Portuguese schoolchildren in Room of Names
Portuguese schoolchildren in Room of NamesJewish Community of Oporto

On Friday, May 3rd, 2024, 800 Portuguese schoolchildren visited the Holocaust Museum of Oporto to learn about the Holocaust and the evolution of antisemitism throughout the centuries that led to the annihilation of Six Million Jews and continues today.

The young students had the opportunity to visit the reproduction of Auschwitz prisoners’ barracks, as well as a name room, a flame memorial, and a cinema with historical footage.

"In this museum, we press the importance of having the children and teenagers asking how it was possible for this unspeakable tragedy to take place," said Gabriel Senderowicz, the President of the Oporto Jewish Community that built and runs the museum. “Unfortunately, especially this year, we have so many examples of the exponential rise of antisemitism including the largest pogrom of Jews since the end of the Shoah. We are demonstrating that many of the events in the lead-up to the Holocaust, like the preventing of Jews from entering universities, targeting Jewish businesses, and wild conspiracy theories, that were prevalent then are once again showing their ugly heads and we have to be vigilant.”

The Holocaust Museum of Oporto was created in 2021 by the community in partnership with B’nai B’rith International and with the assistance of Holocaust museums around the world. It focuses on the general public, especially youth and schoolchildren, and invests in education, professional training for educators, promoting exhibitions, and supporting research.

Over 150,000 students have already visited in the last three years, making it one of the most frequented Holocaust museums in the world. Portugal has no more than one million teenagers in total.

The Museum is run and supervised by members of the Jewish Community of Oporto whose parents, grandparents, and relatives were victims of the Holocaust and is part of a strategy to combat antisemitism that includes the Jewish Museum of Oporto, school visits to the Oporto Synagogue, courses for teachers, and historic films.

On April 19, the Community released the free film "1506 - The Lisbon Genocide" which aims to show that the Shoah was not a singular event, but that Jews were victims of terrible pogroms, massacres, and genocides throughout the Diaspora, especially in Europe and Eurasia.

David Garrett, a jurist who is a board member of the Jewish community of Oporto, highlighted that “a genocide can be national or local and kill millions, thousands or even dozens of people. The deliberate murder, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic or religious group in a city, so that none of its members remain alive, is called genocide, both etymologically and legally.” Garrett recalled the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Yesterday at the Holocaust Museum, its director, Michael Rothwell, whose grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, spoke about how the word genocide has been minimized and even appropriated by those who seek to attack Jews, including the massacre of October 7th.

“We try and show those visiting our museum that the word ‘genocide’ has an actual meaning and very real consequences and should not be appropriated for ideological or political attacks,” said Rothwell. “Today, the greatest systematic murder of Jews is being diminished by antisemites in order to belittle Jewish suffering and try and invert it into making Jews perpetrators.”

“The visits to our museum and placing antisemitism and the Holocaust into both a historic and a current context allows schoolchildren to better be prepared to dismiss and combat the lies and myths they hear and see, especially online.