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documentED – Learning packages for trips to memorials

documentED is a new ITS service developed and tested in 2017: School groups visiting concentration camp memorials receive prepared learning packages

Connecting the history of Nazi persecution to the lives of pupils today – this is the idea behind a new pilot project known as documentED, which the ITS in developing in cooperation with concentration camp memorials and organizers who arrange trips to memorials. In the context of the project, groups of pupils visiting concentration camp memorials are given learning packages from the ITS. These consist of three components: documents from the ITS archive that are especially suited to preparing for and following up on a trip to a memorial, relevant content from the new e-Guide of the ITS, and didactic suggestions and questions for discussion. The key feature is that the ITS will tailor each package to the particular group of pupils. “We can do this thanks to the many individual files we have, which we can filter relatively precisely using our metadata,” says ITS employee Christian Höschler. “This offers tremendous potential for preparing for and following up on such trips.” 

The relevant criteria include the pupils’ existing knowledge, the defined learning goals, and the time available for advance preparation and follow-up as well as for the visit itself. In order to literally meet the learners where they, the ITS selects files about very specific people. “We can often supply material with a local connection, which is a truly unique selling point,” Höschler explains. This means the pupils can receive documents (such as prisoner registration cards or questionnaires) about concentration camp prisoners who originally came from their own hometown. They may even know the apartment building or street on which the victims once lived. This proximity generates interest and makes the topic more accessible. “Hearing that millions of people were murdered is terrible, but it is also abstract,” Höschler says. “We reach the pupils by sharing specific individual stories and combining this with learning goals focusing on the more structural history of Nazi persecution.” 

The individual stories are important, but they must be the starting point for further insights. “The material leads from the individual to a wider context,” Höschler explains. “Stories about individual persecution lead to questions about the reasons for arrest, the way the concentration camps worked and the structure of the Nazi system of terror." The ITS wants to standardize the structure of the learning packages. This will make it possible to quickly put together individualized packages. 

In 2017 there was an initial test run with the Max Mannheimer Study Center in Dachau, a partner to the ITS, followed by a workshop for experts. The second test phase is now under way with several other concentration camp memorials. “This service supplements the educational program of the memorials and meets their demands,” Höschler says. The focus is on closer connections to the work of the memorials and mutual support. The service is therefore attractive to both the partners and the users alike. “We have to continually make our cultural heritage visible from other perspectives by offering innovative services,” Höschler says. “This is part of our educational mission.”