On 13-14 February 2023, a workshop for Lithuanian school librarians and teachers on 20th-century history and historical memory was held at the Kėdainiai Multicultural Centre.
Thirty-two librarians and teachers from all over Lithuania joined the two-day seminar “The Use of Historical Facts for Public Education and Discovery of the Region.” Ingrida Vilkienė, Coordinator of Educational Programmes at the International Commission, introduced the activities of the International Commission and reviewed the research carried out by historians – experts. The workshop participants actively engaged in working groups – they analyzed the research conducted by the International Commission’s Secretariat historians and developed plans for presenting to school communities the complex historical research on crimes against humanity during the Nazi and Soviet occupation. The participants learned about Icchak Arad, a Litvak who survived the Holocaust, as told in the book “From the Valley of Death to Mount Zion.” After screening a short film on the Holocaust, a discussion took place on the course of the Holocaust and the differences between Eastern and Western Europe.
From the complex and challenging topic of the Holocaust, Rimantas Žirgulis, the Director of the Kėdainiai Regional Museum, led us to the miraculous story of the Mirrer Yeshiva students’ escape. The museum director presented a newly prepared transportable exhibition about the students of this Yeshiva who came to Lithuania in 1939 and managed to get visas signed by diplomats Chiyune Sugihara and Jan Zvartendijk in 1940 – to escape the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust by leaving for Shanghai.
The seminar also included a sightseeing tour of the multicultural town of Kėdainiai. Guests from all over Lithuania were introduced to the cultural heritage of the Jews, Scots, Poles, and Russians, as well as Lithuanians who used to live in Kėdainiai, and to the buildings that revealed the stories of the people who once lived there. Audronė Pečiulytė, the head of the Multicultural Centre, provided information about the life of national communities in Kėdainiai and religious denominations and then invited the educators to take part in a quiz to reinforce the information they had heard and the knowledge they had gained.
The seminar was concluded with the lecture “Let’s dismantle the old world…” given by Algirdas Jakubčionis, a member of the International Commission, Associate Professor of History. He used vivid examples to describe the resolutions in the Soviet Union on collective work, the family, the household, and leisure. The older generation at the seminar was surprised that there were so many absurd rules that had been forgotten in more than thirty years of independence. The younger generation was glad they had never experienced such things and had only heard about them from their parents and grandparents.
The Secretariat of the International Commission, in cooperation with the Multicultural Centre of the Kėdainiai Regional Museum, organized this seminar for educators.