(School on Merhautova street, Brno)
Just one month after IWalk launched in Czech Republic, a second resource is already being developed. The city of Brno, in the Southern Moravia region of the country, will join Prague in offering downloadable testimony clip reels of Holocaust survivor testimonies that students may watch as they visit relevant historical sites.
Launched in Hungary in 2013, IWalk is an interactive educational program that connects concrete physical locations with memories of historical events that took place on these locations in several European countries. Holocaust survivor and witness testimonies from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive are combined with other primary sources during visits to authentic locations to provide the often missing spatial, social and regional contexts as well as the personal aspect of historical events. The designed onsite educational activities support the development of personal connection of students and members of the public to the past – enabling an impact of their actions in the present and the future. IWalks are currently offered for Budapest and Prague.
The new Brno IWalk will cover the Jewish Gymnasium and the school on Merhautova Street, which served as the deportation center for Brno and Southern Moravia.
The Jewish Gymnasium was the last high school in Bohemia and Moravia that children labeled as Jews could attend before the start of the deportation transports. Since the introduction of the racist laws, the school not only provided education to hundreds of children expelled from all the other schools throughout the country, it also offered employment opportunities to educators expelled from universities for the very same reason. Thus the school was famed for its incredible quality of learning. All came to end on May 15, 1941. From the hundreds of pupils only a handful survived. Memories of 18 of them can be found in the Visual History Archive.
The school on today’s Merhautova street (formerly Senefelderova) served as the main assembly point for transports from Brno and the surrounding areas. The school bears a memorial tablet that mentions the 9,397 Jewish citizens who went to their death from that building. In 1965, when the tablet was installed, it was not generally allowed in Communist Czechoslovakia to publicly mention or commemorate Jews as victims of World War II.
The IWalk is being developed with support from OpenEye, a local partner organization, the Jewish community in Brno and former USC Shoah Foundation interviewers there, namely Zuzana Prudilova.
Martin Šmok, USC Shoah Foundation’s senior international training consultant based in Czech Republic, said that since the launch of the Prague IWalk he has heard from dozens of teachers asking for IWalks in their cities.
“Locally relevant digital multimedia assets, covering regional history of the Holocaust beyond the capital, are much sought after by the regional educators, teachers, students and the general public,” Šmok said. “Thanks to the global scope of the VHA, USC Shoah Foundation can help fill in the void in regional memory.”