Seminar for teachers in cooperation with Centropa

From 19 to 21 February, a seminar for teachers was held in Kaunas, organised by Centropa in cooperation with the Secretariat of the International Commission.

The three-day seminar, “Methods of teaching the history of Lithuanian Jews and the Holocaust using Centropa materials,” was aimed at teachers and educators who have already participated in Centropa events.

On the first day of the seminar, Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein, the Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania, visited the educators in Kaunas. She told the story of her grandparents, which is directly related to the Holocaust. The Ambassador showed the “Witness Sheets” that her grandparents filled out for Yad Vashem, testifying to the murder of their family members.

The Israeli Ambassador’s emotional opening remarks on the Holocaust were followed by the Chairman of the Jewish Community of Kaunas, Gercas Žakas, who told the story of his father in the Šiauliai ghetto and the Stutthof concentration camp. GercasŽakas shared his thoughts on how his father avoided any conversation about his experiences during the Holocaust after the war. Still, as he grew older and his health deteriorated, the terrible memories of the murder of almost his entire family came back to Gerc’s father, causing fear and screams.

Following the sensitive presentations by Israeli Ambassador Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein and Gercas Žakas, President of the Kaunas Jewish Community, the seminar participants visited the Sugihara House Museum: they were introduced to the personalities of foreign diplomats, Jewish rescuers Chiyune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendeik and their activities; they also saw the museum’s expositions and attended a lecture by historian Dr. Linas Venclauskas on “The Causes and Rationale of Lithuanian Anti-Semitism.”

The second day of the event was dedicated to a visit to the Kaunas IX Fort Museum. The teachers explored the Holocaust-related exhibitions. The main focus of the tour was the newly prepared exposition about the escape of prisoners – corpse burners from Kaunas IX Fort in 1943. The seminar participants actively participated in a methodological workshop on the history of the Roma, prepared by the museum team. Afterward, the teachers analysed the material prepared by the Centropa organisation – an interview with Chasia Spanerflig, rich in information about Jewish life in Lithuania, traditions and mentality. Asia Gutermanaitė, a researcher of Jewish culture, lectured on the Jewish community in Kaunas since the beginning of the 20th century.

During the three-day event, teachers Ina Krasauskienė (Akademija, Kėdainiai district) and Kęstutis Subačius (Vilnius) shared their experiences of using Centropa materials and the film about Ranana Kleinšteinaitė in the educational process.

The seminar in Kaunas aimed to bring together teachers who would share their experiences teaching the history of Lithuanian Jews and get an overview of the museums in Kaunas that present this topic.

Twenty-six teachers and educational staff from all over Lithuania took part in the event. The seminar was organised on Centropa’s (Austria) initiative in cooperation with the Secretariat of the International Commission and with the support of the Claims Conference and the European Commission.