As part of my work on the ENTDE project, I’ve been involved in developing bilingual, English and Welsh, online activity plans relating to the Holocaust, for primary and secondary school-aged children in Wales.
I was drawn to this project for several reasons. In particular, I’ve been acutely disturbed by the research undertaken by UCL in recent years about the myths and misconceptions that continue to pervade the public’s understanding of the Holocaust. For example, UCL research (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-58523132) found that most teachers did not know where or when the Holocaust began. The pernicious effects of social media (no doubt more pronounced during the Covid era) and the rise in antisemitic hate incidents are a chilling reminder that the lessons of the Holocaust continue to have urgent relevance today.
The second phase of the ENTDE project is currently underway and involves a teacher training programme on how to effectively use the charity’s new educational materials in the classroom. In particular, this training highlights the core aims of the charity’s new resources -
To deepen knowledge of the Holocaust, ensuring historically accurate understanding and raising awareness about the possible consequences of antisemitism;
To promote critical and reflective thinking about the Holocaust including the ability to counter Holocaust denial and distortion;
To encourage students to consider how more complex and nuanced pictures of the past can contribute to our understanding of society and human behaviour today;
To encourage students to think about their civic responsibilities and the challenge of confronting injustice and hatred.
To my mind, education is the most important tool to fight the most ancient of hatreds. I think the JHASW/CHIDC’s work in this area is critical in Wales, as Welsh Holocaust resources are relatively limited. ENTDE aims to provide bilingual locally relevant activity plans, which include, for example, the video testimony and primary photographic evidence of Kindertransport refugees who lived in Wales during and after the war. These local stories don’t simply reflect on the individuality and common humanity of Jewish lives affected by or lost in the Holocaust. Critically, they also show Jews as part of collective, shared history.
But Holocaust education must be careful to steer away from victimhood and sentimentality. To that end, the charity’s new education materials confront the devastating, disorienting truths of how and why the Holocaust happened, the role of perpetrators, bystanders, neighbours, and those 'ordinary' people who passively or actively committed the most heinous crime against humanity. The resources also aim to educate children on the full depth and vitality and complexity of Jewish life that was lost in the Holocaust. Indeed, to view Jews only through the lens of the Holocaust neglects the wealth of history, culture, literature, language, tradition and heritage that went before.
As part of the project, I’ve been struck by the extraordinary voices and memories of Holocaust survivors – they are surprising, enlightening and profoundly necessary. Teaching through these voices and memories is fundamental to combating anti-Jewish sentiment, countering false narratives and lies and illuminating our present with profound understanding so that 'Never Again' can have the chance of meaning and hope in our society.
Emelye Clifford, JHASW/CHIDC Education Officer.