“NEVER FORGET” PROJECT STUDY VISIT OF TEACHERS FROM MEĐIMURJE COUNTY TO AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
This form of field teaching corresponds to the specific goals of the international project “Never Forget” of the Jewish Community of Čakovec and its Slovenian partners from Lendava and Maribor.
25 March 2023
The Jewish Community of Čakovec , with the support of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education, organised a study visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum for 35 History, Ethics and Croatian Language and Literature teachers from Međimurje County. The complex consisting of three Nazi concentration camps (Auschwitz 1, Auschwitz 2 – Birkenau and Auschwitz 3 – Monowitz) also comprised 50 smaller camps in the period from 1940 to 1945. The teachers from Međimurje visited the complex on 25 March 2023, for an all-day visit.
This form of field teaching corresponds to the specific goals of the international project “Never Forget” of the Jewish Community of Čakovec and its Slovenian partners from Lendava and Maribor. The activities of the project focus on education about the consequences of World War II and antisemitism, commemoration of Holocaust victims in Croatia and Slovenia and enhancing public awareness on the Holocaust. Dedication to these topics connects the “Never Forget” project with the Croatian Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). At the Closing Conference of the “Never Forget” project, which will be held in Čakovec on April 19th, the Jewish Community of Čakovec will present the Croatian IHRA Presidency together with IHRA Co-Chair Sara Lustig.
“This study visit is an excellent example of the focus of the IHRA’s activities, whose aim is to protect the facts of the Holocaust and get state leaderships to support Holocaust education, research and remembrance. The teachers have already announced that they will present to their colleagues and students what they saw and experienced in Auschwitz. This is a clear indication of the importance of study visits for the continuous process of advancing knowledge and enhancing teachers’ approach to the educational process,” stressed Dr. Andrej Pal, the Community’s President.
Teachers from elementary and secondary schools were comprehensively acquainted with the principle of the functioning of the Third Reich death force in the concentration and extermination camp located in the vicinity of the Polish town of Oświęcim, annexed to Germany in 1939. The buildings and barracks of Auschwitz were built at the beginning of the 20th century to serve as a prison, and from 1940 they were used as a stronghold for extermination on an area covering 191 hectares (within a circle of 40 kilometers). Jews from all European countries constituted 90 percent of the victims killed by Zyklon B in gas chambers, by forced labour, starvation and in medical experiments. In the Auschwitz 1 Museum, Polish expert guides acquainted the teachers with the shocking details of the functioning of the Auschwitz camp, through authentic exhibits that bear witness, in the most painful way, to the extermination of the Jewish people. Large-format photographs speak of the system on which the administrative camp was based, where about 70 thousand people were killed. Around 960 thousand Jews, 75 thousand Poles and 19 thousand Roma were killed in the extermination camp Auschwitz 2 – Birkenau, while Auschwitz 3 – Monowitz was a labour camp.
The teachers’ preparation and their prior knowledge about the functioning of the Auschwitz camp did not prevent the strong emotions they felt during the tour of the camps and the study visit as a whole. Under the impression of the exhibited children’s shoes, orthopedic aids and other items that were a part of the lives of those killed in the death camps, the participants of the study visit were unanimous in stating that the way they will teach children and youth from now on will be much more meaningful. The intense experience of their visit cannot be compared to information read and learned and testimonies documented by audio and video recordings. Their visit to the sites was emotionally demanding, but irreplaceable, especially taking into account the fact that the expert guidance provided a wealth of less known information testifying to the scale of the degradation of human beings.