Facing the challenge of Holocaust education in Asia

There are few people I know who have not watched Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds”. Most of those who watched it enjoyed the film, which depicts a fictional American commando unit during World War 2, made of Jewish soldiers only, working behind German lines to gruesomely avenge the Nazi crimes against Jews. Interestingly, not even one person who watched the film, told me he sided with the German soldiers, despite the incredibly violent and cruel behavior of the Americans. We all, after all, know that Nazis are bad. That is, until I watched the movie a few weeks ago for the first time with a Chinese person who barely ever studied the Holocaust and World War 2.

Invitation to an HKHTC exhibition in downtown Hong Kong - creative ways to solve challenges
Invitation to an HKHTC exhibition in downtown Hong Kong – creative ways to solve challenges

The said person’s reaction – in support of the Nazis who are attacked in the film – provides a glimpse into the main challenge for Holocaust education in China, the challenge I have been facing together with my colleagues at the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre since I began interning here a month ago. How do you explain the Holocaust to local Chinese students who know little of anything about it? For them, the Nazis are not automatically bad, as they are for the vast majority of people who were educated in the west. The first answer to this question is creativity.

The first learning goal I feel I am constantly progressing on so far is, thus, creativity. The most recent example, which I am particularly proud of, is an application my supervisor and I submitted to hold a large exhibition in a very crowded public space downtown Hong Kong. To address the issue of a lack of context described above, we thought it would be powerful to exhibit the artwork of Jewish children who died at the Theresienstadt concentration camp next to artwork created by Hong Kong students in response to studying the Holocaust. Children are easy to connect and identify with everywhere, to anyone. By bringing their sets of artwork together, we can create a connection that will place the distant Holocaust in a local and more relevant context. Fortunately, the selection committee agreed with us, chose our application over many others, and the exhibition will be presented in October, to the eyes of thousands Hong Kong residents who pass by its location every day.

The same sort of creativity was also necessary as I worked with my supervisor and a paid web designer on creating a new and more relevant website for the Centre. The website was launched this week and has received many positive comments (check it out here!). Expanding the Centre’s outreach also naturally required finding ways to make its social networks more relevant, such as posting in Chinese with the help of other volunteers. Overall, since the HKHTC is a new organization, there is much to create and a lot of creativity to develop.

Speaking to students - Experiencing educational work
Speaking to students – Experiencing educational work

Another learning goal I set for myself was experiencing with educational work and learning more about education as a career. Being that the HKHTC’s work is all about education, I constantly feel like I’m achieving this. Be it while speaking or lecturing to students on different occasions or while learning about local curriculums and devising lesson plans that could suit local students with the HKHTC’s education committee members.

Last, but not least, coming here I was hoping to improve my discipline and organizational skills. Since the HKHTC is, as mentioned, a new and small organization, much of my work is independent, and requires both skills. From larger projects, like the ones mentioned above, to smaller ones, like cataloguing the Centre’s resources, creating a Wikipedia value and more, I am constantly required to show initiative and work on my own to get things done.

Cataloguing the Centre's resources - required discipline
Cataloguing the Centre’s resources – required discipline

As I set out for my last few weeks in Hong Kong, I already feel that I have learnt a lot and can be proud of some of my work. I look forward to continuing my work, and feel that my time here left made a true contribution – both to the goals of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, and to my skills and experiences.

2 thoughts on “Facing the challenge of Holocaust education in Asia”

  1. Hi Chen! Wow–I’m really amazed by what you did in Hong Kong! This is really new and interesting for me because, as you mentioned in your first blog post, China and the Holocaust aren’t usually two things you would associate with each other. I was reading through your first article as well where you explain why it is important to spread Holocaust awareness in China and I agree that since China and Asia are gaining international influence quite rapidly, people living there should be aware of what humans can do to others. I hope that is a point that you emphasize by using the Holocaust as an example. Thank you for enlightening me to something I didn’t see before. It looks like you did a lot to really push forward with the HKHTC and your collective mission! I hope I can also do some of the practical steps you took, like creating the HKHTC website, with the school I was involved with in Namibia this summer. Congratulations on completing such a great internship!

  2. Chen,

    Creativity is a great skill to develop and it seems like you always had to have some of it in your internship. It is also very hard to work in such a new and challenging environment – where most of the things you take for granted or you think are straightforward might not be so. Reading your post, I can see how you had developed and adapted into this kind of environment and found the best solutions to make your work influential as you wanted it to be. working as both an educator and a program manager and a marketer had probably made your work very interesting and exciting, much like my work this summer doing a little bit of everything around the small organization I was in. You seem like you had a lot of success with it, and I hope that I was able to make a similar impact on my organization like you made in yours.
    Hope to hear more about your internship.

    Shimon

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