The Holocaust as a Starting Point is a program developed by the Mémorial de la Shoah (France) in 2015, which focuses on the regional-level seminars for primary and secondary teachers coming from countries that have challenging and conflicting memories.
Within this program, two such seminars were held in March 2023: A dialogue among Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia (March 7-9, Belgrade) and A dialogue among Croatia, Italy and Slovenia (March 29-31, Trieste).
The seminars were organised in cooperation with the education authorities and NGOs from participating countries, while the lecturers and workshop facilitators are experts and practitioners from participating countries, as well as international experts in the field of Holocaust education, research and remembrance. The seminars gathered 40 primary and secondary school teachers of various school subjects from the participating countries.
The cooperation between the Education and Teacher Training Agency of the Republic of Croatia (ETTA – AZOO) and the Mémorial de la Shoah began over a decade ago, and was strengthened in 2015 when ETTA joined the initiative of implementing regional seminars as a partner institution. This is especially important because Loranda Miletić (ETTA), a prominent figure within the IHRA Educational Working Group, who has been a member of the Croatian delegation the IHRA since 2005, took part in leading and facilitating these regional seminars.
A dialogue among Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia
The 9th Regional Dialogue within the framework of the Holocaust as a Starting Point: A dialogue among Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, was held jointly by the Mémorial de la Shoah (France), Education and Teacher Training Agency (Croatia), the Ministry of Education (Serbia), and EUROCLIO (Bosnia and Herzegovina) took place at the First School of Economy in Belgrade, from 7–9 March 2023.
The seminar enabled the participants to gain insights into the “big picture” of events before and during WWII in South-East Europe. Milan Koljanin (Institute for Modern History, Belgrade) talked about antisemitism in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Goran Hutinec (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb) presented the Policy of mass murders in the occupied territory of Yugoslavia, and Milan Ristović (Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade) gave an overview of the saving of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
Less experienced teachers had an opportunity to learn how to teach about the Holocaust within the workshop on the IHRA recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust, facilitated by Loranda Miletić (ETTA), and well as within the workshop on the Council of Europe’s Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture in teaching history on the example of Cadik Danon’s biography, facilitated by Biljana Ristić and Snežana Vuković (Serbian Ministry of Education).
Relatively recent subjects in Holocaust historiography were also touched upon, namely Weapons of war-Gender violence against women in the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust in literature (History and Fiction in Bife Titanik, a short story by Ivo Andrić), which was facilitated by Marijo Kosović, gymnasium teacher from Zagreb.
The theme discussed the most was the issue of conflicting narratives in historiography relating to the example of Jasenovac concentration and death camp, presented by Dejan Ristić, director of the Genocide Museum in Belgrade and Tomislav Dulić from Uppsala University. Seminar participants took part in the study visit to Staro Sajmište camp and Autokomanda transit camp in Belgrade, where from Jews and other victims were taken to killing sites in Serbia.
A dialogue among Croatia, Italy and Slovenia
The 6th Regional Dialogue within the framework of the Holocaust as a Starting Point: A dialogue among Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, took place from 29-31 March 2023 in Trieste, Italy. The seminar was organised by the Mémorial de la Shoah (France), Education and Teacher Training Agency (Croatia), Ministry of Education (Italy), and the Institute of Education (Slovenia).
Contemporary Europe is marked by the rise of nationalism, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and extremist ideologies. Some elements of the extremist discourse are based on the distortion of history related to Holocaust and WWII. Education is one of the most effective means of preventing and reverting these trends. That is the key reason why the focus of the program is on teachers as persons who can influence the worldviews and values of the future youth.
Professor Raoul Pupo from the University of Trieste held a lecture about different forms of political violence in the region of northern Adriatic, from the Great War to the capitulation of Italy in 1943.
Two workshops that raised special attention focused on the artistic expression on the theme of Holocaust and were facilitated by two Croatian teachers. The workshop Eva Fisher – Holocaust in colours was facilitated by Valerija Turk-Presečki from Daruvar Gymnasium, while the workshop The use of film in teaching and learning about the Holocaust on the example of Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini was facilitated by Margareta Đordić, XVI Gymnasium Zagreb.
Seminar participants took part in the study visit to the Risiera di San Sabba camp where Jews, Croats and Slovenes were interned and tortured.