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Across the Former Soviet Union Anne Frank House to Give a Boost to Holocaust Programs in Ukraine

December 23, 2002
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Ukrainian Jewish organizations are teaming up with the Anne Frank House of Amsterdam to help teach Ukrainians the lessons of the Holocaust.

But the Anne Frank House fully expects to be doing some learning of its own along the way.

“The idea is not to come here as a Western organization and to tell local groups to do things this way or do things that way or to simply say, ‘Here’s some money; continue doing what you’ve been doing,’ ” said Norbert Hinterleitner of the International Department of the Anne Frank House. “Those are two ways not to proceed — rather, we have to bring our experiences together to form a team.”

Hinterleitner was in Kiev earlier this month along with Jan Pierre Krebs, managing director of the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin, for discussions aimed at laying the groundwork for a new two-year project in Ukraine.

The goal of the “Holocaust and Tolerance Education in Ukraine” project — to be implemented by the Ukrainian partners during the next few years in cooperation with Anne Frank House experts — is to help Ukrainians achieve a better understanding of their own history, become familiar with human rights and to increase tolerance in contemporary Ukraine.

The project is broken into four components:

a tour of the Ukrainian version of the traveling exhibition “Anne Frank — a History for Today,” supplemented by an exhibition on the fate of young Ukrainian victims of the Holocaust;

teacher-training seminars;

peer education; and

the development of local education sources, including a traveling exhibition and textbook focusing on minority groups in contemporary Ukraine.

The first three components will be jointly presented in several towns during 2003-2004. The exhibition on Ukrainian minorities is slated to begin touring in 2005.

Major partners include the Jewish Education Center, the Va’ad of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies and the Institute of Jewish Studies — all of which have existing education programs in place.

Hinterleitner said part of the challenge in planning the new project is to find the best ways to incorporate existing programs into the new project and to leave the door open for the participation of as many groups as possible.

One of the programs the Anne Frank House hopes to bolster is one run by the Jewish Education Center. It focused on the meaning of the Holocaust in the context of European affairs and other genocides around the globe.

Of the 80 non-Jewish Ukrainian teachers from the Kiev region who were enrolled in the center’s project, 46 “brave” teachers demonstrated a serious commitment to the program and its goal of teaching tolerance, says Anya Yudkovskaya, who helped run the program.

“Brave — because these teachers are true heroes, in some cases challenging their employers, their school administrations and even their spouses by taking on this painful period of history,” she said. “Involving non-Jewish teachers is different in Ukraine as opposed to in America, for example, because the Holocaust took place here — and because the Soviets refused to differentiate between Jewish suffering and that of the Soviet people as a whole.”

Other teachers dropped out, mainly for personal reasons.

Even more significantly, Yudkovskaya said the center’s project has enjoyed success with the students taught by her teachers.

She said that of 2,000 Ukrainian students in the program, 130 took part in two rounds of a research project competition, with winners receiving awards including scholarships to Solomon International University in Kiev and invitations to Va’ad-run summer camps in the Carpathian Mountains.

Yudkovskaya said topics ranged from the history of a Kiev-area town during the Holocaust, to interviews with survivors, to a map depicting the ghettos and concentration camps that existed in the Vinnitsa region.

“They made their presentations with tears in their eyes — and these tears are our victory,” she said. “The tragedy of the Jews taught them emotionally, and I know none of these students will ever become anti-Semitic and will always be tolerant of all minority groups.”

During his first trip to Ukraine in September, Hinterleitner said he met representatives of some 16 organizations in eight days — all enthusiastic to bring their expertise to the “Holocaust and Tolerance Education” project.

Part of that interest stems from the Anne Frank House’s increased presence in the region.

The Anne Frank House originally took the Anne Frank exhibition on a tour of Ukraine in 1992 but, since 1995, has stepped up its activity in formerly Communist Europe: in Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and Russia.

Non-Jewish partners in the project include the All-Ukrainian Association of Teachers of History and Civic Education and the Kiev Board of Education.

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