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Anne Frank Project

Project Overview

Anne Frank Project: Poznań was a summer school of tolerance and countering anti-Semitism, addressed to the students of secondary schools, and run by two Humanity in Action (HIA) Senior Fellows: Sudip Bhandari and Łukasz Niparko. For two weeks, fifteen young residents of Poznań discovered the thousand years of the history of Poznań Jews, whose existence in the urban space was reduced almost to a minimum by the World War II and the post-war reality. 25 years of the socio-economic transformation in Poland, have helped initiate a process of revitalization of the Jewish Poznań, which, like the mythical city of Atlantis had been covered by the abyss of totalitarianism – what metaphorically represents the building of the so-called "New Synagogue" transformed through devastation by the Nazi occupiers into the swimming pool. In the Anne Frank Project: Poznań (AFPP), participants were invited to 12 workshops, which totaled to 37 hours, where they learned from experts as well as 9 site visits. All told, the project totaled 84 hours of learning and exploration of history, culture, and human rights.

Identifying the Problem

There's a severe lack of knowledge surrounding World War II throughout Poznan. This shapes attitudes and - as much as the Polish teenagers know about World War II and the Holocaust (in most of the cases their families were touched by World War II) - there is still something missing that causes an epidemic of discriminatory attitudes towards Jews, Roma, and in general to the "Otherness" represented today in Poland. There are also issues surrounding the also by the LGBTQI+ communities and asylum seekers. Students know the numbers, dates, places, and they can easily name who was the victim and who was the perpetrator (although this poses some issues too); but these simplified lessons do not impact the students' daily behavior. 

Creating A Solution

Sudip and Łukasz believe that the best way to build a society free of discrimination is to educate young people and to expose young minds to diversity. Moreover, they hope that the participants in this summer school became educators themselves and are helping their peers and relatives to discover the “Atlantis” of the Poznań’s Jewish past. The Fellows' goal was to discover the hidden Jewish Poznań - "Atlantis." Through discovering this and discussing diversity, they hope to build a society free from discrimination and anti-Semitism. After all, education is the key to building a community open to diversity and tolerance. Łukasz and Sudip's summer school was not only a lesson in history, but an attempt to understand today's world. They said they hope these were also lessons about a better future!

The Fellows brought their experiences teaching in Nepal and China. Through this, they wanted to put their participants through an intensive thinking process that would leave them confused and outside their comfort zone. The Fellows were cautioned that maybe the participants were too young and perhaps quantity of information and emotion was too much - but they took the risk. They want to stress that they did not intend to put their participants through a "shock therapy" - if you will - but rather make them educators in their own right through exploring themselves and their surroundings. Sudip and Łukasz say the first sign that they were close to achieving their goal was the approval of funding for the project. After getting through their initial excitement regarding the selection, they had to ask themselves: how to we take theory and turn it into action? With the support coming from Humanity in Action Poland and Humanity in Action Germany, they were easily able build on the foundation of their idea. 

The proposal took several drafts; the schedule had dozens of drafts. Packing all of their plans into fourteen days seemed impossible. Throughout the process, they were asking themselves whether or not the project was sustainable and how they could make the lessons of the project remain relevant and pertinent in the hearts of participants and the people throughout Poznan. 

Thanks to their partners at the Association of the Poznań City Lovers and the Journalist Club “TeXT," they were able to invite the laureates of the acknowledged competitions endorsed by the Regional Board of Education. They recruited 15 participants from various educational institutions: Dawid, Samira, Zuzanna, Róża, Krzysztof, Lidia, Aleksandra, Kinga, Joachim, Maria, Hanna, Katarzyna, Michał, Wiktoria, and Kamila. The Fellows also worked very hard to create diversity among their participants. They wanted to ensure that the participants came from various social strata. Among the participants, there were Christians, Atheists, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ persons and allies, and representatives of diverse ethnic backgrounds. In keeping with the theme of diversity, the Fellows chose speakers and workshop facilitators that were diverse. Because Poland is such a homogenous country, The Fellows say diversity is a treasure that students do not have access to in their regular school environments. In Poland and throughout the world, diversity can carry a stigma or lead to discrimination. The Fellows addressed this by discussing a young adult named Dominik who committed suicide due to hate he encountered in his classroom for looking different.

Łukasz and Sudip also selected a project intern to help with logistics of the project and social media outreach. This function turned out to be crucial to the success of the program as their intern became a liaison between the coordinators and the group, and helped to quickly respond when schedule changes occurred. The Fellows also say the intern expressed how much she learned from the experience.

Lessons Learned

Due to personal reasons, Sudip learned that he would not be able to attend the programing in Poznań. It was an unexpected challenge the Fellows saw as a chance to grow and develop new strengths. As a result, the Fellows split their project into two parts: the workshop section, which took place in June and July, and the ‘Memory and Action’ section, which took place in September. They hoped to motivate their participants to immerse themselves in learning and implement their calls to action among peers and within their school environment. This solution turned out to work perfectly - they were able to meticulously focus on various aspects of the project separately - the education component and the action component.

Funding

While drafting proposal, Sudip and Łukasz had local partners in mind, especially the local Poznań Jewish Community and the Association of the Poznań City Lovers [Pol.: Towarzystwo Miłośników Miasta Poznania]. The Association of the Poznan City Lovers unites many citizens of Poznań, including historians, politicians, and activists. The Fellows felt it was not difficult to reach out to them - these organizations are well known organizers of various events in Poznań. They are also open for cooperation. The Fellows feel they were very lucky to receive not only their patronage, but also their mentoring. Łukasz and Sudip's project was possible thanks to the support of the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" (German acronym EVZ) as well as the help of the HIA chapters in Poland and in Germany, The Educational-Rehabilitation Center "Sancja," The Journalists’ Club “TeXT,” The Islamic Center in Poznań, Poznań's Migrant Information Point, and "Miasteczko Poznań" [Eng.: The Town of Poznań] – the Poznań Jewish magazine that gave its media patronage. The mayor of Poznań, Mr. Jacek Jaśkowiak, gave honorary patronage and support to our Project. In addition, they are thankful for the HIA Senior Fellows – Łukasz Posłuszny (Warsaw’14), Sylwia Wodzińska (Warsaw’14), Joanna Łakomiec (USA’09), and Grażyna Baranowska (Diversity-Diplomacy’14) - for their support in organizing workshops and to Mr. Adrian Grycuk from Foundation Wikimedia Polska for organizing our site visit in the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. The Fellows want to give a special than you to Monika and Antje for their critical outlook at our project without which we would be probably still in the sphere of theory and planning. In addition, Monika and Przemek helped us to refine project and project logistics into feasible construction that was ready to welcome its participants. Thanks to the Warsaw HIA Office we could receive also brochures, pamphlets, as well as a rollup that was extremely helpful to conduct promotion and outreach to other partners. With support of Antje and Luisa we could think of the content as well as its ‘macro-meaning’ for the city of Poznań. Monika Mazur Rafał, Przemysław Iwanek, Antje Scheidler, Luisa Schweizer, and HIA senior fellows became supporters and constructive critics of the project's ideas. 

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2014

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