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800 students visit Oporto Holocaust museum

“Unfortunately, especially this year, we have so many examples of the exponential rise of antisemitism," said the president of Oporto's Jewish community.

Portuguese schoolchildren in the Room of Names at the Holocaust Museum of Oporto hold a moment of silence, May 3, 2024. Credit: Jewish Community of Oporto.
Portuguese schoolchildren in the Room of Names at the Holocaust Museum of Oporto hold a moment of silence, May 3, 2024. Credit: Jewish Community of Oporto.

Eight hundred Portuguese schoolchildren on Friday visited the Holocaust Museum of Oporto to learn about the Nazi genocide and the evolution of antisemitism throughout the centuries, and which is resurgent today.

“In this museum, we press the importance of having the children and teenagers asking how it was possible for this unspeakable tragedy to take place,” said Gabriel Senderowicz, president of the Oporto Jewish Community, which built and runs the museum.

“Unfortunately, especially this year, we have so many examples of the exponential rise of antisemitism, including the largest pogrom against Jews since the end of the Shoah [Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack]. We are demonstrating that many of the events in the lead-up to the Holocaust, like the preventing of Jews from entering universities, targeting Jewish businesses, and wild conspiracy theories, that were prevalent then are once again showing their ugly heads, and we have to be vigilant,” he added.

The Holocaust Museum of Oporto was created in 2021 in partnership with B’nai B’rith International and with the assistance of Holocaust museums around the world. It focuses on the general public, especially youth and schoolchildren, and invests in education, professional training for educators, promoting exhibitions and supporting research.

Over 150,000 students have already visited in the last three years, making it one of the most frequented Holocaust museums in the world.

The museum is run and supervised by members of Oporto’s Jewish community whose parents, grandparents, and relatives were victims of the Holocaust, and is part of a strategy to combat antisemitism that includes the Jewish Museum of Oporto, school visits to the Oporto Synagogue, courses for teachers and historic films.

On April 19, the community released the free film “1506—The Lisbon Genocide,” which aims to show that the Shoah was not a singular event, but that Jews were victims of terrible pogroms, massacres and genocides throughout the Diaspora, especially in Europe and Eurasia.

David Garrett, a jurist and a board member of the Jewish community of Oporto, highlighted that “a genocide can be national or local and kill millions, thousands or even dozens of people. The deliberate murder, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic or religious group in a city, so that none of its members remain alive, is called genocide, both etymologically and legally.”

Yesterday at the Holocaust Museum, its director, Michael Rothwell, whose grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, spoke about how the word genocide has been minimized and even appropriated by those who seek to attack Jews, including the massacre of Oct. 7.

“We try and show those visiting our museum that the word genocide has an actual meaning and very real consequences and should not be appropriated for ideological or political attacks,” said Rothwell. “Today, the greatest systematic murder of Jews is being diminished by anti-Semites in order to belittle Jewish suffering and try and invert it into making Jews perpetrators.”

“The visits to our museum and placing Antisemitism and the Holocaust into both a historic and a current context allows schoolchildren to better be prepared to dismiss and combat the lies and myths they hear and see, especially online,” he concluded.

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