Another Family’s Starting Over: The Resourceful Glass Family of Paris and New York

James Diskant Reviews ,

Too often history classes only focus on the horrors of the Holocaust and of Nazi rule; there is, however, an increasingly growing iterature that details the ways in which people resisted, helped one another,  and successfully managed to survive.

This book by Freeman is one example that will help educators rethink the ways that they teach this period or supplement what they already do and know. Freeman’s book not only details her family’s history to show how some of her relatives coped with life in France in the 1930s and 1940s, but also to allow students to grapple with the difficult questions about survival in this period when the odds were against Jewish survival. By looking at one family, one can unravel the advantages, limits, and/or shortcomings of different approaches. The book can be superb background for educators, as well as the basis for an interesting Socratic Seminar about the concepts — assimilation, passivity, defiance, and emigration — that she discusses and for students to probe into each of them in detail.  After all it would be great if one could learn from the past, wouldn’t it? 

When I was perusing a bookshelf about World War II in a bookstore a few weeks ago, I came across a fascinating book: Hadley Freeman, House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family (London: Fourth Estate, 2020). Since this family has some parallels to my own in terms of an emigration pattern (see Post #1: Planned Escape(s)), I thought that I would share my impressions of it, along with my recommendation of it, here. Freeman, through the use of family memoirs, artifacts, and pictures, interviews with family members, and official documents, was able to put together a riveting account of how her Jewish relatives, that is her grandmother and two of her three grand uncles, managed to survive the horrors of World War II in the United States and in France respectively. It is remarkable how well she is able to document these personal histories and to situate them in time and in historical interpretation. The book – which is part memoir, part history, part commentary, and part family discovery –is a gripping, empathetic account of not only these three people, but also of others who were essential parts of their stories.

Typically, I first read any opening quotation (if there is one), the introduction, and the acknowledgments. And in this case after reading the opening quotation from Arthur Miller (excerpted from Broken Glass, 1994), I was hooked:

‘Getting this hysterical about [anti-Semitism] on the

other side of the world is sane?’

When she talks about it, it’s not on the other side

Of the world, it’s on the next block.’

‘An that’s sane?

‘I don’t know what it is! I just get the feeling some-

times that she KNOWS something, something that

… It’s like she’s connected to some … some wire

that goes half around the world, some truth that other

people are blind to.’

While I have not seen or read this Miller play – which takes place in 1938 – when a Jewish couple in New York reacts to the horrors of the Night of the Broken Glass in Germany, the quotation pulled me into this family story. Of course, given her family’s last name of Glass, Freeman’s use of the quotation intrigued me. Afterwards I skimmed the introduction, and acknowledgements, and I was curious to learn about the Glass family.

Wow, I was not disappointed; I read the book originally in two sittings and just re-read it!! Freeman was able not only to find fascinating details about her grandmother and her great uncles, but also wrote a touching memoir about surviving, coping, and changing. In so doing she argues that these people may represent ” prototypes”, that is different ways of coping and coming to terms with their past. The book is an inspiring journey into uncovering family secrets, unraveling different ways of moving forward (or not, I suppose), and the horrors of experiencing antisemitism in Poland and in France, and yet the importance of staying true to one’s values and beliefs.

In the book – which had originally started as a memoir of Freeman’s grandmother – one’s learns much more – about Sara (aka Sala) who was able (almost reluctantly) to escape France during the war by moving to the United States and by marrying an American. In June 1937 she started over in New York with a man whom she barely knew; it was apparently her key to survival and yet she returned to France multiple times in the 1930s and ultimately found her niche as wife and mother in New York without losing the French identity that has been so important to her. We also learn about her brother Henri (aka Jehuda) who assimilated well into Parisian culture and along with his wife Sonia, were part of the Resistance, about Alex (aka Sander), who not excelled well into that same culture and also was part of the Resistance, and about Jacques (aka Jakob), who sadly did not survive and was murdered in Auschwitz.

The story begins with Freeman sharing the contents of a shoebox of her grandmother’s memorabilia, which included papers and photos, some of which were indeed puzzling. Together they encouraged Freeman to research and to write about her family. Then with her great uncle’s Alex’s memoir, family letters, official documents and statistics, she was able to write a thought-provoking account of how in the 1920s the Glasses were transformed from the Glahses from Chrzanow, a Polish village, part of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as their lives beyond this initial emigration. In some ways she writes a typical story of immigration and how some members of the family found this to be easier than others and yet her careful prose shows the complexities that were involved in these decisions and changes.

Her careful use of these various sources gives life to these both “ordinary and extraordinary” people. One may argue with her “one word” characterizations of individuals as “passive” for her grand uncle Jacques, “defiant” for her grand uncle Alex, “assimilated” for her grand uncle Henri, and “emigrant” for her grandmother. Still they mirror sociological descriptions of different ways in which people respond to crises and relate to an extensive literature of migration stories. There may be truth to these characterizations, which helps us understand how people are influenced by their personal assumptions and niches. Not only does Freeman write about how these three siblings survived the war, but she is also able to share their intertwining stories in the years after the war – from the “ordinary and the “extraordinary” as puts it … Henri and Sara in the first category and Alex in the second – and in so doing share fascinating insights into gender, migration, and much more. These three siblings are able to continue their lives – family, children, work, travel – and in Freeman’s account we learn how these stories are connected to one another.

In different ways the three survivors assimilated into their respective culture(s) and societies; they managed to live normal lives as best as they could, which suggest that there may be lessons for the present and future from the way in which people respond to the past. Starting over is not uncomplicated – as I know from my own family history and my life – and yet Freeman shows with detail and empathy how her grandmother and her grand uncles managed to do so. She provides a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of how they all managed to survive. The book raises essential questions for all of us to ponder about the complexities relating to assimilation, starting over, Jewish identities, gender roles, unjust governments, and assumptions during a challenging period of history — the world of World War II and its aftermath in the United States and in France. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in these questions.

 

Written by James Diskant

This book review was originally published on James Diskant's blog: "Chronicles from Berlin: Anecdotes About Starting Over, Coming Out, and History Teaching", where, among other things, Dr. James Diskant also provides reflections on lessons from many years as an educator in history education.

Sources as a Window to the Past: Revisit Helen Snelson’s Webinar on Using Sources as Evidence in the Digital Classroom

On December 9th, EuroClio ambassador Helen Snelson kicked off the four-part webinar series on mastering the art of developing eLearning Activities on Historiana. By using source material on post-war Europe, Helen was able to create a meaningful and engaging eActivity for her students. In this article you find the tips and tricks on using source materials as evidence that Helen shared, and get ideas on how to use Historiana in your educational practice.

Historiana is an online portal developed by EuroClio, Webtic and UseMedia with Europeana for and with history and citizenship educators from Europe and beyond. On Historiana you can find ready to use learning activities, multiperspective historical content and digital tools that are all free to use, adapt and share.

What can sources teach your students?

The webinar started off with an insight in how using individual sources can instill a ‘sense of period’ with students. This helps them to feel more secure about their understanding of the past and make sense of historical people and events in a broader context. Helen demonstrated this in her eLearning Activity with a 1949 German election poster, generating a sense of the hunger and hardships, but also the future-oriented mindset of the time. Exercises using single sources to this effect can easily be made in Historiana’s eActivity builder using the question, analysing, or highlighting tool. Helen recommended assigning this eActivity as homework to prepare students for your classes, especially when in-class time is limited.

 

 

(Click on the image to watch) 7:12- 11:48: In this segment, Helen Snelson demonstrates how to build a ‘sense of period’ of post-war Europe using a 1949 German election poster.

Afterwards, the webinar concentrated further on using different sets of sources. Helen stressed how different sets of sources, such as maps, pictures, or objects, give us different types of evidence. By really engaging students in these different types of sources, they will discover for themselves what type of information these sets can give them on the historical topic at hand. The comparing and discovering tools in the eLearning Activity are especially suited for this end.

“Fascinating as we all are as history teachers – sometimes, students turn off when we talk at them […]. But actually, because they have really engaged with the source material, they are burning with questions which you can then help them to find some answer to, and their curiosity is aroused.” Helen Snelson

(Click on the image to watch) 13:40- 22:41: In this segment, Helen Snelson builds on the previous activity by contrasting the poster with a testimony of a French schoolgirl and demonstrates how to do this as an eActivity in Historiana.

What distinguishes evidence from sources?

When discussing sources in general, Helen pointed out that teachers also need to be very careful about their language, as ‘sources’ and ‘evidence’ are not interchangeable. A source is something a historian can use as evidence to say something specific about the past, but with widely varying degrees of certainty. It is important for teachers to confer the uncertainty inherent to the historical profession, for example by asking students what they can ‘infer’ from a source. When we start using multiple sources, we can show students that one type of source can be corroborated and connected or compared with other sources to create more valid evidence.

To demonstrate the limitations of sources when studying the past, Helen shared the metaphor of sources as ‘a window to the past’. We are all inside, in the present, looking at the outside world, the past, through the window that is available to us: remaining sources. And when looking out of this window, everyone notices different things. We might choose to focus on the other buildings, the trees, or a bird flying by. Helen: “If we looked through that window, we would all notice different things, because we are all built slightly differently and we observe differently.” As educators, we should remind ourselves and our students that sources are not a representative reflection of the past, they are but fragmentary remains. And when students get a handle on this metaphor, they start to avoid  these oversimplifications that a single source would tell them a truth about the past and that’s that.

(Click on the image to watch) 36:25-37:54: How professional historians use source material to establish evidence and how to integrate this way of thinking in the classroom.

How to use sources effectively?

Helen also gave some helpful pointers to make the most effective use of sources in the classroom. By showing a well-selected source or set of sources, for example, you can demonstrate how new source material can overturn the popular view on historical events. She illustrated this by using a source that shows how the first shots in the First World War were fired outside of Europe, to overturn the entrenched image of trench warfare. Whenever possible, Helen advised to show the real source and not just a textual copy. This will train your students to pick up clues from context that otherwise might be lost. She further demonstrated how to use a Layers of Inference Diagram to teach students about deconstructing a source.

(Click on the image to watch) 47:02 - 50:41: How to use a Layers of Inference Diagram to deconstruct sources.

Conclusion: How to translate all of this into an eLearning Activity?

At the closing of the webinar, Helen explained how she combined all of her insights into an eLearning Activity on Historiana called ‘How does a historian use sources as evidence’ that she uses in her classroom. She then concluded with her expectations on the future of sources in history education: “I think what’s really exciting about history and history teaching at the moment is the wide array of sources that has been particularly driven by the young academic historians.” With the support of Historiana, you could train the next generation of young academic historians to engage with sources through your history teaching!

(Click on the image to watch) 55:08-59:30: What the final eLearning Activity using sources on Historiana looks like.

 

Learn More

Want to learn more about using sources as evidence in the (digital) classroom? Watch the full webinar here: https://youtu.be/s3ThUq1hTDs.

Access the ready to use eLearning Activity here: https://historiana.eu/ea/view/8011aab4-ad66-4ad3-97a3-d9c6812ae24b/text/bb_0

Upcoming events

This article is part of a webinar series, in which teacher educators who are experienced in using Historiana show examples of the eLearning Activities that they created, while also diving into a specific topic and discussing a critical thinking skill to teach students.

These events are scheduled next:

  • On February 17th, Bridget Martin (History Teacher, International School of Paris) will be focusing on the Contributions to WWI and talking about perspective. (register here)
  • On April 21st, Jim Diskant (History Teacher retd.) will be looking at Visual Representation of women (Thinking skill TBA). (register here)
  • On June 16th, Gijs van Gaans (Teacher Trainer, Fontys Tilburg) will be examining Schisms within Christianity and discuss change and continuity. (register here)

This article is written as part of the Europeana DSI4 project co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union. The sole responsibility of this publication lies with the author. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Written by Mechteld Visser.

An Interpretation of Powerful Knowledge for History Education

Maayke De Vries Articles

At the moment, I combine teaching with pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Education at University College London which, according to its slogans, encourages innovative and disruptive thinking. One of the ideas that has created quite some attention is the formulation of Powerful Knowledge (PK) by Professor Michael Young. Since the beginning of this century, Professor Young promotes the idea of a re-focus on knowledge in the curriculum and moving away from a curriculum based on 21st century skills or other competencies. Initially, this sounded like a reactionary attitude to me: while there is some recognition for multiple ways of knowing, there are also the conservative voices calling to bring ‘real’ knowledge back into the curriculum. However, the more I started to read about PK and its essential complementary ideas, the more I realized that theoretical knowledge can also be empowering. Encouraging ways of thinking that are specific for a certain community of inquirers will allow for a deeper understanding of reality. For now, this idea is mostly put into practice by geography educators at UCL, however the principles of PK are also very much applicable to history. In this blog post, I would like to explain the essential characteristics of the idea, along with important criticism focussing on social justice. Lastly, I would like to suggest an implementation in history education. 

A curriculum on the basis of PK perceives subjects as specific disciplines with their own procedures and protocols to understand and examine the world. In an article in 2010, Young and Muller elaborated on three possible futures of education: 1) the continuation of the elite system as it exists today; 2) the end of disciplinary knowledge which is replaced with generic outcomes hereby - unintentionally - educating students solely for employability, while also deprofessionalizing teachers and de-specializing research; 3) emphasizing the role of specific knowledge communities in acquiring and producing knowledge, whereby the aim is to supplement the everyday experience with theoretical knowledge. Young and Muller predicted that future 2 will remain most popular because of the (hidden) neoliberal tendencies of this educational system, while future 3 has, according to Young and Muller, more potential to confront contemporary challenges such as the growing inequality, polarization, and misinformation. 

PK is not about dominating, but rather empowering the learner. According to Young, there are two types of power: the kind that wants to dominate, thus exercising power over something or someone; and the emancipatory kind, namely the power to do something or to think something. What makes PK emancipatory, according to Young, is that it provides students with the ability to critique society as it exists. 

Biesta is another proponent of bringing knowledge back into the curriculum, as a way of indicating to students what might be worthwhile paying attention to. Biesta suggested that emancipatory teaching would let students “figure out what they do with what they may encounter there. The judgement, and the burden of the judgement is, in other words, on them [the students]”. Young claims that all students should have access to emancipatory knowledge as it allows for generalizations, imaging the yet unthinkable, conceptual understanding, and embedment within specialized inquiring communities. In contrast, future 2 education will place the focus on everyday experience without complementing it with theoretical knowledge that allows for a more complex understanding. Hence, Young claims, future 2 will only make the achievement gap wider between students, as the theoretical knowledge can act as an equalizer. Young exemplified the difference between everyday knowledge and PK on the basis of geography: everyday knowledge is your knowledge about how the public transport works or where the stores are located, whereas PK is an understanding of how cities are organized and how they might change. 

The idea of PK is based on a social realist perception of knowledge, which can be dismissive of ways of knowing outside western perceptions of ‘knowledge’. A social realist perception of knowledge means that the acquisition and production of information involves systematic concepts and methods within communities of enquirers who search for truth within their distinctive disciplines. Hence, it can be said that a critical attitude towards PK is necessary to understand that knowledge is never neutral and always highly political. 

Therefore constructive criticism of PK has complemented the theory and encouraged the integration of social justice. In 2018, Wrigely expressed his worry that social structures influence knowledge formation and distribution, inevitably creating silences due to dominance of certain voices. Hence, Wrigely argued for the incorporation of a theory of knowledge called critical realism, which would acknowledge that the curriculum is political and never neutral. Students should therefore have the ability to evaluate any knowledge claims because they understand that social structures and conventions play a role in the formation and distribution of this knowledge. Thus, Wrigely suggested that PK should incorporate a critical element by supplementing the everyday experience with a focus on “underlying forces which are at work, that these forces might not always be active or visible, that everyday experience is not always the best guide to understanding the structures that impact on our lives..” (p.12). Therefore, Wrigely suggested “Productive Pedagogies” to complement conceptual thinking with students’ everyday life experience. So PK in a critical realist interpretation would still mean a focus on key concepts and challenging ideas, but would account for the social structures in society that allow for some knowledge to emerge and be distributed more widely. 

Another useful addition to the idea of PK is the concept of Powerful Pedagogies, which encourages enquiry as a way of learning. Roberts wrote in her response to PK that everyday experience is a necessary element in teaching in order for students to make a connection between the theoretical concepts and their own lives. According to Roberts, the everyday experience of students is not just their location but also the media in which they interact or the circles in which students find themselves.  As a result, Roberts argues that subjects, like geography, have powerful ways of understanding this world: ”through the kinds of questions it asks and the ways in which it investigates them” (p.201). Roberts furthermore stresses the political element of knowledge, hence there should always be a reckoning of its origin and context in which it was created. Roberts emphasizes the importance of how the teaching takes place, thus the method of instruction which truly allows for knowledge to become powerful or not. According to Roberts, PK can in other words only become emancipatory when Powerful Pedagogies are used. Roberts summarises Powerful Pedagogies with three characteristics: 1) Enquiry-based; 2) Dialectical Teaching; 3) Critical. Thus, PK alone will not provide students with a complex understanding of the world it needs to co-exist with powerful ways of teaching. 

The powerful element of knowledge is not only in the hands of the teacher. The students themselves need to feel agency in order to act upon the newly acquired insights. Alderson enlists in her response to PK four necessary conditions for knowledge to become truly powerful: 1) The Known; 2) The Knowers; 3) The Social and Cultural Context; 4) The Application. The Known in the case of PK refers to knowledge that is constantly changing and emerging through research and creativity, aiming to move towards reliable truth. According to Alderson, this knowledge can never be powerful if there is no human agency involved (the knowers), thus for knowledge to be powerful there should be an active and creative dialogue between the knowers and the known. This power of this dialogue depends on social and cultural contexts, as this learning is not happening in a vacuum but influenced by real life challenges, which needs to be considered for PK to truly be emancipatory. Lastly, the application of the known by the knowers in particular social and cultural context will determine whether it can influence society. Thus knowledge might claim to promote social justice but this will only be the case if the application of the knowledge is done in such a way. 

To summarize, PK as originally suggested by Young could have indeed promoted a reactionary response to the increasing liberation of marginalized voices, however when PK is informed by a critical realist perception of knowledge this can be averted. Thus, PK has the potential to act emancipatory when it accounts for the political nature of knowledge and thus reveals structures and conventions in society that allow for dominant voices to be (over)heard while marginalized communities are silenced. Furthermore, knowledge can only become powerful when teaching is emancipatory through a focus on enquiry, dialectical teaching, and a critical understanding of the subject. And lastly, knowledge is only powerful when its application indeed promotes social justice. 

Powerful Knowledge in history education

As of now, most of the debate and application of PK took place in the discipline of geography. The critical application of PK can however also suit a subject such as history. In early 2021 a book will be released (and edited by Arthur Chapman) that applies the idea of PK to the subject of history. In another contribution from 2018, Counsell mentioned the potential of PK for the subject history in a blog post. For this sake, Counsell uses substantive knowledge –  content as facts, e.g. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Fall of the Berlin Wall – and disciplinary knowledge – evidence, causality –, as both a part of historical knowledge. Counsell suggests that this division is a helpful tool when engaging with PK in history education: it is impossible to teach students all the substantive knowledge, therefore discipline knowledge is required. 

To make this a bit more clear, I will try to give an example of PK in history on the basis of the topic women’s suffrage movement in the Netherlands. In 1919, active women’s suffrage was achieved when a bill was approved by the House of Representatives, after more than fifty years of protest. However, it was only in 1937 that women older than 25 years in the Dutch colonies received passive suffrage, which became active suffrage in 1948 after more than a decade of protest movements.

Example substantive knowledge: cult of domesticity;  cult of domesticity; Aletta Jacobs; Rosa Manus; Vrije Vrouwen Vereeniging (Free Women Association); National Exhibition of Women’s Labor 1898; Demonstration 18 June 1916; active suffrage 1919; passive suffrage 1917;  Damanan di Djarason 1937; Clarita da Costa Gomez; Altagracia de Lannoy-Willems 1949 

Example disciplinary knowledge: using evidence from sources to make a claim; indicate change and continuity.

In this case, the PK might be that students are able to assess to what extent the women suffrage bill of 1919 was a change or continuation for women in public life. For this, students use their substantive knowledge about the historical context of the 19th century and the ways in which women were protesting. Students need disciplinary knowledge to be able to critically analyze sources and ‘read against the grain’ when analyzing primary sources to indicate whether women’s role in the public indeed changed or how certain systems continued, especially for women in the colonies. The emancipatory element of this knowledge could be that students understand the historical relationship between gender inequality now and then, while being able to actively search for marginalized voices in public debates. This knowledge can then be used in a very practical way by having students write a commentary on current representations of women in politics, or set up a campaign to encourage political participation of everyone. 

As we currently live in a pandemic during which universities, again, make most cuts on their social science and humanities departments, it would be good if we as educators can be vocal advocates for the importance of our subjects. The idea of PK shows the importance of having different knowledge disciplines, as each discipline brings with it their own ways of knowing and viewing the world. Hence, the subject history can emancipate students by allowing them to understand the present through knowledge of the past, utilizing the historical method for research, and having a healthy sense of suspicion towards any source. It would be great if history educators can be more vocal and explicit about the power that historical knowledge provides to students, to avert authoritarian tendencies in our multicultural democractic nations in Europe. This blog post is merely intended to start a conversation among history educators about the powerful knowledge in our subject and how we can better advocate for our subject and discipline.

 

Written by Maayke de Vries
History teacher at an international school in The Netherlands & PhD Student UCL Institute of Education
www.mizsdafreeze.com


Sources:

Forthcoming: Arthur Chapman (ed.) Knowing History in Schools. Powerful Knowledge and the Powers of Knowledge UCL Press. Open Access. https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/130698#

Information about Women Suffrage in the Netherlands: 

“Vrouwen Kiesrecht in Nederland”- Atria https://atria.nl/nieuws-publicaties/vrouwen-in-de-politiek/vrouwenkiesrecht-in-nederland/

“Vrouwenkiesrecht op de voormalige Nederlandse Antillen” - Atria https://atria.nl/nieuws-publicaties/vrouwen-in-de-politiek/vrouwenkiesrecht-op-voormalige-nederlandse-antillen/

Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History Call for Proposals “Making History Together: Public Participation in Museums”

The Public History as the New Citizen Science of the Past (PHACS) project at the University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History) invites proposals for presentations to a one-day online symposium about public participation in the creation, enrichment, uses, and presentations of historical collections and exhibitions in museums.

The international online symposium “Making History Together: Public Participation in Museums” will take place on 15 December 2020. It will bring together scholars, museum professionals and heritage practitioners to discuss how participatory history is constructed, developed, and implemented in museums.

Deadline for proposals in October 30. Visit their website for more information: https://www.c2dh.uni.lu/news/cfp-making-history-together-public-participation-museums

 

Football Makes History – Needs Assessment

This needs assessment is produced as part of the Football Makes History project.  The overall aim of the Football Makes History project is to contribute to the reduction of the number of people at risk of social exclusion across Europe. The project aims to builds on the rich local cultural heritage of football and its shared history that offers direct access to addressing past and present diversity. In addition, it aims to promote shared values, equality, non-discrimination and social inclusion with an integrated perspective, encompassing and innovating formal and non-formal learning, as well as youth work.

This Needs Assessment visualises the needs and challenges of football history as an educational tool for social inclusion based on an EU-wide survey and on three piloting projects. It identifies working elements that can be used when producing a toolkit and exemplary lessons within the course of this project. In addition, it examines educational programmes that make use of football history, assessing their working elements and identifying improvements needed, as well as potential areas for innovation.

Read the full needs assessment here.

How can historians contribute to conflict prevention and resolution?

Erkki Tuomioja Articles ,

2015 was the centenary of the events in the Ottoman Empire that led to the death of 1.5 million Armenians. Historians from various backgrounds generally agree on the interpretation of those events, whereas present-day Turkey and Armenia continue to clash over whether this episode of their common history constitute a genocide or not. Although this disagreement is highly unlikely to lead to any kind of armed conflict between the two countries, it does prevent their rapprochement and the normalisation of their relations. Furthermore, since other countries have taken a stand on the issue (through parliamentary resolutions, government statements and even legislation), the problem has affected international relations more broadly. This is merely one example of how different views and interpretations of history continue to play a role in creating and fostering conflicts, and in hampering efforts for conflict resolution. Even when conflicts are resolved with peace agreements, controversial historical issues can reemerge to renew disagreement and compromise a settlement reached with great difficulty.

Peace processes often entail writing the history of the recent conflict in a way that meets the approval of all parties. We can well imagine how challenging it is to, for example, write a common history for Cyprus. Although some in our profession have willingly lent their names and work to instigating and amplifying conflicts, they are a small minority, and we are more likely to encounter cases where politicians and demagogues have misused the work of historians without their consent for questionable purposes. But what should be the proper role of politics and politicians vis-a-vis history? It might be easier to begin answering this question by laying down what it should not be.

Historical truths and interpretations of history should not be made into legislative issues. This is equally true concerning the many resolutions that various parliaments have passed on the 1915 events in the Ottoman Empire, as it is concerning the legislation passed or pending on how to write history in countries like Poland, Russia or Ukraine. Politicians should provide historians with unlimited and open access to all historical archives, documents and other sources. Notwithstanding the proliferation of international agreements and regulations on various topics, there are no binding regulations on the access to archives and their use.

The concept of the Politics of History has its roots in Germany. The study of the Politics of History investigates history debates and everything that comes under the concept of vergangenheitsbewältigung, which means addressing one’s own history with an open mind and coming to terms with it. In this respect Germany provides the best model for dealing openly with the most challenging and awful periods of its own history. Few countries have achieved anything close to this frankness with their own history, whereas in some cases in which efforts were made they were rejected. A positive example is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa.

While authoritarian regimes need to be critically examined, it is important to remember that not all countries regarded as liberal democracies pass scrutiny without remarks. This can be said of the United Kingdom, France and former colonial powers in general, which still have difficulties in openly addressing the dark corners of their colonial wars in Algeria, Vietnam, Kenya and elsewhere. Even in Germany, despite the praise it has earned for its vergangenheitsbewältigung, it took much longer for the country to recognise the atrocities committed in its South-West African colony. However, this has not lead to restrictions on revisionist and critical historiography of the kind affecting states actively engaged in history denial.

In my own country, Finland, History also has had a central role in constructing our national awareness and state institutions in the 19th century. When Finnish nationalism and Russian Pan-Slavism gained ground, they inevitably came into conflict regarding the history interpretation. Following independence in 1917, the Civil War in Finland left deep wounds in our society. Like all civil wars, it was brutal and caused 40,000 casualties, only a minority which were killed in battle, while most deaths resulted from summary executions and squalor in the prison camps where the losing Reds were confined. The wounds left by the War were kept unhealed by the way the events were commemorated by the opposed parties. Neither did historians always contribute to the healing, often actually exacerbating the situation. But when commemorating the Civil War last year, we finally found a dignified and constructive way to address this past. It was now possible to view the events of the Civil War as a tragic catastrophe, without linking different interpretations and opinions in any meaningful way to issues concerning and/or dividing Finns today. What happened in Finland in 1918 was not unique in the world, neither at the time nor today. Fortunately, we have been able to gradually establish and strengthen a mind-set emphasizing shared responsibility, and to intervene to prevent human rights violations and war crimes. We established an International Criminal Court to ensure that nobody responsible for war crimes goes unpunished because of the inability or unwillingness of the courts in any country to bring them to justice.

Today, as we follow news from Rwanda, Srebrenica, Chechnya, Syria or Darfur, and take a stand on these events, as responsible members of the international community, we cannot fail to see the similarities with what took place in Finland a hundred years ago. Finland is one of the few countries in the world that has not undergone any sudden or violent regime changes during our one hundred years of independence. But when regimes change, this almost inevitably leads to purges and rewriting of history. When dictators and dictatorships fall, it is understandable and, to some extent also necessary, that the statues and monuments erected in their honour also fall. All regime changes entail a close scrutiny of the individual responsibility that supporters and officials of the previous regime had for the crimes committed. Lustration has been done in very different ways, from summary executions and show-trials to long drawn-out legal processes and truth commissions. Communist and Fascist takeovers have usually been followed by summary executions; democratic changes have tried to do better. But many still ongoing processes and recurring crisis situations in East and Central Europe or Latin America well demonstrate the many difficulties and challenges this entails.

Post regime-change situations will always entail a demand for the work of historians. While they should be ready to make their knowledge, experience and research results available to those directly engaged in these processes, they should not allow themselves to become institutional parts of them or take any role resembling that of a judge. “Let history – and historians – judge” is a good and correct slogan, but the judgments passed by history and historians should not have any direct links to or dependence on formal judicial processes. A regime change, whatever the viciousness of the former regime, should not entail the erasing of history or the eradication of all the very concrete marks and monuments the previous regime has left. A cultured approach to historical monuments should leave an environment where traces of all history, the more unpalatable and unsavoury parts of it included, can be seen and, as times passes, can be regarded as historical relicts that need not unduly bother future generations, but that will serve as focal points in understanding the past. Nobody would demand the demolition of the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome because people were tortured and killed in gladiator games there. This respect and comprehension is even more needed when relics still arouse contradictory memories, feelings and passions among different groups of the population. Memorials to those who have lost their lives in wars and conflicts should be and usually are respected regardless of the nationality of the victims.

As a historian and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have in both capacities been frustrated by the frequent misuse of history. This has lead me to ask, what can historians do to prevent the misuse of their work and actively engage in conflict prevention and resolution? Discussions with historians and diplomats engaged in mediation convinced me to found the NGO “Historians without Borders” in Finland in June 2015. Our membership today includes most of the history professors in Finnish universities and hundreds of others working in one way or another with historical issues and conflicts. Our founding meeting was addressed by the Finnish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari. We then arranged the International Conference on the Use and Abuse of History in Conflicts at the University of Helsinki in May 2016. The Conference ended with 300 participants agreeing on a declaration creating the network of Historians without Borders.

In this declaration, the signatories agreed to work together in order to:

- deepen general and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of history;

- promote open and free access to historical material and archives;

- encourage interactive dialogue between different views and interpretations of history to assist in the process of mutual understanding;

- support efforts to identify the abuse of history in fostering and sustaining conflicts;

- help defuse conflicts and contribute to conflict-resolution processes;

- promote the teaching of history in the spirit of this declaration;

- incorporate an understanding of the role of women and gender perspectives in efforts to build peace and resolve conflicts.

We invite all professional historians, as well as all those working in this field and in that of international relations, who wish to improve the understanding of history and to prevent its misuse to create and foster conflicts, to join our network. The invitation is open to all members of EuroClio. Joining Historians without Borders is easily done by accessing our website, www.historianswithoutborders.fi, and sign the Declaration. More information on our activities is also available.

In the numerous meeting with historians we have had in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, both before and after the conference, our initiative has been greeted overwhelmingly positively. This of course puts pressure on us to able to live up to the expectations that our network has aroused. We will do our best to be able to deliver. While we are confident that we have the human and professional resources of the community of historians at our disposal, we also need the financial resources to be able to make the most of them. Our work aims at bringing together historians dealing with conflicts, making their knowledge, experience and expertise available to international organisations and other bodies engaged in mediation efforts, as well as at initiating research on issues that can contribute on the fulfilment of our aims.

One concrete example of our work is the process we initiated in January 2017, when we brought together a group of Ukrainian and Russian historians to discuss common issues of 20th century historiography in the two countries. Unsurprisingly, the participants had some very different views of this time period, but they nevertheless asked us to continue facilitating their dialogue. This we did in September 2017, when a larger group of Ukrainian and Russian historians, and also Finnish and German historians, met in Helsinki. Another initiative brought together Nordic and Belarusian historians at the University of Lund to discuss how to deal with difficult issues in Belarusian history, and the country’s relations with its neighbouring countries. Finally, in March 2019, we brought together historians from Europe and Africa to discuss the writing of the history of colonialism. This is the kind of work we hope we can bring export to, for example, the Western Balkans.

We have also been in contact with many international organisations under the UN umbrella, as well as with the OSCE, the Council of Europe and others to discuss how Historians without Borders could contribute to conflict resolution with experts, commission members and/or advisers. For example, we could provide a list of expert historians who are available to take on such work.

We live in increasingly ahistorical times, when people’s awareness and understanding of how we arrived where we are today is diminishing rather than increasing. This ignorance makes it more difficult to see into the future and shape it, fostering what is sometimes described as postmodern here-and-now short-termism. An additional challenge is the proliferation of so-called “alternative facts” as part of the new wave of politics and journalism where facts, if at all acknowledged, are treated as opinions with no concern for establishing what actually has happened in history, or respect for and commitment to the methods of scientific research. The statement that “those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it” may or may not be true, but ignorance will always increase the risk of becoming unconscious prisoners of history and prey to the machinations of politicians seeking to exploit this beautiful subject for their own ends. As historians, we must actively contribute to removing history from the instruments fostering conflicts and hampering efforts at conflict resolution, and we must try to use it as a means for promoting mutual understanding and conflict prevention.

 

Erkki Tuomioja, MP, PhD, is the Founder and Chairman of Historians without Borders (HWB), a Helsinki based organisation that aims to further public discussion about history and to promote the use of historical knowledge for peace-building and conflict-resolution. He is a member of the Finnish Parliament. 

The Evens Education Prize 2020

Katria Tomko Opportunities

For the 2020 Evens Education Prize we are looking for inspiration and new ideas to foster the motivation and abilities to think critically about social questions.

To counteract the fact that practice and research are often two worlds apart, the new Evens Education Prize, Critical Thinking as a Practice of Freedom, invites applications in two categories:

  • Embedded practices that support critical thinking about social questions
  • Scholarly but practice-oriented work that furthers our understanding of practices, pedagogies, curricula or projects that foster critical thinking, and the conditions in which education for critical thinking can thrive

The call is open to a broad variety of practices implemented in institutional and non-institutional spaces by teachers, scholars, students, educators, youth workers, artists, civil society organizations, citizen groups etc. This includes formal, non-formal and community-based education for youth as well as adults.

Selection criteria for jury deliberations

Ideally, the practice or research:

  • understands diversity in its broadest sense, emphasizing differences not only between but also within groups;
  • focuses on both the motivation and the development of intellectual dispositions and abilities to think critically and on the integration of imagination and emotional growth;
  • values the process of thinking and learning together;
  • reflects on the different and sometimes conflicting conceptions of critical thinking held by participants from diverse backgrounds;
  • takes the particularity of each context into account while at the same time working towards the sustainable development of critical thinking ability and motivation across contexts.

The Evens Foundation, aware of the ambitiousness of the criteria, invites candidates who meetsome but not (yet) all of the criteria above, especially if efforts are being made to meet more of these criteria in the future.

Formal criteria (must be fulfilled)

  • Only applicants based and operating in Europe* can participate.
  • Only ongoing or recent (initiated in the past two years) practices and research are eligible.
  • The laureates of the prize must be willing to take part in future projects of the Evens Foundation related to the focus of the prize, in particular regarding the dissemination of the winning practice or research.

If you would like to apply, please read the Call for Applications carefully, download and fill in the Application Form and send it to Marjolein Delvou by 15 March at the latest.

Learn more about the opportunity and apply via the links below. 

Help us Understand and Uncover the Educational Potential of Football History!

Jaco Stoop Project Updates

EuroClio, Fare Network, and their partners in the “Football Makes History” project are looking for your help. The Football Makes History project team will develop educational material for formal and non-formal education, using football as a door-opener to teach issues around social inclusion and anti-discrimination.

We would like to learn more about if and how you face and deal with topics such as inclusion, exclusion, diversity, and discrimination in your work. Do you think materials dealing with football history could offer a way to teach about it? Do you know of existing materials that the project team should be aware of?

Please fill in this anonymous survey. The survey is aimed at educators working in both a formal and non-formal setting; be they classroom teachers, or youth workers at a local football club. It does not matter if you are interested in football and sports or not at all. What matters, is that you are interested in providing quality education to your pupils.

The data collected will be part of a public report that will be compiled and edited by the Anne Frank House. The report will be made available on our project page and elsewhere, and will guide the project team in developing high-quality educational materials that respond to the needs of educators.

Thank you in advance for filling in the survey before Friday 15 March 2019! Please feel free to share it with your colleagues and peers.

Successful training in Spain: sharing methods to teach about Europe and the European Union

As part of the Decisions and Dilemmas 3: making learning about the EU motivating and meaningful project, the fourth national training event was held on the 8th and 9th of June 2018 in Madrid (Spain) and bore the title “Using new methodologies to teach Europe: This is not about treaties!”.

The event was organized by the Teacher Training and Innovation Department of the Autonomous Community of Madrid (Dirección General de Becas y Ayudas al Estudio, Subdirección General de Formación del Profesorado) and the Spanish Association of History and Geography Teachers. It revolved around debates and workshops that involved an active and participatory methodology in which the participating teachers and trainers exchanged their reflections and points of views about how to teach about Europe in a meaningful and motivating way.

The program opened on Friday with an official greeting from the Head of the Teacher Training and Innovation Department of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Mr. Vicente Alcañiz, who highlighted the importance of history teachers in creating a multiperspective and inclusive historical narrative that allows students to understand the past and the present. Moreover, it helps students develop certain competencies and skills to exercise their European citizenship in a responsible and active way. Ms. María Jesús Campos, the national project coordinator, presented the project to the participants and introduced Ms. Concha Brea, deputy of the European Documentation Center in Madrid. Ms. Brea presented the activities developed in the Center, the materials they create, and finally their webpage, which is a very useful resource for teachers and European citizens, and which also presents updated news on the European Union. Furthermore, she introduced Team Madrid-Europe, a group of experts that give talks about the European Union to students from a non-teaching perspective. One of its members, Mr. Ignacio Velo, gave an example of the methodology they use.

 

Closing the first day of activities were Mr. Alfredo Lopez, chair of the Spanish Federation of History Teachers, Ms. Isabel García-Velasco, chair of the Association of History Teachers of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, and Cristina Luz García, treasurer of the Association. They presented the respective organizations to the participants and discussed the importance for teachers to have a common space to share good practices and to reflect on their own teaching practice.

The following day, Saturday 9th of June, the location of the event was the Centre for Innovation and Training Madrid-Capital. The day kicked off with Ms. María Jesús Campos, a history teacher and national project coordinator, who presented the results of the research report on “Teaching Europe to enhance EU cohesion”. By means of an active workshop, the participants reflected on the ways teachers currently teach Europe and on the materials used in the classroom, while establishing comparisons with the results from the “Teaching Europe” research. This activity gave the framework for the rest of the event, in which the materials developed in the “Decisions and Dilemmas” project were going to be experienced.

The first workshop based on materials from Historiana was held by Mr. Guillermo Balmori, a history teacher in Ntra. Sra. de las Escuelas Pías (Madrid) on “The challenge of European stability”. Participating teachers experienced the materials and reflected on how to implement them in the classroom using a new approach that brings the past to the present and allows students to think critically about their world and how it is created.

The second workshop was given by Mr. Marino Maqueda, a history teacher in IES Cervantes (Madrid) and also EuroClio’s international trainer. This workshop focussed on “Life and Leisure: the history of ordinary people – I was a soldier in the German army – How did WW2 affect the life of an ordinary teenage boy?”. This unit deals with the repercussions of violent conflicts in ordinary people’s lives and focusses on the case-study of Igor Slavec. To make it more meaningful for Spanish teachers, the workshop addressed the life story of Tomás Fidalgo Marzagón in the context of the Spanish Civil War. This material can also be found on Historiana’s “Changing Europe” unit. Comparing Igor Slavec’s and Tomás Fidalgo’s stories, participants were able to find out similarities in how different conflicts have negative repercussions on the people affected by them.

 

Mr. Edgar Berzins, EuroClio’s international trainer and history teacher at Upitis Skrivery Secondary School in Latvia, conducted the third workshop on “The European Union and trade in the global context – How does European trade policy affect African chicken farmers?”. This unit deals with the consequences of EU trade policies and the moral and ethical issues connected to it. Having a Latvian teacher enriched the event, as Mr. Berzins gave an additional short talk to explain participants the path followed by Latvia to become a member of the EU, and which challenges the country is currently facing.

During lunch, participant teachers and trainers had the opportunity to engage in informal talks to get to know each other, share their impressions about their teaching practices and the materials they were using, and create networks to establish future collaborations.

In the afternoon, a plenary session was organized on “European Programs: Opening your classroom to Europe”. Ms. María Ángeles Heras from the Teacher Training and Innovation Department explained how to participate in programmes such as Erasmus+ and eTwinning, and highlighted the advantages for schools when participating in such international exchanges and environments.

Then, Luis Horrillo, Vice-Chairman of the Spanish Association of History Teachers, introduced Historiana. Participating teachers discovered the resources and materials on display and how these materials can be downloaded and modified in order to adapt to the student’s needs. They were also familiarized with the possibilities the page offers to create and share e-Learning activities.

The final plenary session consisted of a debate among trainers and participants with the aim of evaluating the two-day event and the information and materials presented. The feedback was very positive, as the participants praised the organization of the event, as well as the methodology and materials developed through EuroClio’s “Decisions and Dilemmas” project. All of the participants highlighted the presented new approach to the study of the European Union as very useful to transform this community of countries and peoples in something real and meaningful for students, and to develop competencies, skills, and self-perceptions that allow students to feel as European citizens and further develop their European citizenship actively and responsibly.

 Moreover, the event was praised because it created a meeting place for teachers from all over Spain who usually do not have the opportunity to share impressions and create networks with teachers outside of their regions.

The Teacher Training and Innovation Department of the Autonomous Community of Madrid in collaboration with the Spanish Association of History and Geography Teachers and the Association of Madrid, considers the event a success as it has delivered Spanish teachers a new approach and methodology to teach and learn about the European Union, has provided a meeting point for teachers to reflect on their teaching practices and to think clearly about the history curriculum and the materials used to deliver it, and has fostered the creation of networks among Spanish history teachers.

This article is based on the report written by history teacher and national project coordinator María Jesús Campos, and the pictures were taken by Paz Jorge.

New Sets of Primary Sources Selected from Europeana Now Available on Historiana

In the coming weeks, EuroClio will publish a new series of source collections that have been developed specially to address challenges related to the teaching of historical thinking skills. Together with the source collections, exemplar learning activities have been made available that show how the collections can be used in practice. Another online eTwinning webinar has been organised on 25 June 2018 at 6:30pm CET 5.30pm GMT.

About Historiana

As mobile phones, laptops and tablets are becoming a more prominent feature in schools everywhere, teachers are trying to find ways to deal with the challenges that come with these developments. They are aware of the fact that education must be adjusted to the needs of students in a digital era. Educators sometimes experience technology as challenging, however, they also appreciate the benefits of teaching in a digital era, by using online interactive teaching tools that offer added value to their lessons for example

In our view, history education in particular is well-placed to benefit from these technological developments. Online technology can provide students with many more historical sources than traditional textbooks, or present them with a variety of viewpoints that promote multi-perspectivity. EuroClio’s online history education portal Historiana offers precisely that: a plethora of digitised collections of primary sources, exemplar learning activities and teaching strategies, and an e-learning environment for teachers to create their own learning materials. The development of Historiana is supported by the Europeana Foundation.