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UlrikeSchuhFricke

Teaching the Holocaust

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Dan,

I am not quite sure if this is a new thread. Talking about the Holocaust and the genocides which followed and asking how things like these could happen leads to confronting the prjeudices and cliches we all have about different people and we should try to create a climate in class where even those with radical and "unpleasant" views can express them openly and without any fear of being "punished" for them. Only when we know how and what our students really feel will we find ways to reach them with the topic "Holocaust" and to address their own radical views and what is behind them.

Unfortunately the far-right wing movements are popular among young (mainly male) people, who feel threatened by people being different, who are afraid of losing their job or not finding a job, who in a fairly open, democratic and permissive society are looking for strict rules and hierarchies which they perceive as guarantees of a special, superior status and personal security.

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I've got 3 boys who have stated quite formally and seriously that their intended career path is Islamic Jihad. Worryingly they appear to have a prepared answer for most questions and challenges that we have thrown at them.

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Do you know if they themseleves have had any negative experiences like being harassed or dicriminated against? What about their parents. In Germany we are worried baout private Muslim schools; these are not real schools but schools the students go to in the afternoon and which look more like clubs than proper schools although the young people are educated in the Koran. As these are private venues the government does not have thr right to control what or how the Koran is taught.

The main problem in Germany still is the confrontation with far-right wing, neo-fascist/Nazi attitudes among young people. Those who are part of this scene/subculture behave in nearly the same way as your students. One effective means to get them back to rational thinking seem to be role plays and simulations in which those with these radical ideas have to play the role of victims or potential victims.

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In the Netherlands we do have regular muslim schools and some people here are very concerned about what is being taught. However my point of view is that every type of education should be availbe for interested persons. Why allow christian schools and no muslems schools?

Edited by Marco Koene

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However my point of view is that every type of education should be availbe for interested persons

True, but it must be guaranteed that the schools are based upon and abide the principles of the democratic constitutions e.g. the German Basic Law.

People and intelligence sources fear and point out that the Koran schools are used to teach fundamentalist principles and rally members to jihad.

The main question is which factors make or encourage people to support radical organisations (this brings us in a way back to the Holocaust because the main question is how and why did a whole nation actively or passively support this system).

I think one aspect is the feeling of being inferior - individually and nationally: Germany and the Treaty of Versailles.

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At the risk of sounding quite strange I think those of us who believe passionately in the concepts of tolerance, equality, liberalism and peace should be a little more "fundamentalist" about pushing them forward. (If only there was a "blasphemy law" which protected me from offence to my principles and values :( )

Such concepts undermine the value systems of the "authoritarian personality" in all its various manifestations. As a teacher my opportunities for advancing these ideas are legion and I try to take advantage of them all.

In reference to Dan Moorhouse's posts I am not sure how I would tackle the fundamentalists in his class having never encountered such a degree of certainty in any of my students. However I see dismantling "certainty" as one of my most important teaching objectives.

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At the risk of sounding quite strange I think those of us who believe passionately in the concepts of tolerance, equality, liberalism and peace should be a little more "fundamentalist" about pushing them forward

The best way is practising them in school and in all our lessons.

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I think the problem I have with the comparison between the Holocaust and the harsh treatment meeted out by the Israelis to the Palestinians, or the Americans to the Iraquis is partly one of language.

It's become all-too-common over the past 20 years to hurl around terms like "genocide" and "holocaust" to cover any actionin which anyone dies at the hands of any state the hurler finds politically objectionable. The attacks on Fallujah may be unjustified, they may even be "war crimes", but they clearly do not in any way represent an attempt to eradicate the Iraquis as a people, and that's what "genocide" means. Similarly, I think one would be hard put to find any evidence to show that there is an attempt by the Israeli government to wipe out the entire Palestinian population.

These examples stand in stark contrast to such events as the Turkish attack on the Armenians, the Nazi attack on the Jews (and Gypsies), or the Hutu attack on the Tutsis.

As someone observed earlier in this thread, it's very easy to brand those whose views differ from our own as "anti-semitic", or "racist", or "fascist", or "white-supremacist" and it's very unfortunate that thi seems to be a growing trend in political discourse these days.

I think we do our students a disservice if we use terms which really do have a specific meaning in an overly loose way. I understand that the aim is to point out similarities in tactics and, perhaps motivations, but I also think that many of our students don't grasp the subtlty of what being suggested and more and more young people have simply accepted that what the Israelis, for example, are doing in Palestine, is EXACTLY THE SAME as what happened to the Jews during the war, and it clearly ISN'T...

Another problem I think I see in some aspects of this thread is a tendency to apply Western standards and attitudes of thought to different cultural contexts.

There's a chilling interview in "The Nazis: a Warning from History" when a highly educated, cultured and prosperous looking German businessman was asked by the interviewer how he could have gone along with the anti-Jewish laws passed in the 1930s. He said that one had to understand that the Jews in the 1930s were being really pushy and something had to be done about them -- all the lawyers were jewish, all the theater producers... It requires great imagination and great discipline to be able to put oneself into such a mind set, and it's natural to look for other more reasonable explanations which fit better with our own basic beliefs...

Thus, like it or not, Islamic Jihad, Hizbollah, Hamas and the like really ARE committed to the total destruction of the state of Israel. Maybe it's Israeli oppression which is winning them greater support, but that doesn't change the FACT that that's what they're committed to. It certainly CAN'T be described as a "battle that has already been won"...

Sorry to go on so...

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I think the problem I have with the comparison between the Holocaust and the harsh treatment meeted out by the Israelis to the Palestinians, or the Americans to the Iraquis is partly one of language.

It's become all-too-common over the past 20 years to hurl around terms like "genocide" and "holocaust" to cover any actionin which anyone dies at the hands of any state the hurler finds politically objectionable. The attacks on Fallujah may be unjustified, they may even be "war crimes", but they clearly do not in any way represent an attempt to eradicate the Iraquis as a people, and that's what "genocide" means. Similarly, I think one would be hard put to find any evidence to show that there is an attempt by the Israeli government to wipe out the entire Palestinian population.

These examples stand in stark contrast to such events as the Turkish attack on the Armenians, the Nazi attack on the Jews (and Gypsies), or the Hutu attack on the Tutsis.

As someone observed earlier in this thread, it's very easy to brand those whose views differ from our own as "anti-semitic", or "racist", or "fascist", or "white-supremacist" and it's very unfortunate that thi seems to be a growing trend in political discourse these days.

I think we do our students a disservice if we use terms which really do have a specific meaning in an overly loose way. I understand that the aim is to point out similarities in tactics and, perhaps motivations, but I also think that many of our students don't grasp the subtlty of what being suggested and more and more young people have simply accepted that what the Israelis, for example, are doing in Palestine, is EXACTLY THE SAME as what happened to the Jews during the war, and it clearly ISN'T...

Another problem I think I see in some aspects of this thread is a tendency to apply Western standards and attitudes of thought to different cultural contexts.

There's a chilling interview in "The Nazis: a Warning from History" when a highly educated, cultured and prosperous looking German businessman was asked by the interviewer how he could have gone along with the anti-Jewish laws passed in the 1930s. He said that one had to understand that the Jews in the 1930s were being really pushy and something had to be done about them -- all the lawyers were jewish, all the theater producers... It requires great imagination and great discipline to be able to put oneself into such a mind set, and it's natural to look for other more reasonable explanations which fit better with our own basic beliefs...

Thus, like it or not, Islamic Jihad, Hizbollah, Hamas and the like really ARE committed to the total destruction of the state of Israel. Maybe it's Israeli oppression which is winning them greater support, but that doesn't change the FACT that that's what they're committed to. It certainly CAN'T be described as a "battle that has already been won"...

Sorry to go on so...

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