Remembrance has to do with places, people and time. These three important ingredients can be combined to the context of remembrance. During three years we visited several places in Belgium, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania. Looked how maps have changed due to occupations and liberations. In these places we met guides, witnesses, victims, curators or peers. And we heard several dates, periods and important dates of commemorations. The period of 80 years was overbridged with participation of 70 students and 16 teachers. This website is based on a timeline that several groups of students have worked out based on the information and materials collected.
We discovered 6 dimensions in Remembrance education. All started with experiences of suffering, pain, separation or segregations. These experiences find their way in diaries, monographs, novels and research papers. This cognitive dimension needs people who are involved in this events and tragedies. This is the social dimension. After such tragedies there are always intentions by groups of survivors to commemorate these events in their inner circles and later it became national days. This ritual dimension is situated with veterans, family members, officials and children. The rituals have nationalistic or patriotic impact. A lot of symbols appear in the public space. The most important elements are the flag and the anthems. The well-being of the audience and intergenerational dimension is very touchable. We called it the affective dimension. A lot of witnesses became very emotionally and a handkerchief was never far away. Commemoration and remembrance has to do with an ethical dimension: not to forget and to avoid the tragedies in the future. Remembrance has to do with peace education and value education, promoting unity and solidarity.
Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals. Compared with all other parties and movements, their most conspicuous external characteristic is their demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional, and unalterable loyalty of the individual member. This demand is made by the leaders of totalitarian movements even before they seize power. It usually precedes the total organization of the country under their actual rule and it follows from the claim of their ideologies that their organization will encompass, in due course, the entire human race. Where, however, totalitarian rule has not been prepared by a totalitarian movement (and this, in contradistinction to Nazi Germany, was the case in Russia), the movement has to be organized afterwards and the conditions for its growth have artificially to be created in order to make total loyalty. Such loyalty can be expected only from the completely isolated human being who, without any other social ties to family, friends, comrades, or even mere acquaint.
Remembrance education using media literacy and ICT is also an antidote for radicalisation leading to a spiral of violence. Remembrance education is a mirror in which we learn to evaluate our prejudice, our emotions and behaviour. Remembrance education is not only learning about but learning from. The confrontation does not lead to frustration and negations, but to emancipation and optimism.
If we want young people to understand and learn from the tragedies in the past, we have to analyse the images and the ‘visual’ world and the ‘information society’ in which young people are now living. There is a growing concern about society’s moral and historical condition, which can be seen in various trends in young people’s: the rise in youth violence; increasing dishonesty; the growing disrespect for parents, teachers, and other authority figures; an increase in bigotry and crimes related to racism and xenophobia; the deterioration of language, the rise in numbers of self-destructive behaviour, decline in personal and civil responsibility: all of which might be included under the term ethical illiteracy (Lickona, 1991; Turnbaugh-Lockwood 1997).
The legacy of genocide, gross human right violations, mass political violence, and historical injustice has been arguably laid bare through a whole range of mechanisms: official apologies, vetting, international criminal tribunals, national, or local legal proceedings, truth commissions, official commemorations, restitution, revising school history curricula, establishing monuments and museums, and hybrid trials. Each of these mechanisms seek to contribute in their own way to accountability, reconciliation, the historical record, victims’ rights, and competing ‘truths’. As the international ad-hoc trials – often instigated in the immediate aftermath of, or during conflict – wind down, we enter a new phase of evaluating the efficacy of these and other institutionalized means of confronting the violent past. We can now begin to assess their impact on the societies from which the perpetrators and/or victims emerged. And what about societies that maintain official amnesia or actively repress the memory of violence with regard to historical injustices? Is there a right timing for addressing the violent past? Should and could historians and historical dialogue play a more instrumental role in these processes?
Starting an Erasmus project is walking a path with people coming from several backgrounds. It is amazing to enter worlds that have a lot of similarities but also some hidden histories.
Our students became researchers addressing the above mentioned topics and/or reflecting on the following questions: What can we learn about the causes, processes and consequences of mass political violence and genocide from the testimonies, archives and records produced by transitional justice mechanisms, what kind of history is being told and written. What role can archives play in confronting a violent past and historical injustice, what role can education and remembrance play in interpreting the past for the public in general?
Erasmus + project was intended to produce workable activities for the introduction of cross-curricular subjects in secondary education in Europe related to remembrance education and focusing on such issues as human rights, democracy, tolerance and not in the least lessons learned from the past. Students from upper secondary classes and future teachers should be prepared to contribute together with their peers to the building of a society, based on respect and regardless of cultural origin. Remembrance education offers numerous angles to meet this objective. Remembrance education wants to contribute to an attitude of active respect in today’s society starting from the collective memory of human suffering that was caused by human behaviour (war, intolerance or exploitation) and which should not be forgotten.
The project involved also multidisciplinary approach: in addition to the historical focus, it included also ethical, philosophical, ideological, artistic and literary perspectives. It is important that the ‘good practices’ were shared through ICT, publications, websites, seminars and conferences. Through initiatives in Flanders, the Baltic States and in Poland this project has showed that remembrance education is very much related to local and regional contexts. We hope that this project has resulted in a variety of activities, which will offer possibilities to exchange experience for teachers in secondary education.