18.01.2013 - Education Sector

Why learn about the Holocaust in schools?

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum - Family portraits

Why should an African or a Chinese child study the Holocaust? What relevance does it have in places with no historical connection with the genocide of the Jewish people?

It is increasingly accepted that the Holocaust has become a global point of reference for mass violence. It presents particular challenges in education, especially in regions where the genocide did not take place. Professor Yehuda Bauer, a global authority on the history of the Holocaust, states: “Whether you live in Central Africa, in China, in the South Pacific, or in Switzerland, you have to be aware of the danger that genocide presents. Education about the Holocaust ultimately means to remove humanity as far away as possible from that extreme form of mass murder.”  

Learning about this universal history can engage students in a critical reflection about the shared heritage of humanity, the roots of genocide, and the necessity to nurture peace and human rights to prevent such atrocities in the future.  

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2013), UNESCO has published a new brochure, “Why teach about the Holocaust?” which provides an overview of Holocaust education. The brochure explains that the Holocaust was a defining historical moment; that genocide is not inevitable; that states and citizens have responsibilities; that silence contributes to oppression and that prejudice and racism have roots. In addition, it explores the challenges and opportunities of teaching about the Holocaust and provides educational resources on the Holocaust and other genocides. 

How do schools worldwide handle the Holocaust as a subject? In what areas of the world does the Holocaust form part of classroom teaching? Answers to these questions will be provided in late 2013 by a project conducted by UNESCO and the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research. For the first time it will be possible to compare representations of the Holocaust in school textbooks and national curricula. 

Holocaust Education exemplifies UNESCO’s vision of education as the starting point for building peace and nurturing the principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect of all men and women.

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