On April 8 and 9, our partners at the Max Mannheimer Study Centre hosted the first in-person meeting of EuroClio’s latest project, Who Were the Victims of National Socialism? Following the Online Kick-Off Meeting in February, this first in-person meeting aimed to align the Team Members on the Learning Objectives of the Toolkit and the Local History Projects, present the Local History Projects and establish a common ground on the methodology and process of the Local History Projects.

Arriving from all over the world, from Boston to Bratislava, Vejen to Banja Luka, a group of four project coordinators from EuroClio and the Max Mannheimer Study Centre, five Project Advisor, two Council Members and the Video Producer met with the five Teams from Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Slovakia and Spain.  The meeting started with a session to determine the learning objectives of the project based on the Council of Europe Reference Framework of Democratic Culture that focuses on   Knowledge and Critical Understanding, Skills, Attitudes and Values. The Team Members agreed to specifically focus on skills and attitudes that foster equality and inclusion, openness to the greater public, develop skills to identify bias in text, develop historical empathy, and gain more in-depth historical knowledge. These learning objectives will form the basis of the Toolkit and the Local History Project.

The five teams continued with the presentation of their Local History Projects and were provided feedback by their peers, the Project Advisors and the Council Members. These projects will focus on developing youth agency, fostering historical empathy and critical thinking, and emphasising the link between past and present-day instances of injustice and exclusion that victimised groups might suffer today. Students will get first-hand testimonies from survivors,  conduct research independently in archives and museums, and visit monuments and sites of remembrance, among many different activities.  Students from all the Teams will take part in the filming of peer-learning tutorials after completing their projects. This way, they will have the chance to explain to their peers what they have done and inspire others to undertake their own projects. 

After a fruitful morning of presentations and brainstorming about the learning objectives, the participants visited the Dachau Memorial, where they had a chance to discover the place by themselves and learn more about the experiences of the victim groups imprisoned there by visiting the memorial’s exhibition. 

The next day was mainly focused on developing the Toolkit, one of the project’s main outputs, together with the peer-learning tutorials. For this, we started the day with a Co-creation Session focusing on different aspects of the project that will intersect with the creation of the Toolkit: How to launch the Local History Project, How to investigate, How to create, How to revise and How to make an impact. The questions we answered in each part of the process were: What do we already have? What are the main objectives of each phase? And how can we maximise youth agency in each step of the project? The session was full of discussions and sharing past experiences on place-based learning and youth-led projects. 

To end the meeting, the Project Advisors and Council Members prepared different workshops that focused on the main aspects of the project: Adaptability (how can we extrapolate the local history projects to other contexts?), Youth agency (how can we make sure the students are active agents in the classroom and learning process?), Historical Context (where to find reliable historical sources and information to provide the students with?), and Inclusion (how to make sure the classroom is an inclusive environment and there is no reproduction of discrimination discourses within the project?). 

Overall, there was a shared feeling of excitement and great motivation to start the project, curiosity to know how it would develop, what the other teams were working on and what the final products would look like. During these intense workdays, the participants also had the opportunity to know each other’s motivation to participate in the project. There was a consensus on the importance of the project’s content and the unique opportunity to explore all the different stories and the big picture of the victims of national socialism, together with the opportunity to be part of an international project and get to know other’s teaching methodologies and different histories.

As we met a great and diverse group of people, we also took the opportunity to ask them what their expectations were. Marlene Wöckinger, one of the Council Members and currently working as a tour guide and in the educational department of Mauthausen Memorial in Austria, shared their expectations which draw from being part of an international and interdisciplinary team to being part of a lively, open and inclusive way of commemorating the victims. When asked how the project fit their overall work, they mentioned the project is a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the brains of the teachers, the school curricula and the learning objectives, and a change of perspectives from their regular job at the memorial. But also an opportunity to know what is done in the classroom and how can students and teachers be better prepared for their visits to the Memorial. Furthermore, Marlene emphasised the importance of the project’s inclusivity. As written in the title, our focus is on the victims of National Socialism. Thus, it is a unique project that aims to give voice to all the victimised groups, foster diversity, and recognise all victimhood. Additionally, the relevance of linking the topic to the present and using historical tools to learn about the current discrimination and reflect on who are still the victims?

In the future, Marlene hopes to use the tools they have learned through the other Team Members, Project Advisors and Council Members for their own work as a tour guide, as well as to encourage the teachers that go to Mauthausen with their students to use the Toolkit in their classroom.