Turkey devising different Holocaust curriculum for schools
April 10, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
B’nai Brith Canada held a roundtable meeting between prominent members of the community and delegates to the Task Force for International Coooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Special guests included Dr. Alain Goldschläger, Canadian delegate, ITF (left); Ruth Klein, national director of Advocacy, B’nai Brith Canada; Yönet C. Tezel, deputy director general for research, Republic of Turkey; Ertan Tezgör, ambassador, Foreign Policy Advisory Board, Republic of Turkey, and special observer, ITF; Mario Silva, 2013 chair, ITF; Luigia Cistera, senior advisor, 2013 chair, ITF; Ali Riza Guney, consul general of Turkey to Toronto; and Dr. Frank Dimant, CEO, B'nai Brith Canada.
TORONTO – Turkey’s role in saving Jews during the Holocaust, plus its current fight against antisemitism and new Holocaust education curriculum, will be a model for other countries, said a Turkish ambassador.
Ertan Tezgör, ambassador, Foreign Policy Advisory Board, Republic of Turkey, was the guest of honour at a special roundtable breakfast meeting held by B’nai Brith Canada, which provided community leaders with an opportunity to liaise with delegates to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF). Although Turkey is not an official member country, it has held formal observer status since 2008, and it is the only Muslim-majority country involved with the task force.
Tezgör said Turkish academics and historians are consulting with the ITF, Yad Vashem and other experts to create a new, expanded Holocaust curriculum for high school students, which should be in place within the next five years. They face a unique challenge in devising the curriculum, Tezgör explained, because unlike other countries, Turkey was a place of refuge for Jews during the Holocaust.
“During the Nazi regime, we were the only country in which not even one Jew was taken and executed; on the contrary, Turkey was a safe haven,” said Tezgör. “Thousands were saved.”
As a result, he said, “Holocaust education in Turkey is not like the Holocaust education in, let’s say, Holland, Poland, Greece or Germany [because] we have no guilt. This is important. Turks know about the Nazi regime and how cruel it was but we don’t need to confess; it is more pure. So we have to educate our youngsters in a different way, with a different structure. We cannot take the Holocaust education curriculum that exists in Poland, Holland, England or elsewhere and then adapt it to the Turkish educational system.”
Through raising awareness of its long history of good relations with the Jewish people, its ongoing involvement in the ITF and the unique curriculum for Holocaust education that it is building, he said, “Turkey can be a model to the countries outside of the ITF zone, to a larger geography... mainly the Middle East.”
Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, expressed appreciation for Turkey’s actions and strong example. “The points you made,” Dimant told Tezgör, “are exceptionally earth-shattering. Turkey is a country that comes to the table with clean hands and no guilt; not only that, it is a Muslim country that does so.”
Dimant said that B’nai Brith Canada would like to help create and facilitate a new program that would offer scholarships and fellowships to send Turkish high school students to Israel for a well-rounded experience, which would include a visit to Yad Vashem. Tezgör promised to bring Dimant’s offer to NGOs in Turkey.
Other special guests at the meeting included Yönet C. Tezel, deputy director general for research, Republic of Turkey; Ali Riza Guney, consul general of Turkey to Toronto; Luigia Cistera, senior advisor, 2013 chair, ITF; Mario Silva, 2013 chair, ITF; Dr. Alain Goldschläger, Canadian delegate, ITF; Ruth Klein, national director of Advocacy, B’nai Brith Canada.