Press Release

FRA: Holocaust Lessons Still Relevant in the 21st Century

At a Ministerial Conference in Auschwitz on the 2010 International Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Holocaust, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) will release the findings of the first ever EU-wide study on the role of historical sites and museums in teaching about the Holocaust and human rights. The report reveals that at historical sites and in schools across the EU, teaching about the Holocaust rarely includes discussion of related human rights issues. Teachers and guides are regarded as key to ensuring interest in the subject, yet there is a lack of human rights training on behalf of both groups. Based on the findings of its study, the FRA encourages national governments to better integrate human rights education into their school curricula to reflect the significance of human rights for both the history and the future of the EU.

"It is not enough to listen to a witness who is over 80 years old if you do not connect his/her experience to the present time, if you don't recognise there is still a deficit in human rights today." (Teacher, Focus Group, Milan)

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: "The findings of our report reveal the importance attached to Holocaust education, democracy education and human rights education by governments throughout the EU.  However, this is not sufficiently reflected in school curricula and links are not established between important historical events, like the Holocaust, and human rights. When this is achieved young people in the EU will be able to fully understand their past and go on to build a more united future."  

Students ask for link to the present

"We have never had a lesson in human rights. Human rights aren't a subject in lessons; at most in theory, but not in practice." (Student, Focus group discussion, Berlin)

Many of the interviewed students stated that they would appreciate a stronger connection to the present in education activities about the Holocaust, both at school and at historical sites and museums. However, only one of the 22 surveyed Holocaust commemoration sites regarded informing people about human rights as its most important objective. Based on the findings of the study, the FRA is of the opinion that Holocaust education should go beyond the mere transmission of historical facts to include discussion and debate on past and present human rights issues.

Teachers call for guidance

Interviewed teachers appealed not only for financial support for visits to memorial sites, but also for guiding material on how to make best use of such visits. The FRA will publish a handbook for teachers on Holocaust education and human rights education, as well as a handbook to be used by memorial site staff, later in the year.

Based on the findings of its report, the Agency suggests that:

  • Member States better integrate human rights education into the school curriculum.
  • Teacher education and training include both learning about the Holocaust and learning about the history and present role of human rights.
  • Schools take on the responsibility of promoting learning about the Holocaust and human rights and how links between these two fields can be achieved.
  • National governments and institutions produce and/or disseminate guiding material for visits to memorial sites and museums dealing with the Holocaust, introducing the subject of human rights education.
  • Museums and memorial sites assess which type of training and qualifications will be needed by their staff to integrate human rights education more extensively into their work.
  • The European Commission play an active role in promoting cooperation at European level between experts from the fields of ‘Holocaust education' and human rights education.

FRA Report "Discover the past for the future. A study on the role of historical sites and museums in Holocaust education and human rights education in the EU"

For further information please contact the FRA media team:
Tel.:   +43 1 580 30 - 642

Notes to editors:

  • The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has three key functions: to provide evidence-based advice to the EU and its Member States; to collect information and data on fundamental rights; and to promote dialogue with civil society in order to raise public awareness of fundamental rights.
  • Previous FRA (EUMC) reports on human rights education available.