Multiperspectivity in European Holocaust Education
First results of the MuRem survey at a glance
Within the project “Multiperspective Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Europe” (short: MuRem) at Minor – Projektkontor für Bildung und Forschung, we conducted a survey among European organizations and institutions actively involved in the field of Holocaust Education and Remembrance. The survey was developed by the European MuRem network with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of different approaches taken to address the various current challenges of Holocaust Remembrance and Education across Europe. Our focus was on understanding the practical implications of multiperspectivity in different European and institutional contexts, as well as examining whether and how this versatile approach is being implemented. The survey was designed to contribute to the ongoing debate surrounding Holocaust remembrance and education, which often sparks controversy at the theoretical and political level. By presenting the results of the survey, we hope to foster exchange and mutual learning among European institutions and organizations engaged in the field of Holocaust remembrance and education.
This article provides an overview of some initial findings from the survey, primarily in quantitative form.
To ensure a broad range of perspectives, both geographically and in terms of institutional diversity, the survey was distributed among various institutions and organizations in the field of European Holocaust Remembrance and Education: museums, memorials, NGOs, schools, research institutes, and other relevant entities. The survey respondents completed the survey on behalf of their respective institutions.
Between February and April 2023. the survey was completed by representatives from a total of 97 institutions and organizations, primarily from museums (25), schools (25) and NGOs (15), universities and research institutes (17 in total) and memorials (13).
The survey included participants from 21 European countries. The countries with the highest number of respondents were Portugal (27), Norway (9), Italy (7), Germany (6), and Poland (5).
Fields of Work and Target Groups
The respondents had the option to select up to three central fields of work from the provided choice. The most commonly selected topics were Holocaust and other Nazi Crimes (61), Antisemitism (40) and Human Rights (34) (see Figure 1). Conversely, a smaller number of respondents indicated that their primary focus revolved around the topics of Extremism (prevention) (6), National Socialism (6) and Gender (In)equality (4).
A significant number of the surveyed institutions prioritize their work on Jews as a victim group while approximately 1/3 (also) focus on Roma (and Sinti) (38), disabled people (33) and homosexuals (30) as victim groups.
In addition, other victim groups mentioned more than twice as central in the institutions’ remembrance and education work, were ethnic or national groups (8), politically persecuted people (5), religious groups (5), refugees and migrants (3) as well as prisoners of war (3).
According to the survey respondents, the most important target groups for their work are pupils at schools, young adults and students with nearly 2/3 of the respondents indicating to focus on these groups. Other significant target groups are multipliers such as teachers, museum educators, social workers or librarians (26) and the civil society/so-called “general public” (tourists, museum visitors etc.) (21). Policy makers and state institutions (10), academics and researchers (7) and media (6) were mentioned only by a few respondents. Only one respondent specified on migrants, minorities and marginalized groups as a specific target group.
General Goals and Challenges
The survey also aimed to capture which goals are considered primary goals of Holocaust education by the respondents. All proposed goals were rated as important or very important on average. However, there were slight differences: teaching historical knowledge was considered the most important goal, while demonstrating connections between the Holocaust, Nazi crimes, and other historical or present-day instances of human rights violations and/or totalitarianism was ranked as the least important goal among the respondents (see Figure 4).
The respondents rated all proposed challenges for Holocaust education as at least somewhat challenging on average. The most urgent challenges identified were decreasing opportunities to work with survivors and witnesses, a lack of basic knowledge about the Holocaust and Nazi crimes, and a lack of financial and institutional resources.
Interestingly, challenges rated as less significant in their extreme forms, such as Holocaust denial, were seen as smaller concerns. On the other hand, challenges like Holocaust distortion and relativization were considered important. Additionally, while political restrictions, memory politics, and the influence of political conflicts were seen as less pressing overall, the presence of anti-democratic and/or pro-fascist movements and populism ranked among the top challenges.
Multiperspectivity as an versatile approach and concept has gained increasing attention in current discussions surrounding the challenges of Holocaust Remembrance and Education in today´s Europe.
The term “multiperspectivity” encompasses a wide range of interpretations, including topics (transhistorical and transregional connection lines, different historical roles and sources), perspectives of various actors, target groups and teams, methodology, interdisciplinarity, and others. In the MuRem project, our aim is to explore the precise meaning of multiperspectivity in different European geographical and institutional contexts. Therefore, respondents of the survey were asked to evaluate the relevance of different approaches of multiperspectivity in their own work.
Multiperspectivity in terms of the historical contents taught was ranked as the most important approach, particulary through the use of historical sources (biographies, personal documents, official documents, photographs, art, objects, etc.) and with the inclusion of different experiences and roles in history (different victim groups, perpetrators, bystanders; different gender and age perspectives). Approaches of multiperspectivity related to methodology and target groups were also ranked high. Showing connection lines between flight and forced migration in past and present alongside with Nazi persecution and the Holocaust, as well as promoting diversity in teams of trainers and educators.are approaches that were ranked comparatively less relevant by the respondents.
The limited emphasis on diversity in teamsis also evident in the low number of respondents involving target groups in the development of their programms.
49 respondents indicated that they have specific projects in which they apply multiperspective approaches, mainly in terms of methodology (36) and topics (33) with slightly fewer respondents mentioning target groups and teams (see Figure 7). Respondents who have not yet implemented such approaches, mostly explained it with a lack of resources.
Multiperspectivity in terms of methodology
Among the methods given as examples for multiperspectivity approaches in open-ended questions, were the following:
- interactive development of exhibitions and offers, especially including diverse people and target groups
- work with personal stories / biographical work
- working with members of the Jewish community and survivors (or their interviews)
- new forms of visualizations (e. g. graphic novels), usage of different (social) media and gamification
- art and creative projects
- interactive workshops, dialogue circles, discussions, dialogues, encouragement of critical thinking and self-reflection skills
- location-based learning
- surveys, interviews, evaluations, independent research, quantitative methods
- co-education / mutual learning
- transnational exchange
Concrete examples of these methods can be found in our best practice section.
Multiperspectivity in terms of topics
Respondents who indicated that they apply multiperspectivity projects in terms of topics, were asked to further specify what topics they connect to Holocaust and other Nazi crimes. The most frequently mentioned topicswere discrimination in general (34) as well as democracy and threats to democracy (31) and Antisemitism today (28). On the other hand, gender (in)equality (12) and colonialism (7) were rarely adressed in relation to the Holocaust and Nazi crimes among the respondents of the survey (see Figure 8).
Multiperspectivity in terms of target groups and teams
Respondents who indicated applying multiperspectivity projects in terms of target groups and teams were also asked to provide details on how they accomplish this. Most of the respondents stated that they create tailored offers for different target groups (see Figure 10). Additionally, various ways of including different target groups and perspectives in teams were also chosen bya majority of respondents. Only 16 respondents indicated that they actively pay attention to diversity within their teams, reflecting the small part of respondents indicating that they understand multiperspectivity as encompassing diversity in teams (see Figure 6).
The study suggests that multiperspectivity is interpreted and implemented in various ways. Often, multiperspectivity is understood and applied methodically and conceptually, or as working with different target groups. Involving target groups in the development of corresponding, target group-specific offerings is more of an exception. Only a minority indicates that they also consider diversity within teams as part of multiperspectivity.
Connecting lines from Holocaust remembrance to human rights violations of the present as a thematic approach of multiperspectivity are less emphasized in the survey. Different approaches in European Holocaust remembrance work are tried out, but should be brought more into focus as a task of today’s immigration societies.