Today: Jun 17, 2024

University hosts Holocaust workshop

Braden Saint-Val – News Writer

“From Workshop to Classroom”: a professional development workshop where teachers from Avon and Milford gathered in the Adanti Student Center Theater to gain a better understanding of genocide education and genocides throughout history. 

It was made possible through Voices of Hope, a Connecticut nonprofit that aims to raise social consciousness of the Holocaust and other genocides, and its Holocaust and Education Resource and Outreach Center, HERO, Center. 

The HERO Center is a program that provides support for educators, students and community members to meet the requirements of Connecticut’s 2018 mandate requiring schools to provide genocide education in the social studies curriculum. 

This is done through workshops, webinars and lesson plans for educators, field trips, as well as genocide survivors and their descendants speaking to students. 

“To talk with, or to hear the testimony of one survivor, they begin to empathize. They see in those folks, in those survivors, their pre-war life. They begin to see reflections of themselves,” says Jeri Butlien, the HERO Center’s associate director. 

Speakers in Tuesday’s workshop included professors David Pettigrew and Armen Marsoobian from the university, David Simon from Yale University’s Genocide Studies Program and humanities teachers. 

David Simon broke down the definition of genocide provided by the United Nations’ Genocide Convention and how it was used after its creation in 1948, like in the Rwandan genocide. 

He also provided ways to study genocide in the classroom through historical, political and social lenses. 

“I can say that one of the important legacies of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was that the UN created an ad hoc tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, that became the first international tribunal to convict an individual of committing genocide,” Simon said. 

“That act breathed some life into the Genocide Convention, which had at that point existed for almost 50 years without any of its provision- in this case, for punishment- having been invoked at the international level. The Rwanda experience also showed that the Genocide Convention as written was inadequate as an instrument for preventing genocide or mobilizing action to suppress one that is underway.” Simon said. 

David Pettigrew discussed the Bosnian genocide and addressed memorialization efforts and activism that he has taken part in to commemorate victims and combat the continuous denial made by Republica Srpska’s government. 

“Raising awareness about past genocides is crucial for the prevention of a repetition of the atrocities. This year for example, young members of the Bosnian-American community in the Hartford area successfully advocated for the Connecticut legislature to pass a law recognizing July 11 as Bosnian Genocide Remembrance Day,” Pettigrew said. “This shows what can be accomplished by dedicated individuals who advocate for the human rights to the truth and memorialization.” 

Colleen Simon guided attendees through the Yale Fortunoff Archive for Holocaust Testimonies’ newest curriculum, “Race and Citizenship,” which will examine the relationship between Nazi Germany and Jim Crow U.S. 

Armen Marsoobian taught attendees about the Armenian genocide and the attempts to rewrite history by Turkey and its allies. 

“I would argue that there’s this continuity in the violence against Armenians. And the continuity, that continuing violence against this group, is a result of denial and distortion because that denial fuels hatred, and it creates the ability of perpetrators to recruit masses of people,” Marsoobian said. 

Teachers also discussed effective ways to bring the knowledge they have learned to their classrooms with the workshop speakers. 

“Social studies teachers, I believe, welcome professional development that is content based; that involves engaging with experts who can assist us with our curriculum,” said Jiliana McCormick, a social studies teacher at Avon High School. “And with the number of different courses and electives that we need to teach and need to have a broad content knowledge on, we’re grateful to everyone here for taking time out to help us.” 

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