Auschwitz: The Past is Present

Twenty-five educators from 11 different countries representing four continents will attend a a professional development program in Warsaw, at the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, and in Krakow designed to deepen their understanding of the historical landscape of Poland before, during and after the Holocaust and increase their knowledge of authentic sites including Auschwitz-Birkenau. They will also have the unprecedented opportunity to meet with a large number of Holocaust survivors prior to attending the commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum January 27. Teachers were chosen from a competition developed in partnership with Discovery Education.

Twelve students ages 13-15 will also travel to Poland and participate in Auschwitz: The Past is Present programming as Junior Interns. Junior Interns were introduced to survivor testimony and the history of Auschwitz in anticipation of the trip. In Poland, they will engage with IWitness in parallel with the teachers who are participating in the professional development program, and they will join the commemoration January 27. In April 2015, a group of Junior Interns will help lead Discovery Education’s Virtual Field Trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Meet some of the educators

  • Former Auschwitz: The Past is Present teacher Miljenko Hajdarovic announced that he has been chosen to join 300 other educators to completely reform the Croatian national curriculum.

  • When Keith Stringfellow was about 12, he was reading a book about World War II when his great uncle, a World War II veteran, began telling him about his experiences at Normandy after D-Day. Stringfellow asked him what affected him most during the war, and he answered simply, “Dachau.”

  • Living and working in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Trebic, Czech Republic, Daniela Vitaskova often teaches history by taking her students to historical sites. As one of 25 teachers chosen to travel to Poland to attend the Auschwitz: The Past is Present professional development program in January, Vitaskova will prepare herself to take her students to Auschwitz later next year.

  • When Christa Calkins travels to Poland on USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education’s Auschwitz: The Past is Present professional development program this January, her students back home will be right there with her –at least virtually.

  • At 12 years old, Anna Krisztina Berecz first learned about the Holocaust from Miklos Nyiszli’s book Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account.  The experience was so haunting that she decided to forget it as quickly as possible.

  • After experiencing intolerance throughout her life, Emily Bengels has strived to model kindness and acceptance for her students at Readington Middle School in New Jersey. Participating in USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education’s professional development program Auschwitz: The Past is Present will, she hopes, guide her teaching of the Holocaust and inspire her students to stand up for humanity.

  • Laura Pritchard Dobrin was inspired to create the first-ever teacher-authored activity in IWitness by one of her own favorite educators – and in the process, produced a lesson that teaches students about not just the Holocaust, but also a fascinating poet named Lotte Kramer.

  • Davis Wamonhi’s own students at Kagarama Secondary School in Kigali, Rwanda, inspired him to use IWitness in his classroom.

    Wamonhi’s history students were invited to attend an IWitness pilot at Gisozi Genocide Memorial, where they were introduced to learning history through video testimonies through USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive educational website.