New Holocaust education pack co-designed by Falmouth students piloted at local schools
02 August 2022
A Holocaust education pack, developed in collaboration with students and academics at Falmouth University, will be piloted by seven schools in Cornwall after being launched at a teachers’ conference on Penryn Campus.
The new education pack, which will replace the existing Holocaust teaching in the seven schools, starts by examining the richness and vibrancy of Jewish communities in Europe prior to the Second World War.
In many schools, education about the Holocaust starts with the rise of the Nazis but often there is not enough emphasis on the depth of loss that resulted from the genocide of Jews in Europe.
The new lesson plans are centred around animated films created by BA(Hons) Animation students at Falmouth.
It was incredible to see how passionate the students were about the subject, the detail they went into and the sensitivity they were showing towards my mother’s story.
The films tell the extraordinary story of Blanka and her sister Klara, both survivors of Nazi camps - including Auschwitz - through the eyes of Blanka’s daughter, Cynthia.
The idea for the education pack was born at a Holocaust Remembrance Day Service in January 2020, which was attended by Cynthia and Rita, who is the Inter-Faith Development Worker at Cornwall Faith Forum.
Rita, who had been frustrated by the low turnout at the event and the lack of secondary school student involvement, felt concerned that the lessons learned from one of the darkest chapters in human history were slowly being forgotten.
She got chatting with Cynthia, who had recently moved to Cornwall, and the pair devised a plan. They decided to create something that would ensure Cynthia’s mother’s story – and the lessons learned from the Holocaust – could never be forgotten.
Rita reached out to Katharine Nicholls, Senior Lecturer on BA(Hons) Animation and VFX, to see if their idea could be taken forward.
Katharine was more than happy to help, and offered her students the opportunity to create animations for Holocaust education in Cornwall.
Rita and Cynthia were able to assist the Animation students in developing their work, offering optional weekly Zoom calls to field questions and provide important details which would help bring the story to life.
Cynthia told us, “It was incredible to see how passionate the students were about the subject, the detail they went into and the sensitivity they were showing towards my mother’s story.”
“It was a very emotional process for me, but an immensely rewarding one.”
These animations help to centre the tragedy and lessons of the Holocaust on something very real
Rita and Cynthia’s idea continued to snowball, picking up funding from SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education at Cornwall Council), Jewish Community of Cornwall Kehillat Kernow and Falmouth University.
“The project started on a voluntary basis”, Rita explains. “SACRE offered support for writing the lesson plans, Kehillat Kernow provided funding for the Conference, and Dr Carolyn Shapiro kindly applied for support from the Enhancing Research-Culture Programme at Falmouth.”
The pair go on to explain the importance of re-thinking Holocaust Education for students in Cornwall.
“We wanted to ground the education in something that was less abstract than numbers in a textbook”, Rita said. “This is a Holocaust story, but with a connection to Cornwall. These animations help to centre the tragedy and lessons of the Holocaust on something very real and tangible.”
With the pilot education pack successfully launched, Rita and Cynthia are planning how to further develop and roll out the pack to more schools in Cornwall.
Through the partnership with Falmouth University, there are plans to focus on Cornwall’s history of welcoming refugees, and to develop animations and documentaries illustrating the diversity which exists in the county.
Rita and Cynthia point to the way in which evacuated Jewish children were welcomed to Mousehole during the Second World War as an illustration of the goodwill.
“Mousehole welcomed 100 Jewish children together with five of their teachers in June 1940”, the pair explain. “They were evacuated from the Jews’ Free School, in the East End of London, during World War II. A Jews’ Free School was established in the premises of Mousehole School, and arrangements were made for synagogue services to be held in Paul Church Hall.
“Cornwall has also welcomed Syrian refugees, as well as refugees from the current crisis in Ukraine.
“There’s such a rich history to be explored, and we’re looking forward to working with Falmouth’s students to help bring it to life.