Working in conjunction with the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and affiliated institutions in foreign countries, the Terezín Memorial has been organizing educational seminars for Czech schoolteachers held abroad since 2002.
Three such seminars took place in October and early November 2022, two in Poland, in the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the third one in Yad Vashem in Israel.
Third-level Seminar in the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland
The first course to be held in the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland was the third-degree seminar taking place between October 6 and 9, 2022. A very interesting program was prepared for more than 30 schoolteachers from all parts of the Czech Republic, offering lectures dealing with the orchestras that performed in the Auschwitz concentration camp or the SS officers serving in the death camp. Needless to add, important components of the program were visits to both parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. The Czech teachers also had an opportunity to get acquainted with the methodology employed by the local educational center during its workshop called History Captured in Objects.
Seminar for Czech Schoolteachers in the Memorial Yad Vashem in Israel
Held after a two-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year´s seminar in the Israeli memorial Yad Vashem proceeded between October 23 and 31, 2022.
Eighteen Czech schoolteachers attending the program, prepared by the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, were introduced to the educational concept used by that school, and attended a number of lectures and workshops. These described the life of Jewish inhabitants during the prewar years, their wartime fate and finally their return to ordinary life after the war. During their sightseeing tour the Czech teachers viewed the local exhibitions and visited the whole Memorial campus.
The program in Yad Vash came complete with presentations of the participants´ own projects which they have already completed in their schools or on which they are still working. On Friday evening, at the start of the Sabbath, they saw part of the prayer service in one of Jerusalem synagogues.
One day was set aside for a visit to the Terezín Memorial´s allied organization in Israel, namely – Beit Theresienstadt, situated in the kibbutz Giv´at Chajim Ichud. Following a cordial welcome by Tami Kinberg, Director of Beit Theresienstadt, the Czech visitors met Ruth Meissner, who had been imprisoned in the Terezín Ghetto as a young girl. This was followed by a guided tour of the kibbutz and a visit to the Beit Theresienstadt collections in its Museum. At the end of the day, the Czech schoolteachers were introduced to some of the educational programs and materials prepared in Beit Theresienstadt for school groups.
The seminar also offers an opportunity for getting acquainted with the visited country, its life and customs as well as milestones in the history of Israel and Jerusalem. The Czech teachers also visited the Old Town in Jerusalem and made a trip to the Masada Fortress and the Dead Sea.
Czech-Polish Educational Seminar
Just like the seminar in Yad Vashem in Israel, this year´s traditional Czech-Polish seminar was also staged after a two-year pause. Its first part transpired in the Terezín Memorial at the end of June 2022, the second one in early November in the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
The key purpose of this gathering was to establish mutual contacts between Czech and Polish colleagues. As a result, the program of the Terezín part of the seminar opened with a presentation of both sides´ home regions and regional products, with a follow-up tasting accelerating the process of making friends.
The next two days of the seminar again offered a rich agenda. Some of the sessions were designed for both groups, some were held separately. As a matter of fact, for the Czech attendees this seminar was the fifth in a series of educational courses organized by the Terezín Memorial. While the Polish teachers went on a sightseeing tour of the former Jewish Ghetto and the Police Prison in the Small Fortress, their Czech counterparts visited the places in the town of Terezín and also in the Small Fortress that are usually closed to the public (e.g. interior of the Hohenelbe Barracks in the town or the watchtower near the Fourth Courtyard in the Small Fortress in Terezín). The teachers were free to take an active part in the Department of Education´s workshop called On the Trail of Memory, visited the depositary of the Department of Collections, were shown some interesting collection items, and heard a lecture on The SS Camp Command in the Terezín Ghetto delivered by the Terezín Memorial historian Tomáš Fedorovič. The Czech schoolteachers also showed their Polish colleagues their school projects.
Proceeding between November 3 and 6, 2022, the second part of the seminar was held in the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Polish Oświęcim where the Czech and Polish teachers met again. The International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust (ICEAH) prepared a truly busy program for them. First, an official opening came on Friday morning. This was followed by separate workshops for Czechs and Poles. The Czech schoolteachers attended the workshop History Captured in Objects, while their Polish colleagues learnt about the significance and function of art in the Auschwitz concentration camp. During the following program the participants paid an extended visit to the former Auschwitz I concentration camp and viewed a presentation of the educational projects devised by their Polish colleagues. Saturday morning was again devoted to a visit, this time to the former Auschwitz II – Birkenau concentration camp, followed by an afternoon visit to the publicly inaccessible sections of the former Auschwitz I camp. This involved the women´s ward of the camp hospital where female inmates had been subjected to various experiments by German doctors (sterilization in particular), the central guardroom or the garden of the camp commander R. Höss, adjoining his villa where he lived with his family. The seminar culminated with a lecture presented by historian Piotr Setkiewicz The Auschwitz and Holocaust Paradigm As a Historical Context of the 20th Century Genocides.
The seminar proceeded in a very friendly atmosphere and it is to be hoped that our cooperation will continue in the future.
Lenka Doležalová, Sylvie Holubová