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The project entailed organizing a 3-5 day guided study tour for a group of 52 people, including teachers and their students, to visit historical sites in Western Hungary and the bordering Austrian areas. This project provided the participants a unique opportunity to face their local and national history and address human rights issues. The uniqueness of the sites left a strong impression on the group. For instance, many participants found it difficult to comprehend how such horrible acts had been committed in such picturesque settings. Moreover, during this guided tour students had a first-hand opportunity to see and hear about the events of the Holocaust that took place in Hungary, carried out by the local population. Since experts and Holocaust survivors and/or their family members also took part in this educational journey, participants had an opportunity not only to learn about the facts but also to discuss their feelings and reactions.  

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Task

Date

Defining the goals, choosing the sites, contacting the people (experts, survivors, organizers, etc.,), looking after the practical side of the project (renting the bus, booking the accommodation.)

January-April, 2008.

Advertising the trip, inviting the students/people interested

May-June, 2008

First meeting with participants, preparation of the tour, giving out assignments

Early September, 2008.

The realization of the trip

Late September, 2008.

Follow up meeting with the teachers of the students (who also participated)

October, 2008.

Objectives and Rationale
a. Content and Context

The project was based on the experience of a similar pilot-program organized in the previous year, taking students to various Holocaust-related sites and Jewish sites throughout Hungary. It was decided this time to focus on one particular region, where many sites remained or memorials have been erected linked to one central topic, in this case, forced labor service and the death marches. The rationale behind this consideration was to make sure that students understand that the Holocaust was not restricted to one geographical place, namely Auschwitz-Birkenau, but took place in the fields of many different countries. Consequently, the same methods and approach can overall be applied in many countries across Europe where Holocaust-related events actually happened.

The focus of the study tour was to visit: a) sites of pre-war Jewish life such as synagogues, cemeteries, schools attesting to cultural and religious Jewish life in the chosen regions, and b) authentic Holocaust sites of the Hungarian Jewry, i.e. ghettos, internment and forced labor camps, as well as killing sites - especially in northwest of Hungary in the vicinity of the Austro-Hungarian border. The responsibility of the Hungarian authorities for the deportation of Hungarian Jews was also addressed along with issues relating to human rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The aim of this project was to teach about the Holocaust outside the classroom where the events took place and thereby connect elements of historical knowledge, commemoration and personal reflection through a learning experience. This experience raised awareness among the students about the importance of being sensitive towards minorities (such as Jewish people, Roma, etc;) that may face discrimi-nation or persecution of any kind, whether verbal, physical or both.
 
The trip did not only concentrate on visiting Holocaust-related sites due to our strong conviction that we should not teach about the Holocaust without first describing local Jewish life before the war. Only by learning first about pre-war Jewish life can students understand that the very same former inhabitants who attended Jewish schools and synagogues, as well as whose relatives were buried in Jewish cemeteries, were the same human beings who were driven away and brutally killed in many cases by their own fellow countrymen. Just as one would not start reading a play in the third act, we could not skip these chapters leading to the escalation of the Holocaust. Present day Jewish life in Hungary was also discussed at each relevant place.  

b. Pedagogical/Didactic Aims

  • Participants explored less known or unknown chapters in local Jewish related national history
  • Participants from throughout Hungary were presented with educational goals, trip itineraries and assignments to be done in preparation for the study tour. Each day the group visited places of interest on the way to the final destination, Eisenertz in Austria, and stopped in bigger cities (like Sopron) during the evenings.
  • Students met Austrian students who had been involved in building one of the major memorial sites of Hungarian Jews who died in the Alps.
  • By visiting the authentic sites, and listening to many dedicated people in the periphery, students were emotionally touched during the process of learning.
  • Students organized a commemoration ceremony, so they actively reacted to their impressions.
  • Teachers shared copies of documents related to the sites that had been uncovered in the framework of local history projects conducted together with their students
  • Professional network was formed among the teachers. The educators remain in contact, and help each other whenever any type of assistance is needed for their future projects.

Methodological Approaches
At each site an expert/or historical expert, usually a person, who had earlier completed a Yad Vashem professional development seminar, guided the group at the site. Participants also added their findings regarding the places, be it historical research, written testimonies or personal stories.
At many places along the Austrian border, local Austrian historians helped the participants gain a better understanding of the circumstances in which many Hungarian forced labor victims of Jewish origin lost their lives a few months, weeks or days prior to liberation in 1945. Whenever possible, a survivor or representative of “the second generation” of survivors also joined the group at the site. S/he conveyed her/his personal story or family story in connection to the site. Towards the end of the trip, participants were expected to organize a memorial ceremony following their impressions of the guided tour. Moreover, four wreath-laying ceremonies were also held at the different mass graves and memorials of where Hungarian Jews had been shot. The commemorations demanded active cooperation from part of the participants. In this way, the group not only gained additional information about the historical events, but also they developed empathy for the victims who had become personalized. By remem-bering them, the participants restored the victims’ human identities.
During the tour, teachers and their students completed forms with diary-like guided questions distributed in advance. In the questionnaire participants were asked – among other questions - about their most surprising experience during the day, about what was new information for them, something that they would like to ask and learn more about, etc. The forms served as a way to follow up with the organizers and provide professional feed-back for evaluation purposes.
Students read aloud an unpublished letter of a Jewish father to his nine year old son (relative of one of the teach-ers) during the trip
Students drew illustrations and maps in response to listening to survivors’ testimonies.
Participants prepared notebooks and pencils for everyone in the group, similar to the one that the famous Hungarian poet of Jewish origin, Miklos Radnóti, used before he was murdered during a death march. Students could keep record of their experiences and personal reflections of the trip in these special notebooks that always remind them of the poet and his tragic fate. Radnóti’s poems were read aloud along with the poems of other murdered Jewish Hungarian literary figures.
Yad Vashem Pages of Testimonies were also used when speaking about the victims.
Participants organized their own commemoration ceremony. Every one contributed with a chosen piece of literature or music.

Practical Challenges Faced by the Coordinators and Resolution Strategies
The most difficult challenge was fundraising. To be able to provide bus transportation and accommodation for the participants, a small registration fee was collected, but most of the support was raised from outside sources.
The second challenge was finding the most appropriate participants, lecturers, guides and survivors for the tour.

Technical Equipment Requirements (if applicable)
The Internet, computer (in the preparation phase)
Copy machine (for handout materials)

Primary Source Materials and Online Resources
http://www.degob.hu/: this is the website of the records of survivor testimonies (mostly in Hungarian) taken right after the war.
www.hdke.hu
www.holokausztmagyarorszagon.hu
www.yadvashem.org   (Pages of Testimony of Hungarian Victims)
Randolph Braham: A holokauszt földrajzi enciklopédiája
Szabolcs Szita: Munkaszolgálat Magyarország nyugati határán. A birodalmi védőállás építése.

Visual Documentation (Photos, Scanned Materials)


 

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Educational Study Tour to Authentic Sites

Title of the Project
Educational Study Tour to Authentic Sites

Name of the Coordinators
Szilvia Pető-Dittel, Tibor Pécsi
Hungarian educators Szilvia Pető-Dittel and Tibor Pécsi have participated in Yad Vashem teacher-training semi-nars. These high school teachers, also affiliated with the Holocaust Museum in Budapest, decided to organize an educational project for interested students and their teachers on Holocaust remembrance in September 2008.

Name of the School
Peter Bornemisza High School and the Holocaust Memorial Center, www.hdke.hu.

EU Member State
Hungary

Number of Students Involved in the Project

45

Ages and Grade Levels of the Students
15-22

Involvement of Advisors and/or Other Institutions (if applicable)

Holocaust Memorial Center (Budapest, Hungary), ITF, Yad Vashem