The Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust & Antiracism Education
at York University


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Professors Brown and Webber Honoured by Adam Mickiewicz University

On October 14, 2010, Professors Michael Brown and Mark Webber received medals from the academic Senate of the Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU) in Poznan honouring their contributions to the university. The medals were presented by AMU Rector prof. dr. habil. Bronisław Marciniak (on the right in the photo) and Prorector for Research and International Cooperation prof. dr. habil. Jacek Witkoś (on the left in the photo) . The laudatio was written and read by prof. dr. habil. Zbyszko Melosik, Dean of the Faculty of Educational Studies. The AMU will host a meeting of TftF members in August 2011.

TftF Members Publish Book Wider das Vergessen [Against Forgetting]

TftF members Jörg Ehrnsberger and Johannes Heger (2001-2002), along with permanent team member Peter Trummer and Sandra Maschmeier of the 2003-2004 group, have collaborated in the publication of the book Wider das Vergessen. The book is the result of Jörg's and Johannes' project. It will be formally launched in Osnabrück on February 3, 2007, as an article in the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung of 21 December 2006 details.

October 25-27, 2006: Follow-Up Meeting Reviews 2005-2006 Cycle

From October 25 through 27, team members of the Appel Program from Germany, Poland, and Canada met in Gniezno to review the program's 2005-2006 cycle. The meeting, hosted at the Collegium Europaeum Gnesnense of the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan, enabled the international coordinating team to reflect on the program cycle that has received major support from the European Recovery Program's Transatlantic Program administered by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour on behalf of the German Federal Government.

October 16, 2006: Government of Baden-Württemberg Augments Funding of TftF

Speaking at The Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University on October 16, 2006, Dr. Dietrich Birk, MdL, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts in Ontario's German partner state Baden-Württemberg, announced that the Ministry would augment the ongoing support of the Appel Program through Baden-Württemberg's State Office of Civic Education (Landeszentrale für politische Bildung). Dr. Birk praised the program's important contributions to mutual understanding on both sides of the Atlantic.

February 11-12, 2006: Mending a Broken World

"Mending a Broken World - Lessons of the Holocaust" is the title of an international conference that took place Saturday evening, February 11 and Sunday afternoon, February 12 under the auspices of the Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Antiracism Education at York University "Learning from the Past - Teaching from the Future." During the conference Gail and Mark Appel generously announced that they wished to continue their support for a 2007-2008 cycle of teaching and learning.

TftF Receives Major German Government Grant

The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has awarded the Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Antiracism Education at York University "Learning from the Past - Teaching from the Future" a major grant in support of its work. The grant, part of the government's "Transatlantic Program" under the framework of the European Recovery Program (ERP) administered by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour (BMWA), covers programming in the calendar year 2005 and 2006.

Under the terms of the grant, the project will enter a distinctive and ambitious phase - in effect building on previous "trial runs" to create an innovative project within a project. The grant, worth just over CAD-$ 150,000 (some 96,000 Euros) over the two-year period, means that the project can reach involve a greater number of students and reach a larger public - in part through major conferences it will organize in Berlin, Germany and Gniezno, Poland in the summer of 2005 and in Toronto in the winter of 2006.

This project was the only Canadian project to be successful in the most recent round of competition. In addition to BMWA, the German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) - through the Office of the Coordinator for German-North American Cooperation - and the Canadian Embassy in Berlin have provided valuable and much-appreciated assistance in the design and implementation of the 2005 Field Study.

Jutta Limbach Program Patron

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jutta Limbach, President of the Goethe Institute, Germany's international cultural agency, has become the Patron of the Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Antiracism Education at York University.

Before becoming President of the Goethe Institute, Prof. Limbach had served as President of the German Federal Constitutional Court (the equivalent of Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court). She was the first woman to serve in this capacity, as she had also also been the first woman Minister of Justice of the city-state of Berlin. In November 2003, York University celebrated Professor Limbach's distinguished public career as a champion of human rights and international understanding by conferring on her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

During her stay at York, which included addresses to law students and the fall graduating class and a visit to The Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, she took the opportunity to become personally acquainted with the Appel Program "Learning from the Past — Teaching for the Future." In agreeing to become the Program's Patron, she expressed her hope that it would continue its important work so that the racism and antisemitism that had resulted in the catastrophe of National Socialism would have no place in the future. All of us associated with the Program are honoured to count Professor Limbach among the Program "family."

Innovations in 2005-2006

Success Leads to Increased Numbers and a New Configuration
With the successful completion of Phase II of the Project, preparations for Phase III (2005-2006) are in high gear. Twenty-seven students - thirteen from Canada and seven each from Poland and Germany - participated in the 2003 European Field Study and the 2004 Symposium in Toronto. The success of previous phases and of our application to the government of the Federal Republic of Germany under its "Transatlantic Program" enables us to increase the number of students who can participate, with up to sixteen spaces reserved for Europe and up to the same number for Canada. At the same time, the project receives a new programmatic and organizational configuration.

Partners Old and New
The institutional partnerships that underlay the success of previous test phases will provide strength to the Project in Phase III. One change is that eligibility to apply will be extended to all students in the universities and pädagogischen Hochschulen (Colleges of Education) in Ontario's sister state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as to students from other states under certain circumstances. Coordinating the selection of students from Baden-Württemberg will be the Stuttgart branch of its Office for Civic Education (Landeszentrale für politische Bildung), with whom a formal contract of partnership has been concluded.

The partnerships with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, the Project's principal partner in Poland, with the Pedagogical University of Kraków, and with the Université de Montréal, have been retained and strengthened.

Research and Public Outreach
Hand-in-hand with the strengthening of the Project's pedagogical focus goes increased emphasis on its research potential. In Phase III, the Project will organize conferences in Berlin and Gniezno, as well as in Toronto. The conferences will also be open to the public, increasing the Project's ability to reach larger audiences in Canada, Germany, and Poland.
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2003-2004 Cycle Successfully Completed

The 2003 European Field Study took place from July 28 until August 21. The itinerary for the Field Study is available from the download archive, as is an electronic copy of Polish TV coverage of the conference in Gniezno. From February 12 to 22, 2004 the second international symposium and conference was held at York University in Toronto. An overview of the schedule is available from the download archive.

Project Named in Honour of Appels

In recognition of a generous gift from Mark and Gail Appel in Toronto, the Project has received the name "The Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Antiracism Education at York University."

The Appels are members of a prominent Toronto family who are well-known as benefactors of the community. Their support provides a solid foundation for taking the Project through 2006 and represents an incentive for other sources to provide the necessary matching funds.

The Appels participated in events and met with project members during the February 2004 symposium in Toronto. The photograph below was taken at the reception for Project participants and guests hosted by the then Consul General of Poland, Dr. Jacek Junosza Kisielewski.

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TftF in the News

From time to time the Project hits the headlines. Here is a sampling of articles and interviews featuring "Learning from the Past - Teaching for the Future":

TftF Featured on CBC Radio's "The Current" (December 10, 2004)
TVP3 Polish TV Coverage (August 19, 2003
York University Press Release (July 22, 2003)
Canadian Jewish News (February 28, 2002)

Reutlinger Generalanzeiger (August 1, 2001)
York University Press Release (May 31, 2001)

TftF Featured on CBC National Radio Broadcast The Current

TftF was featured on CBC Radio's national public affairs broadcast The Current on December 10, 2004. The interview with Professor Mark Webber was part of a three-segment program on the importance of Auschwitz in public and private memory. Responding toa study in Great Britain indicated that a significant proportion of the British public had not heard of Auschwitz, the entire broadcast included interviews with Canadian students, with a Holocaust survivor, and with a specialist in the study of genocide.

The broadcast is available from The Current's website as a RealAudio file.

Polish TVP3 Covers TftF Conference in Gniezno

Polish Television Channel TVP3 coverage viewable as streaming audio

York U. future teachers visit Germany and Poland to explore Holocaust and anti-racism education

TORONTO, July 22, 2003 - Thirteen York University students are spending their summer studying ways to teach about the Holocaust and racism. Their studies will take them to Europe for three weeks.

There they will join university students from Germany and Poland and will visit several former concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and participate in a series of workshops and conferences about the Holocaust and Jewish life in Europe before and after the Second World War.

The field study is part of the Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Anti-racism Education --"Learning from the Past, Teaching for the Future", which brings together university students, primarily from teacher education programs, to explore how best to counter racism and anti-Semitism in the classroom. The 2003 group includes students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds (Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim).

The program was conceived in 2001 by York professors Michael Brown, past director of York's Centre for Jewish Studies, and Mark Webber, co-director of York's Canadian Centre for German and European Studies. The students traveling to Europe are the second group to go through the highly successful program.

Webber says that visits to sites such as the memorial at Auschwitz and the museum of Romani (Gypsy) culture in Tarnów can be deeply moving and emotional experiences for many of the students. "This program offers future teachers a unique opportunity to connect the past with modern realities that can't be properly conveyed by textbooks alone," he says.

Adds Brown, "Recent world events such as 9/11 and the Iraqi war have perpetuated many racist stereotypes. This program aims to give the next generation of teachers the tools that they will need in multicultural classrooms to dispel these stereotypes based on firsthand reflections and personal experiences from their trip."

The York students will depart from Toronto on July 27 and return August 21.

A ten-day follow-up symposium which will re-unite the students - 27 in all - from Canada, Germany and Poland is scheduled for February 2004 at York University. A Web site with program details is located at:

Canadian Jewish News (February 28, 2002)

Polish schools begin teaching Holocaust studies
Staff Reporter

TORONTO - Schools in Poland have begun teaching the Holocaust as an independent subject.
Since the Polish education system was reformed three years ago, the Holocaust has been a compulsory, stand-alone course, said Piotr Trojanski, who co-wrote the new curriculum.
It is outlined in a pamphlet entitled Holocaust. About the History and Extermination of the Jews Within the Framework of Humanities Lessons in Post-Primary Schools.
"Before 1999, the Holocaust was taught as an event in the war," he explained in an interview. "Now it is recognized as a distinct subject."
Approximately three million Polish Jews, or more than 90 per cent of Poland's pre-war Jewish population, were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
He believes the Holocaust remains an unprecedented event in the annals of history.
A 33-year-old scholar on the staff of the Pedagogical University in Krakow, Trojanski was here to attend a York University international conference on The Future of Memory.
It was co-sponsored by The Canadian Centre for German and European Studies and the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University.
Trojanski said the curriculum is designed for middle and secondary school students 14 years of age and up.
The syllabus places the Holocaust in the context of combating racism and anti-Semitism.
He strongly believes that students who are acquainted with its horrors are much more likely to be tolerant.
Since last summer, Mowia Wieki, the national magazine of the Polish history teachers' federation, has published nine excerpts from the curriculum.
He co-wrote it with a colleague, Robert Szuchta. It focuses on three basic problems: Why was the Holocaust possible? How did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening ever again?
"The Holocaust," he noted, "should be taught in such a way as to make students realize that it is still possible for the crime of genocide to recur.
"The effects of the Holocaust can be found even today in the acts of terror, ethnic cleansing and mass murders committed in various parts of the world."
The Holocaust, he added, "should not be taught in isolation from Jewish history and culture."
In pedagogical terms, the Holocaust has gone three three phases in post-war Poland, said Trojanski, whose PhD thesis was on the Jews of Cracow province from 1918 to 1939.
During much of the Communist era, its Jewish victims were described as victims of fascism, and their Jewish backgrounds were hushed up.
From the early 1980s onward, they were portrayed as Poles in what, Trojanski said, was a "process of Polonization."
This, he suggested, was an essentially blinkered approach.

"That's why Poles didn't know that most of the victims at Auschwitz were Jews."
Trojanski - a former history teacher - and Szuchta are currently finishing a textbook for teachers about the Holocaust. He hopes it will be published this year.
It will come out under the patronage of Poland's prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, and will be the only school text of its kind in Poland dealing exclusively with the Holocaust.
Turning to a related topic, Trojanski said that Poles of his generation are generally curious about Poland's Jewish past.
Prior to 1939, Poland was home to approximately 3.3 million Jews. After the United States and the Soviet Union, Poland had the world's largest Jewish community.
Today, he noted, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 self-declared Jews in Poland.
But, he observed, these figures do not take into account Jews who conceal their identity and pass as Christians.
Asked whether anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in Poland nowadays, Trojanski replied, "From my perspective, it's decreasing, especially among young people, who are very interested in Jewish culture and history. They want to talk about it. It was a taboo subject for years. Now young people want to fill in the gaps."
Trojanski, born in a village near Krakow, is a member of the Polish Society of Jewish Studies and on the editorial board of the periodical Studia Judaica.
Several years ago, after attending a conference about the Holocaust in London, England, he helped organize a series of seminars on the Holocaust for Polish teachers.
These seminars, he acknowledged, prompted the ministry of education to introduce the current Holocaust curriculum.
In co-operation with the Polish-German Centre in Cracow and Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Trojanski also created a travelling exhibition, The Jews in Poland, Fellow Citizens or Foreigners? It is now in Germany.
His own view is that Jews are, and were, fellow citizens rather than strangers in Poland.
"And that's one good reason why we should teach the Holocaust. Jews were fellow citizens. My generation thinks so."
Trojanski, who is considering turning his doctorate dissertation into a book, said his interest in Jews was whetted by three people.
When he was a boy, his parents told him stories about the only Jewish family in their pre-war village.
Rafael Felicsharf, a Polish Jewish academic originally from Cracow and now a resident of London, further aroused his curiosity.
Last year, in recognition of his efforts to document the Holocaust and the Jewish presence in Poland, he was awarded a diploma by Israel.

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Reutlinger Generalanzeiger (August 1, 2001)

»Geschichte wird zum Positiven umgekehrt«

»Lernen aus der Vergangenheit, Lehren für die Zukunft«: Studenten aus Kanada, Polen und Deutschland in Grafeneck

Von Andreas Fink

Gomadingen-Grafeneck. (GEA) Was zwischen 1933 und 1945 passiert ist, wissen sie alle. Die meisten aber kennen Deutschland nur aus dem Geschichtsbuch. Jetzt taucht die 27-köpfige Gruppe aus kanadischen, polnischen und deutschen Studenten gut drei Wochen lang in die deutsche Geschichte ein. »Learning from the Past, Teaching for the Future - Lernen aus der Vergangenheit, Lehren für Zukunft« ist das Seminar der angehenden Lehrer überschrieben. Gestern besuchten sie das Samariterstift Grafeneck - den Ort, an dem die Nazis vor 61 Jahren über 10 000 Menschen ermordeten.

Organisiert hat das Seminar die Landeszentrale für politische Bildung gemeinsam mit der kanadischen York University. Vom 29. Juli bis zum 22. August befassen sich die Studenten mit unterschiedlichen Aspekten des Nationalsozialismus. »Wir wollen keinen KZ-Tourismus«, betont Professor Mark J. Webber von der York University, der das Seminar mitorganisiert hat. Die Gruppe will mehr wissen als nackte Zahlen zum Holocaust. Heute fahren die Studenten nach Buttenhausen, um sich zwei Jahrhunderte christlich-jüdisches (Zusammen-)Leben auf dem Lande vor Augen zu führen. Weitere Stationen sind Worms, Berlin, Frankfurt/Oder, Krakau, Auschwitz und schließlich Warschau.

»Grafeneck ist mehr«

»Hier hat alles angefangen«, sagt Thomas Stöckle vom Arbeitskreis Gedenkstätte Grafeneck, »nämlich das industrielle Töten von Menschen in Gaskammern.« Fast im gleichen Atemzug sagt der 36-jährige Historiker, der seit fünf Jahren die Geschichte von Grafeneck aufarbeitet: »Grafeneck ist mehr.« Mehr als »nur« das Schloss mit den Euthanasie-Morden. Mehr auch als die überregional bekannte Gedenkstätte. Denn das Leben ist weitergegangen an dem geschichtsschweren Ort oberhalb des Dolderbachs: Dort, wo einst der Schuppen stand, in dem die Nazis »unwertem Leben« mit Kohlenmonoxid den »Gnadentod« gewährten, strahlt heute ein eleganter Wohnpavillon. Mittlerweile leben auf dem Gelände 120 geistig Behinderte und psychisch Kranke. Erst vor 11 Jahren wurde die Gedenkstätte errichtet, die an das Morden vor 61 Jahren erinnert.

»Um die Einmaligkeit von Grafeneck zu begreifen, muss man nur die Mitarbeiter-Verteilung anschauen«, so Stöckle: 140 Leute kümmern sich um die Bewohner, ein Mann - Stöckle - forscht in den Archiven nach Opfern und Tätern.

»Das ist wirklich beeindruckend«, sagt Arkadiusz Kozlowski.

Erst nachdem der polnische Student die Gedenkstätte, das Namensbuch und den Alphabet-Garten gesehen hat, wird für ihn das Phänomen Grafeneck greifbar. Zuvor - den Alltag im Schloss, in den Pavillons und in der Landwirtschaft vor Augen - hatte er noch gesagt: »Ich hätte etwas anderes erwartet: eine Stelle, an der die Geschichte irgendwie sichtbar wird.«

Die Kanadierin Jaya Gosyne hat Grafeneck als einen Ort begriffen, der gleichzeitig Vergangenheit und Gegenwart verkörpert. »Eine gute Sache«, meint die Studentin, »hier wird Geschichte zum Positiven umgekehrt.«

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York University Press Release (May 31, 2001)

York U. students explore issues in Holocaust, anti-racism education during visit to Germany and Poland

TORONTO, May 31, 2001 -- Ten York University students have been awarded scholarships to participate in a unique international project. They will join students from Germany and Poland for three weeks in Europe this summer to explore issues in Holocaust and anti-racism education. The York students will depart from Toronto on July 29 and return August 22.

The students are part of a project called Learning from the Past, Teaching for the Future, intended to help them as future educators to develop curricular responses to racism and antisemitism in Germany, Poland and Canada. The students will participate in seminars at such places as the museum and memorial at Auschwitz, the Wannsee Conference House and Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin, and the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. The group will also meet with representatives of the Jewish community and other minority groups in Germany and Poland. In February 2002, the European students will join the Canadians at York for a week-long follow-up seminar that will include sessions open to the public.

Student participants represent such diverse fields as environmental studies, political science, Canadian studies, history, sociology, and religious studies. Nine of the York students are in the Faculty of Education's concurrent program, including three in the Jewish Education stream.

"This program offers a unique opportunity for educators to talk about the importance of integrating an anti-racist, anti-bias perspective into their curriculum so future generations will not repeat the events of the past," says Jaya Gosyne, one of the York education students. "Most exciting for me is that by learning from one another we may be setting the wheels in motion for change."

The project is the brainchild of York professors Michael Brown and Mark Webber. Brown heads the Centre for Jewish Studies, and Webber is the associate director of the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES).

Says Webber, "By looking to the past we prepare teachers to lead their students towards a better future. By looking at others, we not only overcome stereotypes about them, but also get to know ourselves better." Adds Brown, "The cooperation of so many individuals, institutions and groups both sets the stage for and reflects the aims of the project. We are grateful to our public and private sponsors and donors, and to our colleagues in Canada, Germany and Poland, for making the project a reality."

The project is funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation of the Green Party of Germany, the Office for Democratic Education of Baden-Württemberg, the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin, the federal government's Department of Canadian Heritage, York University, the Viadrina University in Frankfurt an der Oder, the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and private donors, including Allan and Hinda Silber, Al Schrage, Gerda Frieberg, and Joseph Lebovic.

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