"Ours or Foreign? Jews in the Czech 20th Century" Conference in Prague Today

Wed, 12/04/2013 - 5:15pm

Czech educators are gathering at the Academy of Sciences in Prague today to attend a conference dedicated to the Ours or Foreign? Jews in the Czech 20th Century project from the Jewish Museum of Prague.

The project is aimed at bettering the conditions in the teaching of modern history, mostly history of the 20th century, and examining the often conflicting narratives while spearheading the discussion on their inclusion into the Czech teaching of history.  

Ours or Foreign? (Naši nebo Cizí in Czech) consists of regional teacher trainings and gradual educational resource creation. Modular lessons examining life of a minority, attitudes towards refugees and prejudice against the backdrop of 20th century are being made available on the project's website. 

Included in Ours or Foreign?’s educational resources are 33 clips from testimonies of Czech Holocaust survivors from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. These clips address issues of identity, refugee experience, prejudice, human behavior in extreme circumstances, and memory and commemoration. 

Julie Jenšovská, an educator from the Jewish Museum of Prague, participated in USC Shoah Foundation’s Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century Program, in which educators develop their own lessons using the Visual History Archive, in 2012 - 2013. Jenšovská created a lesson called “International Committee of the Red Cross and Terezin,” which is included in Ours or Foreign? and is proving very popular with teachers. Thus, under the project leadership of Michal Frankl and Jiří Tejkal, additional testimony clips were embedded into the Ours or Foreign? resources.

At the conference, the project’s culminating multimedia educational resource will be unveiled. There will also be panel discussions and presentations about the impact of Ours or Foreign?, how minority narratives can be better integrated into the study of history in elementary and secondary schools, and the use of testimony and oral history in education.

"Making so many and so varied local testimony clips available will for sure shatter many stereotypes and misconceptions, not only about the Jews and about the reasons for teaching about the Holocaust, but also  about the role of filmed oral history in education," said Martin Šmok, USC Shoah Foundation’s senior international program consultant, about the imminent inclusion of USC Shoah Foundation testimony in the Ours or Foreign? Jews in the Czech 20th Century project.

At the conference, Šmok will participate in a panel discussion titled “Oral History, the History of Everyday Life and 'Minority' in History Education.”