Since 2021, Mémorial de la Shoah, together with POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (Poland), Žanis Lipke Memorial (Latvia) and the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia (North Macedonia) has been implementing the “Nonviolent Communication Approach in Adult Education in Historical Museums and Memorial Sites” project. The project, which is a part of the Erasmus+ Program, aims at introducing the model of “Nonviolent Communication” into the daily work of institutional teams and, through it, to activate groups of adult recipients in the field of expanding their knowledge about the Holocaust in Europe.
“Nonviolent Communication” (NVC) is a model developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, a psychologist and peace activist, in the 1960s. Its purpose is to support dialogue between people and build societies based on empathy and taking into account the needs of each person.
Mémorial de la Shoah has been invited to take part in the project by its leader and initiator, POLIN Museum in Warsaw. Through introducing NVC into the daily work of all partners’ teams, the project aims to activate groups of adult audiences, primarily in the field of expanding knowledge about the Holocaust in Europe. The practice of partner institutions shows that this topic, as it evokes social discussions, often emotional and burdened with political contexts or stereotypes, requires special attention.
During the seminars, of which there were already four (including one online), consortium members exchange experiences related to difficult situations in dealing with the public and practice using the model of NVC in their work with the audience.
One of the first seminars, in February 2022, took place in the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The French team was represented by educators and guides, as well as international relations department. Partners’ representatives were practicing NVC and discussing difficulties encountered with the audience in the French context. These include, among others, diverse knowledge of the guests about the terminology related to such concepts as the Holocaust, genocide, ethnic cleansing, as well as the phenomenon of memory clashes around the Holocaust among various social groups in France. In each of the cases discussed, the participants tried to imagine the emotions of the visitors and the needs behind them.
Mémorial de la Shoah team continued to deepen knowledge and reflection about NVC during the next seminar which took place in Žanis Lipke Memorial in Riga in June 2022. As the Paris meeting finished on February 23rd, on the eve of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the consorcium decided to include the context of the ongoing war into their debates. The June seminar in Riga was therefore devoted not only to historical issues and visits to historical sites but also to the role of NVC in the face of contemporary war and the social polarisation which occurs in this context in Latvia.
Mémorial de la Shoah’s facilitators were deligthed by the contents of this seminar. They found some ideas and exercices useful to spread to the rest of the team in Paris and Drancy, but also to implement with students during visits and workshops.
The next opportunity to practice the NVC model in dealing with visitors was a seminar in the Holocaust Memorial Centre for the Jews of Macedonia in Skopje in September 2022. Participants gained an in-depth knowledge about the complicated, historic and contemporary position of North Macedonia in the Balkan region and in Europe. The host of the training programme focused on outlining the historical context for the wartime fate of Macedonian Jews, 98% of whom perished during the Holocaust. The second key issue was the manner in which Macedonian history influences contemporary international relations and conflicts of memory, including those about the Holocaust.
“The exchanges as well as the presentations were very rich, and allowed us to better understand some contemporary geopolitical and memorial issues, especially in the European context. The different NVC sessions and a tour organized on memory sites enlarged our perspective and the knowledge on the ways each institution has to deal with a national past or history,” says Delphine Barré, coordinator in Pedagogical Department of Mémorial de la Shoah.
The next training is scheduled for April 2023. The partners will meet at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
Project co-financed by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ programme.
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