In 2007, Centropa brought nine American teachers to Vienna and Budapest, where we spent eight days visiting the sites they were teaching about in their classrooms and met with historians and diplomats. We also had the teachers sit in groups and write up lesson plans based on what they had seen and asked them to share their ideas with each other.
Since we knew a few Austrian and Hungarian teachers, we invited them to take part in these brainstorming sessions. What we noticed was how the Austrians offered ideas on teaching the Holocaust, the Hungarians shared lessons on Communism, and the Americans told the Europeans about teaching the Civil Rights period in their classrooms.
All during the school year, the teachers stayed in touch with each other, continuing to share ideas and lesson plans. This was new: we had created a peer-to-peer network so teachers could work together and learn from one another.
The next summer, we brought 16 teachers to Berlin, adding one teacher each from Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary. Imagine brainstorming with other social studies teachers as you stand next to the Berlin Wall, and as you sit outside the House of the Wannsee Conference.
The following summer, we traveled to Frankfurt and the Mosel River Valley with 24 teachers. Then it was Prague, Vienna, and Budapest with 50 teachers. Since then we have kept growing, bringing up to 75 teachers to Sarajevo, Belgrade, Warsaw, Krakow, and always back to both Berlin and Vienna. Altogether, 780 teachers from 19 countries have taken part in Centopa Summer Academies, and a great many of them still work together and keep in touch.
That is why our teachers in North Macedonia carry out projects with their counterparts in South Carolina, Florida students share videos with Serbian teenagers, and Germans and Israelis carry out projects, too.
We are building sustainability because we take Holocaust education and civil society programs and turn them into projects that connect 21st century students to 20th century history—and to each other.