English teacher, Noisy-le-Sec, France
Samia Essabaa was born in France to Moroccan and Tunisian parents. A Muslim, shaped by both Arabic and French culture, Essabaa often feels she can relate to her students, many of whom are from Africa and the Caribbean. A believer in hands-on learning, she takes her classes to Auschwitz, where they learn not only about history, but about humanity and community.
We can succeed only if we go out of the school. We cannot stay between the four walls of a class. It's an obligation, to deepen what the students don't understand and what they refuse to learn.
Samia Essabaa was born in France to Moroccan and Tunisian parents. A Muslim, shaped by both Arabic and French culture, Essabaa often feels she can relate to her high-school students, many of whom have emigrated from Africa and the Caribbean. A strong believer in hands-on learning, Essabaa has taken her classes from suburban Paris to Auschwitz, where students learn not only about history, but about humanity and community.
Welcome to Voices on Antisemitism, a podcast series from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum made possible by generous support from the Oliver and Elizabeth Stanton Foundation. I'm your host, Aleisa Fishman. Every other week, we invite a guest to reflect about the many ways that antisemitism and hatred influence our world today. Recorded during a recent visit to Washington D.C., here's Samia Essabaa.
To teach Holocaust, is not only to teach about the Jewish community. I think it's also to make the students understand that they should not be blind. They should not accept someone to speak badly of the Jewish community or any community because they are different. I think that it is our mission of educators and teachers.
So I took my students to Auschwitz because I think that it is important to show them a place that speaks about what happened during the Second World War and against the Jewish community of Europe. I wanted to show them where leads racism and antisemitism, and this place witnesses about this.
Some teachers in my school told me that it was a big mistake. They told me that our students are not ready for that, because this subject of relationships between the Jews and the Muslims, etcetera. But the other priority and objective of my program, it is to struggle against antisemitism, to make children know the Holocaust better, but also to struggle against the violent way of speaking between them. My students at that time, there was no respect between them. For example, "Oh, you're from Guinea, you haven't got water." Guinea talking about the Mali and they told them that they don't know to read or write. They are ignorant. And I thought that if they live together night and day, they will respect each other. It's very important for me. So I proposed this solution. My colleagues laughed at me. They told me it's impossible. I told them it's possible if we want.
At the beginning when they got on the bus, they didn't want to mix, but when we come back from our trip they were together like brothers and sisters. So their change was visible, because in the class they were more kind. There was no violent attitude between them. I was really proud and satisfied because all my objectives happened. I wanted a change in their attitude. I had it. I wanted students more educated and more informed about history. I had it. I felt very useful as a teacher. Because if we educate them and we give them responsibilities in their studies, they will open their mind and search to understand and to dialogue.
Voices on Antisemitism is a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Join us every other week to hear a new perspective on the continuing threat of antisemitism in our world today.
We would appreciate your feedback on this series. Please visit our Web site, www.ushmm.org, and follow the prompts to the Voices on Antisemitism survey. At our Web site, you can also listen to Voices on Genocide Prevention, a podcast series on contemporary genocide.