Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program on the BBC World Service

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Jun 04, 2018
by Bethany Bell, BBC World News
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Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program on the BBC World Service

Could lessons from the Holocaust help people overcome the divisions created by modern day extremism? Students of the Change Makers Program in Johannesburg celebrate their graduation

On November 19, 2017, the BBC World Service featured Salzburg Global Fellows, Albert Lichtblau, Tali Nates and Freddy Mutanguha, and Salzburg Global Program Director Charles Ehrlich as they discussed with BBC Foreign Correspondent Bethany Bell the importance of teaching about the Holocaust in order to prevent future extremism.

Presenter: The rise in violent extremism is one of the most troubling phenomena facing governments and communities in recent times but what actually works to prevent it? Well, this week Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria has brought together people from 20 different countries, including Rwanda, South Africa and Bangladesh, who are working to try and promote peace in troubled regions. The seminar asks how tools developed for educating people about the Holocaust can help counter extremism in societies today, as Bethany Bell now reports from Salzburg.

Lichtblau: “Adolf Hitler was from Austria. He was born here. He grew up here and he moved to Bavaria then…”

Bell: An unusual tour of Salzburg by the Austrian historian Albert Lichtblau. Rather than focusing on the city’s famous citizens like Mozart, this tour is about its Nazi history and the way the city remembers or tries not to remember its past.

But this isn’t just a history lesson. The people on the tour are part of a group which is trying to find ways countering extremism today. Charles Ehrlich is from Salzburg Global Seminar.

Ehrlich: The people who are here make a mix of activists, government officials, museum directors, civil society from countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. They all have their own national tragedies or difficult atrocities or difficult histories that they need to come to grips with. And Holocaust education is so well developed that it has a set of tools that they can actually adapt to their own societies to be able to help them address their own problems in a way that both memorializes the past in a dignified way and remembers the victims of the atrocities, but also allows them to heal and move into the future.

Bell: One of the projects to emerge from the group is the Change Makers Leadership Program, which aims to help high school students from South Africa and Rwanda counter extremism by confronting past atrocities. One of its leaders is Tali Nates from the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Center.

Nates: Our idea was to take three case studies: The Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and the apartheid in South Africa. But to add to that, issues of resilience and empathy and the kids, they would be treated as leaders.

One of the most important components was to look at individual stories and the choices people made in those times. So not only talking about the perpetrators and victims but also bystanders, also rescuers, upstanders, in the case of Rwanda, the international community: where was the world? So really looking deeply into human behaving those times and choices the people – individuals and groups – made. And the feeling was with the kids was that “now we are empowered.”

One of the students said, “the program allowed me to understand my power that I am an upstander. I can stand up and speak up.”

Bell: Tali Nates, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, works closely with Freddy Mutanguha, who lost his parents and siblings in the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. He said they wanted to work with teenagers because they were most at risk of being radicalized.

Mutanguha: The young people, they are drawn into mass atrocities, into violence. So we decided to focus on them and help them to resist extremism. The genocide seems to be a past as history. But it’s really alive. Even today you can see the skulls, you can see the consequences. People really feel traumatized at some point. So we have to tell them, “Other people made wrong actions. How can you change it? How can you change Rwanda to be a very good story to tell instead of telling the story of genocide?”

Presenter: Freddy Mutanguha ending that report by Bethany Bell.


The Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program is a multi-year series held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with further support from Ronald D. Abramson, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. More information is available here: holocaust.salzburgglobal.org