Building peace in the minds of men and women

Mexican project team delivers impactful results in support of education about the Holocaust

19 December 2018

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© Christian Buendía Gama/Anáhuac University

As a direct outcome of the 2017 International Conference on Education and the Holocaust (ICEH) organized by UNESCO and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), a team of four dedicated educators from Mexico has delivered impactful project results. It led to the organization of a series of conferences in Mexico City with the participation of Holocaust historian Christopher Browning and the development of online educational materials, accessible via the Ministry of Education’s educational platform.  

The team, consisting of Manolo E. Vela Castañeda (Ibero-American University), José Luis Gutiérrez Espíndola (National Institute for Education Evaluation), Úrsula Zurita Rivera (Mexican branch of the Latin American Faculty of Social Science), and Yael Siman (Anáhuac University), has worked together to advance the institutionalization of education about the Holocaust and genocide in Mexico since their participation in the 2017 Conference in Washington, DC. In cooperation with the Mexican Ministry of Education, the team explored ways on how to improve education on these important topics on the secondary and higher education level.

In this context, the team organized a series of public lectures under the theme “70 + 70 – Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  The lectures were held from 26 to 28 November 2018 at both private and public universities, including Anáhuac University, Ibero-American University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), as well as the Memory and Tolerance Museum. Each event featured a lecture by acclaimed Holocaust historian Christopher Browning, Professor Emeritus of the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Additional interventions were made by Juan Antonio Cruz Parcero (UNAM),  Adán García (Memory and Tolerance Museum), Daniela Gleizer (UNAM), Krista Hegburg (USHMM), Ellen Hegen (USHMM), Valeria López (Anáhuac University), and Rosa Wolpert (UNESCO Mexico Office). In addition to the public events, the team also organized a faculty seminar at UNAM, which explored the use of oral history in support of historical narratives of the Holocaust and other genocides. Overall, the events attracted more than 270 attendees.

Daniela Gleizer, professor at UNAM, considered the activities at her university a full success: ”Both the public conference and the specialized seminar were of great relevance. About 100 students and professors participated in the conference, which showed the vast interest in topics related to the Holocaust, although only a few courses and conferences are generally offered on this history at public universities. The discussion of “ordinary” men as the perpetrators of the crimes committed during the Holocaust, as presented by Professor Browning, has a particular resonance in Mexico, given the widespread and persistent violence in the country. During the faculty seminar, experts from different disciplines discussed their methodologies and the use of testimonies as primary sources. Because of the large interest in this seminar, we are committed to opening a new reflective space to discuss themes related to the Holocaust in 2019.”

View the video of Professor Browning’s presentation at UNAM, entitled “Perpetrators of the Holocaust – Ordinary Men?“.

Parallel to the organization of the conferences, the team developed Spanish-language educational materials on the history of the Holocaust in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. The materials were created in support of the 7th grade World History curriculum.  Based on suggestions by the project team, Oxana Pérez Bravo developed the materials, taking into consideration the national curriculum content as well as specific competencies for the unit on ghettos and camps. The materials guide teachers in preparing a series of lessons on the life in the Lodz ghetto, which was established by the Nazi German authorities in 1940 in occupied Poland. The lessons are based on testimonies by Bronislaw “Broni” Zajbert, who survived the Lodz ghetto as a child and moved to Mexico in 1960.

The educational materials include a guide for teachers to prepare the lessons, materials and work-sheets for students, as well as 10 videos, including four segments of a video testimony by Bronislaw Zajbert. All materials were published on 7 December 2018 on the Ministry’s educational platform @prende2.0, frequently used by Mexican teachers and accessible to educators worldwide.

To find out more about the project, please read this interview with Manolo E. Vela Castañeda or visit the ICEH website.