International Library Platform for Education About the Holocaust

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Misko Stanisic is co-founder and director of Terraforming NGO from Novi Sad/Serbia. He studied Law at the University of Sarajevo and pedagogy in Stockholm. He is a member of the Serbian Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and member of the IHRA Working Group for Education.

By Misko Stanisic

I believe that there is an unexplored and unutilized potential in libraries for teaching and learning about the Holocaust, particularly in the new environment created by the digital transformation of the culture of remembrance. Consequently, we must open up the existing teacher-training infrastructure to other groups that can act as multipliers, such as librarians and archivists, in order to prepare them for a new active role in education about the Holocaust that utilizes their specific expertise, organizational structures, and facilities, as well as the Holocaust-related material to which they have access. 

The "International Library Platform for Education About the Holocaust" project aims to present and promote a new strategy for engaging libraries, library infrastructure, and archives in education about the Holocaust. Terraforming, our NGO from Novi Sad in Serbia, developed the idea and presented it to international partners and experts. During the first phase of the project, the goal was to inspire and motivate important international stakeholders, institutions, and experts. The next step was to initiate a collaborative platform of international resources for Holocaust education centered on librarians, libraries, library networks, and library resources. One of the main pillars of this idea is constructed around methodologies, approaches, and experiences of archival pedagogy and their transformation and adaptation to the library environment.   

In this context, the international platform represents a set of shared methodologies and goals as well as a sustainable, long-term process of coalition building between relevant stakeholders and experts with the aim of fostering a greater involvement of libraries, library networks, and librarians in teaching and learning about the Holocaust. 

The concept we propose aims to promote teaching and learning about the Holocaust in the information age by identifying and utilizing new opportunities and potentials for education about the Holocaust in the evolving infrastructure of digital humanities and by creating educational strategies in the landscape of the digital reinvention of museums, libraries, and archives. At the same time, this approach will contribute to shaping the future of the digital culture of remembrance.  

Between December 2017 and December 2018, we arranged a series of various activities in order to present and discuss the idea with stakeholders from different countries. The stakeholders included a wide range of practitioners, theoreticians, professionals, and experts in relevant fields: from librarians to teachers, from historians to archivists, from experts in the field of education about the Holocaust to survivors, from policy makers in the fields of culture and education to international centers for teacher training, from Jewish communities to Holocaust memorial centers and museums. 

The Arolsen Archives were one of the main partners in this process. They were involved in several seminars for librarians and archivists held in Belgrade and Novi Sad during 2018 within the framework of the project. Their contribution consisted of introducing basic concepts of archival pedagogy and implementing workshops based on case studies using the archival documents available in their holdings. Dr Akim Jah from the Arolsen Archives Research and Education Department explained that historical documents do not always paint the whole picture or provide a clear picture - most of the time additional research is needed. However, for Dr Akim Jah, this is a challenge rather than a disadvantage for learning as learning happens when we make a productive effort in order to understand and piece the story together for ourselves.  

In November 2019, the publication "International Library Platform for Education About the Holocaust" was released. The aim of the publication is not to offer all the answers. Our goal is to present and propose the idea that after successfully working in the field of education about the Holocaust together with libraries and library networks in Serbia for several years, we strongly believe this approach should be taken to international level. Of course, many questions and challenges still need to be addressed.

The publication resulted from project participants, experts, and relevant stakeholders exchanging ideas and entering into discussions with one another during various project activities and events. The most important of these was the final expert seminar titled “Librarians and archivists and the new international resources for teaching and learning about the Holocaust” that took place on 13th December 2018 at the National Library of Serbia in Belgrade. At the seminar in Belgrade, we discussed 4 aspects of our proposition: 1. Unexplored and unexploited potentials of libraries and librarians in teaching and learning about the Holocaust; 2. How to engage libraries and librarians in this field; 3. New perspectives and opportunities this proposition could contribute at an international level; and finally, 4. How to put this idea into practice.

Beside the Arolsen Archives, the following international partners participated in and contributed to the project in various ways, making this a truly joint effort: the Europeana Foundation, the Anne Frank House, the Holocaust Memorial Centre of the Jews from Macedonia, the National Library of Serbia, Yad Vashem, errinern.at, Vienna University Library, the Humanity in Action Foundation, the Historical Archive of the City of Novi Sad, and the University Library of Belgrade. The project was funded by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA, the Anne Frank House, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.

The "International Library Platform for Education about the Holocaust" project was awarded the annual Yehuda Bauer Grant by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA. IHRA awards this honor annually to an outstanding project proposal submitted through IHRA’s grant program.

Terraforming is an independent non-governmental and non-profit organization from Novi Sad in Serbia committed to promoting and improving teaching and learning about the Holocaust and to combating antisemitism, antigypsyism, and other forms of xenophobia. More information on: www.terraforming.org 

The publication titled "International Library Platform for Education about the Holocaust" is available at https://terraforming.org/publication-international-library-platform/


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