In the first post in our series about teaching local stories about the Holocaust and refugees, Moritz Wein introduces www.neue-alte-heimat.at – a new educational website about Austrian Jews fleeing to Israel and the UK.
The site includes video testimonies from ten survivors from the Austrian Alpine Province Tyrol, in which they talk about their life before the Annexation, experiences of antisemitism, and their journeys to their new homes. The website content is mostly in the German Language only, but we include two of the testimonies recorded in English in this blog.
How to Preserve Survivors’ Memories?
Fewer survivors can share their experiences of persecution and expulsion during the Holocaust. Those that were children at that time are now in their eighties or nineties.
“Video testimonies cannot replace the conversation between students and survivors in the classroom, but they can preserve the latter’s memories for future generations.”
Ten survivors who were brought up in the alpine city of Innsbruck and escaped to the UK or Israel were interviewed for the educational website neue-alte-heimat.at; which roughly translates into “old homeland – new homeland”.
What did my Family undertake to Flee?
Alongside biographical video portraits, the website offers eleven thematic video clips. Such as the clip “What did my family undertake to flee?”, in which Dorli Neal, who fled on a Kindertransport to the UK, says the following, whilst trying to fight back her tears:
“On the railway station, I will never forget that … there was a line, where the parents stood and we were in the train. I was lucky, I saw my parents again. But there were hundreds of children who never saw their parents and family again”.
Two of the testimonies available in English and can be watched below (note: the introductions and questions are in German):
An Educational Website for Students
Comprehensive educational materials are available on the website, on topics such as:
- The survivors’ integration in their new homelands
- Their identity and relationship with their original homeland
- Transcripts of the videos
- Photos from the interviewees’ family albums
- A handbook for educators.
Through the narration of the survivors, abstract terms such as antisemitism, expulsion, flight and November pogrom become comprehensible to the students. The personal stories – the survivors’ dangerous and difficult flight and experiences with violence – make the cruel politics of the National Socialist clear to the learners. The victims emerge from anonymity, their video testimonies confront the students with the dimensions and the after effects of the Holocaust. The survivors’ stories can also help inform a discussion with the students about the contemporary relevance of their stories.
What Happened in my Region?
The concept of regional history was a key factor in designing the website; history can be better understood through local references. Students from the Bundesland (federal state) Tyrol can easily relate to places mentioned by the survivors and thus find reference points in the survivors’ history to their own realm of experience.
Neue-alte-heimat.at is sensitive to the constraints on Holocaust education in schools, particularly in terms of time. Thus, the video clips were cut so that they can be used within a one-hour lesson. The website is multifunctional – it could be used as an introduction to the topic of the Holocaust but also for a school project week.
Neue-alte-heimat.at was developed by _erinnern.at_, the Institute for Holocaust Education of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education.
- How have you integrated video testimony into your teaching?
- How might focusing on ‘local stories’ help students to relate to the Holocaust – an event that happened more than seventy years ago?
- What resources are available online to help you design learning experiences about local stories in your area?
Moritz Wein is a research associate and communication officer at _erinnern.at_ (National Socialism and the Holocaust: Memory and Present) – an institution for teacher training that develops learning and teaching material for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education. Previously, he worked as an educator at Mauthausen Memorial and as a Human Rights officer at the Austrian Students Union. He studied political science at the University of Vienna, Sciences Po Paris and at University of Marburg’s Center for Conflict Studies.
Follow the work of Erinnern_at online: