FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 1999
Release No. 015-99

CONTACT: Catherine Stearns
PHONE: (202) 401-1190
E-MAIL: cstearns@usia.gov



United States InformationAgency- News Release

 

EXPERTS FROM POLAND'S AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU STATE MUSEUM VISIT U.S. TO STUDY MEANS OF "TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST"


Washington, D.C.Six high-level administrators, curators, and educators from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland will visit the U.S., from April 11 to 26, under the auspices of the United States Information Agency (USIA) International Visitor Program and arranged by Delphi International, a private international education exchange organization. In a program titled "Teaching the Holocaust: Lessons to be Learned from U.S. Approaches to Preserving, Presenting, and Explaining History," they will focus on how to commemorate significant historical events, preserve large-scale historical sites, and exhibit art and artifacts in a historical context. The group will meet with a variety of officials from museum and cultural heritage institutions in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta and Andersonville, Ga.; Los Angeles; and New York.

In Washington, D.C. (April 11 to 15), the visitors will meet with officials at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Association of Museums, The National Park Service, and The Smithsonian Institution, among others. In Atlanta and Andersonville, Ga. (April 15 to 18), they will visit the Martin Luther King Center and the Andersonville National Historic Site, the only park in the National Park System serving as a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation's history. In Los Angeles (April 18 to 22), they will visit a local school as well as the Museum of Tolerance, the Japanese American National Museum, the Hispanic Cultural Center, and the Getty Museum. In New York City (April 22 to 26), they will meet with survivors of Auschwitz and visit Ellis Island, the Museum of Jewish History, the National American Indian Museum, and other museums.

The mission of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, established on the site of one of the largest Nazi death camps, is to preserve the memory of victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution and to educate visitors about the history of the Holocaust. The museum is seeking to define its role and expand its activities in the next century. It draws more than 500,000 visitors each year -- half of them non-Poles -- who bring different expectations and perceptions of the Holocaust and the death camps. Thus, educational outreach is key to the museum's activities and a primary focus of this International Visitor program in the U.S. The program participants will examine how U.S. museums design and implement educational programs for the general public on sensitive historical issues and, in particular, how the Holocaust is taught in U.S. schools.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum also is seeking new approaches to teach and disseminate information about the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau as well as new ways to preserve and present the physical grounds and items -- photos, artwork, personal documents, human hair, and clothing -- that remain to serve as powerful reminders of those imprisoned and murdered. During their U.S. visit, the program participants will learn how American museums and parks present large-scale events such as civil war battles, prisoner-of-war camps, and specific historical periods. Their itinerary will include museums dedicated to the Holocaust and, more broadly, visits to national parks such as Ellis Island and Andersonville National Historic Site. They will be briefed on educational activities of the museums and parks they visit and will meet with U.S. educators who specialize in teaching about the Holocaust or sensitive topics in U.S. history such as the Civil Rights era and the experience of American Indians.

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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.

USIA's programs include the Voice of America, Radio and TV Mart­, the WORLDNET satellite television system, the daily Washington File newswire, the Fulbright scholarship program, the International Visitor Program, the Speakers and Specialists Program, three Foreign Press Centers in the United States, and a network of overseas resource and cultural centers. The Agency has 190 posts in 141 countries.

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