In the framework of the commemoration of the November Pogroms of 1938, the University of Cologne and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center will sign a cooperation agreement in a virtual ceremony on 11 November 2020. Rector Professor Dr Axel Freimuth will sign on behalf of the University of Cologne, and Dr Eyal Kaminka, Lily Safra Chair of Holocaust Education and Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies (ISHS), will sign on behalf of Yad Vashem. With the signing of the cooperation agreement, the University of Cologne is the third university in Germany to become Yad Vashem’s cooperation partner.
In addition to the signatories, many committed members of both institutions as well as the state of North Rhine-Westphalia will take part in the ceremony. After Professor Freimuth and Dr Kaminka greet the attendees, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Science Dr Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen will deliver a short address, after which the signing will take place. From the University, Chancellor Dr Michael Stückradt and Vice-Rector for Teaching and Studies Professor Dr Beatrix Busse will also take part in the ceremony. Abraham Lehrer from the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the synagogue community of Cologne will participate as well. From Yad Vashem, Director of the International Relations and Projects of the International School for Holocaust Studies, Richelle Budd-Caplan; Dr Noa Mkayton, Director of the International Programming Department of the International School; and Dr Birte Hewera of the School’s German Section will take part, among others.
At the UoC, the teaching-learning project »school is open« initiated the cooperation with Yad Vashem. »school is open« offers different formats for working against antisemitism in the UoC’s teacher training programme. Specifically, the agreement will strengthen Holocaust educational activities through the participation in teacher-training activities both at Yad Vashem and at the University. UoC students studying to enter into education will not be the only ones to benefit from Yad Vashem’s expertise. Faculty as well as senior administration will also participate in Holocaust education seminars at Yad Vashem. Last but not least, the partners will exchange information on current antisemitic incidents in Germany.
‘The University of Cologne attaches great importance to research that facilitates democracy and exposes conspiracy phantasies, antisemitism and hate. Sadly, inhumane crimes also occurred at the University of Cologne under National Socialism. We are committed to uncovering these crimes and to remembering those who were persecuted and murdered. With Yad Vashem, we now have a strong partner with whom to shape an inclusive and democratic future,’ said Rector Axel Freimuth.
Dr Eyal Kaminka remarked: ‘Even 82 years after the November Pogroms, we see their historical importance and relevance for teachers and students today. We know from studying about the Holocaust that many well-educated people did not challenge the Nazi regime and – even worse – participated in persecuting and murdering Jewish victims during this dark period of our not so distant past. Our partnership with the University of Cologne will enable us to further address issues of racism, antisemitism, scope of choice and our responsibility to shape a better future.’
One of the pedagogical concepts of Yad Vashem focuses on individual stories of Jews. Instead of an anonymous and intangible number of victims, this concept places the individual at the centre. By naming names and telling life stories, the murdered victims of the Nazi regime are thus saved from being erased from the world’s memory. The study of individuals and the perspective on Jewish life before, during and after the Shoah in all its facets can facilitate access to the topic and support the development of interest and empathy. During the ceremony, the teacher-training student Aimée Platte will explain how relevant Yad Vashem’s work is for her professional future. »school is open« allows students like her to experience this educational approach, e.g. in the compilation of an interactive timeline on the biography of the University’s alumna Dr Lilli Jahn.
Yad Vashem’s researcher will present the online exhibition ‘It came from within’, featuring personal stories from the November Pogroms in Germany and Austria on 9–10 November 1938. Among other things, the story of the Jewish orphanage in the city of Dinslaken in North Rhine-Westphalia is told, which was attacked by rioters on 10 November. Some of the children and staff were later able to flee Germany, many perished in the Shoah.
Through this cooperation with Yad Vashem, the University of Cologne is helping to protect the memory of the Holocaust and fight antisemitism.
Silke Bettina Kargl
UoC project »school is open«
University of Cologne: