Schools must make Holocaust teaching relevant, study finds

  

European schools and museums need to make a clearer link between the Holocaust and human rights today when teaching about Nazi atrocities, according to a study published yesterday (26 January) ahead of today’s International Holocaust Memorial Day.

European education ministers will today attend ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, after having discussed yesterday the findings of the study, prepared by the European Union's Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). 

Jewish groups have expressed concern about what they see as a rise in anti-Semitism in some European countries and have called for increased education about the Holocaust, in which an estimated six million Jews were murdered. 

"The findings of the study show that linking education about the Holocaust and education about human rights represents a great challenge not only to memorial site staff but also to teachers in schools," the EU agency said in a statement. 

"Establishing a link between the two fields is vital, given that knowledge of, and reflection on the past can feed into discussion of the challenges faced by contemporary society." 

Too many memorial sites regard their role in narrow terms as the transmission of historical knowledge, it added. 

"Overall, human rights education does not seem to be a well established concept, neither at the level of memorial sites nor at school level," the Vienna-based FRA said. 

The report also criticised insufficient training of guides and teachers about both the Holocaust and about human rights, a lack of funding for sites and for student visits to the sites and inadequate teaching materials. 

The study covered 22 Holocaust-related sites and historical museums and canvassed the views of teachers and students from nine EU member states as well as from curators. 

Yesterday, Jewish groups expressed outrage after a Polish Catholic bishop was quoted as saying Jews had expropriated the Holocaust as a propaganda weapon. Roma, homosexuals and other groups were also systematically murdered by the Nazis. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish President Lech Kaczyński will attend today's ceremonies at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camp complexes where up to 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died. 

The museum that runs the Auschwitz site will house an exhibition chronicling the liberation of the camp in 1945 by Soviet Red Army forces. 

(EurActiv with Reuters.

Timeline: 
  • 27 Jan.: International Holocaust Memorial Day. 
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