“The lessons of the Holocaust hold universal meaning, but they must speak to our current situation if they are to have an impact,” said IHRA Chair Michaela Küchler in her welcoming remarks. The Lesson: Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust in Europe, a documentary screening and panel discussion organized by the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) and the IHRA, was held on 26 March 2021.
The documentary The Lesson follows director Elena Horn, who returns to her small hometown to follow four children as they experience Holocaust education in the public school system in rural Germany. Filmed over five years, the film is a window into deeply rooted social and political attitudes in Germany amidst the resurgence of the far-right, xenophobia and a fractured, disparate collective memory of the nation’s history.
Following the screening of the film, moderator Clara Ramírez Barat, Director of the Warren Educational Policies Program at the Auschwitz Institute, lead a panel discussion. Director Elena Horn spoke about her motivations, and the techniques they used to capture the authentic discussions featured in the film.
Andrea Szonyi, a member of the Hungarian delegation to the IHRA, Director of the Zachor Foundation and Head of Programs for International Education at the USC Shoah Foundation, pointed out that the Holocaust cannot be taught like other subjects. “It’s not like any other chapter in history,” she said, and that is why it is so important not only to teach students, but to engage them. When discussing the development of the IHRA Recommendations on Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust, she stressed that the development of empathy is key for creating the potential for action.
“The nursery of catastrophe is in the slow progression of a change of mindset,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, President of the IPI and former UN Human Rights Chief, speaking on the importance of developing a sense of moral responsibility in Holocaust education. “If this doesn’t produce a strong determination to stand up, to make sure that we never see anything like this again, if it doesn’t foster moral courage, what is it for?”