Laura Fontana, EHRI Online Training and Summer School Paris
Head Italian Department, Mémorial de la Shoah
In March 2013 I joined the EHRI family, as I was appointed by the Mémorial de la Shoah coordinator for this project, that is probably one of the most challenging projects I have ever been involved into. I am very excited to have this opportunity and to be involved in so many important activities, like preparing the summer school for European researchers, the online courses and also taking part in the international meetings organised by EHRI. Having these opportunities to meet other EHRI colleagues and exchange ideas about the goals of our work to teach and research the Holocaust is extremely important and enriching.
I graduated in foreign languages and literatures (main language French, second language English and German) at the University of Bologna with qualification to teach French at the University of Parma. I have lived for some years in France where I got married. For many reasons I can define myself as bilingual French and Italian.
Municipality of Rimini
Since 1990 I have been working at the Municipality of Rimini as Head of the Cultural Department and Head of the Memory Education Project of the Municipality of Rimini. This project aims at teaching the history of the Nazi deportation and of the Shoah. In particular I deal with the training of students and also with the ongoing professional training of teachers. Every year I set up workshops, scientific and cultural initiatives, educational materials, not only for the Province of Rimini but also for other Municipalities and Italian Institutions.
I have also taken part in the organization of several awareness raising activities and events (especially a lot of Italian teacher seminars both in Italy and abroad) in order to arise interest about memory-related issues (www.memoria.comune.rimini.it).
In 2007 and 2008 I was asked by Yad Vashem -The International School for Holocaust Studies to co-operate and organize some Italian teacher seminars. I was invited several times to international conferences about Teaching the Holocaust in Jerusalem, where I also presented workshops for teachers myself or gave lectures.
Furthermore, I lectured on the history and education of the Shoah at Italian universities in Milan, Turin, Trieste and Naples.
Mémorial de la Shoah
I joined the Mémorial de la Shoah of Paris in 2008 as the head of its newly founded Italian Department. In this capacity, I am responsible for developing educational materials and for coordinating seminars, workshops and summer universities for Italian teachers and educators.
This French institution gave me the opportunity to set up very big projects like directing in Paris a winter school for Italian teachers on the history and teaching of the Shoah ("Thinking and teaching the Shoah"). At the moment, I am preparing another winter school for Italian teachers that will be held in December 2013 in Berlin, in co-operation with the Topographie des Terrors, das Haus der Wannsee Konferenz and other leading German institutions.
Since 2009, I also teach Nazi language at a summer school for French teachers at the Mémorial de la Shoah.
Apart from my focus on educating the Shoah, my research interests lie mainly in the study of the Nazi language but also in the Jewish athletes during the Nazi period and in the Nazi Lebensborn program. I published several essays and articles on these subjects in Italian, French, English and Hebrew. I took part in a research project coordinated by the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po of the Paris Institute of Political Studies about “Le sport européen à l’épreuve du nazisme. Des J.O. de Berlin aux J.O. de Londres (1936-1948)”.
European point of view
In my long teaching experience of the Shoah in Italy, I have realized how much we lack the opportunity to exchange views and ideas about teaching the history of the persecution of the Jews with a more European point of view (and not just with a national approach). Considering that I think that we all need more opportunities to exchange and compare experiences on research methods on the genocide of the Jews and on teaching about the Holocaust, I really find the EHRI project very useful and exciting. Not only because we are asked to take part in activities but especially because we are asked to think more about what we are doing and on what we should do to further develop the knowledge and the understanding of the Shoah.
Working on the Shoah for one of the leading institutions like the French Memorial and being very often in Paris, my favourite city, changed my professional life and the least that I can say is that I am very happy even if it is not simple to combine two professional lives (one in Rimini, at the Cultural Department and one in Paris, at the Mémorial). But I like taking up challenges!