24.01.2012 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Need to introduce the Holocaust and genocides in education programmes

© UNESCO/Tine IsmaëlAn exhibition called "the Holocaust in Europe" was part of the event organized on 23 January 2012 in UNESCO Dakar.

The Holocaust and other genocides were discussed during a video conference on 23 January 2012 between UNESCO and the Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA) in Dakar. The event took place on the occasion of the International Day to Remember the Holocaust victims.

The debate waschaired by the Minister of Education of Senegal, Mr. Diallo Kalidou. It focused on the history of the Holocaust, the characteristics of genocides, how they happen and the role of education in preventing future tragedies.

Participants also examined linkages between the Holocaust and the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

Characteristics of genocide

The essential characteristics of genocide were identified namely:

  • victims are members of national, ethnic or religious groups;
  • they are killed or persecuted for belonging to this group;
  • the crime is planned and committed by the State on their behalf or with their consent/ acquiescence;
  • children are the main targets to eradicate a new generation.

Denial as a component of genocide was also discussed, as an element of the genocidal process. 

"The denial of genocide is part of the crime. It is a strategy used to obliterate the truth and memory of the event," said Georges Bensoussan, a French historian specialized in the issue of Holocaust.

Veritable industry of murder

Every genocide has its own characteristics, which need to be analyzed in their historical context to better understand the warning signs and prevent future genocides.

The genocide of the Jews, for example, was conceived as a comprehensive policy to "purify" the world of a harmful component.

"But the Nazi plan had an additional objective questioning the respect for life, the equal dignity of people and human brotherhood,” said Bensoussan.

“The Holocaust is hence not only a genocide among genocides, but a willful unethical attempt to rebuild mankind on the model of the animal, by the application of natural selection,” he added.

"Regarding the means used for extermination, it is a veritable industry of murder" Bensoussan added. He recalled the particularity of the Nazi system of extermination, namely the establishment of killing centers.

Mobilizing the population

Other aspects of genocidal policies such as ideology and propaganda were analyzed,  In Rwanda, for example, participants note that it as the devastating media campaign conducted by the infamous Radio Television des Milles Collines, which was largely responsible for the genocide of the Tutsi minority.

"The participation of the Rwandan people in the Tutsi genocide is one of unimaginable importance," said Ms. Eugenie AW, former director of CESTI, a school of journalism in Dakar, who knows Rwanda well.

Prevent genocide through education

Participants in the debate stressed the importance of education to prevent new genocides, including the following points:

  1. Raise awareness of the history of Holocaust and other genocides through teaching to prevent future tragedies;
  2. Work in formal, non formal and informal education systems;
  3. Reflect on which ages are the most appropriate for teaching such subjects (UNESCO Dakar is dedicating an upcoming issue to the theme of genocide in its children books series Bouba & Zaza);
  4. Focus on values education even in the universities;
  5. Insist on the role of women in the transmission;
  6. Integrate these topics into the curriculum in a more systematic manner and ensure the sustainability of education programmes.

Just the beginning

Participants said that the commemoration and the debate mark the beginning of an international dynamic to increasingly recognize violations of human rights in education programmes. UNESCO was asked to help turn this wish into reality.

An exhibition on loan from the Holocaust Memorial, called "the Holocaust in Europe" was also presented in UNESCO's Office in Dakar. 


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