Challenging Dutch holocaust education: towards a curriculum based on moral choices and empathetic capacity

Ethics and Education 3 (1):57-74 (2008)
Abstract
We analyse the way in which the Holocaust is taught in The Netherlands, with an emphasis on critically examining the content of secondary school textbooks used to teach Dutch students about the history of the Holocaust. We also interview Dutch educators, government officials and academics about the state of Dutch Holocaust education. Our findings indicate that Dutch students are underexposed to the Holocaust and lack basic knowledge and conceptual understanding of it. Fundamental concerns regarding the civic obligations of citizens in a democracy and basic principles of human rights that are raised by the history of the Holocaust in The Netherlands are often ignored or examined superficially, sometimes because of ambivalence about the extent of Dutch involvement in the genocide of Dutch Jewry. Little attention is paid to the complex moral choices that Dutch citizens faced during the Second World War and the life-or-death implications such decisions had for Dutch Jews. Finally, Jewish history and culture and the history of European anti-Semitism are rarely addressed in textbooks and history lessons about the Holocaust, undermining efforts to sensitise students to the implications of the Holocaust for The Netherlands and for Europe as a whole. In our conclusion, we offer some models of Holocaust education that could significantly improve the quality and content of Dutch Holocaust education
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