The research project on anti-Semitism in schools is underway

Research in Dusseldorf
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The project for the prevention of anti-Semitism in schools is underway

The Romanist Ursula Hennigfeld from Düsseldorf is responsible for an international project on anti-Semitism and prevention in schools, financed by the Federal Ministry of Education with one million euros. The opening conference will take place over the weekend.

A “you Jew” as an insult in the schoolyard or the misuse of the yellow star by critics of the Crown measures: anti-Semitism has many faces – and it is rampant in Germany again, says Ursula Hennigfeld. “Anti-Semitic narratives are among us and unfortunately the discourse has changed significantly in recent years.” Much is now being said publicly that it was unthinkable years ago. The romantic studies professor, who has been teaching and researching at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf since 2014, now wants to counter this with an international research project. Together with two scientists from the European University of Flensburg and scientific practice and cooperation partners, Hennigfeld wants to investigate how anti-Semitism is being addressed in schools in Germany, France, Spain and Romania.

What content plays a role and how is it communicated? Furthermore, at the end of the project, multilingual teaching materials on the prevention of anti-Semitism and a manual for teachers will be made available in digital and freely accessible format. The project kick-off conference will take place in Düsseldorf over the weekend, at which Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), former Federal Minister of Justice and current anti-Semitism commissioner for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, will speak among others. such as the rector of Heine University, and Anja Steinbeck, the president of the Jewish community, Oded Horowitz, and the director of the Düsseldorf memorial, Bastian Fleermann. In addition, researchers from various universities and institutions give lectures. At the end, a joint visit to the memorial is planned.

The research project is based on four premises, explains Hennigfeld, who has studied in the past, among other things, how the terror of September 11, 2001 was dealt with in French and Spanish novels. “First, fighting anti-Semitism is a pan-European challenge and must be addressed accordingly at the international level.” The project is doing this for Germany and three other countries as an example. She explains her choice in this way: Spain and France would have been obvious to her as a Romanista, a colleague specialized in Eastern Europe and especially in Romania. Work is also currently underway to introduce anti-Semitism prevention as a school subject, perhaps a model for other European countries, says Hennigfeld.

Secondly, the prevention of anti-Semitism should be interdisciplinary, both at school and in society as a whole. Anti-Semitism is still a taboo subject for many and not compulsory in many curricula. “That’s why it’s important to talk to teachers too,” says Hennigfeld. The search for teachers who wanted to participate was not easy, but in the meantime around 25 participants from all four countries have been found. Teachers from Düsseldorf are also involved, including from the Luisengymnasium. Researchers also want to evaluate peer-reviewed journals with educational materials and discussion contributions.

Thirdly, it is important for the project that the media usage habits of young people are included. “And that means the material we’re working on works digitally and audiovisual,” says Hennigfeld. “We have to go where young people get their information.” Many anti-Semitic claims and images are also spreading on the internet, which is exactly what needs to be countered there. Ideally, this should take place in Germany on an educational platform that can be easily accessed nationwide. The material should be suitable for different subjects and grades – and, fourthly, not only cover the years of the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. “Anti-Semitism is often seen as a purely historical phenomenon,” says Hennigfeld, “but this it doesn’t go far enough. ” Anti-Jewish resentment and persecution existed before World War II just as it still does today.

For more than a year Hennigfeld and his colleagues have been working on the project, which is funded with one million euros by the Federal Ministry of Education and will run until the end of February 2025. The reason why the kick-off conference can only take place now is that it was first necessary to find all the cooperation partners and define the methodological superstructure. “Now we can finally move forward,” says Hennigfeld and is happy. Attendees want to come together for at least one other conference per year.

The Romanista and her colleagues managed to win well-known partners for the project. Among others, researchers from the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt am Main, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, as well as the Düsseldorf Memorial and Memorial, including the Munich and Cologne Nazi Documentation Centers, are involved. , the Jewish Museum in Rendsburg and the German Historical Museum in Berlin. For Hennigfeld it is important to collaborate with scientific and non-scientific partners. “Here the commitment of the community is necessary”, she says, “anti-Semitism attacks all of us and the heart of our democracy”.

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