International Educational Seminar in Museum and Memorial in Sobibór
Between August 31 and September 3, 2021, the international seminar entitled “From memory of places to the pedagogy of remembrance” took place in the Museum and Memorial in Sobibór.
The project was addressed to the educational project leaders from several countries. The staff of the State Museum at Majdanek, as well as the institutions’ two branches: museums and memorial sites in Bełżec and Sobibór, met with guests from the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, and Poland. It was an opportunity to discover the didactic potential of the new permanent exhibition concerning the history of the German Nazi extermination camp in Sobibór. The seminar aimed at sharing experiences, reflecting on the current collective and cultural memory, as well as exchanging ideas for the education at the World War II memorial sites.
The seminar began with a visit at the area of the former extermination facility in Sobibór. The direct contact with the actual camp site, its tangible commemorative elements, and the traces of the area’s transformation across the years, consolidated the palimpsestic perception of the memorial place. The participants laid flowers at the vicinity of the mass graves, thus paying a collective homage to the victims. Then, Tomasz Kranz, the director of the State Museum at Majdanek, held a detailed guided tour around the permanent exhibition at the Museum and Memorial in Sobibór. The stories of the victims and survivors of the extermination camp, available as audio-visual testimonies, or enchanted in the excavated artefacts, were a central part that was widely commented during a follow-up discussion.
The next part of the seminar was devoted to the activities of the State Museum at Majdanek and its branches, presented by Agnieszka Kowalczyk-Nowak, and the implementation of the pedagogy of remembrance in educational work of the museum, discussed by Ewa Koper. The session was complemented with a historical lecture regarding “Einsatz Reinhardt,” given by Jakub Chemielewski. Then, the participants visited Włodawa, thus discovering and exploring the multicultural heritage of the region.
The final day of the seminar proved to be the most important in terms of its educational aims, as it revolved around the workshops. The project’s participants worked in several groups and analysed the discourse of mass extermination, each group within a different aspect of the topic. The discussed fields included the restoration of the victims’ identity, the logistics of extermination, and the process of transformation within the former camp site area. The exchange of thoughts, opinions, and ideas, resulted in creating a collection of designs for future educational projects regarding the history of the former extermination camp in Sobibór.