NEW YORK (Jul. 22)
Two Holocaust educators will travel to Lithuania this fall to head a seminar for high school teachers in an attempt to introduce Holocaust education there.
The B’nai B’rith-sponsored educators, Shalmi Barmore, former director of education at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and Judith Shapiro of Philadelphia, had met with Lithuanian Minister of Education Vladislavas Domarkas and other top education officials on their recent trip to the Baltic country.
As a result of that meeting, the educators will return to Lithuania this fall to share their expertise with their counterparts in the former Soviet republic.
The program will be co-sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education, B’nai B’rith and the Rich Foundation in Paris.
“I was encouraged by the Lithuanians’ interest in the subject,” Shapiro said. “The Lithuanians wanted to know the historic truth about the Holocaust. They wanted to know their role and they want to teach it.”
Some 94 percent of Lithuania’s Jewish population, which totaled 200,000 to 250,000 people before the war, were killed during World War II.
About 6,000 Jews now live in Lithuania, mostly in Vilnius, the capital, and Kaunas.
Scheduled for the five-day conference is instruction on Jewish history, Holocaust education and the history of Lithuanian Jewry. Also planned is a trip to a Holocaust site, possibly to the Vilna Ghetto and the Paneiri Forest, where thousands of Jews were killed in 1941.
“Two generations of Lithuanians have been raised with this blind spot in history,” said Daniel Mariaschin, director of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Public Policy.
They “have no idea that there was a major Jewish community in Lithuania for hundreds and hundreds of years” and their history books are “tainted by political bias,” he said.
He added that the curriculum is intended to “to educate Lithuanians to understand their own history” and to create a “living memorial, a way of remembering those who died there as well.”