Aussies at Yad Vashem Holocaust Studies conference

July 10, 2014 Agencies
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Hundreds of educators from across the world have attended the 9th International Conference on Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.

Amongst them were seven Australian educators from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane…sponsored by the  Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators

David de Groot and Greg Keith at the Yad Vashem Educators’ Conference. (photo by Isaac Harari

David de Groot and Greg Keith at the Yad Vashem Educators’ Conference. (photo by Isaac Harari

The conference entitled “Through Our Own Lens: Reflecting on the Holocaust from Generation to Generation” includes some 450 participants from 50 countries including China, Poland, Argentina, Canada, Namibia, Venezuela, Greece, and Spain.

The conference is split into three sections: the purpose of Holocaust documentation on the part of the first and second generations; how the events of the Shoah continue to find significance in the lives of those born afterwards; and the future of Holocaust education and remembrance among the youth of today – and tomorrow. The conference’s panels, discussions and lectures will be presented by prominent guest speakers including internationally renowned authors, filmmakers, theologians, world-class historians and technology experts which will primarily focus on this central theme of generational responsibility in the perpetuation of Holocaust remembrance and education.

Opening remarks will be given by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. During the course of the conference participants will have the opportunity to hear from many lecturers and moderators including Justice Gavriel Bach, former deputy prosecutor in the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, Professor Yehuda Bauer, Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem, Holocaust survivor and author Professor Rabbi David Halivni, historian and author Professor Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, and an interview with Serge Klarsfeld, who led prosecutions against Nazis and their collaborators, conducted by his son Arno Klarsfeld.
Each part of the conference is designed to examine the unique role of Holocaust survivors, and the second, third and fourth generations, in sustaining effective and meaningful Holocaust education for various age groups as well as meet the many challenges currently faced and those anticipated in the future.

“As the events of the Shoah are rapidly receding into history, it is incumbent upon us to explore how each generation has grappled with, and continues to find significance in, the implications of the Holocaust,” said Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev. “As our documentation efforts continue to evolve with the many technological advances that have made the presentation of information more accessible to a wide array of audiences, our responsibility in continuing to shape and inform the future of Holocaust commemoration and education remains as vital and relevant as ever.”

Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies conducts dozens of seminars annually for educators from around the world, and produces educational material in over 20 different languages. Established in 1993, the International School is a world leader in Shoah education; working to implement educational activities for different target populations and age groups in Israel and abroad.

In January 2010, Australian David De Groot participated in the first Yad Vashem seminar of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators. Though interested in the topic as a history teacher, it was his personal family story that truly attracted him to teaching about the Holocaust.

Living in the Netherlands during WWII, De Groot’s mother’s family gave refuge to Moshe Davidson and his two children, as well as Joel Elzas, Carola Fallmann and Han Blein. His grandmother Geertje de Vries and her sister Grietje met the Davidsons and brought them to the home of their parents, Harmen and Trijntje de Vries, where two of the other Jews were already hiding. Due to the crowded living situation and the difficulties in finding food, the Davidsons were moved to the home of the couple’s son and daughter-in-law, where they lived for almost three years, until liberation in May 1945. The de Vries family remained in touch with all of those they rescued, and were later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

De Groot chose to focus his educational project on the role played by certain resistance movements in occupied Europe during the Holocaust. He strives to enlighten young people as to the different types of resistance that occurred, as well as their effectiveness. Emphasizing the Dutch Resistance Movement in particular, he highlights his remarkable family story and its place within the historical context of the time.

“My grandmother passed away aged 92 in 2008,” he recalls.”This is my way of remembering her heroism during the Holocaust. I feel privileged to have been on this course, and I want to thank the Gandel Charitable Trust (now Gandel Philanthropy) for its incredible generosity and Yad Vashem for this unique opportunity. It was truly a life-changing experience.”

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