Teaching the Holocaust: ETUCE and member organisations join memorial ceremony at Auschwitz and conference on Holocaust education


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27 January marks 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than 1 million Jews and other persecuted groups were murdered by the Nazi regime. Ever fewer people have a direct memory of the Holocaust, but the genocide remains a vital topic for education systems across Europe.

The European Parliament recognises that in Nazi Germany's death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau “a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals, were murdered”. Around 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, approximately two thirds of Europe’s Jewish community at the time.

ETUCE, represented by our European Director Susan Flocken, is joining today’s official remembrance ceremony at Auschwitz. The visit is part of a four-day programme hosted by ZNP, an ETUCE member organisation in Poland, in cooperation with the Israel Teachers’ Union and GEW of Germany. Education trade unions will share ideas on teaching about the Holocaust. Susan will have a one-to-one discussion with Matjaž Gruden, Director of Democratic Participation at the Council of Europe.

Susan reflected that “for education trade unions, Holocaust Remembrance Day is not only an occasion to mourn the victims of Nazi Germany’s horrifying genocide of Jews and others. It is also a moment where we gather strength for our commitment to build an inclusive and democratic society, so we never see another Auschwitz again. Teachers and education personnel have a particular responsibility to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, especially in these worrying times where antisemitism, racism, nationalism and attacks on fundamental democratic values seem to be on the rise across Europe. This week’s conference is a timely opportunity for education trade unions to come together and develop ways to help teachers deal with this incredibly difficult and important topic.”

ETUCE and our member organisations work extensively on education for democratic citizenship and fundamental democratic values. Our recent EU CONVINCE project covered topics such as civic education, intercultural dialogue, teaching controversial issues and preventing extremism. It was accompanied by an online course for teachers, educators, school leaders, education trade unions and education employers, which can still be accessed. The project’s research report includes case studies of education initiatives in several European countries which aim to combat antisemitism.