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Human rights are not (only) history! How to teach about the past and act in the present to inspire others

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On December 8, 2021, during a virtual panel discussion, moderated by Monika Mazur-Rafał, President and Director of Humanity in Action Polska and Larysa Michalska, Coordinator of the „Break the Vicious Circle” project, we met with fantastic speakers: Agnieszka Jankowiak-Maik (Babka od histy), Maciek Zabierowski (Jewish Museum in Oświecim), Dr. Tomasz Cebulski (Polin Travel-Guide and genealogy services in Poland, Cracow and Auschwitz) and Dariusz Popiela (Centrum Foundation, People, Not Numbers) to talk about the importance of historical education and how to combine history with human rights education. Our guests shared some good practices that can help others to start or develop their own activities in this field.

The date of our meeting was not accidental – first, on December 10 we celebrate Human Rights Day. This is a good moment to reflect on the past, present and, above all, the future. Secondly, it was the official premiere of the educational and activist mobile application 11 STAGES, co-created by Monika Mazur-Rafał, Larysa Michalska and Dr. Tomasz Cebulski. In this app, through the biographies of 11 heroes and heroines who faced unimaginable evil during World War II and the Holocaust, we show that you can always do something to defend the dignity and human rights.

The combination of these two occasions was a good pretext to start a discussion, because, as Monika Mazur-Rafał, the originator of the application, stressed, „For the system of human rights protection to be effective, it is necessary not only to create laws or institutions that guarantee the observance of these laws but a great role is also played by the attitudes of conscious citizens.”

The importance of personal and local context in teaching history and human rights education resonated repeatedly during our conversation. When talking about history, we cannot forget that it is happening right here and right now, and we are all part of it. Our guests emphasized ways to show young people that they should not only learn from history and the experiences of previous generations but also that they are co-creating history and are responsible for it. So is there a golden rule, a proven method to achieve this goal? First of all, start with yourself, be authentic in your actions and open yourself up to dialogue.

You can watch the recording of the webinar “Human rights is not (only) history!”: here (in Polish).

Our app is available in 3 languages: Polish, German, English. You can download it here:

iOS: ‎11 STAGES on the App Store (apple.com)

Android: 11 Kroków – Aplikacje w Google Play

The project is funded by the EVZ Foundation and the Federal Foreign Office as part of the program YOUNG PEOPLE remember

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