How Holocaust can heal hatred of today

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
As a record number of schools prepare to mark next week's memorial day, an online film is among a host of teaching materials helping to focus pupils' attention on `little acts' of intolerance in everyday life that can develop into bullying - and worse

More schools than ever before will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day - January 27 - this year, because of an increased need to tackle bullying in the classroom.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has provided educational materials for more than 1,500 schools, a 36 per cent increase on last year.

Carly Whyborn, the trust's national co-ordinator, believes this reflects the contemporary relevance of the topic: an average of 712 hate crimes take place each day in Britain.

"It's about stopping little acts of hatred in everyday life," she said.

"In schools, bullying is often on the basis of what you look like or where you come from. We're not at the point of Nazi Germany, but let's look at our actions and make sure that doesn't happen.

"It's not just about learning about history. It's about learning from history."

The trust has released an online film to coincide with the annual memorial day. The Hate Game uses video-game format to show hate-crime victims talking about their experiences.

They include a disabled man who escaped murder at the hands of Nazi doctors during the Second World War, and a British man who was a victim of neighbours' homophobia.

Despite ongoing tension in Gaza, Muslims and Jews have worked together to promote racial tolerance.

The film depicts a Muslim woman who was turned away from a parents' evening event at her son's school because she is wearing the niqab.

Anjum Anwar, dialogue development officer in Blackburn, tells the camera: "By not respecting different customs and religions, communities can become isolated. By celebrating our differences on Holocaust Memorial Day, we can create a safer, better future."

The film is accompanied by a teachers' pack with lesson plans for examining life in occupied Europe, including how some people prospered under the Nazis while others faced discrimination and persecution.

Holocaust researchers at London University's Institute of Education have also released a teachers' resource, which was commissioned by the United Nations. Ordinary Things encourages secondary pupils to learn about the Holocaust through the everyday objects that victims had to abandon.

The activity approaches the history through a child's shoe, left behind at Auschwitz. Pupils are given details of the owner's life and death in order to humanise the horrors of the Holocaust.

They are also encouraged to ask questions that help to put this individual story into its historical context.

Paul Salmons, of the institute's new Holocaust education development programme, said: "It's no good having a remembrance activity if you don't understand the complexity of the past. It becomes shallow, empty.

"We allow pupils access to the narrative of the past and let them come up with meanings themselves. We allow them their own interpretations. If you engage with the past, if you struggle with its complexity, then you have a more meaningful kind of remembrance."

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, www.hmd.org.uk

Holocaust Education Development Programme, www.hedpuk.org

www.un.orgholocaustremembrance.

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