Even though life in our society as well as in our institution seemed to be running relatively unrestricted at the beginning of the 2020 school year, it was quite clear during September that the end of the year 2020 would be unfortunately much different, as compared (not only) with last year, and that a similar epidemiological situation would prevent the seminar, as it had done in the spring. Regrettably, our concerns were realized on October 12, 2020. The Terezín Memorial, just as other museums and remembrance institutions in the Czech Republic, had to close again due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the schoolchildren once again withdrew from schools into the realm of online teaching – the older once till the end of November.
During the Memorial´s normal regime the Department of Education staff apply themselves to preparations for one-day and longer seminars for schoolchildren and teachers, to the paperwork associated with such events, to organizing art competitions, drawing up new didactic aids, devising methodology for upcoming workshops and editing the Terezín Memorial´s Newsletter. As a rule, they also work with German and Austrian volunteers who regularly stay in our institution for one school year to prepare and run seminars for German-speaking groups. And last but not least the Department´s employees tackle organizational and specialist tasks in their agenda. Needless to say, their work continued unabated even during the worsening COVID-19 pandemic but the actual educational courses and seminars for school groups, a major portion of the Department of Education´s agenda, could not be held because of the government-imposed anti-COVID-19 measures.
That is why the Department of Education has prepared an on-line offer of programs, designed in a similar way as distance teaching methods at school whereby schoolteachers can make good use of their daily contact with their students and pupils. These programs have been gradually extended. Our current offer comprises presentations devoted not only to the persecution of the Jewish population in the Protectorate and to the history of the Terezín Ghetto (complete with excerpts from the documentaries or videotaped narratives of Holocaust survivors from the archive of the USC Shoah Foundation), plus workshops for elementary and high schools (The Onlooker Effect, The Nazi Propaganda and Love in the Terezín Ghetto). A virtual real-time sightseeing tour of the Terezín Memorial´s objects, accompanied by specialist commentaries provided by lecturers of the Department of Education, has been prepared in conjunction with the Department of External Relations and Marketing. It also comes complete with various educational materials (e.g. pictures, videotaped survivors´ stories etc.).
We are confident that this online interaction at least partly makes up for visits to the Terezín Memorial – and not only to school groups who could not come to Terezín to attend the seminar due to the epidemiological measures imposed. Meanwhile, schools have shown growing interest in the Terezín Memorial´s web seminars, some of the teachers took an advantage of them and included them to the school programmes also during the time of the December 2020 alternating learning (in person and on-line) and pupils and students participated either from school classrooms or from home. We are positive that – in spite of all the difficulties posed by online education – these webinars will meet the goals pursued by the Terezín Memorial´s educational agenda. And that they hopefully also help schoolteachers in coping with the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic.