“If, What and How Do We Learn from History?”

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Jun 28, 2012
by Louise Hallman
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“If, What and How Do We Learn from History?”

Learning from the Past: Global Perspectives on Holocaust Education Participants are representing 20 countries at the session entitled "Learning from the Past: Global Perspectives on Holocaust Education"

The second Salzburg Global Seminar symposium on Holocaust Education launched on Thursday, June 28 at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, bringing together 29 experts from across the globe, all working in the field of genocide research, documentation and education.

Speaking at the opening session, session chair Klaus Mueller, an international consultant for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, highlighted the twin challenges to be addressed during the three-day symposium – teaching about the Holocaust and learning from the Holocaust – and the need to recognize and appropriately treat the difference between these two aspects of Holocaust and genocide education.

The session follows on from the 2010 session ‘The Global Prevention of Genocide: Learning from the Holocaust’.

“The Holocaust was genocide, but no other genocide has been a holocaust,” said Mueller.

However, whilst acknowledging that, Mueller was quick to point out that there would be no attempt to place genocides and their victims in any form of hierarchy.

Instead, the focus of the symposium will be to learn about other genocides – how the atrocities were committed, and learn from other genocide – what actions were taken to stop them, as well as examining the role of the Holocaust as a reference point for educators around the world who teach about human rights and other genocides.

In particular, this symposium will focus on the work that is currently being undertaken by educators in countries that are not members of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF).

Mueller’s own research specialism is the persecution of homosexuals during Nazi rule, and although the session title primarily focuses on the Holocaust – namely the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe – participants of the session have research and first-hand experience of a wide range of other genocides, from Rwanda and former Yugoslavia to Armenia and Cambodia, amongst others.

“How can we move from reaction to prevention?” asked Mueller, a key question for the session’s participants.

Highlighting the attempts to prevent genocide through international declarations and conventions, and the formation of national and international government task forces to assess the potential risk of future genocide, Mueller also asked the gathered audience of experts: “Where do we stand with education as a form of prevention?”

Recognizing that much of the work previously conducted by the Seminar in the field of Holocaust education had focused almost exclusively on the European and North American context, Mueller stressed the importance of the global aspect of this week’s symposium.

“Our conversation is of value in itself,” he said.

Discussions over the three days will cover the successes and challenges in developing Holocaust and human rights education programs, particularly in post-conflict societies, with case studies from Turkey and an excursion to the Documentation Center in Obersalzberg.

Participants will not only assess current approaches, pedagogies, and methodologies for connecting education about the Holocaust, other genocides, and human rights, but also hope to produce new teaching materials that will aid in the future education on such matters.

The session has been funded the Austrian Future Fund and the National Fund of the Republic of Austria, in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Austrian Foreign Ministry.