Cherrie Danies: Hello. I’m Cherrie Daniels, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the United States Department of State. Welcome to the first of two webinars hosted by the Department of State on Holocaust education. The webinars are going to be geared toward the community of Holocaust educators, whether in government, NGOs, museums, or in classrooms, like the audience that’s with us today. As we begin, let me thank the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington and their incredible team for the museum’s incredible support in developing and executing these programs.
Today will focus on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust. These are recommendations that were issued and adopted by consensus of all 34 IHRA member countries in Luxembourg in December of 2019. The goal of the recommendations is to aid educators with fact based and educationally sound techniques that they can employ in carrying out their important mission to educate both professionals and students in a variety of forums.
Our panelists will explain the recommendations, how they came about, and what government officials, such as many of officials here today, and Holocaust educators can do together to better harness the full potential of these teaching recommendations. While the Holocaust ended over 75 years ago, the reverberations of the events that led to the anti-Semitism, the racial hatred, they continue to this day, unfortunately.
Both in Europe and the United States opinion polls consistently reveal alarming levels of ignorance about the Holocaust. For instance, a recent survey conducted by the conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Claims Conference, showed that 63% of American respondents did not know that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust with 36% of the respondents believing that the number of Jewish victims was less than 2 million. Polls have also shown that 41% of American adults do not know what Auschwitz is, and for those between the ages of 18 and 34, the figure is an alarming 66%.
Holocaust educators are also being challenged by the rise of anti-Semitism and other forms of racial hatred and discrimination worldwide. One only needs to open up a newspaper these days for evidence of this terrifying trend. With the expanded reach of social media and other online communication platforms, the medium in which the Holocaust is taught has changed dramatically. This presents us with certain opportunities, but also with challenges such as those posed by malign actors who purposely abuse the medium to distort and deny the history of the Holocaust to suit narrow political agendas.
The shift of Holocaust education and education generally to online platforms has been long in coming. It’s not new. But the trend has been exacerbated or strengthened by COVID-19 and the pandemic conditions worldwide. So therefore the task before us today is very steep. It’s a stark task that I think we all have taken on, and that’s why we’re here today.
And one additional challenge that I think we can’t underestimate is the passing from the scene of the eyewitness testimony of Holocaust survivors. Their eyewitness testimony to the horrors of
the Holocaust is incredibly valuable, and of course, cannot be replaced. The survivors, while the survivor generation passes, we all are here to think creatively about how to make up that firsthand testimony and make sure that the lessons of the Holocaust are passed on to future generations even after they’re no longer with us.
I think we can rise up to that challenge. I’m pleased to be joined today by four exceptional women all sharing a long history of work on various aspects of the Holocaust and Holocaust education. Please join me in welcoming my co-panelists today. Ambassador Michaela Küchler is joining us from Germany. Hello Ambassador Küchler
She’s the current president of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and also the special representative for relations with Jewish organizations and for Roma and Sinti issues among other things at Germany’s federal foreign office. Welcome.
Dr. Zuzana Pavlovská. Pavlovská is joining us from the Czech Republic. Dr. Pavlovská has been the head of Department for Education and Culture at the Jewish Museum of Prague since 2011, and she’s the current chair of the IHRA Education Working Group which met earlier today.
And Jennifer Ciardelli. Hi, Jen. Jen is joining us from here in Washington D.C.
She directs the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Initiative on the Holocaust and Professional Leadership. And she’s also a member of the United States Delegation to IHRA, which I lead. Welcome Jen.
Our moderator for today’s session is Dr. Edna Friedberg. Dr. Friedberg is senior program curator with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. And she’s the host of the museum’s popular Facebook Live series. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she also obtained her PhD from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She joined the staff of the museum in 1999 and has served as the historian for the museum’s high profile and highly visited Holocaust Encyclopedia, and as director of its Wexner Learning Center. I’m really pleased, Edna, that you can join us today. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to our moderator Dr. Edna Friedberg to introduce the other panelists and begin the program.
Edna Friedberg: Thank you so much, Cherrie, for hosting this event, for convening us today, and also for framing the challenges but the opportunities that are presented, because I do see the IHRA recommendations as a way to formalize and give structure to the needed collaboration and sharing of ideas and best practices that this new chapter in teaching about and memorializing the Holocaust demands. So we’re very, very grateful, and we’re grateful for your leadership on behalf of the U.S. Government. So sometime we will convene in person again soon, we hope.
To start off the conversation, though, I’d like to turn to my colleague. We usually work down the hall from each other. It’s nice to see you, Jen.
Jennifer Ciardelli: Nice to see you, Edna.
Dr. Friedberg: How are things across town?
Ms. Ciardelli: Oh, doing OK. Sun is out, it’s a good day.
Dr. Friedberg: I would also like to welcome our viewers who are tuning in from around the world. Good morning, good afternoon, wherever you are. I hope you see in the chat that closed captioning is available for this webinar. To turn it on you can toggle it from the little CC at the bottom of your screen. Also we’d like to note that this is a public event. We have press present, so anything we say could be quoted. And in fact, we hope it will. We want more people to know about these recommendations and about the many resources that we will be sharing today.
So as Cherrie mentioned, Jennifer Ciardelli directs the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Initiative on the Holocaust and Professional Leadership. This division of the museum is tasked with creating educational resources and programs for professionals charged with protecting life and liberty. So that includes members of the military and law enforcement and all different kinds of people that Jen will tell us about.
Jennifer serves on the United States delegation to the IHRA, where she chaired the education working group in 2017, and she co-lead the Refresh of the IHRA’s Foundational Recommendations, launched last year in December 2019 at the Luxembourg fall plenary. Previously Jennifer taught high school social studies and workshops for graduate students, so she’s a practitioner who knows what life is like on the ground, what it would mean to implement these recommendations, and she holds degrees in history and English as well as a master’s degree in education.
So Jen, to begin, if you could explain please what is your role within the United States delegation to IHRA, and the role of the Holocaust Museum here in Washington in promoting and advancing the implementation of these recommendations here in the United States?
Ms. Ciardelli: Yeah, thank you, Edna. So I have been on the United States delegation since 2014, and as noted I served on the education working group, and we were just in meetings for about four hours this morning with our colleagues from the 34 member nations, which was great. I spent just over two years co-leading this project to refresh the IHRA recommendations, and I’ll just say one of the exciting things about the IHRA is it’s transnational composition.
So in creating this resource it had input from experts and even diplomats from so many different nations. And so it really is kind of this umbrella resource. And even though we recognize that every individual context is unique, there is no one size fits all for teaching and learning about the Holocaust, the recommendations really provide a great sense of unity and common shared vision across the ocean and across borders on this resource.
It’s been being translated into multiple languages, and you can go to the IHRA website. I think all everybody who’s attending is going to receive a list of links. You can download the recommendations in English. I think there are five additional languages at this point. I think it’ll be translated in up to 23 different languages, which is also a great attribute.
In terms of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we’ve already had the opportunity to promote it in a couple of different conferences, including one for the Association of Holocaust Organizations that happened earlier this year at the museum, as well as a conference for Holocaust education centers. We have it featured on our website, along with our teaching guidelines, and we, I think as the work goes forward in 2021, are going to increasingly be thinking about the ways in which it complements the resources that we’re developing and promoting.
Dr. Friedberg: I’m struck listening to you thinking about the difficulty in achieving some kind of consistency or benchmarks. I know here in the United States, for example, we have no national curriculum. There are not national standards for any subject. It’s not just in the teaching of the Holocaust or the teaching of history, so I’m curious a bit about your process. What is really in these recommendations? How did IHRA go about formulating them?
Ms. Ciardelli: Yeah. So the IHRA is, again, this alliance of diplomats and practitioners to promote education research, remembrance, and education. And so when it launched as the international task force close to 20 years ago, there was a gathering of educator experts who created the original guidelines, again, close to 20 years ago. And so much has changed and evolved in the field that the education working group decided a couple years ago that the time was right to revisit these guidelines and really refresh them.
And we were able to do that being informed by some of the new materials out in the field. One source of information was a research project also conducted by the IHRA in 2017. They gathered research about teaching and learning about the Holocaust in 14 different languages, and so that gave us a real good sense of practice to incorporate.
So the process was a multi-year, and there were numerous iterations of drafting and seeking input from so many different perspectives. We had a teacher focus group. I think there was really a lot of collaboration, which is why I feel quite confident saying it is a nice representation of this transnational perspective about teaching and learning about the Holocaust.
And I’ll just share quickly what’s in it. There is an executive summary. So if you would like just a quick summary and a couple of pages to understand the bulk, you can look there. And then it is divided into three sections, a why to teach section, a what to teach, and a how to teach.
And so the why teach really gets into the question of relevance. And we hear from educators and local school districts, they really need to have a way to articulate why it’s legitimate, why it matters to teach about this history today. You can see on the slide some of the examples. I think there are seven or eight bullets, but noting that this was an unprecedented attempt to murder all European Jews. Thus it fundamentally challenged foundations of human values.
The emphasis of genocide is a process. Thinking about decisions made by individuals, made by nations, made by institutions. So the why section, it really allows educators to think about what is important, what is relevant about teaching.
The what section deals with the content. And again, it is such a massive history. And teachers and educators, they have to make choices. So this section is really helping people to frame the what to teach. And what I love about this section is that it is not simply a list of content and dates. It’s driven by questions. And we know that rich educational environments are inquiry based. They pose questions that require critical thinking and unpacking.
And so these questions are really meant to allow us to think about how and why of the Holocaust. You see four of the key guiding questions. But then those are broken down into multiple questions for inquiry. Again, what were the stages, the historical conditions in key stages in the process of genocide? How did Jews respond to persecution and mass murder? How and why did some people resist? So not just a fact to be memorized but a dynamic to be understood.
And then finally in the how section, this is really where we share practical experience and some research. And I think what I love about good teaching about the Holocaust is that it’s just good teaching. And so you can see the different categories. First and foremost, we wanted it to be positive. This topic can be taught. Don’t be afraid of it.
The importance of creating an environment that’s safe for the learners, that takes into perspective the different points of entry from the people in the room. Thinking about critical thinking, the Holocaust like any event was not inevitable. It was the result of choices made. So how do we unpack and understand that?
Thinking about the importance of resources. Primary sources, photographs, how do educators select from the multitude really quality resources that allow learners to unpack the history? And then also thinking about these connections. How does this body of study relate to human rights education, or genocide prevention education? So these sections are meant to, again, provide a framework. Finally, I will say there is an additional resource page in the book that directs people to quality resources from some international institutions.
Dr. Friedberg: Thank you for orienting us to that, Jen, and I’m really struck especially by the starting point. Why study this history? When we hear the kind of disturbing statistics that Cherrie opened the event with, we understand that not everyone feels that this is necessary history. And the basis cannot only come from a place of emotion, or trying to make people feel sad. That’s not why we study the Holocaust. It has much larger impactful lessons that teach us about human nature, about how societies fall apart, about the structures that help us to consolidate and care for one another.
And so I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and the framework that is there to make it accessible so that educators, whatever the context, won’t feel overwhelmed, but also have that rationale for teaching it. And again, as Jen mentioned, you will receive– all attendees will receive an e-mail that includes links to the recommendations themselves, to their translations into other languages, into the IHRA website and the State Department website.
I’d like to bring Cherrie back into the conversation. She’d set the tone for us. Hi Cherrie. Cherrie Daniels serves as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues in the United States State Department
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. A career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, Cherrie joined the Department of State in 1993. Prior to assuming her duties as special envoy, she served as the Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff in the Office of the Secretary of State.
Political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, and political and economic counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Cherrie also served in the Office of the Vise President as special advisor for Europe and Russia, and as a Pearson Foreign Affairs fellow in the Office of then Senator Joseph Lieberman. Earlier in her career Ms. Daniels served as the Director of the U.S. Embassy’s American Center in Jerusalem. In 2006 she earned the Secretary of State’s Swanee Hunt Award for advancing women’s role in policy formulation in recognition of her work to promote the participation of women as peacemakers in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
Hailing from Richardson, Texas, Cherrie earned a BA from Princeton University and the Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. Clearly a lot of diverse experience. You’ve seen a lot of changes also in the environment in which you’re conducting this work over time. And I’m curious to start, Cherrie, to hear from you what role has the United States government and your office played in the development and promotion of the recommendations? And why are these a priority for you?
Mrs. Daniels: Thanks, Edna. The United States was a founding member of what is now the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, but what was founded in 1998 as the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education Remembrance Research. Used to be called the ITF. So we were in at the ground level there.
And we were also one of the first countries to adopt and endorse the Stockholm Declaration in 2000, which is the founding of the IHRA. The Stockholm Declaration in 2000 called upon the world to remember the terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it, and to preserve the memory of the Holocaust as, quote, “a touchstone in our understanding of the human capacity for evil and for good.”
The founding document was reaffirmed and supplemented, I’m proud to say, in January of this year in Brussels, with the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration, which of course we in all 34 member countries endorsed in January. My position as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues was a position in the State Department that was created in 1999, for a couple of goals, a couple of top key goals.
One is working for a measure of justice for victims of the Holocaust and for their heirs in terms of returning to them the property and assets that were confiscated during the Holocaust period or nationalized during the communist period. The other goal was promoting the opening of Holocaust era archives, something that we can talk about. And, of course, advancing historically accurate Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. And the word historically accurate is very important to us.
My office highlighted the importance of Holocaust education in the Congressionally mandated report that we submitted to Congress in March and released publicly in July, called the Justice
for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act, or the JUST Act Report. We included a section on Holocaust education in all of the 46 country chapters. The report focuses on actions countries have taken to meet the commitments they undertook in another declaration, a different one, the Terezin Declaration of 2009, and that was the basis for the JUST Act.
So in addition to covering restitution and compensation, which was really the focus of Terezin, we also covered all the other aspects that countries undertook in 2009 when they endorsed the Terezin Declaration. One of those included historically accurate Holocaust education and research as well as commemoration. So, I think the report underscored to me, as we went through and cataloged all the countries from as far away as let’s say Argentina to Russia and Ukraine, it underscores that while some countries have done better than others in teaching their citizens about the Holocaust, all of us can do more and do better, and we need to. It’s actually in our national interest, which is why we have this transatlantic theme today.
It’s our responsibility to do more individually and collectively to raise Holocaust awareness and really promote deeper understandings that will affect our future. So, to me, it’s not just about the history. It’s about the future. And that’s why I’m so focused on it.
Dr. Friedberg: And I know that those of us who are working in this field, or who are lay people who just have a deep commitment to this history, we’re very excited by and inspired by the JUST Act. So, thank you very much for the work that your office did to advance that. I’d like to turn back though to the recommendations that were passed last December in Luxembourg. On a practical level, what responsibilities did IHRA member governments take on when they adopted these recommendations? What does it actually mean?
Mrs. Daniels: So as with many of the agreements that are reached within the IHRA context, or International Holocaust Remembrance context, governments undertook a political and moral, rather than a legal obligation when they endorsed these teaching recommendations. Countries basically committed to confront truthfully and accurately the history of the Holocaust.
Speaking for the United States, just as we are really tireless in promoting restitution or compensation for the assets that were stolen from the victims of Nazi persecution, we’re equally tireless in my office in promoting this historically accurate Holocaust remembrance education and commemoration. This includes diplomatic efforts to identify, call out, and combat Holocaust distortions.
On focus I know that the recommendations are quite broad, and Jen did a great job introducing the many concepts raised in there. I would like to point out from United States’ point of view the importance we place on pushing back on attempts to rehabilitate figures who participated directly or indirectly in the crimes of the Holocaust or the genocide of the Roma. So needless to say, this is an important point I think for today’s webinar, that we are stronger when we stand together in this effort to push back on distortion rehabilitation.
The endorsement of the teaching recommendations by all 34 IHRA nations and liaison member of North Macedonia, who added– who became a liaison member in December in Luxembourg,
this international unity really underscore our responsibility to protect the truth about the history of the Holocaust and honor the memory of Holocaust victims. That’s what it represents to me.
Dr. Friedberg: And it’s so important. I think many of us have seen very profoundly disturbing ways, not just rehabilitation of people who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, but just a general distortion, politicization, and exploitation of Holocaust memory and history in service of contemporary agendas today. And that is a place where, as you said, a united front is really, really critical to ensure that that does not happen. Other than activities or in addition to the activities that your office conducts within the framework of IHRA, what else is the Department of State doing to advance Holocaust education, and to combat Holocaust distortion or denial, both here in the U.S. but also abroad?
Mrs. Daniels: So we’ve done a number of things already and have committed to continue those efforts from just from last December in Luxembourg until the present moment, despite the COVID pandemic. We continue our effort really pretty vigorously to disseminate the teaching recommendations as broadly as we can, including to the United States embassies in Europe and throughout the world, and to make them available directly on the State Department’s website. So that’s one aspect of it.
I think that there’s some very practical things that we’ve been doing as well when it comes to advancing Holocaust education or combating distortion and rehabilitation. For example in Lithuania, I’ve expressed my concern since early on in my tenure in 2019 and into the present at any attempt to celebrate as heroes those who were complicit in Lithuania during the Holocaust. Complicit in any way with the crimes committed against the Jews. Those who promoted anti-Semitic laws or anti-Semitic writings and actions.
In Poland we’ve cautioned against attempts to minimize the role that individual Poles might have played in crimes against the Jews before, during, or after the Holocaust. These are the types of things that are very practical that we do with allies directly. Then there’s Russia, which has blatantly politicized and weaponized Holocaust history whenever it suits their own political agenda, something that our Secretary of State and President have been very forceful in combating.
My office, in particular, advocates with governments across the world to establish and maintain fact based museums and memorials that honor the memory of all victims of Nazi persecution. And I can just raise one example that happened during the course of these last– this last year. And that is I was pleased, having been a political counselor in our United States embassy in Belgrade, I was pleased to see that sometime around February or March of this year after much engagement by us and by Israel and by the IHRA as a whole, Serbia adopted legislation to establish and fund a proper Holocaust Memorial Center and Education Center on the site of the persecution of Jews, Roma, and Slavs– Serbs– at the Staro Sajmiste Old Fairgrounds. It was a Nazi killing center, a concentration camp and killing center.
So this law was adopted really just before the pandemic hit and after many years of effort. So having that achievement means something we will follow through to make sure that that Holocaust Center and Memorial that’s built comes to light -that it actually is established.
We’re consulting at the moment with Ukrainian government and non-government officials and other stakeholders in a proposal to build an appropriate Holocaust Education Center also on the grounds of Babyn Yar. There are statues in many places, including at Babyn Yar. There are monuments, et cetera. But to build a Holocaust Memorial Center that can really document for today’s citizens, both in Ukraine and those who visit from abroad, to see truthfully what took place there, and that the really accurately and fully reflects the history of the Babyn Yar tragedy.
So that’s the type of thing. I could go on about other places we’re working to do that sort of thing. Again, it’s Holocaust education in the form of historically accurate museums and memorials. I think that this content is one of IHRA’s tasks that might not be as visible as the rest, and so I’d like to highlight it.
Additionally one thing I wanted to point out is that the United States for this particular year of 2020 until June of 2021, I’m the chair, or the United States is the chair of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service, and of course the ITS, as you can see here, it overseas the Arolsen Archives, which are in Germany in Bad Arolsen. This archive that exists there– the archives, plural, that exist there– it’s an amazing trove of individual records of millions of victims of Nazi persecution, not just the Jewish victims but all the victims of Nazi persecution.
17.5 million people. The records of 17.5 million people are collected there and analyzed and researched there. And more and more are being made to the public online. And this is evidence that the Allies gathered after World War II. The archives are believed to be among the largest in the world, and they retain an important educational role.
So originally it started as a tracing service so people could trace their relatives, what happened to them, where did they end up, what camps, et cetera. What happened to them, which camps they were in, et cetera, if they were in camps and ghettos. But it has now an educational role. It’s like a paper monument. And they basically in the last several years have adopted a digital strategy to put those millions of records more and more online on the Arolsen Archives website. So I call that attention to people as an educational resource.
One program they have, for example I’ll just mention, is a program called Every Name Counts, which gives people an opportunity to really put their hands on the original documents of history, in this case in an electronic form. To put their hands on them, to look at the handwritten notations, and then to crowdsource a way to make sure the names are captured. So that every name counts, and every name is captured from these old handwritten documents.
So these are just a number of ways that we’re trying to promote Holocaust education through education traditionally, which is what we’re doing today, education resources but also through fact-based museums and memorials. And on that note, I would just say, the U.S. government provides financial assistance and financial support for the preservation of important Holocaust related sites, and this year we were pleased to make an additional contribution to the preservation of the Auschwitz– the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Center in Poland– as Germany did as well. So those are the types of things we can do to really promote authentic science, the existence of authentic materials, and people’s access to them.
Dr. Friedberg: Tremendous and it’s tremendously important. I know that my colleagues and I are very honored that the Holocaust Museum in Washington is one of a handful of repositories for the International Tracing Service Archives, and we’ve seen directly through our own work and through the work of visiting scholars the way that the ITS allows us to connect the dots, to place things in context in a way we could not before, or to answer questions about what happened to someone. Even to show survivors documents that have their own signature on it that they had not seen since the war time. Seventy-five years ago they signed something in the camp infirmary, and here we can show it to them.
Taking off my historian hat for a moment, too. I’m the child of a survivor, and it is very, very comforting to me to know that there are people in the State Department, your partners through IHRA, including Ambassador Küchler in the German Foreign Ministry who are remaining vigilant, are making sure that sites of memory are not desecrated or distorted for political aims. That gives me and my family and thousands and thousands of other people great, great comfort. So, thank you for that work.
Cherrie, you, in the JUST Act, in your executive summary of the JUST Act Report to Congress this summer, you briefly described the state of affairs of Holocaust education here in the United States. Are there any concrete measures — and I’m thinking particularly for our international audience — that you’d like to highlight that might be of general interest, and that teachers on the ground here may not be aware of, but could enhance their work?
Mrs. Daniels: Yes. We actually coincidentally were up for our five-year self-report within the IHRA context in December, so as I came on in August we were finalizing our report to the IHRA on what we’ve done and not done, what we could do better and what we’ve accomplished in the last five years in meeting our commitments under IHRA, under the Stockholm Declaration and founding documents. So but I can just say here, as we made clear in the executive summary to the JUST Act Report to Congress, we could do better.
We could do better at Holocaust education as a country. We don’t have, as Jen and you have said, we don’t have a federal mandated curriculum, and therefore it’s up to each of the 50 states to adopt legislation at the State level. So we could do better on that score. IHRA provides, interestingly for us as a government, it provides a forum for self-reflection. So I find that getting together among your peers, people — countries that were Allies, countries that were Axis powers, countries that were neutral, countries that were not involved in the Holocaust. Australia, Argentina, et cetera.
So you have this sense of being among your peers and among some of the best historians and experts and educational experts in combating anti-Semitism, experts in the world. And this multilateral trans-Atlantic context offers a chance to reflect honestly and develop concrete approaches to how to make it better. We don’t just, oh, shame about this, or shame about that. It’s too bad, et cetera, these polls are terrible. Why don’t we have a better understanding of this important, very important critical history about the Holocaust?
So instead we can take those factors that are real in the world, and we try to address them. What can we do concretely? What can we do individually? What can we do as a collective of nations, international partners such as UNESCO or the European Union or Claims Conference? The number of partners.
So I think promoting a deeper understanding within our societies is hard to do, and the United States government of course can’t do that alone. And so we have a variety of partners, many of whom were here on this conference today. I will say, on that note, that the United States took a step forward this year in May, so months after the self-report went to went to IHRA in December.
The President signed into law a bipartisan piece of legislation called the Never Again Education Act. I believe it was around May 29th. It was adopted by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress during the COVID pandemic and signed into law. And so, I think that we can all understand that this is a national security issue for the United States.
Some of the congressional co-sponsors of that act are probably listening with us in the audience today. The legislation does a couple of things which were mentioned briefly already. It directs the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to develop and disseminate additional resources to promote better understanding of the Holocaust in the United States, to promote in the United States that better understanding. It also provides funding of $2 million per year for the next several years to the museum to create and work with domestic organizations to produce these Holocaust education materials that will get disseminated across our nation.
I make this point because during the pandemic, from when it passed the House in January on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, until when it passed the Senate later in the spring until it was signed into law on May 29th, this is a time when we say, this matters for our future. It’s not only about the history, although the history will educate us and guide us. What did we do during the Holocaust? What could we have done to better, all of us as nations, as individuals?
One especially quotable line from the law that’s up on the screen, I’d like to just read. “As intolerance, anti-Semitism and bigotry are promoted by hate groups, Holocaust education provides a context in which to learn about the danger of what can happen when hate goes unchallenged and when there’s indifference in the face of the oppression of others. Learning how and why the Holocaust happened is an important component of the education of citizens of the United States.” This is directly from the legislation, and the legislation actually mentions the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in this context.
So we’ve done something and we have a lot more to do. That’s what I’m here to say. And I think that we’re going to continue this series in this partnership with the many partners that are on the line today, including some of them who are on this panel. So I’m looking forward to hearing their statements as well. Thank you, Dr. Friedberg.
Dr. Friedberg: Well, it absolutely resonates what you’re saying about the Never Again Act. I know that we at the Holocaust Museum were delighted that it passed, not just in terms of funding or what it allows us to do, but for the reinforcement that our mission is critically important even at a time of a global pandemic. And at a time of heightened political polarization in this country that it could have that kind of bipartisan support shows again that this is a core value and a priority for our nation. So we don’t take that responsibility lightly, and we appreciate very, very much your tireless efforts and that of your partners on Capitol Hill in getting it passed.
Mrs. Daniels: And I’ll just mention, there’s very little in the United States Congress that has as much unanimous support as that legislation had. And things related to the Holocaust in general. It’s really bipartisan, understanding the importance of that to our future.
Dr. Friedberg: Absolutely. Absolutely. Let’s broaden our conversation, though, to take on more of this international context. And I’d like to bring Ambassador Küchler back into the conversation. So good afternoon to you. Thank you so much for being here.
Michaela Kuchler: Morning Dr. Friedberg. Thank you very much for having me here, and thank you very much to Ambassador Daniels and the U.S. HMM For having organized this very important event. I’m glad to be here with you and I’m looking forward to interesting discussions.
Dr. Friedberg: A word about your background, for people who may not be familiar with you, and in fact, this is the first time you and I have worked together. So it’s a pleasure to get to know you. Ambassador Michaela Küchler is the special representative for relations with Jewish organizations, Holocaust remembrance, anti-Semitism, and International Affairs related to Sinti and Roma at the Foreign office of the Federal Republic of Germany. She also, as we mentioned at the outset, serves as the chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Ambassador Küchler works on issues such as building cooperation with international organizations like the OSCE, UNESCO, and the European Union, cooperating with countries in the field of combating anti-Semitism, maintaining dialogue with Jewish organizations throughout Germany, the United States, and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as funding projects on remembrance of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. As current President of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Ambassador Küchler’s priority is combating denial, distortion, and relativization of the Holocaust.
So if you — let’s say to start — if you could assess the state of Holocaust education. It’s a very broad question. In the iris of the moment, how would you describe it to someone?
Michaela Kuchler: Well, if you allow, I would start with a personal note, since Ambassador Daniels was mentioning the Arolsen Archives, and since you put off your hat as a USHMM official. The Arolsen Archives were very helpful and very supportive in my search for evidence of my family. My grandfather actually was in Terezin from late 1944 to the liberation on 9th May 1945. And I never found any evidence about it in their reports in the Arolsen Archives. So it was really personally a very strong link I have to these archives.
But coming back to your question. Well, I would state that for many reasons we are at a crossroads in the field of Holocaust education, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that the next generation remembers the Holocaust and remembers the lessons we can take from it. The IHRA encompasses 34 states– from Australia to Canada, the United States to Argentina, from Estonia to Israel– almost every country in Europe is a member also of the IHRA.
Holocaust education in the IHRA space relies on I would say three pillars. Firstly, and most importantly, Holocaust education at schools. The IHRA member countries agreed that Holocaust education is one of the most effective means of making young people aware that they have a responsibility to protect our democracies, our pluralistic societies, minority rights, and human rights. And that is why Holocaust education needs to be compulsory in every IHRA member country. This is a prerequisite before you can join the IHRA.
Why is teaching about the Holocaust so important? Teaching about the Holocaust can inspire societal awareness and personal growth. It provides an opportunity to understand some of the mechanisms that lead to genocide. To understand the choices people make, to accelerate, observe, or resist the process of persecution and murder.
But teaching about the Holocaust has come under pressure under the current conditions of the pandemic. The pandemic has greatly impacted the field of all education, and also of Holocaust education, maybe even more severely. Teachers who are with us today will know what I’m talking about.
On the other hand, teaching in the pandemic has resulted in adding a digital dimension that comes both with challenges and with more opportunities. For example, while visiting memorial sites at the moment is not possible, educators can reach more students from more parts of the world than ever before. This webinar we are having here is a very good example because I’m not sure whether we could have reached so many people at so many different places with a seminar being held in Washington or any other place in the world. So digital remembrance also opens opportunities.
I was talking about three pillars I would say the education about the Holocaust remains on. First one was education at schools. Secondly, Holocaust survivors. Fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors are able to share their testimony with us today. And as this generation sadly passes, the duty of imparting the lessons of the Holocaust must be taken on by others. By teachers in school classrooms, by Holocaust related institutions, by memorials and by museums.
And thirdly and lastly, third pillar, governments and policy makers. They also play a huge role here. Civil society initiatives and the general education of societies rely on their support, and that is one of the reasons why at my posting in the Federal Foreign Office I have the possibility to fund civil society initiatives in the field of Holocaust remembrance, in the field of Holocaust education.
Dr. Friedberg: You’ve mentioned some of the constraints that the pandemic has given in terms of being able to do actual site visits. Given that that is the context in which the IHRA has issued or rolled out these recommendations, how successful have your member countries been able to be in implementation? And are there specific strategies that you would recommend for implementation going forward beyond this pandemic?
Amb. Kuchler: Well, I think despite the pandemic we have been rather successful by– well, the original text was written in and edited in English, and by now we have on the website of the IHRA already six other languages available, which are Croatian, Estonian, German (thanks to
our Austrian colleagues,) Macedonian, Norwegian, and Polish. And I know that there are many others in the pipeline and in the last editing exercises.
Despite many events being canceled because of the pandemic, the IHRA was able to promote and disseminate the recommendations on approximately 88 occasions, reaching an audience of almost 4,000 people, with approximately 115 of these being political representatives, which is quite important. This is under the current conditions I think a phenomenal result thus far, especially considering the difficulties of promoting the recommendations in a digital context.
Something that makes these recommendations so unique, so far, is their functionality. They are made to work with other teaching guidelines and even contain additional resources which hyperlink to other helpful tools. We have encouraged other countries to include this relevant links to their own contexts within their translations as well.
Let me perhaps include a little bit about the situation in Germany. I already said, thanks to our Austrian colleagues we were able to come up with a German translation rather quickly, which has been made by Austria, Germany, and the Swiss speaking– the German speaking Swiss colleagues. In the Federal Republic of Germany, like in the U.S., responsibility for schools and thus for curricular requirements falls within the remit of the 16 länder the 16 federal states.
We have sent the recommendations as Foreign Office to the competent authorities in the federal states. We have also sent them to approximately– we have also sent approximately 2,000 printed copies to individual teachers throughout the whole countries, and we are about to produce another 2,000 copies of the recommendations. We have informed the 100 German schools abroad under the authority of the German Federal Foreign Office, among them also schools in the U.S. about this valuable tool. Doing so, we have reached 80,000 students.
Germany also created a couple of years ago a network of around 2,000 so-called partner schools in many countries worldwide, reaching 500,000 students. They don’t teach in German, but they have — they don’t teach subjects in German except for German language, of course. But they have a special connection to the German language and they teach, for instance, history in Croatian or in Spanish or in French or you name it.
And since the recommendations are available in so many languages, they can use them in their national language, and we have informed them about this possibility, and they were really grateful that we could provide them with such a valuable tool. Next week, I will speak at an event of the ODHIR, the OSCE’s department for human rights, together with UNESCO. And I will also refer to the IHRA recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust.
What strategies do I recommend under the current conditions? I think we will have to resort to virtual promotion. Virtual promotion online allows a larger audience to be reached, and recordings to be reshared, like this event here. I will give you perhaps two examples what has happened. The Association of Jewish Refugees, AJR, in partnership with the United Kingdom delegation to the IHRA, held an online symposium which featured the recommendations and included IHRA delegates discussing teaching and learning about the Holocaust through three panel discussions. These discussions were made available online.
And the AJR, they have also invented a very good tool, I think. They make adherence to the recommendations a prerequisite for educational grants. Another example is Argentina. They promoted the recommendations during a virtual teacher training seminar which reached approximately 500 teachers. Last but not least, I would like to mention again the importance of– to include the political level. That is extremely important, and as an IHRA but also as a German Federal Foreign Office, we encourage the relevant ministries of our member countries to upload the recommendations onto their websites to make them more accessible to educators.
Dr. Friedberg: So one thing that I hear when you’re describing these various efforts is the way that you are activating networks and partnerships. Each of these has a multiplier effect that they validate, they endorse, and they distribute these materials to many, many more teachers and institutions than any one government or any one institution could reach on its own. So.
Amb. Kuchler: Exactly.
Dr. Friedberg: Perfect then. Before we bring the very patient Dr. Pavlovská into our conversation, I’d like to ask you one more question Ambassador Küchler. Not only is Germany currently serving as chair of the IHRA, but concurrently also has the presidency of the European Council. What else is Germany proposing to support Holocaust education and combat distortion and denial while serving in these two important leadership roles?
Amb. Kuchler: Well, I would perhaps like to refer firstly to the European Union. Germany who holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union as from 1st July to 31st of December this year, and yesterday, we assumed also the presidency for six months in the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe. That’s a different organization. It’s based in Strasbourg.
Dr. Friedberg: If I may interrupt you for a minute, because there are a lot of names and some people who are watching may not be familiar. Could you just very briefly explain what’s the distinction between these two? What are their areas of responsibility?
Amb. Kuchler: Yes. The Council of Europe is the older organization compared to the European Union. The Council of Europe encompasses more countries. It includes for instance Russia and the former Soviet Republics like Azerbaijan, Georgia, or Armenia. It is a human rights organization, I would call it. And it does not have the same level of compulsory legislation the European Union has.
It’s more like an — a very rough comparison would be the United Nations at European level. Whereas the European Union is really a legislative body that makes law for the whole space of the European Union with its 27 member states. So in the European Union the most important thing we are doing this semester in the field of Holocaust and anti-Semitism is that we hope we will have a decision by the heads of state and government of the European Union to mainstream the fight against anti-Semitism in all policy areas of the European Union. That is one important step.
The European Union has had a framework decision in the year 2008 condemning Holocaust distortion and Holocaust denial — and asking member states to take action. Not all member states have done so, so far, so we are reminding them of this commitment they took in more than 10 years ago. And we want them to implement this framework decision from 2008.
Holocaust distortion is also a focus of our presidency in the IHRA. We have created a global task force on Holocaust distortion, which will most probably in January publish recommendations for policymakers to confront this issue which I’m very much concerned about. Ambassador Daniels already mentioned the survey done by the Claims Conference.
In the same survey it was shown that approximately half of U.S. millennials and Generation Z have seen Holocaust denial or Holocaust distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online, and that is a very worrying number. So we need to tackle this because — what we need to do is that historical truth gets its place, and not fake news about — or no news about what has happened 75 years — what has ended 75 years ago.
Dr. Friedberg: So it really is also a matter of media literacy. Of people being able to distinguish between what is credible and what is not. And to know that in this space it is hard to distinguish or often to compete.
Amb. Kuchler: Well, that’s what you need Holocaust education for, because you need to know the historical facts.
Dr. Friedberg: Absolutely. Thank you, Ambassador Küchler. I would like now to turn again to the patient Dr. Zuzana Pavlovská who is joining us today from the Czech Republic. Hello Zuzana.
Zuzana Pavlovska: Thank you for the invitation. Thank you.
Dr. Friedberg: A word about your background and expertise. Dr. Pavlovská is head of the Department for Education and Culture of the Jewish Museum in Prague. She is the current chair of IHRA’s education working group, the body responsible for establishing IHRA’s Holocaust education and outreach strategy, including monitoring the implementation of the recommendations we’re discussing today among the multilateral body’s 34 member countries. Dr. Pavlovská is a member of the Czech Republic’s delegation to IHRA and has lectured on Jewish studies and modern Hebrew at the Johannesburg Holocaust Genocide Center in South Africa and its branches in Durban and Cape Town, and with Beit Terezin in Israel.
Dr. Pavlovská studied at Charles University in Prague as well as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. So we are very glad to have you here and to speak to us about this specific context, but also as a practitioner. Someone who looks at the field as a whole, but also is actually trying to see how these things work and what effect they can have. So in your experience, so far both what you’ve done and what you’ve observed, what has been the experience, the rollout in the Czech Republic in its attempts to employ and implement these new recommendations?
Dr. Pavlovska: So I think many things were already said, but I would like to say that it’s a little bit different situation in Czech Republic because we are pretty small country. So we have kind of national narrative, how to teach, and what we would like the students will get. So we have the national curriculum. So it means that when the recommendations were actually publishing in Luxembourg, we discuss it with the Minister of Education, how we would like to implement these new recommendations to the teachers. How we would like to introduce them.
And the thing is that we already use — the teachers here, and also the educators and the people that are working in the Ministry, they were familiar with the old recommendations. What Jennifer was also mentioning. So we discussed that we would like to have several seminars in each part of the country to introduce the new recommendations and make some kind of workshops with the teachers, how they can use this new material.
Because it’s very well done, I think it’s a big success. And I think how it is divided by how and what to teach, it’s such a good thing for the students and the teacher, kind of like a thing about the topic.
But unfortunately, the pandemic COVID-19, turn everything to different level. So we were not able to organize the real seminars. So we are trying to make a lot of online seminars to introduce the highlights from the recommendations. And also we tried to ask the teachers, which was not so easy, to think about how they can actually use these new recommendations in their classrooms.
And if they can try to use them a little bit also online, because I had a little bit problem is the online teaching in the way of the Holocaust subject, because I think it’s very sensitive. And I’m glad always to have the feedback from the students, because it’s very hard, especially if you’re in the country which was very much involved. And we have a lot of survivors and the country was pretty much damaged by the Shoah, and also the past that we were not allowed to study about the Holocaust. It’s such a sensitive for us.
It’s not so easy to do it online if you don’t have the feedback, and you don’t know how the students would react. Especially if they are in the age from 12 to 15. So we have to be very careful and really step by step to think how we would like to share this history. It’s very important. I always say also never again. I also like the sentence that actually Yehuda Bauer said when we had the meeting few hours ago, that the Holocaust was kind of like a European project. And it didn’t happen just suddenly.
And because I’m from the country, which I said was very much influence, and I also am someone who lived partly in the communist time and I know that we were not able to study about this topic, which is different from different countries. They were democratic. And I knew, just from my family, I always trying to be a little bit aware how I would like to teach about this topic. So I’m glad that we have recommendations, because we can use them as a big support. But still this pandemic plays an important and big role that we have to think that we will have to change a little bit the narrative if we are not able to be together with the pupils and students in the room and in the class.
Dr. Friedberg: You’ve articulated very powerfully how much specific context matters. That the local history, both during the war time and subsequently the way that subsequent generations have been taught or not taught or discussed or not discussed the history has a profound impact on the way that it can be taught today. Or the myths sometimes, the mythologies, the hopes, the aspirations are always different depending on that that local sense.
But in your role as chair of the IHRA’s Education Working Group, you have a view much broader than that. You see far beyond the Czech Republic. What practical impact have you seen these recommendations have so far in classrooms, even if they are virtual? And wherever else Holocaust educators may be carrying on their work, in museums, sites of memory, religious settings?
Dr. Pavlovska: I think I’m still have the feeling that it’s such a big success what was done in EWG, in IHRA, in the Education of Working Group. Because for me, it’s amazing to see that dozens of educators and experts and historians were able to agree on this material. And now, through them, through the members of the IHRA, actually, we can really see the countries all around us that are using these recommendations.
And because I said that we should have this day also the first meeting of IHRA, we discuss a lot the recommendations in the way of the future of them. So we would like to really keep it as a living document. It’s here, but we would like to still continue to work and try to create all kinds of different drafts and materials that the countries that adopted this recommendation would be able to use them also in the future. So this is something which is very good for me to see that we were really able to agree among so many countries, the member countries of IHRA.
Dr. Friedberg: Do you have any case studies or examples that you could give about how either experiences in the Czech Republic or any other specific IHRA member states experience with these recommendations, may provide a model or a lesson to others?
Dr. Pavlovska: Could I share today a lot of feedback how the recommendations are used special in this time? So I know that many countries organized a lot of seminars and they use them as a key material for teaching about the Holocaust. And other thing thing is that it’s great that many of the countries already have their own translation, so they can actually share it and more than before. I have to say the Czech Republic, it’s a little bit — it’s not complicated, but I have to say that we don’t have the translation yet.
But it will appear on the 5th of December, so I hope we will be another country which will be actually on the website of IHRA. I know that many of the countries really made a lot of seminars online how do you use the recommendations, and they get the feedback from the teachers. So I think this is a big success.
Dr. Friedberg: Great. Well, I want to remind people who are watching, you will receive a follow up e-mail with links to these various translations and other resources that are available through IHRA through the State Department as well. And I’m struck thinking not just about the practical application of these, but the fact that when you have a unified body of dozens and dozens of countries making it as an agreement together, it sends a statement about values. About
values and importance, and the fact that this is a shared priority across many continents also in itself is a powerful, powerful statement.
Dr. Pavlovska: It was not easy, actually. Because there are countries which were really involved in World War II. They were countries that have really a lot of victims. There are countries that are not actually touched by that.
And all the experts had to agree that we will actually work together, and we will have the document here. That’s why there’s a lot of discussions also that, if you will see the recommendations and you will read them, you will not find a local actual history. Because we can’t at all do local history, which was among the countries.
But there is something that you can use, and you can add the local history. You can actually use the stories of the survivors from your country. And I think, with these great and new recommendations, what I’m seeing that’s important, especially when you are teaching them about the Holocaust, about the Shoah, that now we are putting a lot of effort to tell the story in the whole perspective.
I knew from my own perspective that, usually, when I started to study after 1989, we got a lot of horrible pictures. See the things and without any connections. So you saw the horrible pictures, and then I went home, and I was really discussing this with my family.
And now there’s a lot of effort to put the pre-war. How was the life before, the life during the World War II, and how was the life after? Because I had a lot of lectures about the return. Because especially in my country the return was not welcome.
And it’s another part of the history which is very important to say. Because it’s as much as 1939, 1945. But there’s a life before and a life after.
And it’s something that we have to put it in context that people will see the person not just a victim, but as someone with a normal life. And then, after the liberation, some of them were lucky and they had another normal life, but some of them no. Something which is also mentioned in recommendations, and there’s a lot of effort to think about the emotional way of the victims, which is really such an important for me, because it’s a big change from the education which I’m seeing in my country from 1990 until today.
Dr. Friedberg: Absolutely. And to remind people that before history is what we call history, it is simply someone’s life. It is their experience, it is their personal experience, and that the life they had up to that point completely shapes the way that they react when facing an extraordinary and devastating event. So.
Dr. Pavlovska: Exactly.
Dr. Friedberg: We have a quite a lot of questions from the audience. So I actually would like to invite everyone back in, our panelists. As though you’ve gone anywhere. But so that we could begin to entertain some of these questions from the audience. The first question really is an
American one. So I think perhaps to begin with Jen, and then Cherrie. We have a couple of questions that we’ll consolidate regarding the state of Holocaust education in the United States.
People are asking how many states have mandatory Holocaust education, and also what can we do to encourage more states to get going on including Holocaust education as a core part of curriculum at the high school, secondary level? Do you want to try that first, Jen?
Ms. Ciardelli: Yeah, thank you. Depending on how you look at the mandate, there are 14 or 16 states that have mandates. And I think what we’ve noticed, it’s already been referenced, there is no federal education system in the United States. It is all local. And I think the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has always reaffirmed how important it is to work with local and state school districts and actors and administrators in terms of creating a structure that supports education.
I think mandates are great. A challenge comes if those mandates don’t have any financial support, if those mandates don’t have community support, if it’s a top down only, it won’t work. So I think if the museum, again, really thinking about how we create a standard of excellence that folks can look to as a guide in implementing this education, whether there is a mandate or not. Identifying, training and supporting educators who can be leaders in their communities on quality teaching about the Holocaust. Those ambassadors exist, and they just need the support to foster their capacity to reach students, to engage with their colleagues in this teaching.
The importance in terms of creating reliable and accurate resources, it’s been mentioned in a number of times the importance of historical accuracy. Having fact-based resources, having sources that people can trust. We know in this social media environment people are exposed to so much misinformation, and so many of our young people and adults, right, are encountering images of the Holocaust in so many different venues. So making sure there are reliable resources is something that it needs to happen in order to help.
And again, just building those partnerships and relationships. This is — and I think here we’ve got this transatlantic conversation, right? It’s happening. Where do you — in Zuzana and I this morning in conversations with our colleagues from different countries. But that holds too for the United States. It’s not just a national endeavor. It happens in local towns, in local cities. At state level. And so really creating venues for those conversations I think are really important ways to strengthen educational efforts.
Dr. Friedberg: And Cherrie, there’s a related question. A viewer is asking if you could please speak a bit more about the Never Again Education Act. How it’s being administered and where educators can find resources for their local communities and schools?
Mrs. Daniels: Thanks for that. I can say that at the very ending slide for today’s program, there’s going to be sort of a screenshot of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues website on State.gov. But really, in the invitation, even for today’s conference, we put a link directly to the educational resources on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website, and those USHMM resources, which are free and open and available to the public, include embedded in there a link to the IHRA teaching recommendations. Sort of a one stop shop.
of Never Again Education Act, I think Jen was correct in saying that each state has to really take it upon itself in adopting these mandates and in building community support. That’s where I think the people attending today’s seminar or webinar play a very vital role. I know there are people in Congress who are looking at other ways to advance Holocaust education in the United States. But really, it’s a state by state effort, and as was made clear in Ambassador Küchler’s remarks, it’s similar in Germany with the 16 federal states.
So for those of us who don’t have what Zuzana has, a federal national education mandate, we have to try a little harder and at the local level. And so I think creating these partnerships we’re going to be speaking — I’m going to be speaking and linking up many of the people here with universities and high school educators. That’s going to be the next seminar in February. So we are going to have an educators’ forum. And so we can address that more deeply then, and maybe get the people who were involved in the Never Again Education Act in the United States to speak to those educators. We’ll see if we can make that happen.
Dr. Friedberg: And audience members, we’ve posted a couple of these links in the chat here, live in the Zoom. I see they are there. So you could click on them directly or again look for a follow up e-mail in which we will consolidate many, many of these materials.
Mrs. Daniels: And I would just say, on that point, people can Google the Never Again Education Act and pull up the actual text. It’s crisply written and something that I think even state by state, people could find language in there in their own state or municipality to adopt legislation at the local and state level. I can’t lobby people who can do whatever they want. So I don’t have a domestic mandate. But I’m just saying, there’s really good language in there that people can look at.
Dr. Friedberg: Ambassador Küchler, there’s a question for you asking about measurements of success. What metrics will the IHRA use in order to determine whether the recommendations are achieving their intended goals?
Amb. Kuchler: Well, first of all, let me underline that the recommendations are recommendations. They are not a legally binding instrument. But of course through the promotion which we are doing we would try to reach as many education authorities as possible. And also outside the official educational system, civil society organization, which like to teach about the Holocaust.
Well, if you would force me to say a number, I would say that if we could reach about a level of about 20% to 30% of schools throughout the IHRA membership, it would be already a success, because we all know to set up curricula is a very difficult task. Administrations are not too keen to change them every two or three years. In federal states like Germany we have a special commission who works with the 16 länder, with the 16 federal states, who coordinates efforts to do curricula.
But it’s also good that the recommendations are just that. Recommendations. Because individual teachers, when they start knowing about them, they can use them in their lessons as one tool out of several tools which are at hand, and they can be secure that this is a tool that has been revised
by international experts, and since so many schools today — at least in my country, but also in other countries — have international students from work from various countries of the world, this international aspect in the recommendations will help to make them adopted by many individual teachers, I would say.
Dr. Friedberg: There’s actually a related question I think, which is either for you, Ambassador Küchler, or perhaps for Zuzana as chair of the Education Working Group. Someone wants to know whether IHRA is willing to support or has considered the development of a common standard for measuring Holocaust awareness. So not just about these recommendations, but a way I think maybe they’re asking about if there is a kind of baseline of knowledge that would be hoped for. Thoughts on that?
Amb. Kuchler: Well, I think it’s an interesting thought. And I would take it with me and we will consider together with the experts, because it’s the experts who run the IHRA. And I think it should be reviewed by the experts whether and how this could be brought forward as a thought. I can understand the idea behind it because we see that the level of young people who know what the Holocaust is is declining, and it would make sense to define Holocaust awareness tool. Yes.
Dr. Friedberg: Yes, Zuzana?
Dr. Pavlovska: [INAUDIBLE]. I will take it also with me to the next session of EWG. Because we can just think about it, because it’s a good idea. And I think I will mention it also. And then maybe there will be another next panel, then we will have much more answers for you.
Mrs. Daniels: And I’m just going to jump in, even though the question isn’t really in my lane, but to mention one thing that I think is important outside the IHRA space. There’s an entire other body that has an international approach the Memory Responsibility and Future Foundation in Germany created by a bilateral agreement, which now has reached its 20-year anniversary. And the German government this year, just a month ago perhaps, announced a very steep increase in Holocaust education funding through the EVZ Memory Responsibility and Future Foundation. So just wanted to get that in there because I also know some people from EVZ are on the program today. Thanks.
Dr. Friedberg: A different type of question for you, Zuzana, but one really about doing this work in the field. How do you get through to those whose minds may already have been influenced by a Holocaust denier or minimalization?
Dr. Pavlovska: Holocaust denial, like it’s mentioned in my country, or like it’s?
Dr. Friedberg: I think maybe it might be more productive to focus on the minimization. Basically if you come– if you come to educate a group or some others that you work with are dealing with people who are filled with things that are not true, or perhaps some hostility, and actually let me see. There is even another question if I can combine it a bit. Give me a moment because I am scrolling through a lot of questions.
Someone had asked about what to do when you are working especially with adolescents or students from marginalized groups, and where they may already have formed prejudices about this topic. What are some avenues in to help them to be receptive to learning about the Holocaust?
Dr. Pavlovska: It’s actually a very hard question and a very hard answer, because like from my experience it happened just twice when I taught. And one, it happened also when we had a survivor, which was years ago. And I think it’s pretty hard to talk with someone who has this prejudice, but with someone who is denying what was happening.
Because especially if you can just say that we have a lot of sides which are connected to this story, like Michaela was mentioning– [INAUDIBLE], we have a lot of survivors. We have like a lot of oral history in our Jewish Museum, and stories that we can use. But still we can see the increase of anti-Semitism, in the new way in this time. When something is happening, it always goes back to the Jews, even the community here, it’s such a small one.
So the thing is that I think it’s really hard to discuss with someone who had these prejudices and who is denying something like that, because there’s no discussion. You will — I have the feeling that you will not win if you both start to explain that this is not true. So, we are trying to — what we are [INAUDIBLE] now– and I think it’s all around the country that you have the students that are studying in the high school, and you have the students that are studying all the professions.
And we are trying to focus on the students they are studying all kinds of professions. That could be auto mechanic or whatever, because there’s a sense that these children are much more influenced by the news from the TV and all the documents they can just reach on the internet. So we are trying to prevent this. And we are doing all kind of the seminars to discuss with them this topic to introduce them to the right websites, to introduce them sometimes– how come there are still, in 2020, there are people that are denying what was happening 75 years ago?
But from my own experience when I met someone who was denying, it was very hard to start to explain that it wasn’t. And the discussion was very hard, because if somebody is coming with this prejudice, or all kind of prejudice about the Jews, and I know we all know how prejudice can be, it’s very hard to have the discussion and to say it’s not true, it didn’t happen. It was the person is somehow coming with this idea. But we are trying to promote it through our seminars and workshops.
Dr. Friedberg: Jen, I think you wanted to add into that?
Ms. Ciardelli: Well, I was just going to add, I agree. It’s very complicated. And I think the most powerful thing we can do is to create a space for conversation and discussion. Sometimes the denial or distortion is based in misinformation, sometimes because of national narratives, sometimes because of community or personal narratives. So creating a space that I think invites people into a conversation that also showcases maybe unexpected aspects of the history, different points of view.
If you’re in an international level thinking about different rescuers in different countries, and maybe it’s a narrative that people didn’t know about. I’m thinking of an Albanian Muslim who helped to save a Jewish family. But I think creating a space for dialogue and presenting in unexpected places, I’m thinking of the museum’s initiative on Instagram, and its Instagram stories. A recent story was on symbols of hate. So trying to interject in some of those places where there is misinformation some accurate information that people can encounter on their own terms and explore on their own terms. I think those are some ways that we can help chip away at what is a big challenge.
Dr. Friedberg: We only have time for a couple of other questions. One is actually an offer of help from someone who is watching from Croatia named Milyenko Hidarovit, saying, “We are working on the production right now of a new history textbook in Croatia. It will go in front of the Ministry of Education approval board in January. Are you interested in seeing how we have implemented the new IHRA recommendations in our new textbook?”
Dr. Pavlovska: Sure.
Dr. Friedberg: I assume that the answer would be yes, so Mr. Hidarovit, we will follow up with you because that would be great to see as a practical application. I think we have time for one more audience question, and it’s from a longtime Holocaust educator who has a comment and then a question about the formulation of the recommendation, saying, I have always found it necessary to touch upon the sensitive subject of how religion played a critical role in the Holocaust, I think both in the implementation of the Holocaust and awareness of it after. Did you include any clergy in preparing the recommendations to discuss this subject as well? I think that’s probably for Jen or Zuzana. Maybe Ambassador Küchler.
Ms. Ciardelli: I don’t know. I’m actually wondering in our IHRA delegation. I think we have a couple of representatives who have a religious persuasion. We did not actively seek that perspective, but I think it may have been a component within the expertise of the IHRA.
Dr. Friedberg: OK. Well. Another thing to take back to the working group to think about as a way to enhance and deepen the framing, but also the reach of these materials, I think. In closing I do want to mention that this is the first of a series of seminars. Early in 2021 the State Department, with support from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, is developing a second webinar, which will be aimed at practitioners, specifically at high school teachers, teachers at the secondary level, and I believe also at the college level. So please watch for that. You’re seeing it online now as a slide.
I also want to have you keep your eyes open for an e-mail that we’ll follow up from this with the various links to the resources, as well as a link to a recording of this webinar so that you will be able to share it with colleagues or friends who perhaps were not able to join us for today. But in the meantime, I would like to thank all of our participants very, very much for joining us today, and to our panelists for the work that you do day in and day out in service of Holocaust memory and education. So thank you so much for being here.
Amb. Kuchler: Thank you.
Dr. Pavlovska: Thank you.
Dr. Friedberg: Good health, good luck, and again, please watch for the IHRA Museum and State Department websites in the e-mail that will follow. Have a great day.