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Irina Mahalova, Elena Krivtsova, and Viktoria Pletselman on Their Participation in ‘WWII and the Catastrophe of Jewish People’ Seminar

The seminar was organized by the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies in collaboration with The International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences and took place from November 2nd – 9th, 2015, in Jerusalem, Israel.

The seminar entitled ‘The topic of World War II and the Catastrophe of Jewish People: Academic and Educational Aspects’ took place from November 2nd – 9th, 2015, in Jerusalem, Israel. It was organized by the International School for Holocaust Studies at the Yad Vashem museum and the HSE International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, with the support of the Genesis Foundation. Irina Mahalova, Elena Krivtsova, and Viktoria Pletselman, Research Assistants from the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, took part in the seminar.

Twenty-two participants from four countries, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Estonia, came to the seminar. They included school and university lecturers, as well as researchers from museums and archives.

The course consisted of 90 hours of lectures on various topics, from the history of Yiddish to the history of Soviet Jewry between the two world wars; from the topic of the Catastrophe in art, to life in Israel today. Leading experts on the history of Jewry and Holocaust read the lectures.

As part of the lecture classes, staff from the Yad Vashem educational centre presented the projects that are being implemented by the museum today: Jews in the Red Army; ‘Untold Stories’ about the places of mass executions and memorialization of the Catastrophe in the post-Soviet space, the ‘Project of Names’ which collects the names of Jews who died in WWII; ‘the Righteous of the World’, and several others.

Since one of the seminar topics was to study the methods of teaching the Holocaust at universities, Noa Sigal conducted a fascinating workshop, where each of the participants had to play the part of a Polish Jew and think about their fate both before and during the WWII. It turned out to be one of the most memorable classes of the entire seminar.

The organizers gave the participants the opportunity to present their projects in order to get a better idea of everyone’s research.

The seminar hosts also organized excursions for the participants to let them take in the country’s history and atmosphere. This included trips to the Old City of Jerusalem, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Western Wall. The students went to the north of the country where they saw places related to ancient Jewish culture and early Christianity and walked by the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.

Another notable event was a trip to the Museum of Israel, where seminar participants could learn a lot about local history.

Masha Polak-Rozenberg offered the guests a thrilling excursion around the Yad Vashem museum. This is a place where people from all over the world come to learn more about World War II and the Catastrophe of the Jewish people. Masha not only shared figures and facts, but told the history of each of the exhibits in the museum and attracted the group’s attention to certain concepts invented by the museum creators.

Finally, one of the most impressive points of the programme was the visit to the Children’s Memorial, which is aims to commemorate those Nazi victims who lost their families. Many of these children died a horrible death in ghettos and death camps.

The seminar was organized by real experts in their field. It gave the participants the opportunity to look at many problems from a new perspective, to meet specialists from various areas, to share experience and knowledge with people from other countries, to learn more about the culture and policy of memory in Israel, and to feel the variety and uniqueness of Jerusalem as the centre of three world religions.