How could it happen?

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
Chris Fautley reports on a mobile exhibition on the Holocaust

Wouldn't it be good if every pupil in every school could experience Britain's best museums and exhibitions? Wouldn't it be even better if they packed up their contents and came straight to you?

The work of Beth Shalom, the Holocaust Centre, near Newark, has been widely acclaimed. With the lessons it teaches bearing relevance to so many high-profile areas of the national curriculum there can be few students who would not benefit from spending a few hours there. But through reasons of location alone, it is an experience open only to the minority. For the rest, however, the Holocaust Centre has produced an outstanding mobile exhibition - Another Time, Another Place.

Balanced and sensitive in its presentation, its 20 display panels each cover a specific issue, in this way forming a time line plotting the rise of the Nazis, the emergence of anti-Semitism, ghettoisation, death camps and liberation. It makes you draw breath and reflect on the senselessness behind six million deaths. Moreover, it never lets us lose sight of the fact that each of those six million was a person; that the Holocaust was not one atrocity, but six million atrocities - a message cleverly reinforced by occasional panels telling "Kitty's Story", the true experiences of a Holocaust survivor. And if at the exhibition's conclusion the only word that comes to mind is "why?", then it surely will have achieved its purpose.

The resources pack that arrives in advance of the display is invaluable and comprises books, videos, a CD-Rom and posters. Of the books, two are must-reads: profusely illustrated, Learning about the Holocaust drives home the point that its victims were just ordinary people. Our Lonely Journey - Remembering the Kindertransports tells the true stories of three refugee children evacuated to Britain. It is particularly suitable for younger students, but should be read by everybody - not least because this seed is sown by its authors: how many refugees are being turned away today? How easily, all those years ago, it could have been them; returning to certain death. That one question demonstrates that while Another Time, Another Place is excellent for looking back at history, it is also invaluable for addressing contemporary issues such as asylum-seeking and recent genocide.

Staff at Eastbourne technology college (where humanities is taught as an integrated subject) recognised this potential by using the exhibition to coincide with January's Holocaust Memorial Day, combining it with asylum-seeker workshops and talks from Holocaust survivors. Together they formed a day-long session for all Year 9 students.

James Paker, assistant head of humanities, says there had been a big build-up; homework included watching television programmes about the Holocaust and, with parental guidance, the film Schindler's List. The exhibition, he continued, fitted in well with work on War and the Holocaust. It was also, adds colleague and head of humanities Mariea Christodoulou, very relevant to their RE syllabus - particularly moral issues and citizenship.

"The citizenship aspect is very interesting," says James Parker. He had started the day by speaking to students about rights and responsibilities and the need to be active citizens.

Both the exhibition and the asylum-seeking issue fit well into the Persecution and Prejudice module of the GCSE course, he says. "I think the higher-ability students will be able to see the connection between what we are talking about very clearly. We look at contemporary issues of prejudice in this country. Because it was suddenly in the media we did a lesson or two about attitudes to asylum-seekers."

The teachers were impressed with the resources pack. When running a day such as this it is crucial to recog-nise its importance, says Mariea Christodoulou, as well as using local resources such as the Ethnic Minorities Pupil Unit and human rights groups. (They had drawn on the knowledge of the Body Shop human rights campaign manager and speakers from the London Jewish Cultural Centre.) Students were in little doubt about the exhibition's message. "I don't think it's something that anybody will forget," says Year 9 student Anna Strudwick.

"Any school that has the opportunity should take it," says Ellie Feek, even, she adds, if students are not studying the Holocaust And follow-up work? Mariea Christodoulou says: "A lot of the tie-up will be about how you stop the situations that currently exist."

"It's recognising the symptoms," adds James Parker.

So does Another Time, Another Place help in that? "I think it does," says Mariea Christodoulou, "Because it opens up the whole issue on a human level."


ONE week's hire, including delivery and collection, typically costs pound;150-pound;250, according to transport costs. The Centre is also able to put you in touch with Holocaust survivors.

The Holocaust Centre, Beth Shalom, Laxton, Newark, NottinghamshireNG22 0PA. Tel: 01623 836627. Resources pack: three videos (average length 26 minutes); six different books totalling 24 copies; maps; photographs and teaching aids including work chart and CD-Rom. The pack is returnable; all or parts of it may be purchased.

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