Yad Vashem and the Aladdin Project launch joint project



A group of 25 Turkish academics who teach in private and public universities across Turkey took part in a seminar in Istanbul on October 24 as part of a joint program launched by the Aladdin Project and Yad Vashem to develop a cadre of leaders in Holocaust education in Turkish universities. The program is supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The seminar was the first stage of a five-part educational initiative for Turkish academics. Participants heard lectures on Holocaust education and anti-Semitism. After brief remarks by Ambassadors Ertan Tezgor and Sir Andrew Burns, Richelle Budd Caplan, Director of the European Department at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies, gave an overview of the project and talked about a workshop on Holocaust Memory represented in the graphic arts.

Abe Radkin, Executive Director of the Aladdin Project, spoke about "Turkey and the Universality of Holocaust Education: the Aladdin Project’s Perspectives," while Yad Vashem’s Senior Historian Dr. David Silberklang gave a lecture about "Issues in the Study of the Holocaust". The academics also heard a very interesting lecture by Dr. Kathrin Meyer, Executive Secretary of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, about the history of anti-Semitism.

During the second stage of the program participants will take part in an online study course beginning in January 2014.  In June 2014, the group will visit Jerusalem for a week-long seminar at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies.  In the fourth stage they will implement educational programs in their respective universities, and in February 2015 the program will culminate with a video-conference summarizing the program and bringing together the entire group of educators to assess the outcome of the long-term project.

The academics taking part in the program represent some of the best minds in their different fields in Turkey’s higher educational system. Their active engagement in debates with the panelists and interest in the subject impressed the visiting scholars and practitioners. Here are some examples of their comments after watching some postcards that are part of Yad Vashem's SignPosts project done in conjunction with the Wizo Graphic Arts School:

"I visited the Anne Frank House with my six-year-old daughter who was most impressed with Anne's story and this has given me a lot to think about. I am also concerned about teaching about intolerance in schools."

"Albert Einstein wrote Ataturk a letter in 1933, asking that Turkey consider taking German Jewish academics. This group of German professors strongly contributed to the development of Turkish higher education and the arts. There is a connection here."

"I am struck by the fact that 'someone' can suddenly become ' no one' due to their race. The Nazis were well-educated people, so how did they achieve consensus to turn somebody into nobody? I am also interested in this topic also because I want to work towards prevention in the future."

"My parents had Jewish childhood friends, but suddenly they were not around anymore. I was always curious about why they had to move away. I felt some sense of loss since my parents have fond memories of them. We have been taught about how Turkey has been tolerant but during my studies in university I wrote a research paper that made me realize that Turks have to face their past too."

"I teach about international criminal law and I teach about genocide. I have visited Struthof in Alsace and it is the only Holocaust-related authentic site that I have ever seen. It may be just a point on the Google map, but there is so much horror on the ground."

"I am doing research on Hannah Arendt and am very interested in this subject."

"After examining the postcard about 184 calories a day allotted to Jewish people in the ghettos, it made me think about what we eat in a day and confront the tragic truth."