Ten leading Holocaust experts debate if Shoah education has failed

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Ten leading Holocaust experts debate if Shoah education has failed

After heated discussion lasting almost two hours, panel of experts conclude that there was more work to do in the field of Holocaust education

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Panelists including Lord Pickles (speaking on the right), Olivia Marks-Woldman of HMDT, historian Trudy Gold and Henry Grunwald of the National Holocaust Centre  (Credit:  Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)
Panelists including Lord Pickles (speaking on the right), Olivia Marks-Woldman of HMDT, historian Trudy Gold and Henry Grunwald of the National Holocaust Centre (Credit: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

Ten leading educators and policy-makers in the field of Holocaust studies took part in a special event at London’s JW3 this week to consider whether, with the rise of antisemitism today, Holocaust education had failed.

But after an intensive discussion lasting nearly two hours, the panellists concluded that there was more work to do in Holocaust education — but that there was not necessarily a causal link to increased antisemitism.

Taking part in the event, held jointly under the auspices of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, were: Trudy Gold, director of Holocaust studies at JW3; Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust; Lord Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues; Ruth-Anne Lenga, head of academic programmes at UCL’s Centre for Holocaust Education; Dame Helen Hyde, an educator and trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust; Henry Grunwald OBE QC, chair of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum; Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust; James Bulgin, head of content for the Holocaust galleries at the Imperial War Museum; Ben Barkow, director of the Wiener Library; and Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

One — perhaps surprising — conclusion was that a strategic error had been made in not including the Armenian genocide in Holocaust memorial commemorations. An audience member said that the “denial and indifference” of the Armenian genocide had given impunity to the Holocaust not being stopped in its tracks”. Wiener Library Ben Barkow agreed, saying its exclusion was “morally indefensible” and Henry Grunwald said that such exclusion was “an anomaly which ought to be revisited.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman of HMDT UK alongside historian Trudy Gold. (Credit: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

Ruth-Anne Lenga noted the major contribution of survivors who spent so much time speaking in schools, responding to survivor Mala Tribich, who spoke about a school which had asked her to give a separate presentation to parents as well as to students. Ms Lenga said: “Survivors don’t do this because they want to do it. It is a compulsion and they feel a duty… in many ways I feel it is a sacrifice, to re-live the nightmare in order to hope that young people will know more about the Holocaust, and that it can change attitudes, including attitude towards Jewish people, is a great thing to do. We are indebted to you.”

Panel included l-rL Karen Pollock of HET, Dave Rich of CST, Dame Helen Hyde and Ben Barkow of the Wiener Library. (Credit: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

Giving a necessarily brief overview of the state of antisemitism, Dave Rich said: “Antisemitism has always posed a danger to us, but the problem comes when it poses a danger to society.” He said that the recent killings in the New Zealand mosques and the murders in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year were pointers of a “far right, resurgent and murderous.” He said there was a need to educate about antisemitism and not just the Holocaust itself.

All the panellists felt there should be improved teacher training and Dame Helen Hyde noted that Holocaust education was not inspected by Ofsted. She also argued for a change in terminology — “anti-Jewish racism” rather than antisemitism — as a better way of putting over the meaning of the message.


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