Győr and Jewry

The history of the Jews of Győr in school education, through personal interviews

Written by Ildikó Mesterházi, Ambassador of the Zachor Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation in Győr

If you are lucky enough to talk to your parents or grandparents about your childhood, it can be a life-changing experience. It is important for all of us to learn as much as possible about our ancestors through personal stories. This is no different when we are dealing with history. In school education, too, oral history, personal storytelling, which gives an individual perspective on a historical event, is becoming increasingly important. I myself often use this tool when teaching 20th century history.

I am a teacher at the János Richter Music Secondary School and its affiliated school, the Béla Bartók Singing and Music Primary School. The primary school is located in Győr-Sziget. When we deal with city history as a part of Hungarian history and then more narrowly with the history of the place where we live in, it is inevitable to learn about the history of the Jews of Győr, whether it is the construction of the factories in Győr-Sziget, the prosperous peaceful times (editor’s note: the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries), or the time of the Great Disaster. This is also the case for secondary school students, who visit the synagogue on numerous occasions for school events. For them, too, it is essential to learn about the life and history of the community that built and used this wonderful building.

My graduation in 2015 from the training course for professors called “Video Interviews for the 21st Century Education” run by the Zachor Foundation for Social Remembrance and the Southern California University (USC) Shoah Foundation was a tremendous boost in my educational work, as it opened up a whole new perspective for me on the use of personal life stories in classroom teaching.

The Zachor Foundation, a partner of the Shoah Foundation, is a non-governmental educational organisation that develops teaching materials, educational programmes and teacher training based on the life stories of Holocaust survivors.

In recent years, I have participated in several training courses, developed and tested teaching materials, and created IWalk, a local history walk combined with video-interviews on the history of Győr’s Jewish community. Based on video interviews, my students and I created artworks for an art competition. Two classes of secondary school students have also been prepared for a visit to Auschwitz using interviews and teaching materials from the IWitness online educational platform.

The Rescuer by András Kleininger, a former student of the Bartók Primary School, prepared in 2017, when András was in 7th grade, for the Zachor Foundation’s competition “Art as an Interpreter of the Unutterable”; photo received from Ildikó Mesterházi

It was a great honour for me to join, as Ambassador of Győr, the Ambassador Programme of the Zachor Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation, which started in September 2022.

As an Ambassador, I see it as my task to promote the activities of the two foundations as widely as possible, by organising programmes that bring the personal stories revealed in the video interviews closer to teachers, students and in many cases “ordinary people”, thus helping to combat racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism and prejudice, and to overcome the trauma of the Holocaust.

Among the programmes being organised, I would like to bring to your attention an art exhibition visiting Győr in April 2023 and the Győr Walk, renewed in the IWalk app, which will pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust in Hungary on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day. I will write about both programmes in more detail and with more precise dates next time.

Győr, 24 February 2023

You can read more about the work of the Foundations:

  • “Useful courses for teachers’ continuous training” by Mónika Mezei can be found here
  • Zachor and Shoah foundations are described here
  • Search through personal interviews here