“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
On 9 January 2017, the IHRA held the first-ever seminar focused on teaching and learning about the Holocaust and related issues in El Salvador, an IHRA Observer Country.
The seminar aimed to engage El Salvadorian educators (primarily teachers in the middle – secondary school level) in a standardized and localized professional development program that contributes to building a national network on how to teach and learn about the Holocaust. 50 educators from across the country attended, some of whom had travelled 3 hours to attend the seminar. Mrs. Frieda C. de García, the granddaughter of the El Salvadorian diplomat José Arturo Castellanos, recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations, stayed during the whole seminar.
The seminar was organised by IHRA's Professional Development Outreach committee, supported by Dr. Carrie A. Olson (program coordinator who facilitated the seminar in Spanish), together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education of El Salvador. The IHRA Chair, Ambassador Constantinescu, addressed participants in a written address.
Speaking at the opening of the event, the Minister of Education said: "The issue of Holocaust education poses a challenge to the world's educational systems, since it is not simply a question of approaching the Holocaust in isolation, simplistically or disconnected from our own problems and our own historical processes. Neither is it a question of reducing the teaching of the Holocaust, genocide or human rights violations to mere content to be covered, information that we must convey. The big question is what we form when we approach these issues."
Drawing on IHRA's educational guidelines, the seminar aimed to teach educators about the Holocaust, why it is important, and how to teach about the topic. Essentially, the seminar was designed to continue the training with teachers before and after the one-day workshop on 9 January to ensure long-lasting support for educators, for example with the use of webinars and by utilising Schoology - a platform where educators can obtain teaching and learning resources and exchange ideas with colleagues on implementation.
Reflecting on the seminar, Jennifer Ciardelli - a member of the IHRA Professional Development Committee - said "participants were passionate, involved and asked thoughtful questions throughout the day. We look forward to hearing about participants' experiences of building concrete activities on teaching about the Holocaust into their classroom work."
The IHRA chose to hold the seminar in El Salvador to support the country in fulfilling the educational ideals expressed in the Stockholm Declaration and to enhance the communication between local agents and the IHRA on the topic of Holocaust education and remembrance. The IHRA is specifically cooperating closely with the UNESCO Latin American Network to ensure that this seminar is part of a broader regional effort. UNESCO is one of IHRA's seven permanent international partner organizations.
Three webinars will be held before May 2017 to further the teachers' learning and an addiitonal in-person meeting will be held in June 2017 to allow participants to reflect on what they have learned.
Images: Luis Paredes/International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance