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 Kaczy?ski 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.)
In November 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated 27 January as International Holocaust Memorial Day, an annual day of commemoration to honour the victims of the Nazi era.
In April 2009, the European Parliament formally called for 23 August to become a Europe-wide day of remembrance for victims of 20th-century Nazi and communist crimes (EURACTIV 03/04/09).
The Parliament called for "the proclamation of 23 August as a Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, to be commemorated with dignity and impartiality".
When the resolution was voted upon by the EU assembly, most Socialist MEPs rejected the text. Shedding some light on the reasons for this, former Socialist MEP Glyn Ford (United Kingdom) said: "I am not willing to equate the crimes of the Nazis, the Holocaust and the genocide that saw six million Jews, along with communists, trade unionists and disabled die, with those of Stalinist Russia".
Ford said he was "afraid that this resolution has elements of a historical revisionism that flies in the face of a demand for objective analysis".
- 27 Jan.: International Holocaust Memorial Day.
EU official documents
- European Parliament:European Parliament resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism(2 April 2009) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- European Parliament:European Parliament resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism(Press release; 2 April 2009) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- United Nations:2010 Calendar of Holocaust Remembrance Events