Discover the Past for the Future: A study on the role of historical sites and museums in Holocaust education and human rights education in the EU

At a Ministerial Conference held in Auschwitz from 26-28 January, the FRA released the findings of the first ever EU-wide study on the role of historical sites and museums in teaching about the Holocaust and human rights.

In 2009, the FRA conducted the first ever EU-wide study of the role that European memorial sites, museums and exhibitions play with respect to educating young Europeans about the Holocaust and about human rights. The findings are contained in the report: "Discover the Past for the Future: A study on the role of historical sites and museums in Holocaust education and human rights education in the EU." On the eve of the 2010 International Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Holocaust, the report revealed that at historical sites and in schools across the EU, teaching about the Holocaust rarely includes discussion of related human rights issues.  Teachers and guides are considered to be key to ensuring interest in the subject, yet there is a lack of human rights training on behalf of both groups. Based on the findings of its study, the FRA encourages national governments to better integrate human rights education into their school curricula to reflect the significance of human rights for both the history and the future of the EU.The findings of the study show that linking education about the Holocaust and education about human rights represents a great challenge not only to memorial site staff, but also to teachers in schools. Establishing a link between the two fields is vital given that knowledge of and reflection on the past can feed into discussion of the challenges faced by contemporary society. Both memorial sites and schools do not yet realise their full potential in this regard.

The study was conducted by the Living History Forum in Sweden, with the assistance of academics and practitioners from memorial sites, museums and universities. The study also involved an examination of the literature on Holocaust education and human rights education at commemoration sites and museums, a survey of ministries in all EU Member States, a survey of 22 Holocaust-related sites and historical museums, focus group discussions with teachers and students in 9 EU Member States (United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Lithuania), on-site research at 14 memorial sites and historical museums and interviews with pedagogical experts and curators of said sites.

Key findings of the study pointed to the continued significance of memorial sites and historical museums in the 21st century as transmitters of moral values and historical facts. Memorial sites were shown to offer a unique learning experience for students; in particular, the findings of the survey showed that the authenticity of memorial sites had two key effects upon the students. On the one hand, it created an atmosphere of emotional attachment that triggered reflection, and encouraged visitors to seek to learn more. On the other, however, emotional experience and expectations regarding specific rules of behaviour at memorial sites had occasionally made students insecure and blocked communication as well as reflection.

Read the Focus Report here.

Read the Main Results Report here.