story?” He was expressing that he came to hear about the Holocaust, the Jewish national tragedy, and wanted the opportunity to speak about his own story as well. This comment reset the Center’s orientation as in order to be a mutual process both sides of the story must be included.

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Yariv Lapid, the Director of the Center, spoke to our students about this change in the program goals. Lapid said that if you take the lessons of the Holocaust seriously you have a moral imperative to apply the lessons of the past to the present. He takes Yehuda Bauer’s warning that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a genocidal potential seriously and dialogue is needed to deal with the conflict. Lapid shared that half the Center’s staff are Arab. Lapid described the second part of the seminar where Jewish and Arab participants learn about events since 1948 including the Nakba as centered on history and narrative as part of identity. The participants share their family stories and explore how we arrive at different truths and identities from the same event, how we tell these stories, and whether our telling leaves room for the narrative of another. Lapid discussed the challenge of teaching the Holocaust to Arab students due to the fact that Holocaust denial is mainstream in Arabic media and learning about the Holocaust contradicts their socialization in which they are taught to see the Jews as oppressors or to be indifferent to the Holocaust as an event that has nothing to do with them. Lapid concluded by sharing his belief that the Holocaust is a universal paradigm that has immense learning potential about human society.


Throughout the morning our students had the opportunity to engage activities that are used with the Center’s participants such as analyzing four views on what we can learn from the Holocaust today, identifying examples of social exclusion in Nazi Germany, and dealing with bystanders and the Righteous Among the Nations. An important component of all the activities is encouraging the participants to think, question, and make comparisons to their society today. For example, our students were asked to think about who is excluded in their society today, why, and what their part in that exclusion is. The purpose is to learn from the universal values of the Holocaust and integrate the study of history with a critical look at the present.


In the final component of the seminar our students were able to meet with one Arab and one Jewish graduate of the program. It was fascinating for our students to hear their stories, what motivated them to participate in the program, and what they gained from it. Philip, the Arab participants, participated because he is a “history fanatic.” He shared that he learned to see and understand other perspectives and that both sides in the conflict make mistakes through the program. He explained that his Arab teachers don’t respect the Holocaust and just teach it because they have to. Daya, the Jewish participant, shared that her main motivation to participate in the program was to meet Arab students and learn about the Holocaust from a different point of view then she received in school that included learning about other genocides. Daya explained that she learned to talk to someone that she thought was on the other side even if she disagrees with them without shouting. The third day at the Center for Humanistic Education was a dynamic and stimulating conclusion to the seminar.



Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Seminars, Special Tours

The Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum Seminar on Pedagogy & Educational Methods: Day 2

IMG_2499 (2)Our students are participating in a three-day seminar at the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum.  Day Two featured a discussion with Evelin Akherman, the Museum Director; a session with Anat Bratman-Elhalel, the Archive Director; a tour of exhibits in the main museum with Lisa Schulz-Yatsiv; and a conversation with Rotem Kornblit, the Director of the Education Department.

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The day began with Museum Director Evelin Akherman. She started with a discussion of the museum’s architecture. The museum was built in 1959 by a European architect who was a part of the kibbutz movement. Akherman stated that the museum is like the acropolis of the kibbutz. There are stairs to approach the museum and it sits upon raised ground that has a commanding look of the surrounding landscape. Our students had an interesting discussion about an abstract metal assemblage created by Yechiel Shemi that is placed outside the museum entrance. Akherman’s lecture focused on analyzing Holocaust art and the life of Miriam Novitch, who was an important part of collecting art and other documents from Europe following the war and bringing them to Israel and the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum. Novitch’s mission began in the exchange camp in France called Vittel where she met a Polish Jew named Katznelson whose wife and child were murdered in Treblinka. Katznelson instructed Novitch to “collect the tears of the Jewish people,” which was the impetus for her mission to collect art and artifacts from the Holocaust. According to Akherman, Novitch was the first person to use the term spiritual resistance and she felt that art exemplified that term.

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During the second session of the day our students met with the Director of the Archive Anat Bratman-Elhalel. She took our students to see the Yizchor Hall where they got to see the work being completed by those students who are participating in the internship to update the Yizchor hall’s exhibit that uses artifacts to tell the story. Our students had the opportunity to visit the archive with Bratman-Elhalel and to handle and read authentic artifacts, some of which were recently acquired. Bratman-Elhalel expressed the importance of digitizing artifacts to share them with a wider audience but the dilemma of publishing personal items for which it is not always possible to get permission.

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Next, our students took a tour of two exhibits in the Museum “The Warsaw Ghetto Fights Back,” and the “Hall of Camps” with a student from the second cohort who works at the Museum, Lisa Schulz-Yatsiv. She shared that the museum is a thematic and not chronological museum and the exhibits are connected to the founders’ stories. It prioritizes the narrative of Jewish resistance and is designed as a place for conversation and education that teaches more then history. Throughout the tour Schulz-Yatsiv did an excellent job of balancing allowing our students to view the exhibit and sharing how she guides the exhibit for student groups. Schulz-Yatsiv explained the activities she does with student groups to engage in a dialogue and provoke critical though such as discussion dilemmas and asking why the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is such an important part of Israeli Holocaust Memory.

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The final component of the day was a discussion with Rotem Kornblit, the Museum’s director of education.  Klornblit shared that the agenda of the museum is to tell the stories of the founders and fulfill their goal of commemorating their murdered loved ones and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. Kornblit discussed the challenge of teaching the Holocaust to Israeli students who are exposed to it from a young age and think they know it all already and how difficult it can be to get them to think critically and ask questions about the history. A further challenge is encouraging the members of the guided groups who visit the museum break the barrier between the past and present and connect the lessons of the Holocaust to current dilemmas in Israeli society such as racism and foreign workers. Kornblit stated that the most important question she asks students is what they can learn from the Holocaust in an attempt to maintain its relevance. The second day of the seminar was an excellent opportunity to see how the Museum functions as an educational resource and what their mission is.