Educational Tour to the Belzec Memorial Museum
The Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies in cooperation with the Belzec Memorial Museum and with financial support American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Claims Conference organized an educational Seminar for Ukrainian students and teachers in Poland from the 15th of March until the 21st of March. The main aim of the project was the visit to one of the concentration camps, often left out of the “usual” Holocaust history trips to Poland. Belzec has opened the new memorial site and the museum at the place of the former concentration camp in June 2004.
Our seminar started in Lvov with an excursion to the Jewish parts of the city accompanied by two lectures about Jewish life before and during the Holocaust in Western Ukraine and a lecture about the perspectives of “Oral History” Method in Holocaust Research. Like an underscoring of our centres approaches for the remembrance of the Holocaust and a tolerant open minded society, we noticed plenty of Nazi propaganda sprayings and swastikas at former Jewish places, which reminded us once more of the importance of Holocaust education.
The next day we went by bus to Zamosc, a city in eastern Poland, which had a big Jewish population before the war. During the visit of the old town we got a good impression of how Jewish life had been before the Shoah. The lectures in Zamosc were mainly targeted to Jewish life in Poland. The history of the Jewish communities and the Polish – Jewish relations were used for an interesting comparison between Poland and Ukraine. Further more the collaboration of the local population in the Nazi Final Solution of the Jewish Question in both countries was discussed. The next four days our group moved to Belzec, a small city near the Ukrainian border. In March 1942 the installation of one of the Aktion "Reinhardt" death camps was finished in this small town located between Lublin and Lvov, two big centres of European Jewry. At least 500000 people were killed in this extermination camp until it’s destruction at the end of December 1942. Due to the Nazis efforts to erase evidence of the camp's existence near the war's end, almost all traces of the camp disappeared from the surface of the site. As already mentioned above, in June 2004 the new commemorations cite opened its doors. Our group was official guest at the Commemoration ceremony on the 19th of March. During these days in Belzec we as well visited the concentration camps Chelm, Sobibor and Lublin-Majdanek.
At the end I want to express my gratitude to all the people, who made this seminar a great success, particularly to Dr. Robert Kuwalek (director of the Belzec museum), Dr. Anatoly Podolsky (director of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies), our Ukrainian and Polish lecturers, our accountant Nele Yushchenko and our translator Constantin Radecky.
List of lecturers: Dr.Maxim Gon, Dr. Anatoly Podolsky, Olexandr Voitenko, Tatiana Velichko, Dr.Robert Kuwalek, Dr.Adam Kopciovski, Mikhail Tyaglyy, Tomasz Hanejko, Jaroslaw Joniec, Jacek Nowakowski, Zbigniew Paszt, Tomasz Kranz, Prof. Konrad Zielinski and Arthur Fredekind.
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