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Human Rights Violation, The Role and Dilemmas of Bystanders before and (at the time of) the Holocaust

Three EU Member States originally cooperated on this project: Lithuania (Vilnius), Poland (Plock) and The Netherlands (Amsterdam). The aim of the project was to find similarities and differences concerning violations of the human rights of Jews among the three countries as regarding the method and time in which the events occurred and the role that civilians had.
It was also to provide common evaluations of the historical events; in every country the course of events was different. In Poland, persecution of Jews started in 1939 from the first days of Nazi rule, whereas in Lithuania, the violent aggression against Jews began two years later, a month and in some places two months after the occupation of 1941 June 22nd
    
The German occupation of the Netherlands started in May 1940. Soon after it, the first anti-Jewish laws removed Jews from their professions, their schools, and their homes.
Constantly introducing new orders with further restrictions, they slowly but gradually tightened the noose, depriv-ing the Jewish people of more and more liberties. It was only a matter of time before the Nazis could carry out their wicked plan of total extermination.
    
Successful implementation of the project largely depended on the number of witnesses who can give their testimonies of the dramatic events. We looked for the reactions of the people who remembered the beginning of the Nazi occupation. We tried to find the attitude of people - how they reacted to the violation of human rights of Jews in Lithuania. Together we had named this project “Bystanders”.

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Task

Date

The first meeting of participants of the project (at Zverynas gymnasium, Vilnius)

December 10, 2008

The film “Uncle Chatzkel” (at Zverynas gymnasium)

Annex 7

January 6, 2009

Visit to Jewish museum. The aim of this visit was to introduce the participants of the project with a history of the Holocaust in Lithuania.

January 22, 2009

Participation in the commemoration of 27th of January (the commemoration was among Jewish community of Lithuania). There were presented the educational reel “Witnesses of Holocaust Tell…”

January 27, 2009

Meeting with Holocaust witnesses at the Jewish community of Lithuania in Vilnius; 4 interviews with Holocaust survivors about the period in 1941.

Annex 8,  Annex 9

8th of April, 2009

Deciphering of the material

April – May – June – July (2009)

The creation of the internet page about the project.

http://www.bystanders.vhost.lt/  (this web page is no longer active, it will be transferred to another Internet provider but in the mean time, we have to omit this URL until a new site is created)

April – May (2009)

Meeting with Marija Senkuviene, a witness of Holocaust, and a Lithuanian woman. The interview with her was about bystanders.

Annex 10

7th of May, 2009

Short drama presentation in Yad Vashem in June. Teachers from Lithuania participated in the summer seminar. Material from the project was used. In line with this material, teachers from Lithuania enacted a short play about bystanders.

June, 2009

The meeting with Ms. Vilija Jureniene, a witness of Holocaust, and a Lithuanian woman. The interview was about the situation in 1941 and about bystanders.

Annex 11

June 22, 2009

Participation in the commemoration of the Genocide day of Lithuania’s Jews (Paneriai, Vilnius)

Annex 12

23th of September, 2009

The meeting of project participants at the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum Tolerance Centre.

A workshop with the material of the exhibition: “Surviving History, portraits from Vilna”. This exhibition tells about 10 people who survived and their stories are presented through their artifacts.

Annex 13

Annex 14

8th of October, 2009

Meeting of the participants at Zverynas gymnasium. Discussion about the continuation of the project.

15th of October, 2009

25 students from Vilnius Lazdynai Secondary School were involved to this project.

The project partner Katarzyna Korsak from Poland sent the book Symcha Guterman Kartki z pożogi” in Polish.

Vilnius Lazdynai Secondary School is a two language school: Russian and Polish. The students from Polish 12 form were involved in this project to do translations from Polish in Lithuanian.

From 15th October until the middle of November, 2009

The translation texts of the book Kartki z pożogi” about Holocaust in Plock (Poland).

December – January, 2010

The open (2) lessons- workshop at Vilnius Lazdynai Secondary School with Polish 12 form. This workshop was organized to present the material from the project (material from interviews) and material from the book Kartki z pożogi” (The pictures from Hell”). Also, it was a test to analyse the situation in Lithuania and Poland in the same time- when the Nazis invaded these countries: what were the differences in the societies of these countries? What were the similarities? What was the role of bystanders in these countries?

Also, the students got acquainted with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Annex 15

Annex 16

Annex 17

26th of January, 2010

Workshop with participants of the project at Vilnius Zverynas gymnasium. (The participants were 10 students). The workshop was organized as in Lazdynai Secondary School (on 26 of January, 2010).

Annex 18

11th of February, 2010

The creation of methodology for teachers from the material of the project

February, 2010

Seminar for the teachers in Klaipeda (the western part of Lithuania). The material of the project was presented. The workshop was done with material from interviews, material from the book Kartki z pożogi” and document the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The discussion about bystanders in Lithuania was in the end of the workshop.

The participants in the seminar were 23.

Annex 19

26th of February, 2010

The interview with Jonas Kadzionis, who is the witnesses of the WWII. The interview was taken in Kavarskas (district of Anyksciai). Jonas Kadzionis is an eighty-three-year old man, who has good memory about relationships between Jews and Lithuanian’s before WWII and how the relationships changed when the Nazi came.

Annex 20

20th of March, 2010

Seminar for teachers in Birzai (northern Lithuania). There was the seminar according the same plan as Klaipeda.

The participants in this seminar totalled50.

1st of April, 2010

Seminar for teachers in Kedainiai (central Lithuania). Some material of the project was presented during this seminar.

The total number of participants in this seminar was 37.

29-30 of April, 2010

Plans for the end:

To translate the material of the project from Lithuanian to English;

To put all the material of the project onto the website of the project;

To distribute the material of the project to other teachers as far as we can;

These plans are for a few months (until the autumn of 2010)

The conclusion:

There were 35 students participating in this project.

7 interviews were taken (4 Jews and 3 Lithuanians).

2 workshops were organized at Museums.

2 workshops were organized for the students, who participated in this project (they worked with material of the project).

73 teachers participated in workshops, which were organized with material of this project.

37 teachers received documents (interviews, the methods) from this project.

 

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Objectives and Rationale
a. Content and Context
The students and teachers of the above schools share a common interest in the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania in 1941, which resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews living in the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian territories. In order to get a deeper understanding of that period, we have set the following goals:

  • Learn more about life of Jews in Lithuania in 1941;
  • Meet the Jews –witnesses of the Holocaust, to listen to their stories, to write their stories;
  • Present their testimonies on the website of the project.

The content of this project is to find out the role of bystanders. The majority of the population in Lithuania was bystanders. They saw the violation of human rights (at first), and later they saw or knew about mass killings. It is very big challenge to speak about the role of bystanders. But it is very important, because we can all become the victims in our time, in many situations.

b. Pedagogical/Didactic Aims
Examine cases of the violations of human rights of Jews before the Holocaust.
Study about those people who witnessed the humiliation of Jewish people but either did not react to it and remained indifferent, or chose to be bystanders.
Become acquainted with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and to analyze texts from interviews.

Methodological Approaches
We used the following methods

  • Interviews (how to hold an interview, how to ask, how to write and decipher texts);
  • Workshops with exhibitions;
  • Documents, analysis of primary sources as well as materials from meetings with people;
  • Reviews of films and discussions

We have received interesting material from the meetings with witnesses. This material is used for the creation of a methodology for this topic: the violation of human rights and role of bystanders.
The main aim of this methodology is to be used by teachers in the educational process.

Practical Challenges Faced by the Coordinators and Resolution Strategies
At first when we began this project, we thought about the possibility of doing common work with conclusions about the projects in every country.
This project was continued between two partners and it was successful, in that we had the possibility to receive some material about Poland. Students and teachers compared the information about Lithuania and Poland during the Nazi occupation. It gave a deeper understanding about the complicated relationship of societies in Lithuania and Poland.
The biggest challenge of this project was that most of the material is in Lithuanian and not in English. If more material had been in English, we  may have  gained more exposure to this project via the websites of FRA, Yad Vashem and possibly others.
Finding elderly people who could remember the dramatic events, and who were willing to share their memories of what they had witnessed during this short period proved to be a very difficult task. Jews were no longer seen in public places after establishing ghettos in Vilnius on September 6, 1941. Most people were aware of ghettos and knew that Jews were taken there. Some Lithuanian bystanders showed compassion toward Jewish people, whereas most lived their ordinary lives and were not surprised when their Jewish neighbors suddenly disappeared.
 
Technical Equipment Requirements (if applicable)
Equipment was needed to record witnesses.

Primary Source Materials and Online Resources

Books
Symcha Guterman, Kartki z pożogi, TNP (The Pictures from the Hell”).
With a Needle in the Heart (2003, Vilnius)
Documents:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Films
Uncle Chatzkel (Film Australia, 1999); http://www.jewishfilm.com/
The Witnesses of the Holocaust Tell (The International Commission and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute (USA))

The website of the project was created:
http://www.bystanders.vhost.lt/ (no longer active; we need to omit this for now until new page will be created)
Visual Documentation (Photos, Scanned Materials): There are records from interviews (in Lithuanian, some of them translated in English) from the meetings with witnesses, and photos.

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Ingrida Vilkiene

Title of the Project
Human Rights Violation, The Role and Dilemmas of Bystanders before and (at the time of) the Holocaust.

Name of the Coordinator
Ingrida Vilkiene

Name of the School/ institution

The International Commission for the evaluation of the crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation regimes in Lithuania, http://www.komisija.lt/en/.

EU Member State
Lithuania

Number of Students Involved in the Project and their ages/grades
10 (for two years) and 25 students have been involved this year (in 2010) – 16-19 years.

Involvement of Advisors and/or Other Institutions (if applicable)
Katarzyna Korsak, a teacher in English at the Secondary School of Merchant and Economics (Zespol Szkol Eko-nomiczno-Kupieckich) in Plock.