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Feature

Work Makes You Free welcome arch over the entrance to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz, with its grim "work makes you free" welcome, was one of six Nazi death camps in Poland.

Teaching the Holocaust

By Kelly O'Brien

From M, fall 2007

Poland was the center of the Nazis' efforts to exterminate the Jews during WWII. Six death camps lay within its borders, including Treblinka and Auschwitz. Many non-Jewish Poles also died in these camps. This period altered the face of Poland forever. The city of Lublin, for example, had 119,000 Jews in 1939; today it has only 18--10 women and 8 men. The Poles have struggled to make sense of this chapter of their history for decades. As a result, Holocaust education in Poland has been fraught with doubt and misinformation. But this summer the University began to help middle- and high-school teachers learn how to explore this difficult issue for a new generation of Polish children through a program called Project Poland. Tess Wise, a survivor of the Radom, Poland, ghetto and labor camp and president of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida, began Project Poland a year ago. She asked Stephen Feinstein, director of the U's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, to help. "My philosophy was to find an [educational] organization whose mission was the same as our mission: to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and to shape a more moral and ethical community," says Wise. In July, Feinstein and American and Polish scholars, including Jewish adults who were hidden as children, gathered at Jagellonian University in Krakow with 65 teachers to discuss the Holocaust from a decidedly Polish point of view. "Every year more information is found. As a result, Holocaust education is constantly evolving," says Feinstein. The future of Project Poland depends on funding, but Feinstein hopes the University can continue helping people understand what the wrong technology, and political ideology and rhetoric can produce.


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