Lithuania Teacher Study Visit Blog

It is both a privilege and a burden to be able to take part in a HET site visit.


A privilege because it allows us, as teachers, to bring history to life as we experience first-hand the richness of pre-war Jewish life, the spirit of resistance, as well as the devastating effects of a regime that sought to eradicate an entire group of people, including their languages, diverse cultures, and religion. It is a burden because once you have immersed yourself in this dark world, there is a moral obligation to educate others in our own eradication of hatred and intolerance.

This year I have had this opportunity twice. I was able to take part in the teacher study visit to both Berlin and Lithuania, each with its own contrasting voice in the narrative. What Hitler sought to do was to lump European Jewry into one homogenous group of people, but what these visits have taught me is that a German Jew would probably have little in common with a Jew from Vilna. They identified differently, and each group has its own story to tell, both as a collective and as individuals. Part of the privilege is hearing these voices from the past and learning their stories. The burden is translating that to the classroom so that the next generations understand and remember.

Another thing that I have learned is that there were two Holocausts. The first is what one would traditionally think: the murder of six million Jews. The second is a Holocaust of culture and all that entails (language, literature, poetry, music, history, etc.). Both can be seen through the theme of absence: what was taken away can never really be brought back again. Both are irrevocably tied together so that jointly they form THE Holocaust.

This trip to Lithuania has shown me the devastating effects of the Holocaust of culture: the extinguishing of the richness of a thriving Jerusalem of the North with its daily language of Yiddish, its heated political debates, the beautifully written poetry, and the hustle and bustle of daily Jewish life – a rich contrast to the German Jewish identity and culture.

My soul weeps for what has been destroyed, and I feel even more keenly than before the burden to pass this knowledge on so that what is absence doesn't disappear into obscurity and eventually fade completely from the collective memory, becoming a forgotten history.

Beth Rosser, Teacher of History and Religious Studies, Le Rocquier School (Jersey)