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This is Geschichtomat

A project to teach Jewish history and culture

“Geschichtomat” is a weeklong student-driven project with the purpose of revealing Jewish history and culture in Hamburg. This one-of-a-kind German program permits students to experience the Jewish past and present life in their hometown. This is all the more important because in German school lessons Jewish history is often connected to persecution and the Holocaust. Jews are mostly shown as victims and as an always persecuted minority in Germany. Other parts of German-Jewish history are left out. Important aspects of the work of Geschichtomat are to overcome still existing prejudices and the prevention of anti-Semitism.

During the project, students explore their neighborhood to understand its historical figures, places, and events. This way they engage with Jewish life. Under the supervision of experts in the disciplines of history and media education the students will: research, perform interviews with cultural authorities and contemporary witnesses, visit museums and archives, shoot and cut films, edit photos, and write accompanying texts. Finally, their contributions are uploaded to the website. Little by little a digital map of Jewish life from the perspective of teenagers will take shape. The jaf - Verein für medienpädagogische Praxis Hamburg e.V. supervises the media pedagogical part of the project and helps the students with the production of the films. The jaf also provides the technical equipment.

The Geschichtomat was designed by Ivana Scharf and is supported by the Institute for the History of the German Jews. After a development phase of just under two years, the project could be realised for the first time at Franz-von-Assisi-Schule in Hamburg-Barmbek in February 2013. Since then this successful project has been repeated more than 50 times contributing to over 800 student participations: They have visited Jewish cemeteries, tasted kosher gummi bears, baked mazzot or visited the synagogue. They have dealt with the fate of persecuted Jews, researched about the Kindertransporte or the 1933 book burning. They interviewed rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky and the filmmaker Katharina Trebitsch. They have visited the Israelitische Töchterschule, the State Archive, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Kunsthalle Hamburg, the State Opera or the Museum of Hamburg History. In total, over 220 short films have been created so far.