Learning lessons of the Holocaust can help prevent intolerance


RITE AND REASON: The Holocaust showed what can happen when principles of respect and tolerance break down. This summer a course for teachers is designed to help them and their pupils avoid such bigotry and hatred

PERHAPS ONE of the most interesting summer courses for teachers this year is Teaching the Holocaust, a three-day summer school for teachers which takes place at Trinity College Dublin on the 15th, 16th and 17th of August. It is organised by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Although the programme can be taken independently, it is part of a one year certificate in Holocaust education awarded by Trinity. This course was introduced by the education trust in response to a void in the provision of teacher educational programmes on this subject.

The trust was established in September 2005 and launched by President Mary McAleese. It aims to educate and inform about the Holocaust in order to address anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance in Ireland.

The trust has programmes running across all levels of education as well as outreach, cultural projects, and teacher education programmes.

Trust chairman Peter Cassells, asserts that the trust co-operates with educators to teach future generations about the dangers of bigotry, stereotyping and hatred, the importance of accepting and celebrating diversity and the need to appreciate and protect democratic institutions and values.

Teaching the Holocaust addresses this complex subject and how to deal with it in the classroom. Lectures, interactive seminars, workshops and materials are presented in a constructive and practical format.

Topics on the programme include: the historical context of the Holocaust, pedagogic challenges, cross-curriculum perspectives, interdisciplinary approaches and best practice.

The course also considers the roles of perpetrators, victims, bystanders, rescuers and resisters. The content of the programme prompts reflection about the Holocaust and its relevance in our world today.

The trust has found that Irish teachers are hungry for the information, knowledge, skills and tools to teach this difficult subject to their students. Many Junior and Leaving Certificate students undertake a special topic on the Holocaust in their State examinations.

The trust has invited expert international Holocaust educators from Germany, the USA, Britain and Jerusalem to lecture on this year’s programme in August.

Deborah Lipstadt, Dorat Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, will be one of the presenters on the course. In 1996, she successfully defeated David Irving, who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier and right-wing extremist. Subsequently she wrote History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.

Dr Lipstadt’s latest book, The Eichmann Trial, published by Schocken/Nextbook Series, is a revealing and authoritative critique about the trial of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, director of Jewish affairs and expulsions in the SS security main office.

He is the subject of her lunchtime public lecture in the Robert Emmett Theatre at Trinity on August 17th at 1pm.

The tragic story of the Holocaust provides an extreme example of what can happen when the principles of respect and tolerance break down, allowing bigotry, prejudices and discrimination free rein.

By putting in place the structures that allow people to learn about these dangers and how to combat them, the trust is making a positive contribution to Irish education and Irish society in general.

LYNN JACKSONis chief executive of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland

. Further information: info@hetireland.org