You could be forgiven for passing the group of teens in downtown Bacsalmas, a small town in southern Hungary one afternoon last April without a second look. Earbuds in, eyes on their phones and tablets, the scene seemed quite ordinary. However, something more taking place. The teens were participating in an iWalk, an educational program that connects physical locations to Holocaust-related events using survivor and witness video testimonies.
“Now we’re going to walk to where the gate to the ghetto stood and watch an interview with Jelena Mezei, a woman who was sent to this ghetto because it served as a deportation gathering point,” explained history teacher Margit Steixner Barnane. The students were surprised; they hadn’t known their small town once had a Jewish ghetto nor that it had been a regional deportation point for nearly 3,000 Jews. In fact, the students were surprised by much of what they learned on their iWalk, which also included stops at former sites of Jewish life such as schools and synagogues.
Steixner learned to prepare the iWalk last summer at a training organized by the USC Shoah Foundation with support from CEU Library. The Foundation’s Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century - Master Teacher initiative prepares educators around the world to use video testimony from its Visual History Archive (VHA) in their lessons. The VHA contains more than 55,000 testimonies by survivors and witnesses of genocide. First created to preserve Holocaust testimony, it now also includes testimonies from other genocidal events as well. The collection has testimonies in more than 40 languages, tagged with some 64,000 keywords, making it easily searchable by educators and researchers.
This July, Steixner visited the CEU Library to share her experiences with her fellow training participants. As soon as her group’s final session concluded, a new cohort – the largest yet - began its training. During their time at CEU, the 21 middle and high school teachers from all over Hungary heard from Peter Berczi, CEU Librarian, about how to conduct searches in the VHA and how to locate relevant testimonies for their classrooms. They also received training on the types of lessons and activities that can be built using the testimonies and they heard from several guest speakers, including on topics such as modern-day antisemitism in Hungary by Dr. Ildiko Barna, sociologist at Eotvos Lorand University; media and propaganda and ethical editing by Martin Smok of the USC Shoah Foundation, and memorialization of recent history in Hungary by Dr. Laszlo Csosz, Historian of the Holocaust at the Hungarian National Archives.
Berczi worked closely with the USC Shoah Foundation’s representative in Hungary, Andrea Szonyi, to organize the Teaching with Testimony trainings. CEU Library was Hungary’s first access point for the VHA and it remains one of only two full access points in the country. CEU students, faculty, and staff can access the Archive through the Library’s website and CEU Library offers on-demand trainings on using the Archive for research and teaching.