Taking groups of students to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is a heavy responsibility, but it is a major contribution to citizenship if it fosters understanding of Auschwitz stands for, particularly when the last survivors are at the end of their lives. It comes with certain risks, however.
This pack is designed for teachers wishing to organise student visits to authentic places of remembrance, and for the guides, academics and others who work every day with young people at Auschwitz.
There is nothing magical about visiting an authentic place of remembrance, and it calls for a carefully thought-out approach. To avoid the risk of inappropriate reactions or the failure to benefit from a large investment in travel and accommodation, considerable preparation and discussion is necessary before the visit and serious reflection afterwards. Teachers must prepare students for a form of learning they may never have met before.
This pack offers insights into the complexities of human behaviour so that students can have a better understanding of what it means to be a citizen. How are they concerned by what happened at Auschwitz? Is the unprecedented process of exclusion that was practised in the holocaust still going on in Europe today? In what sense is it different from present-day racism and anti-Semitism?
The young people who visit Auschwitz in the next few years will be witnesses of the last witnesses, links in the chain of memory. Their generation will be the last to hear the survivors speaking on the spot.
The Council of Europe, the Polish Ministry of Education and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum are jointly sponsoring this project aimed at preventing crimes against humanity through Holocaust remembrance teaching.