Holocaust Education - Expanding Global Networks

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Jun 23, 2014
by Tanya Yilmaz
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Holocaust Education - Expanding Global Networks

Third Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention symposium opens in Salzburg Fellows from three continents discuss the why and how of Holocaust education whilst in working groups at the session

The third symposium in the Salzburg Global Seminar-United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series launched Saturday, June 21 gathering 48 experts from 30 countries, all working in the profession of Holocaust documentation and remembrance, genocide research and education. 

Opening the first session, the Chair of the Initiative, Klaus Mueller, the European Representative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC, outlined the framing of the five-day symposium, looking at how and why the Holocaust - which was largely a European-based event - has become a global reference for many discussions in the 21st century. 

This session, entitled “Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experience Across Borders follows on from the 2012 session entitled, “Learning from the Past: Global Perspectives on Holocaust Education”.  

Much of the work so far conducted in the field of Holocaust education, Mueller outlined, has invariably focused on the members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which are predominantly based in Europe and North America or have large Jewish populations. Since 2010, Salzburg Global and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have sought to expand this network of Holocaust educators by their joint initiative.  It is to this end that this third symposium features session discussions from countries such as Australia, Rwanda, China, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Senegal, South Africa or Cambodia, as well as on the discussion of the Holocaust within the Arab world, helping to create global contexts for the teaching of the Holocaust and other genocides. 

Mueller started proceedings by highlighting how the Holocaust increasingly has become a global frame of reference for contemporary genocide, ethnic conflict and human rights violations, and asked the gathered audience of experts, “What is the relevance of Holocaust education in places where the Holocaust did not occur - and does its study help to understand contemporary genocide and serve as a tool for developing prevention strategies?”

Emphasizing that “much of the debate over the last decade has investigated whether, and how, we can move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention,” Mueller reminded participants that both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention were adopted in 1948 linking the Holocaust, history and human rights.” He stated that a global conversation on Holocaust and genocide denial and distortion urgently needed to be addressed in this year’s session, and asked participants to help gather country-specific data and case studies on such incidents, as well as generally expanding the joint-Salzburg Global-USHMM collection of country reports on Holocaust education (now available online: holocaust.salzburgglobal.org).  

Salzburg Global Senior Program Advisor, Edward Mortimer, was also eager to emphasize how lessons from the Holocaust and other genocides can serve as an educational framework to scholars, researchers, museum directors, public officials and others working in the field, especially in countries outside of the IHRA.  

Representing the IHRA at the Salzburg symposium, Sir Andrew Burns, currently serving as Chair of IHRA, spoke in the opening session about the cultural heritage of the Holocaust for many European countries. “We continue to study and teach about the Holocaust and other genocides because its history came out of the well-springs of European society,” said Burns.  

In the wake of economic and political instability, much of Europe is seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric; it is imperative that Europe learns from its past so that potential future atrocities can be avoided. Governments have a responsibility to honestly assess their society’s attitudes and stop racist rhetoric before it unfolds into violence, argued Burns. 

Gerhard Baumgartner, Scientific Director at the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance also spoke to the visiting participants about how Austria only started to recognize and confront its role in World War Two and the Holocaust in the 1970s and said, “Austria is now very dedicated today to the teaching of Holocaust and discussing its methodologies.” 

The five-day symposium is being held at Schloss Leopoldskron, home of Salzburg Global Seminar. As an Austrian palace built by a Protestant-expelling Catholic Prince-Archbishop and once owned by the exiled Jewish theater director Max Reinhardt before being seized by the local Nazi party, Schloss Leopoldskron also serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when intolerance, ignorance and inaction abound.  


The session "Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders" was developed in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with support from the Austrian Future Fund, the Austrian National Fund, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the Pratt Foundation. The session was the third symposium in the joint Salzburg Global-USHMM Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention. For more information and updates from the session, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/535 and on Twitter with the hashtag #SGShol