“Ours or Foreign?” Czech Project Engages 600 Teachers, Adds New Material

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 5:00pm

The Czech project Ours or Foreign? Jews in the Czech 20th Century delivered materials and training to 600 educators in the last fiscal year and added a new unit on the Terezín family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau featuring testimony clips from the Visual History Archive. 

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 (all available online) are 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.

The project is aimed at improving 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.  

A new unit was createdon the “Familienlager Theresienstadt” in Auschwitz, the so-called “family camp” in Auschwitz-Birkenau where thousands of Jews were placed when they were deported to Auschwitz from the Terezín camp-ghetto in Czechoslovakia. The unit includes 14 Czech-language testimony clips from the Visual History Archive.

Educators are invited to attend workshops and trainings held at the Jewish Museum of Prague to learn how to use the materials of Ours or Foreign, and any educator outside Prague who asks for a hardcopy of the entire curriculum can receive it for free. From July 2014 to July 2015, about 600 educators were introduced to Ours or Foreign.

Testimony was first incorporated into Ours or Foreign by Julie Jenšovská, an educator from the Jewish Museum of Prague, who 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 was included in Ours or Foreign? and proved 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.

A grant from the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) supported further activities of the Jewish Museum in Prague aiming at bettering the media representation of the events of the Holocaust in the Czech republic.