Since the spring of 2019 you have had an opportunity to browse through the Internet website called Being at School in the War Years, the outcome of a project of the same name carried out jointly by the Terezín Memorial, the National Pedagogical Museum and Library of J.A. Comenius, the Terezín Initiative Institute and the National Institute for Further Education between 2015 and 2018.
The website consists of several sections. The first one introduces the project itself, its objectives and the methodology used. The second part is devoted to the overall situation in school education in our territory in the years 1938 – 1945. These are the facts contained on the blue exhibition panels that were devised by the authors of the project and which can also be viewed on the website.
But key attention is focused on the individual teams participating in the project. Each has its own section featuring the following chapters (even though in several cases some chapters are missing): Our team, Course of research, Exhibition panel, What was left out on the panel, And what followed?
In the section Our team most participating groups present themselves, while giving links to the school attended by their members. Next comes the chapter Course of research tracing the first stage of their work on the project. During that phase the project organizers set out to meet the participating teams all over the country, discussing with them their activities within the project. By that time, for instance the students of the Moravské Budějovice high school had prepared a timeline mapping events which transpired at their school during the past period under scrutiny.
Other activities within the project involved research in archives, as recorded, for example, by pupils of the Oskar Nedbal elementary school in České Budějovice and by other participants. Many teams also went out of their way in search of former pupils and students of “their“ own school – i.e. they wanted to trace and contact people who had spent their school years between 1938 – 1945. In some cases they really succeeded in finding and meeting their former and much older “classmates“. Pictures from one such meeting are available, for example, in the section of the team of pupils from the T. G. Masaryk elementary school in Milovice. Schoolchildren from the Jiráskovy sady elementary school in Příbram as well as secondary students from Kutná Hora or a team from the Svatobořice-Mistřín elementary school also traced and found their older classmates who had studied at their schools during the relevant period.
This section of the website also shows the meeting of the participating teams in the Terezín Memorial held in June 2016, as proved by a rich photographic and video documentation from the encounter. For its part, the regional TV station in Litoměřice covered the event. And its reportage may be viewed on the website in the section, prepared by pupils from the Morkovice elementary school. This particular team had a chance to speak of its research on camera.
The following section of the website highlights examples of each team´s exhibition panels. As the title of the next section What was left out of the panels suggests, it contains a wealth of documents and photographs obtained during the research that could not be placed on the panels. However, it would have been a pity to leave those documents shedding light on this period of history unpublished and that was why this valuable section of the website had been created expressly for their presentation.
The last extensive section is called And what followed? In terms of the overall duration of the project this part covers the period after the ceremonial preview of the exhibition, staged at the Charles University´s Faculty of Education in March 2017. The very first event covered in this section was the presentation by the secondary technical college in Kutná Hora of its project, complete with a documentary prepared by one of its female member. The presentation was designed for teacher training students at that faculty. The above mentioned documentary, just as another short documentary, shot by students of the Luděk Pik high school in Pilsen, can also be viewed on the website.
The ceremonial opening of the exhibition Being at School in the War Years in Prague started a tour of a whole series of exhibition panels to schools and towns or villages where the individual teams were based and where previews of the display subsequently took place. Most teams present their photo documentation showing those festive moments. Some sections feature accompanying teaching manuals drafted by some of the participating schools – for instance the Morkovice elementary school or the T. G. Masaryk elementary school in Milovice.
In terms of its content the website Being at School in the War Years is very diverse and while browsing through it you are sure to come across many new pieces of information both on the history of schooling and on the life of schoolchildren in the years 1938 – 1945. You may also come across something that you already know from your own school environment or from home. If you are interested in joining the project and in adding another chapter from the life of schools in the years 1938 – 1945, you are more than welcome!
The web presentation of the project was prepared by the company WKS and financially supported by the Foundation for Holocaust Victims.