Methodology: The Terezín Ghetto, Holocaust and Our Time
Two years ago, the Terezín Memorial started to cooperate more closely with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education in Los Angeles. This cooperation resulted in use of video recordings of survivors’ recollections from the archives of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute by the staff of the Terezín Memorial’s Education Department in their work. Apart from this, the idea also came up to, based on the aforementioned filmed testimonies, create educational materials and hand them out, mainly to teachers at primary and secondary schools in the Czech Republic. In order to process them, a team of 6 persons was set up. Representatives of each respective institution were appointed as team leaders (Martin Šmok for the Institute and Jan Špringl for the Memorial), the team spirit was brought in by four teacher member: Ilona Němcová from Gymnázium Jana Palacha in Mělník, Zuzana Jirchářová from Biskupské gymnázium in Varnsdorf, Jiří Čunát from the same school and, last but not least, Josef Märc from Gymnázium Chomutov, who also teaches at the Faculty of Arts of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem. These particular were not invited to join the team of authors haphazardly. All of them have been focusing on application of new approaches to teaching the Holocaust at Czech schools for some time now and have significant experience working on similar projects. The team’s work culminated in the newly published book, The Terezín Ghetto, Holocaust and Our Time (2009).
It is a manual for teachers of primary and secondary schools, containing 12 methodological models (model lessons) based on short topical film clips with testimonies from survivors on the included DVD, which deal with persecution of Jewish population in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, accentuating existence of the Terezín ghetto. Apart from them, the book also includes a short informative text on ghetto history and a dictionary of expressions and concepts used in the videos, such as used to be part of the prisoner slang in Terezín. The text and the dictionary aim to serve teachers in basic preparations for instruction on the Terezín ghetto, which they can further broaden by study of titles listed in the recommended literature section.
The proposed methodological models are constructed so as to be usable in other types of instruction than history lessons only. Despite the fact that the models accentuate (due to the selected topic) events that came to pass in the past, the students can use them to gain better understanding of their own time, too. This is not only because there are still people who sympathize with the ideas of Nazi ideologues, but rather because the models also stress timeless comprehensive topics, such as creation of value structures, decision process in crisis situations. question of human decency, law and justice, self-sacrifice and relation to our neighbour, etc. Some of them thus strive to help students in self-discovery.
The handbook will be distributed to teachers participating in the Terezín Memorial teacher seminars.