The app will teach children about the horrors of WWII with first-hand accounts from survivors
Countries all over the world have had to deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust, whether that means honouring those lost or acknowledging those who were complicit.
As the decades have come and gone in the years since, the message of never forgetting what has happened to the millions who lost their lives at death camps faces a fresh challenge – a time when no survivors remain alive.
Most education systems around the world teach children about the Holocaust in schools, with lessons pulled from the pages of textbooks, with still photographs and grainy black-and-white video footage shown on YouTube.
But now activists in Switzerland are working on a new way to engage young people in learning about the darkest chapter in modern history through an app.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organisation representing 31 different countries, has announced its intention to develop an app. The group will work with Switzerland’s Centre for History Education & Memory Cultures.
The app, which has already been tested by more than 70 students, is called Fliehen vor dem Holocaust, which translates from German as ‘Escaping the Holocaust’.
As the current chair of the IHRA, the Swiss delegation has pledged to “reach young people to ensure that the past remains part of the present” by using modern technology. The app allows users to interact with history by hearing first-hand testimony from survivors as they talk about photographs and images.
The app is designed to humanise the survivors by allowing them to speak for themselves. It joins the virtual reality tours of several Holocaust museums and memorials that already exist, though some historians argue that this still pale in comparison to visiting the actual site.
Peter Gautschi, department head of the Centre for History Education & Memory Cultures, said that times have changed since he learned about the Holocaust from a textbook in the 1980s.
Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan holds up yellow star badge during an interview earlier this year. Her memoir Four Perfect Pebbles about her and her family's experiences in two different concentration camps is often taught in classrooms [Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/PA Images]
“Documentary films told that story of something far away that seemingly had nothing to do with Switzerland,” Gaitschi said. “I was very much interested in history, but I know I had colleagues who didn’t like that and found it boring.
“Now teachers are always looking for possibilities to teach this topic.”
The Swiss government is now planning to unroll the app across its entire school system of 400,000 students.