Yad Vashem is to increase its role in European Holocaust education, after signing a major agreement with the Council of Europe.
According to a new memorandum of understanding, Yad Vashem, Israel’s state Holocaust commemoration authority, will promote Holocaust education throughout the council’s 47 member states.
It is very unusual for an official body of a non-member state to receive such status at the Council. Israel is not a member, just an observer.
Yad Vashem representatives will become regulars at meetings and forums where education chiefs from the countries work on curriculum and education policy.
Yad Vashem already has ties with just over half the countries in the Council of Europe, including Britain, Italy and Romania, which means it hosts their representatives for seminars in Jerusalem and consults on commemoration.
Its International School for Holocaust Studies currently conducts some 70 seminars annually for educators from abroad, and produces material in 20 languages. The agreement is intended to broaden this kind of relationship to all the Council of Europe countries.
Yad Vashem’s ultimate hope is that its approach to the Holocaust, which is shaped by Israeli and Jewish values, reaches the general public in Europe via educators.
“This way we can provide more assistance to the grass-roots,” said Richelle Budd-Caplan, head of Yad Vashem’s European department.
She hopes, in particular, that it leads to relationships with some of the smaller countries in Europe, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia and Albania.
Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, said that the presence of Israeli Holocaust specialist input at European educational forums resulted in the Holocaust becoming less abstract in schools.
“The Council of Europe is very involved in formulating the history of the new Europe, and it has an important role in explaining areas of history and their significance,” he commented. “We will take steps to teach the Shoah not just as history, but as a human phenomenon.”
Co-operation between Israel and the Council of Europe could be set to increase in other areas.
Mr Shalev signed the agreement with the council’s secretary-general Thorbjørn Jagland, during the latter’s visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan last week.
According to Mr Jagland’s office, he discussed strengthening co-operation between Israel and the Council, with President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.