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Seminar for the representatives of non-governmental organizations from the Council of Europe member states

On October 22-27, thirty representatives of non-governmental organizations visited Kraków and Oświęcim at the joint invitation of the Council of Europe, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Ministry of National Education as well as the Pedagogical University of Kraków. Among the visitors there were the representatives of Albania, Cyprus, France, Moldova, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, Hungary and United Kingdom. The purpose of the meeting was to emphasize the importance of non-governmental organizations in the activities connected with commemorating Holocaust victims. Visit at the Auschwitz Memorial constituted a crucial element of the seminar, when the participants learnt about the history of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp as well as took part in workshops, lectures and presentations which constituted the occasion to deepen their knowledge as well as have a moment of personal reflection. 
“The meeting with Mr. Bogdan Bartnikowski was for me a unique lesson not because I have never heard about this history before, or I have had no idea about the tragedy within the camp premises, it was rather connected with the fact that I was unable to distance myself from this trauma. (…) During the meeting I found the answer to many questions which were bothering me”, said Naomi Doevendans, one of seminar participants. 
The participants also visited the exhibition “Negatives of memory. Labyrinths” of Marian Kołodziej at the St. Maximilian Centre in Harmęże. Another important point of the program was constituted by the visits in non-governmental institutions the everyday activity of which is concentrated on the topic of Shoah commemoration. In Kraków the participants visited Galicja Jewish Museum and in Oświęcim the International Meeting Center as well as the Jewish Centre and the Synagogue. 
“The beginning of the organization of European seminars in Poland dates back to the year 2005 and the commitment to realize this undertaking made by the Ministry of National Education. Previous editions of the project gathered only teachers representing the Council of Europe member states. This year, we concentrated on informal education in order to emphasize the importance of non-governmental organizations in the creation of undertakings aimed not only at historical education in broad sense and activities in favour of the protection of human rights, but also at shaping proper attitudes among the young”, said Marta Berecka, Head of ICEAH Educational Projects. An important part of the program consisted in the presentation of activities of subsequent organizations, which made it possible for the participants to get to know themselves better, to exchange experiences as well as to learn about good practices and establish strong foundations for multilateral cooperation. One of the issues discussed was the possibility to include education about the Holocaust in the activity of each of the organizations. 
After many years of learning, reading, listening to the accounts as well as watching fiction and documentary films concerning the Holocaust, the time has finally come to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was a difficult, brutal and unforgettable experience which made me feel like on a rollercoaster and which left me with a question frozen in the air: how could it have happened? (…) While entering camp premises, the quarters and latrines, looking at the execution wall, gas chambers, I felt deeply touched and filled with sadness, but at the same time I felt a huge internal confidence that what happened in this place will never be forgotten. I will be spreading this message within my organization as well as among all the people I know. (…) For me it was a particularly important week. I watched, listened, thought and discussed various matters with a group of extraordinary people whom I will never forget.”
Hermínio Corrêa, European Parents Association
Thanks to the diversified choice of partners, not only from various European countries, but also taking into consideration their different profiles and interpretation of the subject of commemoration and memory, the exchange of experience, models, activities as well as ideas lasted uninterruptedly and was very inspiring. As a representative of ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network, gathering young Roma and non-Roma from over 10 countries, which each year, starting from the year 2010, organizes the “Dikh he na bister (Look and don't forget)” European initiative (more information at, I benefited from the opportunity to take part in the visit at the Museum which was so detailed and full of occasions to learn new things. At the same time, through the contact with other participants, my motivation and the understanding of importance of this type of activities were reinforced.”
Monika Błaszczak, ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network