Polish-Jewish heritage in literature education in Polish primary schools

Submitted by: Marianna Szumal
Abstract: To meet the challenge explaining the issue of centuries-old co-existence of Poles and Jews and a sudden disappearance of Jews in Poland, we should know how teachers transfer knowledge about Polish-Jewish heritage and if this transfer is effective. So far many researchers have emphasized the need and value of teaching about Holocaust (Jakubowicz-Mount, 2005). My research focuses on the ways of teaching Jewish culture and Shoah, when survivors can no longer testify (Shawn, 2015).

I conducted the research in four primary schools (174 students) – I evaluated the knowledge of primary school’s students about the Jews as a national, religious and cultural group. The analysis show that students know basic facts only about Jewish religion (e.g. story of Abraham) and Shoah. The students are not familiar with the history and culture of Jews living in their towns before the II World War.

Consequently I made the project of 4 lessons based on literature that may involve students in getting to know Jewish-Polish heritage. One of successful tools is the literature for children about The Righteous Among The Nations. During the lessons I discussed a book about the most famous Polish Righteous Irena Sendler. It was ‘Wszystkie moje mamy’ [All my moms] by Renata Piątkowska. The project was a great success on few fields. It also seems that reading the texts devoted to the Polish-Jewish past supports the development of intercultural competences, which are extremely needed during constant migrations.

Keywords: literary education, Holocaust, Jewish heritage, intercultural competences, history in literature

Shawn, K. (2015), How Will We Teach About Holocaust When Survivors Can No Longer Testify. Twórcze praktyki polonistyczne [Creative Polish language and literature traineeships], A. Janus-Sitarz, Kraków, 247-256.

Jakubowicz-Mount, T. (2005), W duchu pojednania. [In the spirit of reconciliation]. Dlaczego należy uczyć o Holokauście? [Why teach about the Holocaust?] K. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs, L. Hońdo, Kraków, 42-47.