Teaching the Holocaust in Higher Education in Europe.
5th EAJS Summer Colloquium, Yarnton Manor, 2nd to 4th July 2003.
This year’s EAJS/ECUTJC Summer Colloquium, on Teaching the Holocaust in Higher Education in Europe, was convened by Professor Jonathan Webber and Dr Isabel Wollaston (both of the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham) and took place from 2 to 4 July 2003 at Yarnton Manor, Oxford.
There were twenty-eight participants who came from Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the UK. The colloquium was designed as a small, informal roundtable with plenty of opportunity for discussion. What made the Colloquium particularly stimulating, and indeed provoked lively discussion, was the fact that the participants came from a wide range of disciplines including history and the philosophy of history, Jewish studies, literature, museum studies, sociology and social anthropology, social psychology, theology, and included individuals working at Holocaust memorial sites and Holocaust educational outreach.
The bulk of the Colloquium took the form of seven sessions, introduced by brief presentations, on the following topics:
* Reading holocaust testimony
* Religious approaches to the Holocaust
* Alternative models for teaching the Holocaust: history and social psychology
* Is history the foundational discipline in teaching the Holocaust?
* Intellectual and practical cooperation between universities and Holocaust museums in Holocaust education
* Practical issues in Holocaust pedagogy in a German setting
* Interdisciplinary teaching of the Holocaust from a British perspective
These sessions were interspersed with three plenary lectures which took a more conventional lecture format followed by discussion and were delivered by specially invited guests:
Professor Jörn Rüsen (President, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen), ‘Is it possible to make sense of the Holocaust by historical thinking?’; Professor Egidijus Aleksandravicius (Professor of History, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas), ‘Absorbing the Holocaust into Lithuanian history and historiography’; and Dr Martha Kurkowska-Budzan (Institute of History, Jagiellonian University, Kraków), ‘Teaching the Holocaust as contemporary history in present-day Poland’.
The Colloquium concluded with a discussion of possible areas of future cooperation. Participants particularly appreciated the opportunity to meet with and exchange experiences and ideas with colleagues from throughout Europe who were working in similar areas, albeit in different disciplines, and expressed the hope that a colloquium along these lines could become an annual even (with each future colloquium exploring a different aspect related to teaching about the Holocaust and being held at a different location within Europe).
It was agreed that it would be beneficial if, as consequence of this Colloquium, a more formal network of those with an academic interest in holocaust education, whether working in universities, museums, or for NGOs, could be developed; and it was unanimously agreed that the convenors should set up a new European Association for Holocaust Studies, specifically to draw in people working in a wide range of disciplines across Europe, both east and west. The convenors are also exploring the possibility of publishing the proceedings of the Colloquium in the near future.
The convenors are grateful to the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies for providing the venue, and for financial support from the British Academy, the EAJS, the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies (Oxford) and the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham. We are grateful also to Karina Stern, of the EAJS secretariat, and to the staff of Yarnton Manor for ensuring the smooth and elegant running of the Colloquium.