By Victor Minachin
The Symposium "Lessons of the Holocaust and Modern Russia" has ended in Moscow. It was a great success, the first meeting of this kind ever held in Russia. About fifty people from eleven countries spoke, including representatives from Yad Vashem and the Wannsee Museum.
President Yeltsin personally signed a welcoming message to the Symposium, which was read to the participants by his personal advisor, Professor Krasavchenko. This is the very first public reaction of the Russian President not just to the subject of the Holocaust, but to the Jewish question in general.
One day of the Symposium was devoted to the educational aspects of the Holocaust. Teachers from Moscow, Volgograd (Russia), Kiev (Ukraine) and other places spoke on their personal experience of teaching the history of the Holocaust. Three aspects emerged as matters of concern by interested teachers in the schools of the FSU: (1) local educational bureaucracy (mainly coming from old Communist party elite) is often not too enthusiastic about including the Holocaust subject in the curriculum, so those teachers who do teach the history of the Holocaust usually do it extra-curricularly; (2) there are a number of cases in which senior grade students in Russian or Ukrainian schools have the reaction of "Why should I study the history of what happened to Jews?" (3)and, there is a shortage of educational materials, text books, and other teaching aids and equipment.
My presentation on I*EARN and the Holocaust/Genocide Research Project produced much interest. Many teachers found it hard to believe that while they are struggling to get access to teaching aids and materials, this enormous international resource is available on-line immediately, and provides for participation of kids in actual research projects.
The welcoming messages from Peter Copen, Dell Salza, Gideon Goldstein, Bill Coppinger, Daniel Reyes, Honey Kern, and Hudson Senior High School were highly appreciated by the audience. The feeling of the closeness of colleagues from Argentina, Australia, Israel, and the United States helped to dispel the feeling of isolation which unfortunately is still felt, especially in places far from Moscow.
To know that one is not alone is very important, especially in our country now, where antisemitic feelings are openly expressed in a number of publications (including nationalistic newspapers), and where the Fascist party has just held a meeting of its semimilitary gangs to remember their members killed in October riots in Moscow last year.
As a first step, in joining the Holocaust/Genocide Project, Dr. Ilya Altman and I shall be visiting a Moscow school which expressed its wish to start working on the HGP.
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