Empowering teachers with new IHRA Recommendations

 “I wish I had had these recommendations when I started teaching about the Holocaust!”, says Andrea Szőnyi enthusiastically, as the forthcoming IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust are mentioned.

Having been involved in Holocaust education for years, Ms. Szőnyi is now the Director of the Zachor Foundation for Social Remembrance in Hungary, a Regional Consultant with the USC Shoah Foundation, and a member of the Hungarian Delegation to the IHRA. As co-creator of the IHRA recommendations, she fully understands that teaching about the Holocaust can be a challenge:

“Several pitfalls lie in the way of well-meaning teachers and educators, for instance using role-play in a counterproductive way or presuming that merely factual knowledge about the Holocaust necessarily has an effect on antisemitism,” Szőnyi elaborates. “In fact, teachers often lack the tools and methodology necessary to successfully engage learners, and this is what we aim to address with the new recommendations.”

But challenges also present themselves in other ways. “In many countries, Holocaust education is an underserved area, and this is why we have also focused on creating awareness on the political and administrative levels by providing answers to the question of ‘Why teach about the Holocaust?’,” Szőnyi points out. In her eyes, cultivating support among policymakers and school administrators is a crucial step towards empowering teachers and educators to feel confident teaching about the Holocaust.

In the end, Szőnyi hopes that education professionals will embrace the IHRA Recommendations as an opportunity for cooperation and personal development: “Holocaust education often brings together teachers and educators from across multiple subjects, and this creates a unique forum for the sharing and development of practices and knowledge.”

The IHRA Recommendations on Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust will be launched at the Plenary meetings in Luxembourg City on 4 December and will be available in full on the IHRA website.

Photo: Andrea Szőnyi is one of a team of international experts that has worked together to create the new IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust. Credit: Tamas Reichel