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Learning from the Past, Acting for the Future – Teaching about the Holocaust and Human Rights

The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI) promotes teaching about the Holocaust and human rights in an intersectional approach, which allows students to learn about the Holocaust, but also to learn from the Holocaust and to apply their learning to present day realities in order to combat antisemitism, anti-Roma racism, discrimination and injustice and to promote human rights. 

Our intersectional methodology uses the lens of human rights to help teachers and students understand how an event like the Holocaust was possible, how the propaganda functioned and how the rights of Jewish people (and other groups) were taken away one by one. At the same time, we use the lens of the Holocaust to understand that today we need to take action when human rights are violated or at risk of being violated for members of any group living in our societies. This approach develops teachers’ and consequently students’ critical thinking and ability to challenge populist messages that are becoming prevalent in the European society (and elsewhere in the world). It raises their awareness about the unfair treatment of various groups in their society and about the need to take action.

Our European program started in 2012. We have organized so far, in partnership with various organizations and institutions in Europe, over 20 seminars for teachers, in 9 European countries, totaling over 700 participants. During our 4-day seminars teachers learn about Jewish life before and after the Holocaust, about the history of antisemitism and present-day manifestations of antisemitism, about the Holocaust in their country and at European level, about Roma Genocide, about stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination, about Nazi propaganda, about collaborators and rescuers. Teachers develop their competences to work with innovative, student-centered teaching methods, including extra-curricular activities and partnerships between school and other institutions and organizations.

Graduates of the seminar are offered the opportunity to apply for mini-grants to implement projects on Holocaust education and human rights with their students. Over 200 projects were implemented so far and they included, among others, student research on various aspects of the Holocaust, creation of videos, poster presentations, multimedia materials, meetings with the local Jewish community, visits at synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and other landmarks, meetings with Holocaust survivors, etc.