» Why Teach about Genocide? The Example of the Holocaust
27.08.2012 - Education Sector

Why Teach about Genocide? The Example of the Holocaust

© UNESCO/S. Cadel - Director-General of UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova in front of the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, 27 January 2012

“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”.

These words of Professor Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, pronounced at UNESCO headquarters in January 2012, help us understand how universal the legacy of the Holocaust is, and how important it has become to ensure that it is taught globally.

Many countries across the globe have taken up the challenge in the past years, including several that have no direct connection with the genocide of the Jewish people. This development shows a growing understanding that, besides the necessary commemoration of victims, learning and teaching about the Holocaust contributes to advance the prevention of mass atrocities. It does this notably by focusing on understanding the ramifications of genocide and mass violence. In addition, Holocaust education offers opportunities to educators who wish to address difficult issues related to human rights, tolerance, anti-Semitism and racism, as well as traumatic memories.

To support the development of Holocaust Education worldwide, UNESCO is launching two new projects: a global mapping of Holocaust Education worldwide and a Regional Consultation with 13 African countries on the theme “Why Teach about Genocide? The Example of the Holocaust”. For the first time in Africa, education leaders will have the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation on this subject with specialized educators and Holocaust and genocide scholars.

The study, performed in partnership with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, Braunschweig, Germany, will consist of a mapping of Holocaust education in all UNESCO member states, with a view of identifying where and in which contexts the Holocaust is taught. Furthermore, the study will explore the contents of textbooks in several regions of the world in order to analyse in a comparative perspective the different representations of the Holocaust and how it is actually taught to pupils and students. This unprecedented research will give rise to a series of recommendations to advise policy-makers, especially in countries that wish to introduce this subject in their curriculum.

In parallel, UNESCO is organizing the first consultation on “Why Teach about Genocide?” with interested member states, based on the example of Holocaust education. Senior education policy-makers from 13 sub-Saharan African countries will gather in Cape Town, South Africa, on 10 and 11 September with UNESCO staff and international experts to explore methods used to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides, notably in Rwanda and in Cambodia, and to discuss the role of education in preventing mass atrocities.

The purpose of this first consultation is to prepare for the development of Holocaust and genocide-related educational programmes at the regional and national levels, in partnership with UNESCO. The consultation will be followed by a conference for students and educators on 12 September at the University of Cape Town, organized by UNESCO in partnership with the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation and the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research of the University of Cape Town.

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