Opposition Asks for Mandatory Excursions to Concentration Camp

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Independent MP Zsolt Simon (in the middle), who initiated the proposal to introduce mandatory excursions to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, April 21 (TASR) – Opposition MPs are appealing to Cabinet to incorporate mandatory visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp into secondary schools’ curricula and to set aside financial resources for this, TASR learnt on Thursday.

Independent MP Zsolt Simon has come up with the initiative with the support of Opposition caucuses of SaS, OLaNO-NOVA and We Are Family-Boris Kollar. The remaining Opposition party is the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, led by Marian Kotleba, Banska Bystrica regional governor, who is famous for his admiration of fascists.

“We need to do something about the increase of fascism and extremism mainly among young people. We need to start with history lessons and prevention,” said Simon at a press conference on Thursday. He’s convinced that when young people get to see the horrors of the Holocaust with their own eyes, it will definitely contribute towards the elimination of expressions of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, extremism and other forms of intolerance in Slovakia.

“It’s essential for the state to invest in children and the youth because their world views are forming at this stage. It’s important for them to know about the dark sides of Europe and of Slovakia’s history,” said SaS caucus chair Natalia Blahova. SaS thinks that lessons in civil society and human rights need to be a regular part of the curriculum.

“We’d like to remind children that the onerous atmosphere of a concentration camp could explain a lot. It could contribute and should be part of curriculum,” says OLaNO MP Jozef Viskupic.

“We won’t defeat extremism and fascism by excluding and isolating Marian Kotleba. We can achieve that by educating the youth,” said We Are Family party leader Boris Kollar, adding that we need to teach children about fascism and the Holocaust.

Education, Science, Research and Sport Ministry Peter Plavcan (SNS) has welcomed the Opposition’s proposal. “The Government Manifesto speaks about the need to prevent intolerance, violence and extremism in all kinds of forms,” said Plavcan.

According to him, it’s necessary to render education courses focused on values or to introduce experiential lessons not only within lessons of civics but within all subjects. For example, field trips for biology students can help “teach natural sciences in the nature”.

Not only parents, but also the media and political parties should take good care in educating the children,” emphasised Plavcan. He didn’t specify how these activities would be financed. “We’ll leave the specifics for the working group to deal with.”