Holocaust schools project is a “beacon of hope”

  • Date

    Fri 10 Jun 22

Dora Love

A flagship Holocaust educational programme at the University of Essex has been endorsed as “a powerful and vitally important…beacon of hope” by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust as it prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

The Dora Love Prize, which will be awarded for the tenth time on 4 July, has inspired over 1,000 secondary school children from across Essex, Suffolk and Kent since it was founded in 2012.

In the run-up to the tenth Prize-giving ceremony teachers have praised the initiative and young people who have previously taken part have spoken about how it enlightened and inspired them and continues to influence them.

The Prize was founded by Professor Rainer Schulze from the Department of History in memory of the late Dora Love, a Holocaust survivor and educator who lived in Colchester for the last 30 years of her life. It aims to teach young people that they have the power to stand up to hatred, discrimination and intolerance.

Each year, after taking part in workshops and hearing first-hand testimony from a Holocaust survivor, school groups are tasked with developing creative responses to what they have learnt. Those responses are presented at a Prize-giving ceremony at the University’s Colchester Campus.

Holocaust survivor Frank Bright MBE, who lives in Suffolk, is Patron of the Prize. Each year he takes part recounting the persecution of his family by the Nazis and the fate of his classmates at the Jewish School in Prague, most of whom perished.

Previous winning entries have included a case study of the experiences of those interned at the women’s-only concentration camp at Ravensbrück, a board game charting the journey of a refugee, a mask trail around a Suffolk town, film interviews with Holocaust survivors, and lessons for younger children.

Speaking about the importance of the Prize, Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, Chief Executive of the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “It is a powerful and vitally important resource that gives young people the understanding, empathy and confidence to actively challenge hatred and discrimination they see in the world around them.”

“In a world in which we sadly still witness marginalisation, discrimination and hatred of those termed ‘others’ the Dora Love Prize is a beacon of hope, a tool that empowers the next generation to believe they can make the world a better place,” she added.

In particular she praised the Prize’s ability to teach beyond the Jewish experience: “Most remarkable of all is its ability and commitment to go further and look at the experiences of all those who were marginalised and murdered by the Nazis and in other genocides, without losing sight of the origin of the Holocaust and its significance for the Jewish community.”

What teachers say 

Teachers too have praised the impact the Prize has had on their schools over the years.

Dale Banham, Deputy Headteacher at Northgate High School in Ipswich, which has won the Prize more than any other school, said: “The Prize has enriched our curriculum and made it more responsive to student voice. We have seen many students grow in confidence as they come to understand that they can become the force for change that they want to see in their school and local community.”

Sophie Foster, subject lead for history at The Gilberd School in Colchester, added: “Every year the Prize has proven incredibly enlightening. It inspires our students as it gives them the opportunity to critically engage with the world around them and reflect upon the prejudices and discrimination that still exist today.”

For the first time in its history, this year an international school has taken part in the Prize. Ben Lane, Socials and English Teacher at Collingwood School in British Columbia in Canada, explained why his school wanted to take part: “The Prize will strengthen our students’ and the school’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, which is a fundamental pillar of our school community, in addition to reinforcing Holocaust awareness.”

Enduring impact on schoolchildren

In anticipation of the Prize-giving event for the tenth award former participants have spoken about the impact the Dora Love Prize has had on them, describing it as an “incredible experience” that has influenced their outlook, understanding and education choices.

Year 10 student Clarissa Travaglia from The Gilberd School in Colchester, who helped create and deliver lessons about the Holocaust for younger children when she took part last year, said the Dora Love Prize “made me rethink the consequences of all the little things I do. It changed the way I think and act.”

For Lucy Smith, now a year 11 student at Northgate High School in Ipswich who took part in the 2019 Prize, hearing first-hand testimony from Frank Bright was the most memorable moment: “I learnt and became more aware of how we as humans need to come together and unite against prejudice.”

Esme Chapelle, a Year 10 student at Northgate High School, added: “The experience really opens your eyes to the world around you and teaches you skills which the curriculum does not.”

The 2022 Prize

Professor Schulze said: “The Prize takes its inspiration from Dora Love’s work. She always set out that whilst the Jews were at the heart of the Nazi racial and extermination policies, there were many other groups persecuted and regarded as not belonging. We ask students to expand that idea and develop projects that link Nazi persecution with the world they live in today, where people continue to be discriminated and marginalised because they are regarded as different.

“I hope the students learn that they can make an impact, that they can work for change – because universal human rights, as Eleanor Roosevelt famously pointed out, begin in small places, in the world of every individual person, in the schools they attend, in the places where they work,” he added.

The 2022 Dora Love Prize will be awarded on 4 July at a ceremony at the University of Essex. Ten schools have taken part this year with five due to present in person and five presenting remotely.

The 2022 judging panel will be chaired by Janet Love, daughter of the late Dora Love, and former member of the South African parliament for the ANC and the South African Human Rights Commission. Other judges include Rachel Howse Binnington from the Colchester and District Jewish Community, Antony Penrose, Director of the Lee Miller Archive and Penrose Collection, as well as Dr Nadine Rossol and Lewis Smith from Essex’s Department of History.