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Use of archival materials of the International Tracing Service in my work as a member of the Research and Educational Center for Oral History of the Voronezh Institute of High Technologies

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Olga Kulinchenko is provost for International Relations Assistant at Voronezh Institute of High Technologies

By Olga Kulinchenko

In February 2017, as an employee of the Russia based Research and Educational Center for Oral History Research and Educational Center for Oral History of the Voronezh Institute of High Technologies (VIHT), I took part in the International Winterschool Nazi Forced Labour. History and Aftermath for the workers of the System of Education, dedicated to the history of Nazi forced labor and memory of it in post-war Europe. The Winterschool was organized by the Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre Berlin-Schöneweide and the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. Its program included lectures, excursions, practical classes, individual and group work with documents provided by the above-mentioned organizations.

Within the framework of the seminar, participants were given the opportunity to make a request for a search in the archive of the ITS for information on topics of interest to them. In my case, these were data on respondents whose interviews are on the online educational platform "Learning based on interviews. Forced Labor 1939-1945", created by the (VIHT). Thanks to the staff of the ITS, Akim Jah and Elisabeth Schwabauer, documents concerning the Polish political prisoner Anna Palarczyk, the forced labor worker from France, Victor Laville, the Soviet prisoner of war, Mikhail Bochkarev, were found. Later, in agreement with the representatives of the ITS, the materials found were placed on the educational resource. Now they are an important component of the collection of documents because they allow us to present the problem of forced labor most fully and to personalize it with brief biographical films placed on the platform.

It is important to note that the organizers of the Winterschool created an atmosphere of a free exchange of opinions, ideas and experiences between representatives of the spheres of education, science, art and culture from different countries. Lectures, excursions and practical exercises have opened up new opportunities and methods for teaching the topic of Nazi forced labor using materials provided by the Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre and the ITS.

The Research and Educational Center for Oral History of the VIHT also conducts educational activities in the format of the school historical club "We and Our Past". In 2015 - 2017, I supervised the work of the club in one of the schools in Voronezh. Created at the time, the online platform "Learning based on interviews. ‘Forced Labor 1939-1945’" was the basis of work with schoolchildren. Classes devoted to the study of materials of this educational resource were conducted with students of grades 9-11. The purpose of the classes was to develop the work skills of students with a biographical interview as a historical source, to get acquainted through an interview with a topic that was not addressed in the school course of history and social studies, whose significance demands attention to it.

This work allowed the use of various methods and techniques in the teaching of history. In the next academic year, I plan to use the sets of documents pertaining to the problem of forced labor provided by the ITS in the framework of the Berlin Winterschool, as a base for preparing for classes, and as a source for preparing tasks for individual and group work of the students. Currently, in the practice of education in the Russian school, the method of projects - the joint activity of the teacher and the student - is actively used, which can also be practiced on the basis of various types of sources. The analysis of the information contained in the short biographical films of the online educational platform, in conjunction with the archival materials mentioned above, will contribute to a successful solution of educational tasks as well as improving the upbringing of individuals. On the one hand, it is an opportunity to see how the process of using forced labor workers and their destruction has been institutionalized, and on the other hand, to consider the tragedy of a person, identified in endless lists.

The experience I acquired during the time in the project on creation of online platform "Learning based on interviews. ‘Forced Labor 1939-1945’", as well as my work as curator of the school's historical club, contributed to the expansion of professional competencies. Participation in the Winterschool allowed me to significantly expand the pedagogical toolkit. I have enriched the use of materials from the archive of the ITS about places of forced detention, forced labor, and also about post-war time with new ideas.


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