The German Experience of Coming-to-Terms with the Past: An Exhibition, Programme of Public Outreach and Teaching Materials in South Africa and the UK

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Abstract

This programme of knowledge exchange, dissemination, and the production of an exhibition and teaching resources draws on the findings of the AHRC major research project 'From Victims to Perpetrators? Discourses of German Wartime Suffering' (2005-2008). In that project, the complex interaction of narratives of victimhood and perpetration from the end of WWII into the 21st century was established: tropes associated with the Holocaust were found to have been instrumentalised within German accounts of what they had endured as the victims of Allied bombing, mass rapes, and expulsion, even as German complicity in Jewish suffering and Jewish suffering itself were marginalised. We also discovered, however, that more nuanced narratives have emerged since the mid-1990s. These aim for an inclusive juxtaposition of the complexities, and ambiguities, of the experiences of individual Germans and Jews while remaining mindful of how such a juxtaposition might appear to relativise German responsibility or Jewish suffering. Such narratives raise productive questions within today's globalisation of Holocaust memory as a model for coming-to-terms with injustices far removed from the concentration camps.

Specifically, recent German fiction, film and memorials raise questions relating to 1) the possibility of empathy with 'ordinary' Germans; 2) the balance between recognising the ordinary German's 'absolute' victimhood (e.g. that he or she was bombed) and the need to set this suffering in the context of how Germans benefited from the racial state's exploitation and elimination of others; and (3) how opposing perspectives might be sensitively juxtaposed and so be able to generate inclusivity and dialogue without a blurring of historical accountability.

These questions resonate in the post-apartheid South African context. Working with The SA Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF), we aim to adapt our research findings to intervene productively in SA's efforts to confront the legacy of apartheid and, specifically, to contribute to the SAHGF's educational outreach with SA schools. The primary outcome will be a travelling exhibition for the SAHGF centres in Cape Town, Jo'burg and Durban documenting Germany's coming-to-terms with its past and prompting visiting school groups (and the public) to rethink their SA context, i.e. how can we square historical justice with reconciliation; how are the experiences of all groups to be narrated without relativisation? Our research on Germany suggests that posing these questions within agreed parameters (i.e. accountability remains vital) can in itself open up a difficult past to democratic debate.

We will also stage public events in both SA and the UK. In Cape Town, we will organise workshops at the SAHGF for pupils and the general public to mark the launch of the exhibition and to prompt wider discussion of its contemporary relevance. The UK High Commission in SA and the British Council will also be involved. In the UK, we will work with the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre (Notts) to set the exhibition into a new context; we will launch the UK exhibition, with SAHGF and Beth Shalom staff, at events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 and Beth Shalom's 20th anniversary. In addition, we will collaborate with Leeds City Council and a Leeds theatre company on a three-month drama workshop for young people, based on the exhibition. At 3 performances and after-show discussions, we will engage city residents, with SAHGF and Beth Shalom staff, on 'global traumas' and their local significance.

Finally, we will work with Beth Shalom to create teaching resources designed to deepen pupils' grasp of traumatic pasts and today's debates on historical accountability, racism and social exclusion. These materials, downloadable from the project website, will benefit pupils across a range of disciplines, in the UK and globally. We will also offer CPD opportunities for a postdoc and staff at our partner institutions.

Planned Impact

The permanent Holocaust exhibitions at the SAHGF's centres in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban have a footfall of 25 000 a year. In addition, the SAHGF's educational programmes reach 6000 pupils, 1500 adults, and 600 teachers across SA p.a. Of these, 80% are from groups disadvantaged under apartheid. In the UK, Beth Shalom has a footfall of 3500 p.a. from around the world, and its educational programme on extremism, divided communities and racism serves 17 000 pupils from primary to year 13. In 2013, the Holocaust Memorial Day events organised by Leeds City Council attracted around 1000 visitors, and the Theatre Co. Blah Blah Blah, supported by grants from Leeds City Council and the Arts Council, has been working with young people for over 25 years to develop participatory performances on a range of social and historical themes.

In SA, the exhibition will benefit pupils and the general public at the SAHGF centres in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Currently, a SAHGF travelling exhibition on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals in the context of SA debates is attracting around 2000 visitors a month, and we expect to reach similar numbers each month over a period of half a year. Our exhibition will offer a resource within the National Curriculum for teachers to address with their pupils the significance of German coming-to-terms with the Nazi past for post-apartheid SA and, among the general public, it will contribute to the conversation begun by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In short, the exhibition will prompt reflection on the co-existence of different perspectives and provide a catalyst for opening up discussions across the divide about the painful past that so many South Africans still carry with them. A programme of events in Cape Town on the launch of the exhibition will create an additional formative educational experience for pupils and city residents, as well as impact-generating publicity and media opportunities.

In the UK, The Holocaust Centre Beth Shalom will gain from our knowledge exchange with the SAHGF. Adapting the travelling exhibition to the UK context will bring a novel comparative dimension to Beth Shalom's mission to embed discussion of social issues in the UK and abroad within Holocaust education, and the programme of events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 and the Centre's twentieth anniversary will integrate the efforts of the PI and CIs and two educationalists from the SAHGF into its outreach work. In Leeds, young people will profit from our three-month drama workshop in their personal and career development (i.e. confidence, acting skills, etc.) and in their increased understanding of issues of historical accountability and political change. Leeds City Council will support this work in furtherance of its aim to enrich the city's cultural life and as an expression of its ambition to promote reflection on its diverse and divided communities. More broadly, we will work with the UoL Press Office to interest the SA and UK media in our UK-SA collaboration so that it might furnish challenging content for an even wider audience. Here, we also hope to add to current UK debates, e.g. discussion of the UK's colonial past, especially decolonisation, and present-day attitudes to immigration.

More generally, our teaching materials will benefit schools as a dissemination of current research on the German experience of coming-to-terms with the Nazi past and a contextualization of this past in relation to apartheid and present-day SA. A course pack based on the 12-16 panels of the exhibition will be a resource for teachers in the UK and, via the website, globally.

Finally, the SAHGF and Beth Shalom will develop relationships for future collaborations, with one another and with us, and their staff and the project postdoc will benefit from the CPD opportunities offered by international partnerships, exploitation of research, development of resources, and the sharing of best practice.

Publications

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Description This is a follow-on project to realise the public impact of the results of a previously funded AHRC project.
Exploitation Route We will be continuing our partnership with the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and with the UK National Holocaust Centre.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/
 
Description The exhibition launched in January 2015, and the drama and teaching materials linked to the exhibition were also completed. The exhibition toured more than thirty locations after it launch, over the course of 2015 until early 2016, and in the UK, SA, the USA, and Ireland. These included schools, universities, art galleries, museums, and public libraries. Notable locations were Coventry Cathedral in early 2016 and Notre Dame University, USA, in September 2015. The exhibition was frequently accompanied by a programme of public talks and other outreach activities. I addition, we engaged with various partners: - Knowledge Exchange with Staff at the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre - Knowledge exchange with Curriculum Advisors for the South African National Schools' Curriculum. - A knowledge exchange workshop at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre involving members of the South African heritage sector, representatives of Cape Town museums, academics and postgraduate students. - Workshops with pupils from local schools at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, based on the Anne Frank Exhibition, that drew on our research on empathy and confronting difficult pasts. - A public event at the University of the Free State with the Afrikaans novelist Etienne van Heerden, with a roundtable discussion of the parallels - and differences - between the German and South African experiences of confronting the past. - A workshop for students at the Women's Memorial in Bloemfontein, South Africa, with clinical psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela of the University of the Free State. Through these engagement activities we have been able to positively influence the way the Holocaust is taught in SA schools in relation to the legacy of apartheid and Human Rights issues in the present day (curriculum advisors) as well to impact positively on the way groups of young people (pupils and university students) from diverse communities have engaged with their different, but interconnecting pasts and also the way they talk to one another in the present.
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description German in the World public event in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a presentation on the process of turning research into impact to a mixed audience of academics, arts practitioners, embassy officials, and media. I described the process whereby my research led to the production of an exhibition, a drama, and engagement with the public.

Engagement with the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://austrianresearchuk.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/conf-german-in-the-world-london-imlr-2-june-2014/
 
Description Knowledge Exchange with Curriculum Advisors and Educators in Cape Town 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The team ran a short series of interactive workshops for invited guests on Tuesday and Wednesday. We were delighted that James Griffiths, director of learning at the National Holocaust Centre, and Professor Cilliers van den Berg of the University of the Free State joined us to lead these workshops and share their own valuable experiences and insights.

In the first of these workshops, 'Confronting the Holocaust and Apartheid: Heritage and Memory' the team worked with Social Sciences, History and Tourism Curriculum Advisors and Educators, to consider how educators help learners approach questions of memory and remembering, memorialisation and commemoration, and reconciliation and healing, in developing an understanding of heritage work.

The second workshop of the day, 'Difficult Pasts in Museums and Heritage', involved professionals from the South African Heritage Sector tackling the theme of how difficult pasts and dark legacies are presented in public heritage spaces, identifying specific issues and themes which professionals in this field must negotiate to successfully present these pasts.

The third workshop, on Wednesday 2nd, focused on 'Negotiating Difficult Pasts: Teaching about the Holocaust in the UK', and was an opportunity to discuss these issues with the education team and volunteers from the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre. With a wealth of experience on presenting the Holocaust to young learners, James Griffiths presented the experience of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum as a tool for learning. Stuart Taberner and Victoria Nesfield joined James in leading this final session engaging with the Cape Town team who will ultimately be responsible for presenting the exhibition to visitors and learners at the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

Practitioners reported that they would introduce ideas and concepts discussed during the day into their teaching practice on the history of the Holocaust on citizenship and Human Rights education in SA schools. This would be widely disseminated through their roles as curriculum advisors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/knowledge-exchange-with-curriculum-advisors-and...
 
Description Knowledge Exchange with Staff at the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On Monday 31 March 2014, we joined staff from the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre and exhibition designer Linda Bester, for a detailed discussion of the narrative and content of the exhibition The German Experience of Confronting the Holocaust in a Global Context.

Extending the scope of the exhibition beyond Germany, we aim to create an exhibition which will speak to South African visitors and learners, in a country still coming to terms with its own Apartheid past.

We were able to deepen staff's understanding of issues surrounding the presentation of the history of the Holocaust and especially around the German experience of the Holocaust and of confronting the Holocaust. Staff reported a greater awareness of German postwar history and of issues surrounding debates on victimhood and perpetration. This would feed into their discussions with school pupils.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/knowledge-exchange-with-staff-at-the-cape-town-...
 
Description Radio talks in South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two talks for Radio Today, a South African radio station reaching around 30 000 people. Talks were on parallels between the German and SA experiences of confronting difficult pasts. October 2015.

Radio presented reported that this was a thought-provoking contribution to the debate in SA about how to confront the legacy of apartheid.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Research Networking with Colleagues at the University of the Western Cape 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact On the evening of Tuesday 1 April 2014, we had an evening of academic networking, presenting our research at the University of the Western Cape, showcasing not only this project, but the range of research in this area taking place at the University of Leeds, and establishing new links, contacts and shared academic interests. Further information on the evening's presentations is available here.

Collaboration between academics in South Africa and UK, feeding into further research activities and funding bids.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/wp-admin/post.php?post=1230&action=edit
 
Description Talks and tours at galleries, museums, schools, universities and public libraries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The exhibition toured more than 30 locations - galleries, museums, schools, universities and public libraries - in the UK, USA, SA, and Ireland, and it is due to continue travelling through 2016. At many of these locations, the PI (Stuart Taberner) was present to guide members of the public through the exhibition or to deliver a talk on the exhibition. We estimate that in excess of 50 000 people saw the exhibition, and around 5000 attended talks or tours. The exhibition was often embedded into a programme of discussion of Human Rights, or in educational programmes, especially in South Africa.

Many participants reported that their thinking on the Holocaust had been changed by the exhibition -- i.e. they were more aware of its relevance for present-day debates on racism, discrimination, and social exclusion. many also reported that they were more likely to engage with their own country's history.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015